Once you have decided on a property, you will need to make an offer - the proposta irrevocabile di acquisto (irrevocable proposal to buy) - to the seller and pay a small deposit so it is taken off the market.
The amount of deposit is agreed privately between you and the seller but is often around five per cent of the total value. It can be refunded, should the purchase fall through at this stage. It is important to stress that, as the name suggests, this document is legally binding once signed by both parties.
Given the complicated and unfamiliar nature of the process in Italy, The Property Organiser recommends that you use a qualified legal expert. Too many prospective buyers still unwittingly sign documents unaware of what they are committing themselves to.
Searches then need to be carried out on the property to ensure, among other things:
* The legal title belongs solely to the vendor and no other party has a claim on it;
* There are no outstanding loans or mortgages that would transfer to the new owner;
* There are no undisclosed public rights-of-access across the property;
* The building and any modifications comply with building regulations and health & safety rules;
* You are aware of any maintenance fees payable if the property is part of a block;
* In the case of vacant land, there is planning permission to build on it.
Some estate agencies, although not all, will carry out these checks. However, where the sale is by private vendor and does not involve an agent, they are the buyer's responsibility. In such a case, Property Organiser can recommend a reputable geometra (surveyor) who will perform these checks for you. In any case, you will need a geometra to examine the building's physical condition.
Once all checks are completed to your satisfaction, both parties sign a second binding agreement, a contratto preliminare di compravendita (preliminary sales contract), more commonly referred to as the compromesso. In it, seller and buyer agree to complete the purchase within an agreed period, typically a month, at an agreed price. At this stage the buyer makes a second downpayment to bring his total deposit to between 10 and 30 per cent of the purchase price.
Again, this is a serious commitment. Should the buyer default, he loses his deposit. On the other hand if the vendor defaults, he must refund either the entire deposit or even double the deposit, depending on the terms of the compromesso.
Before making the final payment you will need to have applied to local tax authorities for a codice fiscale (fiscal code), which will allow you to register for property taxes and open a bank account if the outstanding balance needs to be paid by bank draft. Property Organiser will arrange both of these for you free of charge.
The final stage sees the completion of the purchase with the signing of the rogito (final deeds), usually done in the office of a notaio (notary), who will check all documents and forward all property taxes to the authorities.
Where the buyer is not a fluent Italian speaker, the notaio will require them to appoint someone with power-of-attorney to represent them at the meeting. Your lawyer, if you have one, will usually organise this service for you, otherwise a Property Organiser representative will represent you free of charge.
Within 48 hours of the exchange, the seller must deposit a denuncia di cessione fabbricato (a document confirming you as the new owner) at a police station. Again, we are happy to ensure this is done for you free of charge.
Imposta di Registro, Imposta Ipotecaria, Imposta Catastale:
These are one-off taxes based on the property's "cadastral value". This value is determined by the Italian land registry, depends on factors such as location and floor space and is usually less than half the purchase price.
The level of tax depends on whether or not the buyer plans to live in Italy and is purchasing their first home there. Buyers falling into this category have up to 18 months after the purchase date to register as Italian residents.
|From 1st January 2014||
Foreigners who live in Italy & are 1st time buyers
All other foreigners
|Imposta Di Registro (Registry tax)||
2% of cadastral value
9% of cadastral value
|Imposta Ipotecaria (Mortgage tax)||
|Imposta Catastale (Land Registry tax)||
Where property is bought directly from a company and is to be your principal residence, VAT at four per cent is payable, otherwise VAT is levied at 10 per cent. For plot s of land, tax is 9% or 15% of the property price, depending on the type of land.
On signing the compromesso a registration fee is payable of €200 plus around €16 for each page of the document.
Estate agency: Usually the buyer and seller each pays between three and five per cent of the property price. It is important to stress that although Property Organiser's fee comes out of the estate agency's commission, it has no effect whatsoever on the total sum you pay, whether or not you choose to use our services. Indeed the fee remains fixed at the amount that the local agent charges, although if this is higher than our standard fee we will negotiate it for you to reduce it. To note that often agencies apply a flat fee for properties before a certain price.
Surveyor (geometra) : Will vary by property but expect to pay €600 - €1500 depending on property and its location
Notary: Expect to pay €2,000-€5,000.
After you have bought the property, you will need to pay:
Imposta Municipale Unica (IMU): Community charge on all property and landowners. Depends on property size and is due twice a year.
Tassa Rifiuti Solidi Urbani (TARI): Levied yearly for waste collection and depends on size and location of property.
The first €8,000 of rental income each year is tax-free. Thereafter, taxes range from 23 per cent to a top rate of 43 per cent on yearly rental income over €75,000.
Italy has neither inheritance nor wealth taxes and capital gains tax was abolished in 2002. If a property is sold more than five years after purchase, all proceeds are tax-free. If sold before then, however, the profit you make - ie, sale minus purchase price - incurs a 20 per cent plusvalenza tax.
Passport: you will need to have a valid passport
Fiscal Code (Codice Fiscale): Needed to pay taxes and open a bank account. To be issued with a code, you must attend an Ufficio Delle Entrate with your passport.
Bank account: You do not have to be resident to have one. You will need to take along your passport and fiscal code to a bank. Often a bank statement and a utility bill are also requested as proof of identity as well as copy of your property contract and your own country's tax code.
Q: How long does the whole buying process take after signing the initial contract, the proposta irrevocabile di acquisto (irrevocable proposal to buy)?
A: This can be as little as three weeks, if there are no legal complications. However, we find that between seven and eight weeks is the norm. Naturally, if you are buying off-plan or any other unfinished property it is usual to wait for building work to be finalised before completing the purchase.
Q: How much do I have to pay as a deposit?
A: This depends on your agreement with the seller but is usually 10-30 per cent in total.
Q: Can I be gazumped?
A: Yes, if the seller has not yet signed their copy of the proposta irrevocabile. No, once this is signed by both parties. Then the deal becomes binding on both sides with financial penalties for defaulting.
Q: How much extra should I allow for purchase-related taxes and professional fees?
A: This depends on whether you are a first-time buyer. But expect to pay around seven to 10 per cent of the purchase price - which includes two to four per cent to the estate agent. Note, however, that you pay nothing extra whatsoever for engaging Property Organiser's services. See our section,Taxes & Likely Costs
Q: What tax do I pay if I rent out my Italian home?
A: You are liable for Italian taxes whether resident there or not. The first €8,000 is tax-free, with taxes then starting at 23 per cent. You will usually be able to use what you pay in Italy to offset against your tax liability in your home country. We strongly recommend you seek advice from a professional accountant in your home country or Italy. See our section, Taxes & Likely Costs
Q After completing the purchase, can I pass ownership onto a relative?
A: Yes. But Italian authorities will deem this a new sale, meaning the new owner is liable for the same purchase-related taxes as they would be had they bought from an unconnected third party.
Citizens from the EU, US and Canada do not need a visa if staying for less than 90 days. Click here to see visa requirement details for these and other countries.
For longer stays, EU citizens will need a Carta di Soggiorno Cittadini U.E. (EU citizens' permanent residence card) and non-EU citizens a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay). Click here to visit the Italian immigration authority website (in English).
There are numerous direct and indirect daily flights connecting the UK, US and other countries to around 30 Italian cities such as Rome, which has two airports; Milan, which has three; Venice, Turin, Genoa, Naples and Pisa.
Additionally, ferry services link Italy to France, Spain and Greece. The rail system is also extensive, efficient and reasonably priced. If driving, speed limits are 50km/h (30mph) for urban roads, 90km/h (56mph) on other roads and 130km/h (80mph) on motorways.
Italy's state health service is ranked second-best in the world by the World Health Organisation. However, many Italians take out private insurance to ensure quicker treatment. EU citizens can get free state-provided healthcare if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC, which has replaced the old E111 form, is valid for three to five years. Note that it will not normally cover dental treatment or physiotherapy, while you will still have to pay 10 per cent towards the cost of any prescribed medication. EHICs are available from GPs' surgeries, post offices, the Department of Health website and other outlets. However, all foreigners resident in Italy instead must obtain a national health number by registering with a Unitá Sanitaria Locale.
From the UK, dial 00 39 followed by the entire Italian number, including the 0 that appears in the area code. From the US, dial your service provider's international access code, followed by 39 and then the entire Italian number, including the primary 0.
If in Italy, to call the UK dial 00, wait for a continuous tone, then dial 44 and the UK number, this time omitting the 0 in the area code. To call the US, dial 001, wait for the tone, then the city area code and the number you wish to call.
If you are in Italy and phoning another Italian number, always include the area code even for local calls.
Ambulance 118; Carabinieri 112; Police 113; Fire Brigade 115; Vehicle breakdowns 116.
