Rifiuti

Garbage (or rifiuti) is always a contentious subject in Italy. Over the last twenty years, there has been much progress made in convincing people and towns to engage in recycling. But old habits die hard, and even for towns that want to recycle, it is difficult to make the economics work out. Moreover, it is generally hard to find places to put garbage now that countries like China no longer want to be the West’s garbage dump, and since the burning heaps of other folks’ garbage in the South of Italy have started to receive scrutiny.

Garbage services are paid for through the TARI tax, which itself is based on the size of your dwelling (for residential spaces). Every Comune seems to have a slightly system, and the tax rate varies a lot. We describe here the garbage/recycling system used in Ascoli Piceno.

Once a year, you are allocated a pile of large plastic bags emblazoned with the city emblem: white for paper; yellow for plastic; light brown for umido (organic waste); blue for diapers; and gray for secco (everything else). There is a schedule for putting these bags, with appropriate content, outside the doors of your dwelling after 9p the night before pickup: Monday, Thursday, Saturday for umido; Tuesday for paper; Wednesday for plastic; Friday for secco; and diapers on any of the above days. A small plastic bin (or a larger communal bin for each condominium building) is provided in which to put the umido bags (which tend fall apart easily). Watch out for holidays (there are many in Italy) when there isn’t pickup, especially around Christmas and New Years. There is an isola ecologica (a dump) close to the city center for stuff that just can’t wait. Glass and metals are supposed to go in large bins on located around the Centro.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets the message. Some don’t want to pay the TARI, and thus leave their rifiuti wherever they can. Others refuse to follow the set schedule and put stuff out to moulder when they feel like it. Still others just dump all their garbage in and around the glass/metals bins. Don’t be like any of these folks.

Driver’s Licenses

Here is some basic information on the legal requirements for driving in Italy.

Using your US license

Your US driver’s license is valid in Italy for a limited time (typically for short stays). In theory, an International Driver’s Permit is required. This permit is basically just a translation into various language of the material on your license card. It has no validity in its own right. You can get one at a AAA office in the US. Over the last 20 years or so, the IDP has rarely been a hard requirement. However, recently there has been some report of car rental agencies requiring it. If you get particularly unlucky, you might find a policeman who demands that one be shown.

The Patente di Guida

Once you gain residency in Italy, you have one year to obtain an Italian driver’s license. Although the police may not give you trouble for driving on an American license after a year, they are entitled to do so and might well impound your car. (Remember that in Italy, the police are allowed to stop you without cause.) Moreover, if you get into an accident without a valid license, your insurance coverage may be void. Nuff said.

Earning a driver’s license in Italy is a big deal, and is especially challenging for those not fluent in Italian. You must pass both a theory and a practical driving test.

For experienced drivers from the US, the theory test is the biggest hurdle. The test is given only in Italian (or in German or French if you happen to live in a specific provinces adjoining France and Austria). It consists of 40 true/false questions that are often tricky, full of very specific detail, and written in a strange bureaucratic language more akin to a logic exam. You must get 90% correct to pass. Most non-Italian speakers wind up studying for many, many hours to practice for this test. Even Italian speakers find it difficult. After reading the material covered in the exam (a 600-page book), most people take practice exams until they reliably get only one or two wrong. A reasonable estimate is that you might wind up taking 300 practice tests.

Before taking your theory exam, however, you must obtain a medical release from your doctor and also be examined by a doctor qualified to do medical tests for driving. (This latter test is not rigorous, and largely involves the paying of a fee.) NB: If you wear hearing aids, you will be required to provide documentation from an audiologist that your devices work correctly.

In Italy, the DMV is called the Motorizazzione which typically has offices located in or near provincial capitals (and perhaps other places in populous provinces). Don’t expect to just show up and take a theory test. Tests are scheduled ahead of time, typically with large crowds of teenagers and a monitor who acts like a schoolteacher.

After passing your theory exam, you are awarded a foglio rosa, e.g., a learners permit. You now must wait a period of time (a month and a day) before taking your practical exam, and during that time you must accumulate a minimum of 6 hours of practice driving time with an adult who has been licensed for at least 10 years and who is under the age of 60 (under the age of 65 if your car happens to have a passenger-side brake pedal).

By comparison, the practical exam is easy, although that depends entirely on the nature of your examiner who, in addition to judging your driving, is allowed to ask you detailed questions about, for example, the operation of your car or the proper procedures for administering first aid in a road emergency.

There exists a thriving driving school industry in Italy. For many people from the US, it might make sense to contract with a school to take classes, get materials, conduct driving practice, and handle documentation and test setup. It won’t be cheap, of course. Expect to pay on the order of €600 for all of the above. You can, of course, arrange to do these things by yourself and there is no shortage of written an online course material. However, you might find that your practical exam is a bit trickier than if you were under the guidance of a licensed driving instructor.

Immediately after passing your practical exam, you will receive your license. Your license number will have a P at the end because you are now a neo-patentati. Neo-patentati are special in that for the first year, they must drive cars no more powerful than 55kw. Also, for the first three years, such drivers are limited to 100 km/h on the autostrada and a maximum of 90 km/h on other roads. Moreover, penalties for new drivers are double what they are for others, and driving after the consumption of ANY alcohol is prohibited. You may question whether all of these rules are strictly enforced for adult neo-patentati with years of driving experience. YMMV.

Owning a Car

(This section deals with some of the issues that car owners encounter. We won’t approach the idea of where or how to buy a car, but simply outline the requirements for making a new (or used) car legal in Italy.

We note that buying a car in Italy is much different than doing so in the US. In the US, it’s difficult to get out of a dealership without buying. In Italy, this seems not to be the case. Things happen slowly. You probably can’t drive off with a car even if you want to because the dealership will want to see an insurance contract and payment first, and these things generally must be arranged elsewhere.

If you’re thinking of moving a car from the US or other non-EU country to Italy. Don’t. Just don’t.

Registering a Car

Car registration is handled by the Motorizazzione Civile, the Italian version of the DMV. As AAA does in the US, the ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia) can help with performing this registration. In either case all cars must be added to the Pubblico Registro Automobilistico (PRA). Residence in a comune is required to register a car. As you might expect, car ownership registration requires roughly €80 in fixed fees, plus a provincial transcription tax which varies by location and the power of the vehicle. In Ascoli Piceno province, the APT is currently €4,56 per kw (measuring of the power of your engine in kilowatts). As an example, the small engine size that newly licensed drivers are restricted to for the first year is 55 kw.

This page from the ACI provides an overview of the vehicle registration process and required documents. There is an office of the ACI at
Viale Indipendenza 38/a in Ascoli. The Motorizazzione is a bit further out of town in the industrial area on Via della Tessitura.

Cars with non-Italian plates must be registered in Italy within 60 days of arrival. It is possible to register a car in Italy that was previously registered in a different country, but the documentation requirements (plus translation expense) are significant.

If you buy your car from a dealer, all of the above will probably be done for you. Once your car is duly registered, you will be in possession of a Carta di Circulazione which must be in your car at all times. You will also get a receipt with a long alphanumeric string that can be used to look up your digital ownership certificate in the PRA. Keep this safe at home because you will need it should you want to sell your car.

Insurance

Insurance in Italy is for the car, not the person. All cars must have a standard 3rd party liability insurance policy (responsabilità civile autoveicoli). This provides liability coverage for damage you car does to other people or property. The terms are pretty standard and there aren’t any options that we know of. You will need such a policy before you can drive your new (or used) car out of the dealership. Expect to pay at least
€650 a year for a RC policy for a small car. In a big city, it might be considerably more.

You can also choose to buy insurance for theft and fire, damage to your car that is your fault (Kasko), or windshield damage.

A number of us in Ascoli contract for insurance with an office of Assicurazione Generali on Via Napoli. Their prices seem sensible, but we haven’t done a detailed survey. If you are coming from the US and can get a record of no claims from your US insurer for the last 5 years, this might save you some money on your car insurance.

Legal Requirements

When driving, you must keep the following three documents in your car:

  • Your driver’s license
  • The Carta di Circulazione for your car
  • Motor vehicle insurance certificate (carta verde)

Every year, you must also pay a “bollo”, a road tax if your will. This payment is due on the anniversary of your car’s first registration (perhaps by a previous owner). You can pay this tax online, or at the ACI, or at any tabbacheria.

Starting when your car is 4 years old, a “revisione” is required every two years. This is a general car checkup analogous to a smog check in California, except that it covers more of the car’s operational functions. Certain mechanic shops that bear the moniker “centro revisioni” are licensed to perform this test. The date of your next revisione is indicated on your Carta di Circulazione.

In many parts of Italy, including Le Marche, winter tires are required from mid-November to mid-April. Buying two set of tires is a pain, we know. It may be the case that certain all-weather tires are acceptable for both seasons. You can instead carry a set of chains during wintertime, but this will not be a happy solution if you actually encounter snow or ice (which you might). If you wind up with two sets of tires, you should be able to find a mechanic who will perform tire changes for you and store your off-season tires. Mounting both sets of tires on rims makes this process a lot easier.

Parking

Many Italian cities are short on space, so parking comes at a premium. You may find that an urban parking space, whether at your dwelling or in a commercial garage, costs a fair fraction of your housing expense. Some sort of reserved space is nevertheless preferable because reliance on on-street parking can add considerable stress to your daily life. We have noticed that in some communities, individual public parking spaces are sometimes informally allocated to specific residents. If you don’t know about or abide by such unwritten customs, it might cause some neighborly discomfort. Even reserved parking spaces are often quite a lot smaller than folks in the US are used to. This is yet another reason why smaller cars are preferable for most Italians.

Most small Italian cities have designated parts of their city centers as ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato). These restrictions are often enforced with cameras that photograph the license plates of cars entering the ZTL. If you enter without permission, you will receive a hefty fine (multa) in the mail. If you try to appeal the multa, you will probably lose and then have to pay more. If the letter containing the multa doesn’t reach you right away for some reason, you might miss the payment deadline and then have to pay more. Some ZTLs don’t have cameras, in which case you most probably will only get a multa if you try to park therein.

Center city residents usually can get permits to enter and park in a ZTL if they reside there. If there are multiple ZTL zones, you will get permission only for the one where you live. In Ascoli, yearly parking permits cost €25 and can be purchased from SABA (the parking lot concessionaire) at their offices in the Torricella parking garage. Bring proof of your residence address, and place the resultant parking pass in a visible place on or near your windshield.

Traffic Enforcement

You will not often find police-manned speed traps in Italy. What you will find is a plethora of speed cameras, any one of which can detect you speeding and cause a ticket (multa) to arrive in your mail. (See the section on ZTLs for a discussion on multe.) Speeding tickets not only cost money, but deduct points from your license. You start with 20 points, and each regular speeding ticket deducts 4. So, a persistent speeder could lose his or her license in a single cross-country trip.

Speed cameras come in multiple varieties. Many local municipalities install them at the town limits on the main road, right around where the speed limit is reduced to 50 kph. The presence of a speed camera is always pre-announced by law with a sign indicating “controllo elettronico della velocità”. Mapping applications like TomTom have downloadable location data for cameras which cause the TomTom device to emit a beep as you near one. In rural areas, many speed cameras don’t actually work. But you never know.

The Autostrade have a much more robust system of speed cameras. On older roads, there are single point systems (or one per lane) which measure your speed one time. More advanced systems on newer roads, however, keep track of cars along long stretches of roads at multiple points and thus can calculate your average speed along those stretches.

Conveniences

If you take trips often, you will probably want to acquire a Telepass device for your car. This device allows you to use the Telepass lane on the Autostrade and thus avoid stopping at toll plazas. It can also be used to pay for parking in certain areas. Your Telepass account can be associated with a bank account so as to pay bills for tolls only a monthly basis. Enquire at your bank to get one. Or, you can stop at one of the Autostrade areas marked PuntoBlu,

The ACI not only provides car registration, but it also sells insurance, maps, and road incident coverage (much like AAA in the US). If you like the idea of having a number to call for help if your car breaks down, you might want to enquire about joining ACI.

Public Transportation

Here is a quick overview of the major forms of ground public transportation in Italy with a particular focus on those available in the vicinity of Ascoli Piceno.

Trains

The advent of the Freccia system of high-speed trains in Italy ushered in a new era in high-speed transport. These trains are fast, fairly priced, generally clean, and are supported by a robust online ticketing system. For Freccia trains, advanced seat reservations are required. Buy your tickets online at the TrenItalia website, or use a third party seller such as trainline.com. The services are largely similar. Tickets purchased online, either in digital or paper form, are largely acceptable for travel.

The main lines stretch from Salerno and Naples in the south to Milano, Torino, and Venezia in the north, stopping at Roma, Firenze, and Bologna. The three grades of service (Rossa/Argenta/Bianca) are largely indicative of how many stops are made. The FrecciaRossa is therefore the fastest and has the fewest stops. A slower line stretches south-east from Bologna along the Adriatic Coast down to Bari and Lecce. For much of this length, there is only one track per direction, so delays are more likely. A newer track connects Napoli and Bari.

An alternate train service provider, Italo, offers FrecciaRossa-quality service on a few of the mainline routes. Be careful, though, because some of their routes do not reach the central stations of their destinations. And while you can buy, for example from trainline.com, a ticket which connects Italo and Freccia trains, you will not be due any recompense if you miss the connection.

