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A Home In Italy
A Home In Italy
A Home In Italy
Italy is one
of the most enchanting countries in Europe and possibly the most alluring
of all, with more than its fair share of ravishing landscapes and stunning
towns. As a location for a holiday, retirement or permanent home it has
few rivals, and in addition to a wide choice of properties and generally
good value for money, it offers a fine climate for most of the year. After
having decided to buy a home in Italy, your first tasks will be to choose
the region and what sort of home to buy. If you’re unsure where and what
to buy, the best decision is usually to rent for a period.
Among the many
things that attract homebuyers to Italy are the good value for money of
rural property (provided you avoid the more fashionable areas) and the
wonderful architecture and character of Italian homes. Architecturally,
Italy is among the most beautiful countries in the world and many foreigners
cherish the neglected 17th to 19th century buildings that abound throughout
85 per cent of Italians own their own homes, which is among the highest
percentage in the world.
have a city apartment (which may be rented) and a weekend house
in the country, although they tend to choose modern homes rather than the
old farmhouses and village houses favoured by many foreigners.
There’s a steady
demand in Italy for retirement and second homes, from both Italians and
foreigners, although there are few purpose-built, holiday-home developments,
such as are common in France, Spain and the USA.
a huge range of properties to suit every pocket and taste. A slice of la
dolce vita needn’t cost the earth, with habitable cottages and terraced
village homes available from around Lit. 90 million, modern apartments
from around Lit. 100 million and large country homes from as little as
Lit. 140 million. However, if you’re seeking a home with a large plot of
land and a swimming pool you will need to spend at least Lit. 250 million
(depending on the area); for those with the financial resources the sky’s
the limit, with luxury apartments in Rome and villas on the Italian Riviera
costing billions of lire.
From a legal
point of view, Italy is one of the safest countries in Europe in which
to buy a home and buyers have a high degree of protection under Italian
law. However, you should take the usual precautions regarding contracts,
deposits and obtaining proper title.
have had their fingers burnt by rushing into property deals without proper
care and consideration. It’s all too easy to fall in love with the beauty
and allure of Italy and sign a contract without giving it sufficient thought.
If you’re uncertain, don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making a hasty
decision, e.g. by fears of an imminent price rise or because someone else
is interested in a property.
people dream of buying a holiday or retirement home in Italy, it’s vital
to do your homework thoroughly and avoid the ‘dream sellers’ who will happily
prey on your ignorance and tell you anything in order to sell you a home.
The vast majority
of people who buy a home in Italy don’t obtain independent legal advice
and most of those who experience problems take no precautions whatsoever.
Of those who do take legal advice, many do so only after having paid a
deposit and signed a contract or, more commonly, after they have run into
The most important
point to bear in mind when buying property in Italy (or anywhere) is to
obtain expert legal advice from someone who’s familiar with Italian law.
As when buying property in any country, you should never pay any money
or sign anything without first taking legal advice. You’ll find the relatively
small cost (in comparison with the cost of a home) to be excellent value
for money, if only for the peace of mind it affords. Trying to cut corners
to save a few lire on legal costs is foolhardy in the extreme when a large
sum of money is at stake.
and living standards used to be very basic, particularly in rural areas,
where many homes had no bathroom or toilet. However, with the huge rise
in the standard (and cost!) of living in the last few decades, Italian
homes have been transformed and today’s average Italian is better housed
than many other Europeans. In cities, people generally live in apartments,
houses being rare and prohibitively expensive.
are usually surprisingly small and it’s unusual to find apartments with
four or more bedrooms and even three-bedroom apartments aren’t easy to
find. Most do, however, have two bathrooms. New detached homes (called
villas) are generally luxurious internally, but often have bland or
even ugly exteriors. In contrast to modern homes, old buildings are an
architectural delight and contain a wealth of attractive period features.
Whether old or new, Italians take great pride in their homes and no expense
is spared to make them comfortable and beautiful.