Besides New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, Italy has six other public holidays - January 6 (Epiphany); April 25 (Liberation Day); May 1 (Labour Day); August 15 (Assumption, but better known as Ferragosto); November 1 (All Saints); and December 8 (Immaculate Conception). Good Friday is not a public holiday. Many businesses shut for the week around Assumption in August.
220V. Appliances from other countries will require an adaptor with the exception for the countries that use a Continental plug (France, Switzerland, etc).
One hour ahead of GMT. Daylight Saving Time runs from late March to mid-October.
This is one for nature lovers, its numerous hills and mountains making it ideal terrain to be explored by hiking or cycling. The mountains are also a favourite with skiers. Abruzzo has eye-catching landscapes, soaring hills and mountains towering over canyons, lakes and rivers. Little surprise, then that much of the region lies in national parks, the biggest being the Gran Sasso and the Maiella. And it's never too difficult to find yourself in splendid isolation, at one with nature, as you wander along centuries-old pathways used by shepherds and their flock and head towards some of Italy's most remote and picturesque villages hidden in the mountains.
AOSTA VALLEY (Val D'Aosta)
Italy's smallest region is also its most mountainous and has on its borders the Alps' best known peaks–the Matterhorn, Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. Unsurprisingly, some of Europe's best ski resorts are to be found here, with Monte Bianco boasting the continent's highest cable car ride. The Gran Paradiso is at the centre of the magnificent National Park, full of picturesque pine forests, Alpine lakes and glaciers and populated by beautiful Ibexes, chamois and eagles. Val D'Aosta has special autonomous status and in homage to the fact that it borders France, most regional government business is conducted in French.
Worth visiting for its architectural treasures alone. There are cathedrals and castles dating as far back as the 10th century as well as numerous Greek and Roman remains. But Apulia also boasts a unique style of its own–barocco leccese, intricate carvings covering palaces and churches, the best examples of which are in Lecce. Another architectural must-see are trulli, conical stone structures that serve as olive and wheat barns. However, in some places they are built in clusters of hundreds and used as houses, as in the wonderfully quaint town of Alberobello. In addition, Apulia has some of the cleanest beaches in all the Mediterranean and one of the continent's largest forests. It also produces one in 10 of all bottles of wine drunk in Europe, so there's no excuse for not having a merry old time!
This hilly, southern region is a fantastic place to seek out undiscovered Italy. The beaches along its two tiny coastlines, particularly along the Tyrrhenian Sea, have not yet been over-run by mass tourism. The economy is mainly agricultural, although there is a thriving textiles and ceramics industry. The region has a long archaeological history. There are the Greek Palatine Tables ruins in Metaponto and Roman remains in Venosa, while the architecture in Matera, Melfi and Lagopesole shows heavy Arab and Byzantine influences.
Calabria has long been the secret that Italian holidaymakers discovered long ago and the rest of the world is just waking up to. The region, on the southernmost tip of mainland Italy, is the heart of the Mezzogiorno (Italian for 'midday", referring to its brilliant sunshine). It enjoys mile after mile of thankfully uncrowded sandy beaches as well as, in places, beautiful rocky coastlines that slope majestically into the sea. With the region not yet trampled underfoot by mass tourism, your euro will go farther here than in virtually any other part of Italy. Calabria, in many ways, is typical rural, deep South country. Narrow roads that wind perilously through the mountains, sprawling olive orchards and wheat fields. And in the main squares of the towns, the men smoking as they play cards, their wives sitting on doorsteps, knitting and weaving, locals almost falling over themselves to dispense hospitality to visitors. Welcome to unspoilt Italy.
Home to the sun-soaked Amalfi coastline, which for decades has drawn sunseekers from across the world, as well as the islands of Capri and Ischia, where the rich, the famous and the beautiful come to holiday. With its balmy, year-round sunshine, sandy beaches, clear blue waters and enchanting sea caves, that's little surprise. Yet Campania is also home to some of Italy's best-preserved Roman, Greek and Lombard relics. Must-sees include ancient Greek temples in Paestum, dating back to the 6th century BC, the Imperial Villa in Capri and the 17th century Royal Palace in Caserta. And of course, no visit to Campania would be complete without taking in the ruins of Pompeii and neighbouring Herculaneum or braving a hike up Mount Vesuvius.