Below Freccia-level service, there are also many Inter-City trains which also require seat reservations. These have more stops than the Freccia trains, and usually operate on older rolling stock.

Then there are a variety of express and local regional level trains. Generally, a train number with four digits will be faster (fewer stops) than one with five. For these trains, no seat reservation is possible. If you buy a standard paper ticket, don’t forget to punch your ticket in the yellow machines on the track platforms (even if you just bought it from the machines or agent in the station lobby).

If you are over 60, you might want to apply for a free CartaFreccia Senior card on the TrenItalia website. Holding this card can give some advantages when booking tickets.

Train service to Ascoli Piceno is rather slow. There are about ten trains a day (fewer on Sunday) to either San Benedetto del Tronto (00:45) or to Ancona (1:55) on the main Adriatic line. These trains arrival tend to be scheduled to follow the departure of fast trains on the coast line, so if you want to make a connection, you will often have to wait a maximal interval. You might find it more convenient to find other transportation to or from the San Benedetto station and pick up, or depart the train there. Unfortunately, only a few of the Freccia trains stop at San Benedetto.

Intercity buses

Curiously, in Italy, large buses are referred to by the English name “pullman”. The etymology of the word clearly harkens back to the Pullman Company who operated railroads in the US and the UK in the late 19th Century.

Intercity pullman buses go everywhere in Italy and are a very popular form of transport. You probably can go to anywhere in Europe from a major hub like the Tiburtina bus station in Rome. It’s not the prettiest place in Rome, but it can be useful, and it is co-located with the Rome Metro. Multinational bus lines such as FlixBus are available between many Italian cities, but the regional carriers are too many to count. Most support ticket sales on the web.

It’s easier to get to Rome from Ascoli by bus than by train. There are two main routes. The Via Salaria heads directly over the Apennines from Ascoli along the route used by the ancient Romans. The road is windy and slow, but the total distance is about 50km less than the other route which takes the Ascoli-Mare Raccordo to A14 on the coast, and then follows the A24 to Rome through the Gran Sasso tunnel. Both routes take about the same amount of time. Your preference probably depends on your tolerance of windy roads.

START Spa. and Cardinali are the only two bus lines that offer the Salaria route, and those buses don’t continue on from Rome to the Fiumicino airport if you’re headed there. The coastal route is served by a large collection of bus lines: START, Cardinali, Flixbus, Gaspari, RomaExpress. Most of these lines terminate further up the Marche coastline, only stopping momentarily at Porto D’Ascoli and San Benedetto del Tronto. The coast route buses almost all visit either Fiumicino or Ciampino in addition to Rome. The trip from Porto D’Ascoli to Rome takes about 3 hours. Continuing on to Fiumicino takes most of another hour.

If you plan to get on or off the bus at Porto D’Ascoli, be sure to research the bus stop in advance because it is a gas station and is not immediately obvious. Some of the lines above offer connecting buses between Ascoli train station and Porto D’Ascoli. For those that don’t, you’ll have to find another way to get bdtween Ascoli and Porto D’Ascoli.

Local buses

START Spa. offers local and extra-urban bus service around Ascoli and to between Ascoli and most of the major comunes in the area. Complete timetables can be found on their website. Bus tickets, both single tickets and long-term passes, can be bought at tabaccherie and at newspaper stands.

Airports

Ancona and Pescara have small regional airports that are about 1:15h from Ascoli by car. Pescara has flights on Volotea to Palermo and Catania, and Ryan Air to Brussels Charleroi and London Stansted and other RyanAir destinations. Ancona has similar routes, plus flights to Munich on Lufthansa. Neither airport is particular well connected to public transportation, but both have adequate parking facilities.

Ciampino and Fiumicino are the two major airports for Rome, with Fiumicino being considerably bigger and better connected. Both are roughly four hours from Ascoli by bus (3 hours by car), but only some of the bus lines stop at Ciampino. Fiumicino has huge amounts of long stay parking, both public and privately operated. There are close in parking structures as well. Considerable discounts can be had by booking ahead.

Occasionally, very competitive airfares can be had through Milan Malpensa, which has the advantage of being easily reachable by train. However, the train trip is long, and requires a change at Milan to the Malpensa Express which takes another hour to the airport on the other side of the city.

Water

Water service is surprisingly expensive. In Ascoli Piceno, the local water provider is called CIIP (Cicli Integrati Impianti Primari) Vettore, where Mt. Vettore is the tallest mountain in our part of the Apennines.

Most water service is individually billed according to a meter somewhere in or near your dwelling. The meter reader comes very infrequently, so your bill is usually an estimate. Therefore, it makes sense for you to take regular readings of your meter and report them on the CIIP website.

