Is it worth the bother?

01/29/2013 - 18:52


I have always wanted to move to Italy. I have a second home in France, a country which is a bit bureaucratic but am terrified of the nightmare of Italian bureaucracy even though I am pretty good at dealing with impiagati/foncs.  This post on a France forum confirms my fears   Well, I can vouch for Italy's bureaucracy......I've lived there for 35 yrs. It's a nightmare, not just for foreigners either my husband is Italian and it drives him crazy. Very much 'who you know' set -up. If you want anything done you have to know the right person. When we bought our small house here in France we couldn't believe how everything worked efficiently. People do what they say, at the agreed time and day. It may be early days (12 months) but so far everything is a lot easier. Far less restrictions and red tape. We wanted to change some things inside the house, we were told by the council offices that it was ok to do what we wanted as long as it was inside - in Italy we would need an architect to present plans etc. etc. and not just any architect....someone in the right political party, the winning side so to speak. That's before you start with money all down the line, not necessarily back handers but the proceedure is all geared to costing huge amounts, and I won't start on the amount of time you have to wait for an answer on anything. We find France cheaper so far too. Italy has had huge price rises recently and the taxes are crippling now. Another negative if you need any more .....the tax man cometh. They are now checking bank balances, internet buying, insurance policies to see how many cars you have, credit card spending, holidays, leisure activities, gym membership etc. I know there was a lot of tax evasion but they've gone crazy with checks now. It's many years since I've lived in the UK. So can't compare. I just go back on holiday now but don't know if I could manage the weather full time.

In reply to by cardi

so you'd like to come here but are worried by the bureaucracy.... if you've seen it in France i can assure you it's no worse here. So you won't let the rantings of one woman on the internet interfere with your plans now ...WILL YOU. Ive lived here over thirty years , i run my own business,pay taxes,have never paid ANYONE a back hander and should ANYONE ask for one would go straight to the police,you don't need an architect to present your house plans a normal geometra is sufficient and as in most countries the required use of a professional is to ensure that local building laws are not infringed,that the structural integrity of the building is not compromised, that anti sismic building regulations are being complied with,that the drawings reflect what is registered at the land registry etc etc i don't think in france or the uk you just have some naff drawing of only aesthetic aspects and submit that. you don't have to worry about the politics of 1. the local council 2. the geometra who submits your house plans 3. or the idiot sitting at the desk in the office.Generally when you hear things like that woman says it's because they turn up acting like they're from a superior planet and expect to be able to do anything they fancy without any paper work, stick pools on the sides of hills,do their own electricity (avoiding the costs of  qualified electricians/plumber/mason/carpenter etc so i wouldn't put a lot of importance on her ranting if i were you.Actually you might be very suprised at how civilised this country can be.....where were you thinking you might like to move to in Italy?

If the writer found Italy such a nightmare then I am surprised they lasted 35yrs!.It seems a very negative view-point, whilst eveything is not rosy here, some of it is very good. My experience with the build of our apartment was that it came in on budget and no "back-handers" were exchanged, and I have no problem being transparent with my tax dealings. Not really sure why you posted this on an Italian forum?.

Have to say the description is not one of the Italy we know! Maybe in certain areas it could be true but having lived in Rome, Lombardia and Le Marche it is certainly not our experience in any of those areas to pay backhanders, to have to use certain professionals/workmen etc. in order to get things done. Yes, there is bureaucracy and red tape but as long as you do your research, plan ahead and go armed with the correct paperwork it is not an issue! Where I think many go wrong and come unstuck re the bureaucracy is that they assume it will be the same procedure as in their home country and then become frustrated and critical that  it dares to be different. Like Angie and Robert, I have no problem with the need for tax transparency, if you have nothing to hide, why worry?

What rubbish some people write about Italy. Most of that must be hearsay, by someone who doesn't pay taxes; as I think Italy's tax system is quite fair for new business (if you have a decent Comercialista) and as to checking  internet buying ...well really. Like I say Italy would be better off without the moaners, and expats who are determined to 'get away' with things like taxes and the like.

I have lived in Italy over two years and not experianced any of the problems Cardy fears. Whilst carrying out extensive changes to my property all I have done is gone to the local council officers who have advised what permissions I needed and everything has gone without a hitch and I live in the campania region! Just glad that you are staying in France.