Homes in Italy
are as varied as the climate and people, but one thing they all have in
common is sturdy building materials.
exterior may be made of wood, stone, brick or other (usually fire resistant)
materials. Interior walls are usually white stucco plaster (intonaco),
which may be painted in pastel colours and makes a perfect backdrop for
paintings and tapestries, while bedroom walls are often covered with wallpaper.
Wood floors (parquet) are common in northern Italy but are considered a
luxury in the rest of Italy and therefore generally reserved for the master
bedroom. Marble or travertino is often used in entrance halls (ingressi),
corridors (corridoi) and living rooms (saloni), while kitchens (cucine)
and baths (bagni) are generally enhanced by beautiful ceramic tiles (for
which Italy is famous).
usually fitted with a toilet, washbasin (lavandino), bidet and a shower
(doccia) or bath (vasca), or perhaps a bath with a shower attachment. Luxury
homes often have a Jacuzzi (idromassaggio). When there’s no separate utility
or laundry room (lavanderia), the hotwater heater (scaldabagno) and washing
machine (lavatrice) are usually stored in the main ‘service’ (servizio)
are completely empty when purchased, except perhaps for the bathroom porcelain
and the kitchen sink. All the furnishings, appliances and white goods are
chosen and bought by the new owner, who can have the kitchen fitted by
a local carpenter-artisan or buy factory-produced kitchen cabinets.
Ovens may be
electric or mains gas (which is available in most urban areas) and country
properties may also have an outside pizza/bread oven (forno a legna) and
sometimes a tinello or taverna that acts as family room or a summer kitchen/dining
room. Very few Italians use clothes dryers (the sun and wind suffice),
but washing machines are as common as TVs. If you live in a rural area
you may find a public washhouse (lavatoio), which is good for washing voluminous
things such as curtains in addition to being a good place to catch up on
local gossip and for summer swimming for children.
country properties rarely have any kind of heating (‘What you don’t spend
in wood, you spend in wool’ is an old Italian saying), except for numerous
fireplaces which mean lots of atmosphere and a well-stacked wood pile.
The thick stone walls (which in old buildings may measure over one metre)
of older homes help keep out the cold in winter thus reducing heating (riscaldamento)
costs, while in summer they act as insulation against the heat. In northern
Italy and mountainous areas, double-glazing is necessary. Heating systems
may consist of an oil fired furnace, mains gas or gas bottles (bombolone)
in rural areas. In apartments (condominio), hot water and heating are usually
centralised and paid for along with other condominio fees that may include
cleaning of common areas, (pulizia scale), porter (portiere) and gardener
In old rural
homes, the fireplace (camino) plays an important role, being used for heating
and cooking as well as for atmosphere. (Most city dwellers dream of having
a fireplace, while many country homeowners would like to have central heating!)
Sometimes the fireplace surround is missing as old buildings are often
‘stripped’ of architectural detail, although replacements can be bought
from architectural salvage dealers. However, an old fireplace surround
in marble or peperino will cost between Lit. 3 and 10 million, although
a local artisan can make a new one to order for much less. If you suspect
that a room once had a fireplace, you can ‘sound’ the walls to find the
flue, which can then be reopened. Windows are usually protected with shutters,
which are usually closed at night to keep the heat in and prying eyes out.
In city apartments they are known as tapparelle or avvolgenti (rolling
shutters) and are made of metal, wood or plastic slats.
to buy a home in Italy, it’s advisable to do extensive research and read
a number of books especially written for those planning to buy real estate,
or live or work there, such as Buying a Home in Italy and Living and Working
in Italy, both published by Survival Books (www.survivalbooks.net).
Bear in mind that the cost of investing in a few books or magazines (and
other research) is tiny compared with the expense of making a big mistake.
However, don’t believe everything you read!
- David Hampshire is the author or numerous books on living, working
and investing overseas. His website features his highly - acclaimed, best-selling
series of Survival Handbooks - C
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