(We might want to add info on setting up water service?)

In recent times, we have experienced a rather severe water shortage in the Marche, in part due to drought and in part due to reduced water flow from the existing mountain sources due to seismological activity. As of March 2020, CIIP set the water system status at Allerte Rosso livello 2, which means that all the public water fountains have been turned off. In 2019, water services was turned off in late night for a period of time, but this is no longer the case.

Although the water from the Ascoli system is of extremely high quality, much of the housing stock is old and the water systems within those houses is old as well. Of particular concern are houses or condominiums that have water storage cisterns which need to be cleaned periodically. Some such cisterns, if deployed underground, can even experience infiltration of bacteria from the surrounding environment. In some cases, a periodic professional check of interior water quality might be advisable.

Telephony

Land line / Internet

Ascoli Piceno has a well developed fiber-optic infrastructure, especially in the Centro. Most apartment buildings have pre-existing telephone cabling, and many such systems are already hooked into the Ascoli fiber. If this is the case for you, setting up service should be easy and only requires digital provisioning and a technician coming to your house with a modem to plug in to your telephone port. There are numerous hardwired broadband providers: TIM, Vodafone, and others. The cost should be at most 30-40 Euros per month (with rental modem), and given that the Centro is wired with fiber, bandwidth should be excellent (>100 Mbit/sec). If you live in the suburbs or countryside, your mileage may vary.

In most cases, landline telephone service is provided as part of an Internet package with a telephone plugged into your modem. You probably can buy just telephone service, but doing so is not so common these days.

Communicating with Others

WhatsApp is very commonly used in Italy, probably more so than email. WhatsApp uses cell phone numbers as identities, so having a viable cell phone number is essential. It does not have to be a local number. There are PC and iPad apps that provide a WhatsApp interface, but they require your phone to be nearby (unfortunately).

Various government functions use PEC (authenticated, privacy-enhanced email). Setting up a PEC account involves setting up an account with one of the several PEC-provider services. Basically they need to authenticate you, and they all do it somewhat differently. Unfortunately, PEC email is not compatible with ordinary email agents (e.g., GMail, AppleMail).

Another bit of security technology you might run into is SPID, which is an authenticated digital identity system. You can get credentials in this system, for example, to access mycupmarche.it, the online SSN appointment system in Le Marche. There are various SPID providers (for example infocert.it). Setting up an account again involves authenticating your identity rather carefully with the help of a third party.

You may want to arrange to use a VOIP telephone provider for international voice calls. Some VOIP providers, like Google Voice or Skype, allow you to make free calls to the US from your smart phone or computer. In some cases, there are fees involved (such as when calling a US phone number using Skype). In other cases, you need to have set up a digital phone number (for example a Google Voice number) ahead of time.

Cell Phone Service 

Cell phones are almost always unlocked in Italy. When moving from the US, it is therefore important that you make sure your US phone has been unlocked by your US provider.

The most common means of obtaining cell voice/data service is to establish an account in which you arrange to deposit sufficient funds to renew your chosen services when they expire each month. You will thus have to “ricaricare” (recharge) your account periodically. These funds are also used to pay for services in excess of your contracted service. There are plenty of service providers to choose from (TIM, WIND, Vodafone, Tre, Iliad). Some providers offer attractive plans for coverage in other countries (e.g., the US) when you visit there. Others do not. You might want to check.

Cell phone providers often try to sell you additional services, some of which can be a bit dodgy. It is not so difficult to subscribe to such services by accident, thus accruing regular charges that are not readily visible. So, it’s best to check your account billing details from time to time. It may also be possible to instruct your provider not to add additional services.

Permesso di Soggiorno

Your visa is the right to enter Italy for reasons other than short-stay tourism. The permesso di soggiorno is the right to stay in Italy.

Even if you have been to Italy many times, obtaining a permesso is likely to be quite different from any process you have been through in Italy before. You might have visited an Italian post office to mail a letter, for example, or to buy stamps. But you have probably never had to obtain and submit documents through the post office. Neither, most likely, have you ever visited an Italian police station. Obtaining a permesso and renewing it will require you to become familiar with both these places.

Unlike people working in the tourist industry, many of the people that you will encounter during this process will have only limited knowledge of English. If your Italian is not fluent, try to have an Italian-speaking friend accompany you, at least on your initial visits.

Whatever your command of the language, make sure you understand the process and have all the relevant documents ready for inspection.

