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Because of its splendid history, scraggly ancient architecture, and unbelievable food and adult beverage, Italy is near the top of nearly everyone’s bucket list (it’s certainly on mine). And for folks in the US, free flights to Italy (lots of cities in Europe, actually) are crazy simple thanks the best travel credit cards.
We’ll show you some of the best ways to reach Italy with your rewards, as well as secrets to securing the best deal.
Heading to Italy? Here’s the Need-to-Know
Italy isn’t a small country. You’ll easily spend 12 hours driving from top to bottom. So choosing the right airport is an important part of your trip.
Italy has several international airports, but here are the most popular:
- Bologna (BLQ)
- Milan (MXP)
- Venice (VCE)
- Naples (NAP)
- Florence (FLR)
- Rome (FCO)
- Sicily (PMO)
These are the airports we often see with the best deals. No matter what you want to see in Italy, one of these airports will serve you well. And you shouldn’t have much problem reaching them with miles & points.
1. Star Alliance to Italy With United Airlines Miles
A stash of United Airlines miles is one of the best tools for booking free travel to Italy. There are many reasons for this.
Most importantly, United Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, which has the most daily flight options between the US and Europe. More flights each day mean more award seats, and an easier time finding a flight that meets your personal needs.
Because United Airlines has such a diverse route network within the continental US, United Airlines miles are a great option for folks who don’t live near major airports.
For example, you probably have tons of options if you plan to leave for Italy from New York City. But for folks who are based in smaller cities like I am, you’ll need to connect to a much larger international airport before you fly across the Atlantic.
United Airlines makes it easy to search for these flights on their own website, and even conveniently pieces together trips that contain flights on both United Airlines and one of United Airlines’ Star Alliance partners (for the longer international flight).
United Airlines charges the following amounts for one-way award flights on their own planes to Europe:
- 30,000 United Airlines miles in coach
- 60,000 United Airlines miles in Business Class
Weird quirk alert: United Airlines will charge you more miles for flights in Business Class when you fly with one of their partners instead of with them.
If the transatlantic flight on your journey is on one of United Airlines’ partners, you’ll pay the following for a one-way flight:
- 30,000 United Airlines miles in coach
- 70,000 United Airlines miles in Business Class
Redeeming United Airlines miles for a Star Alliance partner airline award flight in Business Class requires more miles and is less of a steal.
One of the absolute best perks of United Airlines is that they never add fuel surcharges to award flights. You’ll never see exorbitant fees on a flight booked with United Airlines miles.
Earn United Airlines Miles
United Airlines is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so it’s easy to earn United Airlines miles with cards like:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card | Our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve | Our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Ink Business Preferred | Our Review of the Ink Business Preferred
2. Star Alliance to Italy Using Air Canada Aeroplan Miles
Similar to United Airlines, Air Canada Aeroplan offers another great option for using miles to fly across the Atlantic. Air Canada is also part of Star Alliance, so they’ve got most of the same partners as United Airlines.
Here’s what Air Canada Aeroplan charges for one-way award flights to Italy from the continental US:
- 30,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
- 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class
You’ll pay fewer Air Canada Aeroplan miles for flights in Business Class and First Class compared to United Airlines miles! But know that Air Canada Aeroplan adds fuel surcharges to their own award flights and flights on certain partners. So it’s always best to do the math and compare what you’re be saving in miles versus what you might pay in fuel surcharges.
To avoid fuel surcharges, try to stick to Brussels Airlines, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, Turkish Airlines, and United Airlines when booking award flights using Aeroplan miles. These airlines do NOT pass along high taxes and fees, so you will be able to book award flights for as little money as possible!
For more information on how to use your Aeroplan miles (or how to transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Aeroplan) and specifics of Aeroplan’s region definitions, head over to our Ultimate Guide to Air Canada Aeroplan Miles.
Earn Air Canada Aeroplan Miles
Because Air Canada Aeroplan is an AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner, consider these cards if you want to earn more miles:
|Personal Cards||Business Cards|
|American Express® Gold Card||American Express® Business Gold Card|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express|
|Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express||The Business Platinum® Card from American Express|
|Business Green Rewards Card from American Express|
You can also transfer Marriott points to Air Canada Aeroplan. So you could consider cards like:
3. Oneworld to Italy Using American Airlines Miles
American Airlines miles can also be incredibly valuable for award flights to and from Italy. American Airlines has several large hub cities throughout the US, so it’s not difficult to book a seat on any of the dozens of daily nonstop flight options to Europe. You’ll have the easiest time if you live near any of the following cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance and only has a few partner airlines that fly across the Atlantic. If you want to fly with American Airlines’ partners, you can choose from:
- British Airways
You’ll want to try to avoid flights on British Airways, because they charge extensive taxes and fees (sometimes up to ~$500 per person), even when flying in coach!
Oneworld alliance partner award flights to Italy show conveniently on the American Airlines website. You can even view available award flights, taxes, and fees without logging in to your American Airlines account.
For most of the year, one-way award flights to Europe on American Airlines or one of their oneworld Alliance partners cost the following:
- 30,000 American Airlines miles in coach
- 57,500 American Airlines miles in Business Class
- 85,000 American Airlines miles in First Class
American Airlines also offers off-peak award pricing during certain times of the year, making award flights to Italy some of the cheapest available! These off-peak award flights are only available in coach from January 10 to March 14 and November 1 to December 14. If you can plan your travel to Italy within these dates, award flights are even cheaper at only 22,500 American Airlines miles one-way in coach.
