Legal considerations of living in Italy
We recommend that you employ a solicitor in Italy to help you navigate the legalities of your new life here
Employing an experienced, independent solicitor to act on your behalf in Italy is an important step to ensure success. Not only will they be able to help you with the purchase, they will be able to ensure you proceed legally with any building work (which is a tricky business), will help you to secure residency, and can help you draw up a will to protect the best interests of your loved ones in case of your death.
You will need to establish where your main country of residence is for tax purposes.
Residency in Italy
As an EU citizen it is no longer a legal requirement that you have a residency permit. However, you will need to establish where your main country of residence is for tax purposes. Whatever your nationality, according to Italian tax code, you are a resident in Italy if:
- You have a permanent home or principal place to stay in in Italy, where you spend most of your time.
- You spend more than 183 days (half a year) in Italy during the year, or more time in Italy than any other country.
- You are employed, or carry out an occupation, in Italy.
- Your centre of economic interest is Italy.
Your first step to securing residency is to obtain your codice fiscale, your tax code. You really can’t do much in terms of setting yourself up without this, so you should make it your first task upon arrival. To do so, you must drop in your local Agenzia dell’Entrante with some photo ID.
Once you have this code, applying for your residency is surprisingly easy. All you need to do is visit the Anagrafe office in your local comune (town hall). Without first being granted residenza you will be restricted to opening a non-resident bank account, which is subjected to inflated charges, and you wont be able to purchase a car, or tax it.
To obtain your residency, you will need to take the following documents to the comune:
- Photo ID
- Codice fiscale
- Employment contract (if in full time employment)
- Health insurance policy docs (if not in full time employment)
- Proof of bank account with sufficient funds to support you (if not in full time employment)
As soon as you supply these, you will be granted resident status, and will be sent a carta di residenza (resident card).
Italian residents are legally obliged to carry photographic identification around with them at all times, and the majority opt to carry their residency card. Drivers will need to have this, along with their license, registration, and proof of insurance inside their vehicle.
If you are planning on renovating your property, you will need to make sure that you secure the right permissions, and notify the right governing bodies. For any kind of legal proceedings, your first port of call should be your local comune. You will need to notify them in writing of your intentions. What steps you’re required to take will depend upon the type of renovations you wish to undertake:
If you’re repairing something that already exists, with the original materials, and aren’t planning on constructing anything new, or changing the layout, you will need to write to the council to request “Manutenzione ordinaria”.
2. Removals, replacements, and installations
If you are removing things, or installing new bathrooms, stairways etc, or replacing a roof, there are a number of documents you will need to submit to the local council. These include details of the construction company completing the work, photographs, and the full project plan from your architect or surveyor (geometra). Once this is submitted, you will have to wait up to 20 days for the council to confirm that you have the right to proceed with a ‘Manutenzione extraordinaria’. If you ignore this process, you could be hit with a severe fine, and work will be stopped immediately no matter what stage you’re at.
If you plan to extend an existing property, or install doors or windows in new locations, things get a little tricky. You will need to employ a geometra to draw up plans, which you will then submit to the planning board of the council (commissione edilizia). If they approve your plans, it will then be sent on to the regional government for them to approve.
4. Renovations involving water
Should you wish to install a swimming pool, put in a bridge, or divert a waterway on your land, you will need to include a geologist’s report in your application to the provincial government. Should your property be located in a protected area, the application will be sent on to the national Sovraintendenza, who will assess the aesthetic implications of your plans.
As you can see, establishing how to proceed legally is a complete minefield. For this reason, we always recommend consulting a solicitor to ensure you’re operating within the law.
You’ll soon notice that there are a variety of police (polizia) forces in Italy, most of which are armed.
1 – Local Police
These are local police (vigili urbani) who deal mainly with municipal administration and traffic control. You can identify them by their white helmets. They drive motorcycles, bikes, or in black and white cars. Due to the nature of their tasks, they aren’t a hugely popular bunch.
2 – State Police
The polizia di stato are responsible for the main roads, the train network, and the airports. They wear light blue trousers with purple and blue striped jackets, and can be found in their offices located in all main towns, or driving around in their light blue cars with ‘Polizia’ written on the side. You will need to go to the state police when obtaining your residence permit.
3 – Carabinieri
The carabinieri are a special branch of the army and are considered the most elite branch of the police force. They deal with more serious crime, including organised crime. They wear dark blue uniforms and their trousers have a red stripe down the side. They drive navy blue cars and are stationed in barracks in all major towns and cities.
4 – Guardia di Finanza
The guardia di finanza are in charge of regulating national and international financial dealings and combating fraud, counterfeiting, tax evasion and smuggling. You’re most likely to encounter them at borders, airports, and ports, wearing green uniforms.
The Italy Buying Guide walks you through each stage involved in buying property in Italy, and offers invaluable insights from expats and experts who understand the process. The guide will help you to: