Television and Movies

Italy has one of the most advanced dubbing industry in the world. Subtitles are very rare and usually only available in Italian on some channel and for some very specific programs for people with auditory issues. Most TV channels and movie theaters have programming only in Italian, but there are a few exceptions. Let us go over the option.


Television can be received via the air (Digitale Terrestre) or via satellite. Over the air requires an antenna, which is usually already present. In the case of large condominiums, this service is provided by the association.  ‘Over the air’ channels are divided into three categories: unencrypted, encrypted and radio. For the encrypted channels, one needs a device and a subscription to the service.

Subscription Channel

The most common is Sky, a British company related to FOX and which only offers programs in Italian. It is not possible to subscribe to program in other languages outside of Italy. Sky broadcasts most soccer games including the Italian ‘Serie A’ league, Champion League and Europe League.  I said most because now some of the game are provided by DAZN, another British company, and they are only available on the Internet. Formula 1 racing is only available on Sky. DAZN shows NBA, NFL and MLB games. Another provider is Mediaset (Berluconi) which has free channels, but also premium one which mostly broadcast movies.

Free Channels

There are dozens of free channels and they are provided by a government own company (RAI), by a large private one (Mediaset) and by a large number of smaller one. As far as we know, the only English option is the 8:00 PM news on RAI 1, which is subtitled in English. To see the subtitle one must have a TV that is enable for Televideo a special technology that provides digital pages on the TV looking like bulletin boards from the 80s.

RAI television is funded by an addition to the electric bill of anyone who owns a television (and the assumption is that you do).


Radio channel are all in Italian and offer news, commentary and mostly music. If you want to listen to your home radio station, just use one of the many Internet programs.  We use MyTunerRadio and find it very easy to use.

English Options

With a smart TV, meaning a TV that connects to the Internet and the necessary connectivity, one can connect to Al Jazeera (Qatar), DW (Germany), EuroNews, BBC (U.K.), etc. all providing news in English. YouTube will provide access to CNN, CNBC and FOX, but not on a live feed, but rather through delayed broadcasting some of which is official and other that is pirated.

Amazon and Netflix

NetFlix is available and it has most of the US programming, plus movies in Italian. The same for Amazon Prime, though the programming available in Italy is more limited. Keep in mind that you can purchase NetFlix and pay for in the US and watch it in Italy. For Amazon, it is a lot cheaper to subscribe to Prime in Italy rather than in the US, and you get free shipping.

Viewing the US versions of Amazon Prime and Netflix from Italy requires the use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) such as ExpressVPN (there are many other options available). Using Amazon Prime you can then get access to all the standard Amazon US content such as HBO and Showtime and Masterpiece Channel (all for a fee). And of course Amazon Prime in the US costs over $100 per year. The fee for Netflix is the same in Italy as in the US. There is a small amount of Netflix content that is US-only. You can view that with a VPN.

Both Amazon and Netflix are not technically allowed to provide US content to folks outside the US. However, because they like your money, they typically turn a blind eye towards VPN access. However, from time to time these providers, and others, will attempt to block established VPN proxies, Having a nimble VPN provider who can offer more choice and reactive deployment of new servers is a good idea.

Other Options

There are US companies that provide TV over the internet. Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue and others let you watch TV without having to subscribe to cable TV, but there is a catch. Most block and traffic from and to outside the US, so you will need a VPN connection or some solution to hide your IP address.

While you may be tempted to go this route, you will soon realize that the time difference makes a difference and watching the Super Bowl at 2:00 AM is not fun. Also, provider in the US continually try to block traffic from overseas, so you will have to constantly adjust.   We used an AppleTV in Italy, other have used a Google TV with success, but then eventually you will want to disconnect from the US and be more connected with Europe.

Movie Theaters

In large cities, there are offerings in English. In Ascoli Piceno we are very lucky because we have a movie in its original language with Italian subtitles almost every Wednesday afternoon. Something good about going to the movie theater is that it is a lot cheaper than the US, but the popcorn may not be completely up to par.



There are principally three different kind of gas services available, this not too dissimilar from the US.  In urban settings, each apartment will have natural gas (gas naturale), also known as methane (metano). In rural settings, especially small villas, one may have a large gas canister that it refilled by tanker. This is usually Liquid Propane (Gas Propano Liquido).  Wherever these kinds are not available, then a one will have to use portable gas canister (bombole).

Gas is used for cooking, producing hot water and heating the house. The heating could be via an integrated unit (caldaia) that produces hot water and heat up radiators (or floor heating) or via portable heating units (stufetta a gas).


Natural gas and propane are not interchangeable. Since they have different caloric values, appliances must be set for one or the other.  So, when you are buying a new appliance (cooktop, heating unit, etc.) make sure you are buying the right one.


Note that the heating unit (caldaia) must be inspected and certified every year by a licensed technician.  Failing to have the heating unit inspected may cost you a fine ranging between € 500 and € 3,000. Each unit comes with a booklet (libretto d’impianto). Failing to have such a booklet – used to registered scheduled maintenance – will cost you an additional € 500 or € 600. Each region has its own regulations, even though the law is at a national level. Check with your real estate agent before signing any lease and or buying a house.

Natural Gas

Like for electricity, Italy has created an open market and thus you may choose your favorite and less expensive provider. In our experience, having the same provider for electricity and gas makes it easy to manage.  Prices fluctuates especially because most natural gas is imported.

While electrical meters are read remotely via an electronic device, gas meters are still subject (in most cases) to manual reading. Reading happens every two or three month or never… If one does not want to see the bill go up and down, or get a onetime shocker, it is best to do your own monthly reading and report it to the provider via their Web interface.

Gas Canister

If you have a house with gas canisters, you are in a remote area or in a very old house. Canisters, despite some urban legends, are not any more dangerous than any other kind of gas.  All gas of any type is highly odorized so that a leak can be detected quickly.  The only peculiar thing to notice is that the hookup of the gas pressure regulator to the gas canister – this is the device that lower the high pressure in the canister to low pressure used by the appliances – has a reversed thread. Therefore, the nut is tightened going from right to left and loosen going from left to right.

They usually come in 10 kg or 25 kg size. Check your appliance before you buy one. Providers demand a security deposit for any new canister your use. In most small towns, the reseller (bombolaio o bombolaro, depends on the local dialect) will usually install it for you but this is happening less and less as this technology is becoming obsolete.  Each new canister comes with a rubber gasket to be inserted between the canister and the pressure regulator: never reuse the old one. Canisters should be turned off whenever not in use. This is not convenient, but safe. The shut off valve is right on top of the canister and easy to operate.

BBQ or Camping Gas Canisters

These are are different from regular gas canister and not compatible with the kind available in the US.  The American gas regulator will not fit a European canister and needs to be replaced.  Ultimately, it is best to buy everything locally to make sure that it complies with EU rules.


Before discussing how the power distribution system works, it is important to be reminded that in Italy voltage is 220 and frequency 50. Voltage is critical and before plugging in any appliance, one needs to make sure that it is compatible. Some appliances, such as telephone chargers, are self-adjusting, while others, such as some curling irons, need to be mechanically set via a switch. Others are not compatible at all. This is common for some electronics that manufacturers do not want distributed outside the US. Plugging in an appliance set for 110 v. into a 220 v. outlet will destroy it and possibly cause fire. Plugs are different, but you probably already knew that.

Frequency is nowadays of lesser importance, unless you are planning to bring along your old record player. Frequency mostly affects electrical motors.  Higher voltage requires thinner wires, so do not be surprised if electrical wires in Italy are smaller. On the other hand, 220 v. gives a much stronger shock, so be careful handling electrical equipment.

Power Companies

In the past, there was a single State-run power company ENEL or ‘Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica’ (National Agency for Electricity). After deregulation, power distribution was assigned to the ‘Servizio Elettrico Nazionale’ (Electrical National Service) which takes care of distribution. Production is a combination of private, publicly controlled and foreign sources.  Consumers can choose among a large number of providers (18 at my last count).   These providers just sell you power and they do not even install a meter since those are provided by the grid.

No matter where you shop, power is expensive due to high taxation. These are average costs in an electrical bill:

  • Electrical Power (47%)
  • Delivery cost and metering (20%)
  • Indirect taxes (19%)
  • Other taxes (14%)

Other taxes will include the Canone TV License fee. This fee is charged to everyone owning a television, and the assumption is that you do.

In our experience, using ENEL Energia is the easiest choice and they have an English version of their web site. This company was born from the splitting of the old public company. They are by no means the best; they are just the largest.

Getting Service

Regardless if you rent or buy, electrical service should already be preset. The only question to ask is how many kilowatts are available to you. In the US, we are more used to describing service by Amps. An electrical panel in the US is usually 100 Amps or more, which would be about 8 kilowatts.  In Italy, meters start as low as 1.5 Kw with an average house having 3.0 Kw and a larger one 5 Kw. You will quickly learn not to run the dishwasher, vacuum cleaner and hair dryer at the same time. Upgrading a meter to a higher Kw is done remotely, but it is very expensive (about €300 to go from 3 to 5 Kw).

Invest in low energy light bulbs (LED) and avoid electric heaters.

To obtain service you need to complete a ‘voltura’ or transfer of registrant. Let your real estate agent take care of it since it is complex.  If you want to do it yourself, you will have to provide:

  • Your tax ID code (Codice Fiscale).
  • The POD code or Eneltel ID no. of the meter (for an electricity supply) or the PDR code (for a natural gas supply). You will see this on the tag attached to the meter or on the meter itself by using the digital display.
  • The meter reading.
  • The form declaring ownership or rightful possession of the property for which the electricity or gas supply is requested (certificate of residence).

You can do it over the internet but will need a scanner to send copies of your documents or you can do it in person at one of the local offices. The process may easily take a month or more from beginning to end. Meantime, service is still provided and the invoice is sent to the old registrant. Make sure you find these old invoices because they contain a form that you will need to take to a payment center (tobacconist or Post Office) in order to pay it.

The easiest way to handle payments is to have the ‘docimiliazione’ or automatic withdrawal from your checking account.   Alternatively, every two months – that is the frequency of the invoice – you have to go to one of the outlets (NEL stores, banks, post office, betting offices, etc.)  and manually pay it along with a transaction fee.

Variable Prices

Most contracts call for variable prices based on the time of the day. In general, they fall under these guidelines:

With a high rate from 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM Monday through Friday and a lower rate at night and weekends. There are no special rates for holidays. Over time, doing laundry or using the dishwasher after hours pays back.

What if You Do Not Pay?

In Italy, the power company cannot completely remove service. If you fail to pay, they will leave you 15% of the original Kw available (usually 450 Watts, just enough for the refrigerator and lights). Getting power reconnected is tedious, so keep up with your payments. If you have a disability, get registered as  disabled so that the power company cannot disconnect service.

Web Portal

All companies have a portal that you will use to manage your account. It is very important to sign up and gain access to this portal because the only alternative is a phone call to a call center and a long wait. The first time, you will ask your Italian friend to call the power company on your behalf. (Do not be surprised if they fake a sudden illness.)  As already said,  ENEL provides quite a bit of information in English.

Moving to Italy

(work in progress)

Where to live?

Shipping Your Goods 

If you have decided to ship your stuff to Italy, you should be aware that persons moving to Italy have only one year in which to ship belongings duty free. After that, you will be assessed a substantial duty, often more than 20%. Italian citizens who have been registered in A.I.R.E. (registry of Italian citizens abroad) for at least 12 months are also entitled to ship goods duty free upon moving back to Italy.

(Need section here on best way to ship)

Legally Residing in Italy

Italy specializes in bureaucracy. Here is an accounting of some of the most important documents that you might need in order to live in Italy in compliance with the law. Be sure to keep copies of everything. If you’ve moved to Italy, you might find a copier/scanner a useful investment.

Under current law, you can visit Italy as a United States citizen for up to 90 days without a visa. For longer stays, you will need a visa. Various types are available, including: work visas (very difficult to get, usually coordinated through your employer), student visas (course of study at least 20 hours/week, renewable for up to 2 years); and family reunification (with immediate family member already resident in Italy).

For most people who want to live long-term in Italy and don’t need to work, the best option will be an Elective Residency visa.

You will want to obtain a Codice Fiscale. It is necessary for pretty much any sort of financial transaction and including some online purchases.

When you arrive in Italy with the intent to reside here, you are required to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno within 8 days. Once you receive your Permesso, you can register your residence in the local Comune and obtain a Carta d’Identità. Normally, your Permesso will expire after one or two years. After you have legally resided in Italy for 5 years (and satisfied a number of other requirements such as A2 level Italian) you can obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno di Lungo Periodo the main benefit of which is that it doesn’t have to be renewed so often.

Folks who are lucky enough to have Italian heritage may qualify for Italian citizenship by the law of Jus Sanguinis. If you qualify, you are and always have been an Italian citizen, but you need to apply to have that fact recognized. The application can be done either at an Italian consulate or at your local Comune, depending on where you live. There is a Facebook group with detailed information on this topic.

