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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


This section covers a number of important services for homeowners and renters alike.

One thing most of these services have in common is that you have to regularly pay for them. Some providers allow payments using credit cards. All of them accept payment using bollettini postali at the Post Office. But in general, if you have a bank account, you might find it easier to pay using direct debit from your conto corrente. Not only is there no charge for this, but you don’t run the risk of falling into arrears. Although utility bills arrive quite late in the cycle by American standards, they often allow relatively little time for payment.