Its endless miles of warm, sandy beaches have naturally become a magnet for visitors from across Europe and are perfect for those who love any kind of water-based recreational activity. Its best-known resort, Rimini, is just as famous for its exuberant nightlife. Away from its alluring beaches the region–apart from being one of Italy's richest–is a treasure trove of architectural gems. The magnificent basilicas of Ravenna, for example, are a reminder that for centuries this was part of the Byzantine Empire, while Bologna's 11th century university, Italy's oldest, are proof of its long history as a centre of art and culture.
This quiet corner of north-east Italy is rarely visited by Italians, let alone outsiders. But let that not blind you to its many attractions, especially if you fancy exploring them without having to weave your way past throngs of tourists. Trieste, its main city, was James Joyce's favourite place in the world and he was made an honorary citizen; a statue to the legendary Irish author stands on the bridge over the Canale Grande, near his old home. There is much to discover elsewhere in this region of contrasts, from snow-capped mountains to warm sandy beaches and lagoons, from awe-inspiring rocky coastal cliffs to picturesque fishing villages. Those who appreciate architecture will find much to admire in Udine's Gothic Palazzo del Comune and the Basilica in Aquileia, as well as the numerous Roman ruins and palatial country villas dotted around the region.
There's Rome, of course, the Eternal City, with seemingly every cobble on every street steeped in more than 2,000 years of history. Yet Latium – Lazio, to give it its Italian name – is so much more than just Rome. The rest of the region offers long, sun-kissed beaches and vast pine groves, mountains, lakes, hills and plains. And south of the capital, for instance, is the famous spa town of Fiuggi, itself almost encircled by equally charming picturesque hill towns. To the east lies Rieti, where you can visit and even sleep in some of the monasteries built by St Francis of Assisi. Some 40 or 50 miles north of Rome is the former centre of the fabled Etruscan civilisation, which was later conquered by the Romans.
Liguria has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its breathtaking scenery, from the Liguri Alps in the north to the Italian Riviera to the south. Arguably the most famous stretch of the Riviera is the Cinque Terre – five picturesque villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and the surrounding hillside – that is now a UN World Heritage Site because of its outstanding natural beauty. Further west along the coast, on the other side of the main city Genoa, lies the harbour village of Portofino - one of the Mediterranean's most beautiful resorts. It's easy to see why for decades it has attracted celebrities the world over; it was here that Richard Burton once proposed to Elizabeth Taylor. Another notable destination on the Riviera is San Remo, at the heart of the coastline called the Riviera dei Fiori after the stunning variety of its flowers and also famed for the San Remo Music Festival. The Riviera runs as far as Ventimiglia, just west of San Remo and a few miles from Monte Carlo on the other side of the French border.
The wealthiest of Italy's 20 regions and in fact one of the three richest in all Europe. It boasts the fashion mecca of Milan, which is also a centre for finance, commerce and industry, as well as the must-see medieval cities of Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Mantua and Pavia. However, tear yourself away from its towns and cities and head for its beautifully serene countryside, with some of Europe's most breathtaking stretches of water. Its several shimmering blue lakes, including Como, Maggiore Orta, Endine and Garda, make it a natural haven for lake cruises and watersports.
A mainly agricultural region, famed for its good food and wine. There's also a 100-mile Adriatic coastline, with the seaside resorts Fano and San Bernadetto major attractions. The area has a proud artistic history, with Renaissance painter Raphael being born in Urbino. Places such as the regional capital Ancona, as well as Ascoli, Fano, Fermo and Urbisaglia, are full of magnificent Roman remains. The region's national park and nature reserve boasts the 22-mile Sibylline mountain range.
It shares many of the characteristics of Abruzzo, which it was a part of until 1963. It is mainly mountainous with a small coast facing the Adriatic. Molise has several examples of medieval architecture to fill the visitor with awe. Campobasso, its capital, has a Lombard castle dating back some 1,500 years, while San Bartolomeo and San Giorgino both boast majestic Romanesque churches. Anyone travelling to Isernia, Molise's second city, should make a point of seeing the 14th century Fontana Della Fraterna.
Piedmont, one of Italy's great wine-growing regions, is bordered on three sides by the Alps and is home to some of Europe's most spectacular peaks, including the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa. Then there are the rolling hillsides of Monferrato and La Langhe with their rich, fertile terrain that has given Piedmont its great wine and culinary tradition. The region's capital is Turin, which has a long-established architectural and cultural history and in the 19th century was the first Italian capital. The St John the Baptist Cathedral houses the Turin Shroud; many of the palaces of the old House of Savoy are here; while its Museo Egizio has the world's most important collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo. And in recent years the city has shaken off its image as the grey industrial home of Fiat and soccer club Juventus to enjoy a renaissance and in 2006 hosted the Winter Olympics.