An Italian citizen can obviously live here without further documentation. However, his or her immediate family can live here as well. To do so, the family member must obtain a Carta di Soggiorno di Familiare di un Cittadino dell’Unione at the local Questura. The most important piece of documentation needed to obtain this permit is the certification of family relationship (e.g., marriage). Normally, this information is recorded either in a Comune or in AIRE, the registry of Italian citizens abroad. But if this is not the case, you’ll need a certified, apostilled, and translated certificate from the relevant authority.

Spouses of Italian citizens can gain Italian citizenship by the process of Jus Matrimonii. In addition to appropriate birth documentation, criminal background checks, and more paperwork, JM citizenship also requires a B1 level of Italian language. The process can take up to 4 years.

Anyone who has lived legally in Italy for 10 years can apply for citizenship by Naturalization. This also requires B1 level language skill and a ton of paperwork.

Before you Move

House Hunting

You will certainly want an extended visit before taking the plunge.

Visit. If you will be applying for an Elective Residency visa, you will need a registered lease in hand, and this would be the time to arrange one. Most of us living in Ascoli have used the services of a particular real estate agent, Cinzia Ventili (, to help find housing. She is is strongly recommended if you’re heading to the Piceno.

Temporary housing. Quite a few AirBnB rentals are available in Ascoli. A local suite hotel (Di Sabatini) is convenient for stays of moderate length. Some folks have managed month-long stays through our local realtor.

Length of stay. Remember, you can only stay for 90 days on a tourist visa.

Small but important

Once you’ve made the decision to move, there will be a ton of things to think about. The big stuff you will probably already know. Here’s a list of small stuff that might wind up making your life easier.

Mailing address. You probably will want to keep an address in the US. This can be a friend or relative, or it can be a mail forwarding house such as With a forwarding house, you get images of arriving mail envelopes. You can ask for a scan of incoming mail (for a fee) or a shipment (for a larger fee).

Cell phone parking. You may want to keep a (cell) phone number in the US. There are multiple ways to do this, but the easiest way is to “park” your cell number with a cell phone parking service. Such a service can forward calls to you, or texts to your email. This is quite important for 2nd factor authentication on financial accounts, although not all providers will send challenge texts to “parked” cell phones.

International calls. You may want to establish a live digital phone number in the US, such as a Google Voice number. Having such a number will allow you to make free VOIP calls to US numbers. (Or you can make such calls with Skype for a small fee.)

Government benefits signup. If your plans allow you to enroll in Social Security and Medicare benefits before you leave, it’s much easier to do so from the US than from here.

Medicare Part B. Although you may choose to forgo Medicare altogether, if you are living outside the US when you enroll in Medicare, you are not eligible for the 6-month MediGap underwriting-free enrollment period. Keep in mind that Medicare does not provide any benefits outside the US (but some folks choose to keep it to avoid later penalties should they move back to the US).

MySocialSecurity and friends. You might be advised to sign up for the (free) online accounts offered by Social Security, the IRS and by state taxing authorities. These online tools allow you to monitor these bureaucracies without the telephone. You can sign up for these accounts more easily from the US.

US Amazon Prime. If you are an Amazon Prime video customer, consider keeping the service. The US version of Amazon Prime has lots of offerings that are not available in Italy.

Tax planning

When considering a move to Italy, the elephant in the room is often the question of taxes. Italian taxes are quite high. Some folks attempt to split the baby by residing in Italy less than 180 days per year (thus avoiding Italian taxes). This means that you won’t be a permanent resident, and thus won’t qualify for Italian State health care. So it’s a tradeoff.

If you do decide to become an Italian tax resident, remember these things:

Currency transactions. Financial transactions of all forms need to consider currency conversion. This is both complex and adds risk because traditionally stable investments such as bonds or CDs now have a currently fluctuation component for tax purposes (a CD maturing might give a capital gain in Euros but not in dollars, for example).

Roth IRAs and tax-free investments. Roth IRAs don’t exist here, so interest/dividend on Roth IRA accounts might be taxable. Similarly, tax-free investments in the US are not tax-free here.

Special treatments. Certainly types of securities (for example US Treasury securities) are subject to favorable tax rates in Italy (12.5%).

Sticky states. If you are changing tax residence from a high-tax state such as California, you may not want to use a California forwarding address. There is considerable evidence that California tends to adhere to previous residents longer than other states. So, it makes sense to avoid tempting the FTB into claiming that you are still a resident. For this reason, and among other things, it may make sense to change your tax address to Italy.