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Living in Italy for a year

My wife and I intend to move to Florence to live for a year. As such, we have several questions and will appreciate any feedback or direct experience:

1) Has anyone recently succeeded going through the gauntlet to secure a permanent residency visa from the Italian consulate? Any advice or do's and don'ts? How long before you started your move did you apply for the visa?
2) Has anyone opened a bank account with an Italian bank BEFORE going to the country to hold Euros as a way of fixing some portion of the trip costs exchange rate variability? Advice or do's and don'ts?
3) Has anyone used the website apartmentsflorence.it? We have had good responses from them to questions we have had and a friend used (and was pleased with) their services for a short stay in 2014, but we have not connected with anyone who is doing what we are doing and had direct experience with them for a long term stay.
4) Did you leave the US with a one-way flight itinerary only and then book the return later once in Italy? Or...?
5) Has anyone done a home exchange with someone in Italy for this kind of plan? What resources did you tap to make this happen?

Any other thoughts appreciated. We took a Rick Steve's tour to Tuscany in 2011 which is what triggered our plan, and we recently read the book Not in a Tuscan Villa which is on point as a great guide too.
Thank you very much!

Posted by
869 posts

Take a look at girlinflorence.com
It's a great blog for travel information, as well as what you are trying to do.

Posted by
17088 posts

I have not attempted to stay in Italy long enough to need a visa, but I met an Australian couple in Italy in 2015 who had gone through the process of getting a long-stay visa (probably not the right terminology). They said it took multiple visits (don't remember whether it was 3 or 4) to the consulate to get everything taken care of.

I believe you will need good documentation of your financial resources (probably assets as well as monthly income, if applicable), your medical-insurance coverage, and a permanent address in Italy. I'm not sure whether having only a one-way ticket would be a problem, but I've flown into the Schengen area (including one time into Rome) with just a one-way frequent-flier ticket in my possession, and no one commented on it. Whether that would be an impediment to getting the visa, I don't know.

I remember that my acquaintances had difficulty of some sort buying a car. I'm not sure about your ability to open an Italian bank account, though I can certainly understand why you'd want to do so at the current exchange rate.

Posted by
23851 posts

Laurel who is a regular poster here spent the last several years in Rome, including having to deal for a long time with the bureaucracy of getting the appropriate permit.

She wrote extensively about that, and all sorts of other things, in her two blogs.

First read a good part of her Good Day Rome blog starting from where she was getting the permit at https://gooddayrome.com/2015/09/05/the-path-to-the-permesso-di-soggiorno-our-journey-so-far/

Her other blog about every Friday's pizza was pretty much Rome centred so may not be of so much use to you, but if you intend to travel to Rome or want to understand real Roman Pizza you could have a look at www ourweeklypizza com.

Posted by
11981 posts

From your name, I assume that you are a resident of the State of Washington. If my assumption is correct you are under the jurisdiction of the Italian Consulate General in San Francisco.
I don't know the reasons for your decision to move there (different reasons may have varying procedures), therefore I will make the assumption it is for "residenza elettiva" (elective residence).
Start from the website below, then click on the type of visa you need (probably elective residence).
http://www.conssanfrancisco.esteri.it/consolato_sanfrancisco/en/i_servizi/per_i_cittadini/visas.html

I think I read, besides health coverage, you will need proof of income of at least €2500 per person (the Consulate will let you know).

Regarding opening a bank account. I have one in Florence. The biggest obstacle is actually a US law called FATCA of 2010 (Google it, because you need to be aware of its basic provisions). Since the inception of that law, many banking institutions are reluctant to open accounts for US persons (US Person by IRS definition). I am a dual citizen (US, Italy) residing in the USA, Therefore I am a US person per the IRS. As such FATCA requires, by virtue of an intergovernmental agreement, foreign banks to comply with its requirements (amazing the power the US Government has). If you decide to go, I can refer you to my banker in Florence. Opening a bank account for US residents is an acquired skill that few bankers have, and my banker has (because of the hoops they had to go through to open one with me). However I don't know if my banker has English language skills, hopefully you will be sufficiently fluent in Italian, at least some, before you go. I don't recommend you move there with zero language skills. You need to speak some Italian to deal with the everyday life of a resident. Once you have a foreign account, there will be reporting requirements with the IRS, don't forget that as penalties are stiff.

Posted by
9450 posts

Hi Seattlealmys. I did write a ton in my blog about the process, but fire back with questions if you have them after reading. Some key points:

  • You cannot apply more than 90 days before departure from the U.S.
  • You must already have a lease and it should be in both names

Take a look at Sabbatical Homes.com. That is how we found our furnished place. Shipping goods to and from Italy is very expensive, especially if you are only planning to be there a year. If you are Facebook people, joint the group Americans Living in Italy. Good resource.

Posted by
11981 posts

Don't get discouraged by the bureaucracy and don't think it's any easier or shorter for foreigners moving to the United States. On the contrary. I speak from experience.

Posted by
9450 posts

I have to disagree with DonnyBee on the ease of getting a work visa. It is by-and-large considered impossible. Unless your U.S. company sends you, forget it.

He is right, as is Roberto, that you must have private health insurance. I would make sure it is U.S. based and covers you abroad.

Whether or not you need a return ticket is subjective. We went to the San Francisco Consulate for our visas and that was not an issue. I think it might have something to do with the amount of financial resources you have. If you a squeaking through with the minimum, they may demand a return ticket. In SF, the first thing they looked at was our lease. Be prepared to push back if you think you have all bases covered and they give you any grief. It's part of the game. How badly do you want to go and stay for a year?

Posted by
5718 posts

We did this long ago and you do need to get started early on to get the visa. We started 3 mos early and had our passports back literally the day before the trip; I was prepared to fly to Detroit to pick them up if they had not come.

We were able to buy health care cheaply from Italy i.e. buy into their system; I don't know if this is still true.

We had a bank account and it took us a very long time to set it up from the US. The problem is we were literally ever able to close it. Bank rules are different in Italy and we tried repeatedly to close out the account paying all fees etc only to have more dunning letters with more fees. We finally stopped responding after a check for the fees was cashed and then yet again we got demands for more fees with refusal to close the account until they were paid.

So get better advice than we apparently got on that.

Note also that having a visa doesn't mean you can automatically get your soggiorno; we had to make 4 trips to the local government offices to get that done and we know people who were not able to get their family legalized the whole year they were there (the husband/father had a year long Fullbright and jumped through incredible hoops to get visas for his families which he never succeeded in doing. They ended up living their illegally the whole time; that was easier to do 10 years ago than it is now.

Posted by
11613 posts

The OPs did not mention work visas, or did I miss it? Anyway, Laurel is right; a friend of mine could not get a work visa (she is a nuclear pharmacologist).

Posted by
20718 posts

You might use the search function here to look for similar postings. There is a female here who is now in Italy for year. And for awhile she was posting about her experiences and the hoops she went through. Forgot the name. Maybe someone else will remember it. She hasn't posted for awhile.

Second, DonnyBea, are you saying that a work permit is easy for an American to obtain? That is contrary to what I have read but haven't been through the hoops either. Also RoninRome worked in Italy and would be a good source but haven't seen anything from him laterly, either.

Posted by
11981 posts

The original poster does not intend to work in Italy, so the point is moot.
To live in Italy under the elective residence rules all you need is proof of sufficient income and a property lease (or property deed) for the place where you will be staying. There are of course bureaucratic steps to go through, like in any country, including the US.

And in spite of the anecdotes you hear about Italian bureaucracy (mostly based on vintage movies) my experience tells me that lately Italy has done a lot of progress and I'm confident in saying that in many circumstances the Italian Government is more efficient and technologically advanced than many branches of the US Government.

I, an only child, am taking care of my very elderly mother basically via internet with her banking needs, social security needs, national health service needs, tax authority needs from 6000 miles away, all electronically. As a former Medicare manager I can tell you that it would be impossible to do the same in reverse, because neither the US Social Security Administration, nor Medicare, nor any US Government Agency is as advanced as their Italian counterparts today (and Medicare doesn't even contemplate the services provided by the Italian National Health Service). Even my Italian bank is more technologically sophisticated than my Chase Bank. You can even pay your local taxes at the cash register in a supermarket in Italy just as easily as you can ask cash back at your supermarket.

Posted by
255 posts

DonnyBee, it is not easy at all... The only ways to be in Italy legally are: 1. To study here, get a title, get a job (not easy at all) and then change the study permit to a work permit. Then you have to renew your permesso di soggiorno and comply with the requrements for renewal; 2. Come here sponsored by a company; 3. Have an italian company interested in you, they must prove that no one else already in Italy can do what you are going to do, promise to hire you and be somewhat responsible for you, 4. Or come here on the yearly immigration quotas (Decreto Flussi), a limited number of spots, divided among the UE, open every year for immigrants. There are different categories, and people have to apply, it takes time and is not easy at all.

Many of the foreigner living here that I know, have studied here, gotten their degree and are now working, or, have come here with the decreto flussi, and once here, have asked for a family reunification, and have their families come here. That takes a few years (at least 5) from what I know, and the person that was already here has to have a permesso di soggiorno for all those years (that means that person has to have a job), a house that complies with size and number of rooms for all the people he is planning to bring here, and a certain amount of money for each person that is going to live there.