Applying for a Permesso di Soggiorno

Under Italian law, you must apply for a permesso di soggiorno within 8 days of your arrival in Italy. Kits for putting together this application are available from your local post office.

Post offices are used for many more functions in Italy than in the United States – bill paying, banking, even package delivery, as well as legal documents such as the permesso. As a result, Italian post offices are often very busy.

Many post offices have machines near the entry which will give you a ticket with a number. In smaller post offices, you can go to any window for any function. In larger post offices, however, you may need to specify at the ticket machine what function you are looking for.In some post offices, you need to go to a special window for the permesso called a sportello amico. If your post office does not offer such a window, select a ticket for “all other functions.” If they don’t have the kits, they may direct you to another post office.

If you are moving into a large city, you can search the Poste Italiane website for post offices near you. Under the “servizi” section, you can check to see whether a sportello amico is avaialble at that branch.

In post offices with a multi-function ticketing system, your ticket will have both a letter and a number. There is often a small electronic board which indicates which ticket numbers are being served, and at which window.

Occasionally the local post office will be out of kits. Usually, it is better to go to another post office rather than waiting for the original post office to re-stock.

Since completing the application process can be confusing, we recommend that you obtain the permesso kit prior to moving to Italy, e.g., on a house-hunting trip. This will allow you to complete the form and collect the required documents at your leisure, without worrying about the 8-day time limit. Otherwise, you should obtain the kit as soon as possible upon your arrival in Italy.

Unfortunately, the application form for the permesso is not available online. You can find facsimile forms online, which can be useful as a guide, but exercise caution because the forms change frequently.     

Completing the Application Form

The kit will include an application form and will contain a list of documents that you will need to bring to the post office when submitting your application.

The application form is not especially difficult, but can be challenging depending on your knowledge of Italian and your comfort level in using an Italian dictionary (or even better, an Italian-speaking friend) for assistance. You can also find some instructions (in English) for completing the form on YouTube.

If you are entering Italy under an elective residency visa, you will only have to complete Part I of the application form.

If you are a married couple, you will need to complete an application form (and pay the requisite fee) for each person.

DO NOT sign and date the application. You do this in front of the post office representative when you submit the application.

Other Documents

In addition to the application form, you will also need to bring other documents with you when you submit your application, as specified in your kit. These include:

  • Your passport, endorsed with the visa issued by the consulate
  • A photocopy of every page of your passport, including all the blank pages
  • Proof of health insurance (plus photocopy for mailing)
  • Documents relating to why you are in Italy, including your lease or proof of residential property ownership (plus photocopy for mailing)
  • Copies of the financial information you submitted for your visa
  • Envelope for mailing documents to immigration office (included in the kit)
  • Marca de bollo plus money for other fees (see below)

Application Fees

There are several fees associated with applying for the permesso di soggiorno:

  • Fee for the permesso (70.46 or 80.46 euro depending on length of stay requested)*
  • Fee for the post office (30 euro)
  • Fee for the marca di bollo (16 euro)

These fees are not listed in the application kit and are subject to change – you should check online before you go to the post office to submit your application.

The fee for the permesso is based on the duration of the permesso you are requesting: 30.46 euro for the issuance of the card, plus either 40 euro for a one-year duration, or 50 euro for two years. Different regions have different policies for the durations permitted: some will issue a 2-year permesso to new residents, some will only issue a one-year permesso initially but will permit a two-year duration on renewal, and some will only issue the permesso for one year at a time. If you have friends in your comune who have been through the process, you may be able to determine what the policy of your comune is. Keep in mind that if you request (and pay for) a two-year permesso and your comune will only issue a one-year permesso, you will not receive a refund.

You can obtain the marca di bollo at any tabaccheria (recognizable by large T signs). The other fees are paid at the post office.

Note that some but not all post offices will accept credit cards or local bank debit cards. It is safer to bring cash.

Note that the fees are per person, so if you are a married couple you need to double all of these amounts.

Submitting the Application

Once all your documents are ready, and in any event within 8 days of your arrival in Italy, you must submit them at the post office. You should follow the same procedure you used to pick up your kit, e.g., if you needed to use a special sportello to pick up your kit, you should submit your application at the same sportello.

The post office employee will check your passport, have you sign and date the application forms, collect your fees, and put your documents into the envelope to be send to the immigration office.

Most of the websites we have reviewed suggest that you include photocopies of all required documents in the packages sent to the immigration office. In our area (Ascoli Piceno) we were advised that we needed include only the application forms and the photocopy of every page of our passports (including the blank pages). This seemed to work – we were not asked for the other documents until we had our appointment with the questura. Practice may vary by comune; if you are unable to determine what specific policies are followed in your area, it is safer to

Once you have completed the submission process, the post office will issue you an appointment date for the questura (police station). They will also issue you an official receipt that you have submitted your application.