For an in-depth guide on using American Airlines miles to book award travel to Europe, head over to our guide on How to Use American Airlines Miles.
Earn American Airlines Miles
The fastest way to earn American Airlines miles is with these cards:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard | Our Review of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard | Our Review of the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard | Our Review of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card | Our Review of the American Airlines MileUp Card
Important: If you’ve got a Citi American Airlines Platinum Select, you’ll receive 10% of your redeemed American Airlines miles back as a rebate (up to 10,000 miles per year), which makes award flights even cheaper.
American Airlines is also a Marriott transfer partner, so you can convert your Marriott points into American Airlines miles.
4. Oneworld and Partners to Italy Using British Airways Avios Points
Although we realllly recommend you DON’T book transatlantic award flights on British Airways because of high fuel surcharges, redeeming British Airways Avios points for flights on its partners can be a valuable play. Though I’m still not a fan.
Folks on the East Coast can find decent deals when redeeming British Airways Avios points for award flights to Italy.
Similar to American Airlines, British Airways is part of the oneworld alliance, so you’ll have mostly the same airline options for transatlantic flights (American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, and Iberia).
Finding non-stop flights is important when you book any flight with British Airways Avios points, because the number of miles required is not based solely on award region. Instead, British Airways uses a distance-based award chart to determine how many Avios points are required for a specific flight. And although it can be complicated, you can also find great deals!
For example, an off-peak coach award flight from an East Coast such as New York to Milan costs 25,000 British Airways Avios points and a couple hundred bucks.
However, you can spend fewer miles if you fly to a European country farther west, like Dublin. Then you can use budget airlines to hop to Italy for cheap.
British Airways partners with Aer Lingus, which has several non-stop flights from US cities to Ireland each day. And the taxes and fees on Aer Lingus flights are not nearly as high as British Airways flights.
You can fly Aer Lingus from the following cities to Ireland (Dublin or Shannon) for as little as 13,000 British Airways Avios points one-way in coach:
- New York City (JFK)
- Washington, DC (Dulles)
It’s much more difficult finding available seats on those flights, though.
British Airways, on the other hand, consistently opens lots of award seats and has a wider route network. So if you are less flexible on dates or destinations, British Airways can be a good pick if you are willing to spend some money on the taxes and fees.
Earn British Airways Avios Points
And because British Airways is a Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott transfer partner, you could consider any of the cards that earn these points mentioned earlier if you want more British Airways Avios points.
5. SkyTeam to Italy With Delta Miles
Here’s the thing with Delta. It doesn’t offer a standard award chart, so it’s difficult to know exactly how many miles are required for your Italian vacation unless you search for specific dates.
On the other hand, Delta has tons of domestic flights, offering travelers easier access to connecting flights before traveling across the pond. And many folks find Delta to be the most reliable and comfortable US airline, so you might prefer to fly on Delta or one of its partners on your trip to Italy!
Delta is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, and has a few partner airlines that fly between Europe and the US such as Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and others. But to search for award flights using your Delta miles, you’ll have to start at the Delta website — because Delta doesn’t tell you in advance how many miles will be required.
And typically, Delta will charge you more miles to fly on one of their own planes as opposed to flying with one of their partners. But by using Delta’s 5-week award search, you can get a good idea of how much award flights typically cost.
For example, a quick search on the Delta site shows that the cheapest one-way coach flight between the continental US and Italy is 25,000 Delta miles plus ~$6 in tax. So Delta’s low taxes and fees might be appealing for folks who have higher mileage balances but want to spend as little cash as possible!
Delta does NOT allow you to redeem miles for international First Class, and Delta does not offer international First Class on any of its own planes. If you want to fly in First Class, you’re better off booking with American Airlines miles or Air Canada Aeroplan miles, as discussed above. For more details on booking award flights with Delta miles, visit this post on how to book award flights with Delta miles.
Earn Delta Miles
You can quickly earn a lot of Delta miles directly with cards like:
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express | Our Review of the AMEX Gold Delta SkyMiles Card
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express | Our Review of the AMEX Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express | Our Review of the AMEX Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Card
- Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express | Our Review of the AMEX Blue Delta SkyMiles Card
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card
Keep in mind, Delta is also an AMEX Membership Rewards and Marriott transfer partner. So you can boost your Delta balance by applying for the AMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott cards mentioned previously.
If you’re looking to travel to Italy, it’s helpful to have several options. And for folks looking to save money, these 5 booking options are among the best for cheap and convenient award travel to Europe, especially if you have to connect from a smaller city to a major US international airport before crossing the pond.
- Star Alliance to Italy using United Airlines Miles
- Star Alliance to Italy using Air Canada Aeroplan Miles
- Oneworld to Italy using American Airlines Miles
- Oneworld and partners to Italy using British Airways Avios Points
- SkyTeam to Italy using Delta Miles
But keep in mind, cash rates on coach flights to Europe in general have been plummeting in recent years, so you might want to start your research on Google Flights to see if redeeming miles and points is a good value. If you want to fly in Business Class or First Class, award flights will almost always be a better value than paying cash.
Throw any questions down in the comments!