It's 120 miles off the Italian mainland, so little wonder its people speak a dialect virtually incomprehensible to the rest of the country. But it can claim one of Europe's most spectacular coastlines, with its jagged, rocky promontories broken up by serene, sandy beaches. Inland, it has some of the continent's oldest archaeological remains, some nearly 4,000 years old. The six–mile long Costa Smeralda on the north–east shore has been turned into an upmarket resort with sprawling private villas, luxury hotels and huge marinas. But among its main – and decidedly cheaper – attractions are its numerous hidden beaches. A second resort almost as popular with the wealthy is Porto Rotondo, a few miles further down the coast, which has an assortment of beaches, restaurants and nightlife.
Virtually all of Sicily – the exception being the summit of Mount Etna – is sunny all year round, as you would expect from an island whose southern tip is closer to the tropics than parts of North Africa. This is an island of contrasts – the big cities of Palermo and Messina; traditional fishing villages; and beautiful sandy beaches all cheek by jowl with one another. Sicily was once ruled by various races, including the Greeks, Spanish and Arabs, and their legacy is obvious all around you, especially in the Greek temples, Arabic fortresses and churches covered in Byzantine mosaics. There's plenty to see in the awe-inspiring landscape, from the towering Mount Etna to the Isola Bella nature reserve and the Gole dell'Alcantara, a 150ft deep gorge along which the River Ancantara runs. Also worth a visit are the scenic islands of Pantelleria, Ustica, Lipari, Stromboli, Favignana, Salina and Panarea.
On the north-east border with Austria, Trentino-Alto Adige is blessed with snow-capped peaks overlooking picturesque meadows, lakes and waterfalls. The northernmost areas are dotted with idyllic mountain hamlets, with a character all of their own, where German is the common language and locals tuck into dumplings rather than pasta. In winter the region offers fantastic skiing while during the rest of the year it's the perfect place for hiking and being at one with nature – the area is teeming with deer, ibexes, marmots and eagles. Little wonder so many Italians head here for their holidays all year round. The region also has nearly 300 lakes, including the famous Lake Garda. Many have superb beaches, making them a magnet for swimmers and bathers in summer. Trentino is also famous for its wines and its grappas – clear liqueurs flavoured with local herbs and berries. Just the thing for rounding off the perfect evening here.
Famed the world over for its art, culture, history and breathtaking landscape. It is home to the great centres of Renaissance art such as Florence, Pisa and Siena, as well as the charming medieval areas of San Gimignano and Pienza and the spa regions of Montecatini, Chianciano and Bagni di Lucca. Then there is the spectacularly diverse landscape, which takes in everything from the lush green hills of the Chianti wine region, the snowy Apennine peaks and rocky Apuan Alps, to the relaxing beach resorts of Viareggio, Forte dei Marmi and Elba.
Although some two-thirds of Umbria is mountainous, the rest seems to have been given over to lush, sprawling olive orchards and vineyards. Agriculture is clearly important here, in the heart of Italy, and it is one of Europe's major sources of truffles. Despite being landlocked it is home to several rivers, including the Velino, which joins the Nera by way of the magnificent 540ft Marmore Waterfalls. It also has central Italy's largest lake, Trasimeno. The main city is Perugia but enchanting towns such as Assisi, Spoleto, Orvieto, and Castiglione are also popular with tourists.
Venice, the world's most romantic city, is undoubtedly Veneto's jewel in the crown. Yet the region has countless other treasures often overlooked by visitors and mercifully free of hordes of tourists. Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, is one of the country's most beautiful historic towns. That is in part down to the famous architect Andrea Palladio, who was born here and designed many of its palaces and other buildings. But also contributing hugely to Verona's allure are its elegant Roman ruins. Worth discovering too are Chioggia, which boasts Venice's canals but few of its teeming crowds; Soave, famous for its wines; and Abano, a serene spa town. When it comes to relaxing and soaking up the sun, the region has mile after mile of golden sandy beaches along its 150-mile Adriatic coastline, with Lido di Jesolo the most popular resort. Veneto is also home to the stunning Dolomite mountain range, where winter sees the rich and the famous descend on the glitzy ski resort Cortina, known as "The Pearl of the Dolomites".