Important: Keep your receipt, which will operate as your temporary permesso until the actual permesso is issued.

The length of time between the date you submit your permesso application at the post office and the questura varies by region. In some areas, appointments are scheduled only a couple of weeks out; in other areas, the delay may be several months. However, as long as you have your receipt, which is your proof that you have applied for the permesso, you have the right to remain in Italy.

Your Appointment at the Questura

When you go to the questura, you should bring the following:

  • Your passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Documents relating to why you are in Italy, including your lease or proof of residential property ownership
  • Copies of the financial information you submitted for your visa
  • 4 passport-size photos

Once again, you should bring the originals of all relevant documents (for inspection) and photocopies (to submit for your file). You do not need to bring another photocopy of your passport.

You can obtain passport-size photos at public photo machines; these machines can usually be found close to the questura, although they are generally found in other commercial areas as well. These machines issue photos in two different sizes – be sure to select the size designated for the permesso di soggiorno. The pictures are inexpensive (5 euro for 4) and take only a few minutes to create.

The immigration office at the questura can be a bit chaotic. In some areas, people are seen based on the order of their appointment. In other areas, everyone with an appointment for that date is seen on a first-come, first-served basis. In some offices, you keep your documents with you until your name is called. In others, you put your identifying documents (your appointment care and your receipt) in an in-box which is then collected by someone in the office. In any event, you should not arrive later than your appointment time, and even in a questura which follows appointment times you may have to wait.

When your name is called, you go up to the sportello with your documents. Husband and wife can go up together. The police officer at the sportello will then ask to see whatever documents they consider relevant. They may not ask to see everything — in our case, for example, we had to provide our lease, but not our financial statements or proof of health insurance. Still, it is safer to bring all the documents required, since you don’t know what the reviewing officer will ask for in your situation.

Once your file is reviewed, you may be asked to wait while they complete your application. You will be asked to sign an integration agreement, which requires you to attain an A2 language certification within 2 years, and to attend a citizenship course. (In our case, we were told to report to a course given at a local school, but you can take the course elsewhere if the dates are not convenient.) Finally, you will be fingerprinted at the questura, and the fingerprints will be submitted with your file.

When this process is complete, they will return your receipt (which is still acting as your temporary permesso) and assign your file a tracking number. You can check the status of your application, either on a website run by the polizia de stato or one run by the post office, using your tracking number. In many cases, if you provide a local phone number, they will send you a text message when your permesso is ready.

Waiting Period

The waiting period between the date you submit your application at the questura and the date your permesso is issued varies by comune. In some areas, it can be issued in as little as 6 weeks; in others, the wait can be as long as six months. Although the process is not totally transparent, it appears that the difference in wait times is the result of staffing issues – how many people are available to review documents in your region relative to how many people are applying, rather than any problems with specific applications. Check the website periodically to ensure that it indicates that your application is still in process.

You should carry your receipt, which acts as your temporary permesso, at all times while you are waiting for your permesso to issue – it establishes your right to remain in Italy. You can also use your receipt acts to establish residency, apply for the health care system, etc.

There may be an issue if you want to travel outside the country while your permesso is still pending. If you travel within the Schengen zone, there are generally no passport checks at the borders. However, if you want to travel outside the Schengen zone, e.g., to the US, you may experience difficulties upon re-entering Italy, particularly if you enter through another EU country. The receipt for your permesso application acts as a temporary permesso for many purposes within Italy, but it is not necessarily recognized as such by other countries. It is safer to postpone any foreign travel until after your permesso has issued.

Introduction

This site derives from the personal experiences of a group of US expats and Italian citizens who independently chose to live in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Some of the posts here might apply to Ascoli Piceno and not other provinces; we’ll try to call those out. But as with anything in Italy, things are different in different provinces.

Taxes

It is sometimes said that tax evasion is the Italian national sport. Seriously, taxes in Italy are high and it is often difficult to determine what you owe. There can be wide variance of opinion on the latter topic.

If you live in Italy for more than 183 days in a year and received any income, you almost certainly have to file an Italian tax return as well as a US one (assuming you’re a US citizen). If you are a resident, Italy taxes your worldwide income. One of the primary means for determining residency is registration in a comune. So, before you depart Italy for a long period of time you should think about unregistering from your comune, or
registering in A.I.R.E. (registry of Italian citizens abroad) if you are an Italian citizen.