France cheaper than Italy? I live next to the border between France and Spain and we have owned property in France and lived there. I go to France once or twice a week and do shopping there, not because of cheaper prices, but because there are certain items I like and I can only find there. We also have a house in Italy and we go there twice or three times during the year. Consequently, I think that I am fully qualified to compare prices and I can confidently say that - with the exception of perhaps a few items - France is not cheaper than Italy. As per bureaucracy, it may be different, but the French invented the word. Taxes? Property taxes are higher in Italy, even after the latest increase. Personal taxes are also high. Why do you think that French icon Depardieu has applied for Russian nationality?  Oh! I forgot to mention that I am totally fluent in French as I was educated in France...and that, in spite of all what I have said, I love France... but I also love Italy.

I have friends and connections there in the Lecce area and house prices aren't too bad. Like stevemonkseaton (Shiremoor me) says they seem to be able to keep their heads down and generally ignore the excesses of bureaucracy though they all think it is worse than other places. I lived in Argentina some years ago. It has a bureaucracy so complex that any unusual query takes days of 'study' before anyone will make a decision. Despachantes are more than just customs brokers and abound to help people in all matters of the bureaucracy I worked round this by going to the library and finding a clause in my favour before I went to the Ministry as it covers a decision made by an official. Maybe being a foreigner helped. There are a lot of Italians in Argentina.

Sorry, Cardi. But I forgot to mention that I also lived, for many years,  in Argentina. Problems there are of a different nature. Corruption and nepotism is the name of the game. It cannot be called bureaucracy. You can go through Customs without any problem if either you know the right people or you put some US dollars inside your passport as you go through. And an Argentine's definition is "an Italian who speaks Spanish, behaves like the French and wishes he was British". Don't blame the Italians. All the other nationalities that created the explosive cocktail are to be blamed as well. And possibly you wasted your time trying to beat the system. Or matters were not that important and the "bureaucracy" decided not to waste its "valuable! time. 

And before everyone gets bored to death with our Latin... "Finis coronat opus" On the main topic, Cardi, I am sorry that you had such a bad experience in Italy and in Argentina; however, you cannot blame any of the two countries, but the individuals you had to deal with. I do hope that France is not going to disappoint you, but nothing is perfect. all countries have their good and bad points. You have to try to concentrate on the positive aspects and forget about the negative ones. Love the country for all the good things it can offer you and then you will feel at home. My motto is "Ubi bene, ibi patria" (sorry about my Latin, again) and it means that wherever I feel good, there is my home.

I posted to see what people thought about dealing with officialdom in Italy. I have owned a house in France for 17 years and have been able to deal with foncs quite well, my French neighbours ask my advice, It's not difficult as civil servants are the same everywhere but, admittedly, it can be quite hard to get some of those French lady foncs to crack a smile. It is my Italian friends who tell me that Italy is bad. The English here as in France, Spain and Portugal are very defensive of their adopted country, much more than locals.

These times are difficult for quite a few countries because of the economic crisis. Italy is no exception and  Italians complain because life is more expensive than before and taxes are higher. But then, come t Spain and you will hear the same story. And I am not mentioning Greece or Portugal because I have not been there recently, but I know that life is very difficult there. From what I observe in France, people are also unhappy with some of the things that are going on. I cannot complain about the way I am treated in France whenever I am there, but then, I smile first, speak perfect French without an accent and I am very polite. I get back the same treatment and I can assure you that French officials can smile and say "Madame" a million times. Same thing in Italy. Spaniards are a bit more abrupt. And the British say "thank you" every two words... We are all different; however, it is a good idea to start with a friendly smile, in any language.

Love your responses Gala & I envy your home in BDL, I have always loved it and when I win the lottery... I'll be there!  At the moment too expensive in the valley and the affordable propety in the surrounding hill towns are too inaccesible and too hard on the knees at my age!!  Guess you may know Debra Kolkka?

Bees produce honey - a sweet, sticky substance that lures people into risking life and limb in order to obtain just a single drop.  People are known to become almost intoxicated by its sticky sweetness What most people forget is how dangerous honey can be - in excess it causes Diabetes and possibly death and you must always remember that the sweet little bees that produce it, still have a rather mean sting in their tails. It can be quite nasty stuff - if ya know what I mean.

Yes, Maggi. I certainly know Debra. She is a friendly, wonderful person who does a lot to promote Bagni di Lucca and Italyin general through her great blog. I guessed that you may knew her as well. Perhaps we shall meet some day. Good luck with your future plans!

Thanks Gala... I will certainly be visiting BDL again once the major work is finished on the property and I have time to trip around!.  Debra's blogs are wonderful and she has been very helpful....  We stayed at Vettaglia (sp?) last year when I was house hunting and spent every evening at the little restaurant in San Cassiano... Just fantastic!