Italy Owners Guide

Owning a holiday home in Italy

This is a land steeped in sunshine and culture, beautiful scenery and fabulous food. Here amongst both dramatic and picturesque landscapes dotted with perfectly preserved medieval hill towns and delightful coastline people live and work in villages, towns and cities that are full of historic interest and delight. At the same time Italy has excellent road, rail and air communications and a modern, stable infrastructure. With this happy combination, naturally many British people chose to have a second home in such an attractive place.

The landscape of this peninsular country is diverse. Piedmont and Val d’Aosta in the north contain some of the highest mountains in Europe and are excellent areas for winter sports in the winter and walking and climbing in the summer. Tuscany has a diverse landscape with snow-capped mountains, lush countryside, hills and a long sandy coastline. To the east is Umbria, the fertile ‘green heart of Italy’ is hilly with broad plains, olive groves and pines. Le Marche is a region of gentle mountains, rivers and small fertile plains. The south is wilder than the north, still with beautiful olive groves, cool forests and rolling hills but this is also a land of volcanic hills and isolated marshes. Italy’s coastline is diverse, from the very sophisticated Liguria region, with a feel similar to the Cote d’Azur in France, through superb beaches at, for example, Cattolica or Vieste and to undeveloped pretty coastline and fishing villages such as those on the Amalfi coast.

The island of Sicily is famed for its active volcano Mount Etna and lava fields but also has a fascinating history reflected in the wealth of historic sites to visit there. The Greeks, Romans, Normans, Byzantines and Arabs, amongst others, all invaded this island and left their fascinating archeological and architectural heritage.

Sardinia, again with a chequered past reflected in its historical sites, also has a dramatically mountainous landscape, fine sandy beaches and coves and rocky offshore islands. Italian culture combines art, opera, history, high fashion and elegance. In addition, Italians are passionate and knowledgeable about their food. Wonderful and varied local cuisines and wine making are to be found in each Italian region – and can be sampled in friendly trattorie or world class restaurants. Culture and sophistication can be found in various historic Italian cities where some of the world’s most beautiful buildings can be found. Florence, Verona, Siena and Naples for example all see a lively outdoor café society and inviting restaurants set amongst Roman and Renaissance architectural masterpieces and all in a climate that makes outdoor living a pleasure. Venice, set in the lagoon, with its canal ‘streets’, pretty bridges, beautiful palazzos and churches is quite unique. Rome ‘ the eternal city’, home to the Vatican is extraordinarily rich in Roman, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

For lovers of art, particularly of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, Italy is the destination. Superb galleries in Rome (such as the Galleria Borghese) and Florence (particularly the internationally famous Uffizi) contain some of the great artworks of western civilization. Roman antiquities are, of course everywhere, from the coliseum in Rome or the Arena in Verona to the preserved Roman town of Pompeii near Naples, buried for many centuries under volcanic ash. Delightful gardens scatter the country, welcome oases in the intense Italian summer and many are open to the public.

Learning about Italy and getting about:

Take time to explore the country or even just the region that you know you want to be in. Bear in mind that away from the already fashionable areas such as Tuscany (‘Chiantishire’), your money will go further. Try short rents in different places. Such exploration will reveal new things about the country and also help you to focus on what you finally want. You then get a better idea of which characteristics of a holiday home, and its location would be important to you. You will discover compromises you might have to make; the convenience of the town for provisioning and entertainment versus the quiet and privacy of the countryside. Although many British people like to holiday and have a second home in Italy, the country does not have hot spots of English speakers like Spain and Portugal do. Getting a good command of Italian is arguably essential and will certainly enhance your experience of exploring to the full this wonderful country.

Service and product providers

Make provision to pay for the essentials of owning property, particularly when you living in a different country most of the time. When planning to take on a holiday home, you must ensure that you budget for any ongoing mortgage payments, buildings’ and contents’ insurance for the holiday home, second home local authority tax and any service charges if your property is in a communal setting. And don’t forget utility bills, TV licence, broadband etc. If there is a pool at your property allow for chemicals, special water rates and on-going maintenance and cleaning. Your insurer will insist that there is someone local to keep an eye on the place – to hold a key and to organise any necessary urgent repairs in your absence. You may well want gardening services to keep the garden from drying out and to give the impression of the property looking neat and lived in. And over time you will need to pay for builders, plumbers, electricians etc for maintenance and extensions etc.

Things to do when you are there:

Making the most of the area that you have chosen to live in. Get involved in the local community, culture, entertainment, miscellaneous activities, and keep fit and healthy. Like many Brits, the Italians are passionate about their football, perhaps you can start taking an interest in Juve or Inter as well as the Premier League. If you are a foodie, spend time visiting Italy’s wonderful markets and restaurants. Learning Italian is a good idea on two levels. Firstly, of course, to help you to get by in everyday life; in shops, restaurants, reading road signs and understanding utility bills and other official communications. Secondly the process of learning will help you to become involved in local life. People everywhere appreciate it when foreigners living amongst them (even if only part time) learn the local language and will often be very encouraging of your efforts. As you grasp more of the language it will help you to socialise, join sports clubs etc. You will enjoy testing out your language skills and be delighted as you understand more and become more understood. As you get better at Italian you can help other Britons new to Italy to settle in and enjoy their holiday place.

Renting out your holiday home:

You may plan from the start to rent out your holiday home for holiday use, or you may find this option more attractive at some point in the future. You will need funds to market your holiday home. Your property will then need to be kept in an excellent state of repair and be very well presented, with clean furniture in good condition and pristine crisp linen for each new visitor. The house will have to meet all rental regulations and if there is a pool/ garden areas, these will need to be kept clean and safe. You will probably need to employ the services of a management company to do this. Adequate holiday home insurance will be required which should include liability cover and loss of rent.

If you are going to rent your home for holiday lettings, a freeview TV with DVD player may not be enough for today’s renters. You might wish to invest in providing a full entertainment package, multi-channel television (which receives the home TV stations of the rental market you will be aiming at) and wi-fi. In that case you will be looking at the cost of on-going cable/ satellite packages, broadband. However these added facilities will hopefully enhance the income you could earn from holiday home lets.