Here are the Italian taxes that we know about.

IRPEF (‘Imposta sul Reddito delle Persone Fisiche’)

IRPEF is the standard Italian progressive income tax. It applies to earned income, passive income from activities such as property rental, and pension income (including IRA distributions). The tax rate is based on income starting at 23% and topping off at 43% for income above €75000. Taxes are computed per individual. There is no concept of joint filing. There are a small number of allowable deductions from taxes owed, for example a certain percentage of medical expenses. Tax paid to other countries is also deductible.

Estimated IRPEF payments of 40% and 60% are due for the current tax year on 30 June and 30 November (of 2020 for tax year 2020), or the next subsequent business day in the case of a weekend. Accounts are settled between estimated and actual payments when filing the yearly return in the subsequent year (as in the US).

There are regional and city taxes amounting to maybe 2% depending on location. These are incurred along with IRPEF on the same income.

Substitute Tax (on passive income outside of Italy)  

Passive investment income (interest, dividends, capital gains) generated outside of Italy is generally taxed at 26%. Certain types of income (on government bonds) are taxed at a preferred rate of 12.5%. Payment of this tax is on 1 July of the following year, there is no estimated payment in advance. There are no deductions, including payment of tax to other countries.

IVAFE (‘Imposta sul valore delle attività finanziarie detenute all’estero’)

IVAFE is a wealth tax on financial assets held outside of Italy. The holder must pay 0.2% of the value of those assets at the end of the calendar year. Estimated payment is made on the same schedule as IRPEF.

IVIE (‘Valore degli immobili situati all’estero’)

Italy taxes property owned abroad at 0.76%. However, if tax on the same property is paid to a foreign state, those payments offset IVIE. The basis on which IVIE is charged is a bit murky. If you can prove the price you paid your house, that can be the declared valuation for IVIE. Otherwise your basis is market value, whatever that means.

TARI (‘Tassa sui Rifiuti’) 

Comunes tax businesses and residents for garbage collection. For residential property, the rate is based on the registered size of the dwelling. TARI in Ascoli is due in 3 installments starting in April. For a huge apartment, the rate is a bit under €600 per year.

Retirement accounts (IRA, 401k) 

The taxation of US tax-deferred retirement accounts is not well defined in Italian law. The clearest interpretations we’ve seen are that distributions from such accounts (trusts, actually) are taxable under IRPEF, but that income within a IRA or a 401k is not taxable and the value of that account is not subject to IVAFE. This does not apply to Roth IRA accounts. There is no clear law, YMMV.

If you are employed in Italy and trying to contribute to a retirement account, we can’t help you.

VAT (Sales Tax)

VAT is incorporated into the price of everything you buy. There are various rates, but the most common is currently 22% (the rate for groceries is less). VAT applies to professional services (realtors, accountants) as well as physical products. In most situations, the shelf price or the menu price includes VAT. For professional services, the VAT is usually added afterwards.

Tax Treaty

There is a tax treaty between the US and Italy to prevent double taxation. Rendering the language of this treaty into the boxes of an IRS form is not a trivial enterprise. Among other things, it says that certain US pension income (for example Social Security income) is taxable only by the country in which you are residing. In order to get relief under the tax treaty, it is sometimes necessary to treat income earned in the US as if it were earned in Italy (because the US only allows credit for tax paid on income earned in Italy). Things are made more complicated by the fact that the Italian Substitute Tax does not allow deductions for US taxes paid. The bottom line is that this stuff can be tricky, but it is workable.

Filing and Paying Taxes

The Agenzia delle Entrate is the Italian version of the IRS. This office collects money for all sorts of government functions including taxes and voluntary healthcare inscription fees.

Income taxes are reported electronically to the Entrate using one of two methods: the Modello 730 or the Redditi PF (Unico). The two forms have different deadlines: 23 July and 30 September, respectively. The former seems commonplace for working people with regular incomes. The latter is more common for folks who have foreign income and other unusual situations (like US expats).

We don’t expect most expats to file these forms by themselves. Instead, using a CPA (Commercialista) is a good idea. In Ascoli, several of us use dott. Giorgio Marilungo (giorgiomarilungo@studiomarilungo.com), a reputable and friendly commercialista who is used to dealing with expats with minimal shared language.

Taxes are paid using a form F24 digitally sent from your bank account (or post office). You can do this yourself, or delegate your commercialista to do it for you. The relevant payment dates are 30 June and 30 November. The filing deadline for the PF form is 30 September, but you have to pay any difference between estimated and actual taxes by 30 June to avoid penalties.