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LIVING THE DREAM: What about Italy

I’ve always wanted to live in France. Who wouldn’t, right? The food, the climate, the landscape. But property prices climbed with panic pre-Brexit buying, and my dream went out of the window. “What about Italy,” a friend asked.

The rest, as they say, is history. Within two months – and ahead of Brexit – I bought a run-down 13th century house in the mountains surrounding Ascoli Piceno, rented out my London property, loaded up my little yellow car with an overnight bag, food for the road (chocolate), and two cats, then set off ahead of the furniture delivery truck, armed with reams of Covid paperwork required to pass through France and Switzerland to get to my destination.

Then I encountered Italian bureaucracy. Firstly, I needed a tax reference number (think social security number) which the estate agent handled prior to my arrival; then I applied for residency which requires evidence that I do in fact own a property; followed an Italian bank account; an Italian mobile phone number; registration with the national health service; a community identity card; and exchanging my UK driver’s licence for an Italian one, which required further hoop jumping. Then the police visited and did a walkthrough verifying that only I lived here.

It sounds easy enough until you learn that each application has several sub-requirements before anything can be processed. But there is no side-stepping any of this. It all needs to be done. And its best done in a particular order. Here the order I wished I’d done it in:

• To start it all is the tax number – codice fiscale. This is a priority as without this you can sign no documents.

• After faffing around with the local high-street bank and endless delays to get an appointment, in desperation I applied for an N26 online Italian bank account, which financed my mobile phone contract, as without an Italian phone number you’ll not manage much else.

• Then came the Italian residency application at the local Council office. Here I filled out numerous forms, which’ll all need an Italian mobile phone number and an Italian bank account – which is why the N26 online bank account is so handy – it’s only limit is that you’re not able to make online purchases.

• Residency required that I register with the local health authority (should you declare our income as zero, you’ll need to pay a minimum annual amount of €340). The healthy authority then presented me with a list of doctors in my area, from which I needed to select one to be my GP. There was no time to consider or consult on this, so I chose one at random, which I’m certain will present its own challenges in the future.

• Now I need to apply for a community identity card which requires photographs and fingerprints – and without an identity card you cannot exchange your UK driver’s licence for an Italian one.

• For the driver’s licence exchange, think reems of paperwork, which includes documentation for your GP to complete, confirming you’re of sound mind and body. Then you need to do an eye test at your local driving school.

• Eventually got an appointment to open a bank account on the high-street which requires me to apply in person, and sign countless forms, both on an in-bank tablet and again on paper.

• Reams of paperwork applies to everything; and it’s not cheap either as everything has a cost attached to it. In all the paperwork costs/stamp duty fees came in at around €700.

The whole process stretched my patience to the limit. Had I had some source of reference I’d have known what to expect and could have alleviated much of the anxieties, or at least could have had all the forms waiting for my arrival. Here everything is done on Italian time, when, and if, they decide to open after lunch, and the philosophy that there’s always tomorrow. Should you choose to adopt this manta, be prepared for the paperwork to take four to five months. I managed mine in ten days, and on numerous occasions required to be physically restrained from me hitting someone over the head with a chair.

Oh, and I don’t speak a word of Italian and quickly learnt Google Translate is my friend.

Now I need to address the most urgent issue in my home and find a local tradesman to address my electricity requirements as there are just four plugs that work in the house – none of which, as I discovered, have an ‘earth’.





First published at Travel Industry Today

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