So it is not easy at all, but given that the OP is not interested in working here, I think their best choice is to look in the embassy webpage what the requirements are and start from there.

Posted by
11613 posts

Frank, are you thinking of Catherine (Texasgirl or something like that) and her dog, Jake? She decided to stay another year in Orvieto.

I think elective residency also requires proof of health insurance (Medicare doesn't count).

I think there may be some confusion between working and having legal permission to work...

Posted by
20718 posts

Could be but that is not ringing a bell with me. I am sure that there are Americans working under the table in Italy - called undocumented workers. Over the years we have run into a few in out of the way bars, restaurants, etc., so it can be done if willing to take the risk. But obtaining a work visa without sponsorship is very difficult.

Posted by
11981 posts

In the early 1980s Americans were the largest contingent of illegal aliens in Florence.
Proof of substantial income and health insurance (and a clean criminal record) is all you need for elective residence. A house lease is necessary too.

If you think it's cumbersome to go and live in Italy, even if you don't need to work, try the US. It's nearly impossible even if you have substantial income. To come and retire to the US, unless you are sponsored by a citizen relative, requires the E2 visa. That is an investor visa. The requirements are massive. You basically need to be an investor that invests a majority stake in a company that creates at least a specific number of jobs (I think 10 at least) that vary depending if the area is a special development area (low income) or not.

Posted by
255 posts

Requirements for a work permit are the same, regardless of nationality.

Posted by
9450 posts

Think about your bank account. I think you can function perfectly well for a year without an Italian bank account. We have a Charles Schwab Bank account and the debit card is fee free worldwide. You can pay your rent using Transferwise, an economical currency transfer system, and you can pay your utility bills online for the most part, or use auto-pay for things like cell phone and Internet. I would not open an Italian bank account for one year.

Posted by
3307 posts

txgirl620 was a poster on here quite a while ago who has been living near Orvieto for about a year and a half now. She lived in a villa outside the city and has since moved to an apartment in a village. I believe that she hasn't been able to get her visa extended and is heading home to the States soon. If you PM her she may reply and share her experiences about the process...she hasn't posted on here for quite a long time and may not read the forum anymore.

Posted by
1856 posts

An interesting conversation. I am certainly not an expert on the methodology of securing the proper documentation in Italy, but having lived in a few countries - soon to be a fifth in Europe - I've experienced various systems. For us, the most difficult country was by far Italy. Our documentation process took an intolerable amount of time, effort, and money. We learned all the roadblocks to being "fully documented" the hard way. At one point, even though she had no papers... my wife was paying Italian taxes. Still haven't figured out how that worked?

To get our initial set of documentation to remain legally in the country more than 90 days took us about 13 months. And in the end, we had to hire Italian lawyers to secure the proper documentation (this, coupled with a trip to the Italian Miami-based Consulate). There were different levels of documentation when we lived there and each provided different privileges - like being able to purchase and register an automobile.

We both opened bank accounts in Italy before we had documentation to stay. That took us few weeks, a lease, etc.
We were IN Itay before we attempted to open back accounts (in all other countries we've opened accounts BEFORE we moved to those countries - Not sure if we could have done that in Italy as we did not try). Living overseas we are sensitive to how much money we have in our open accounts in Italy, Austria, and Denmark and what we carry back and forth to/from the States.

We have left and entered the USA multiple times with one-way tickets. With our US passport, it's been no issue for us coming into Europe. We sometimes purchase heavily discounted one-way flights - some great options! I know years ago this was an issue - and soon may return due to the refugee issues - but as of late, it has not been a stumbling block for us on our 2-3 trips to the USA each year.

I've not heard of anyone doing a long-term "home-exchange." I would think that would be a limited window of opportunity.

I would imagine that EACH effort to process a long-term stay in Italy would be unique. Not just for the national requirements but also the local (say Lazio restrictions for a move to Rome compared to the interpretation of those same laws in Florence). Probably no different than the difference between the interpretations by the Miami Consulate vs. the San Franciso consulate. And that would be the first place to start - at your assigned Consulate office.

In all the countries we've lived, Denmark and Austria were the easiest for us to secure visas. Denmark was a few hours; Austria about 2 weeks. We were approved for a long-term visa in France after about 3 weeks but never moved there. We've also had to RENEW our visas each year. Again, Italy was the most difficult, the most bureaucratic. Austria, then Denmark were the easiest.

These are just our experiences - and having sat in a few cafes listening to other expat visa stores - yours' will be different. Their's certainly were - and we were living in the same country! Our next country is The Netherlands and we've already started our process of securing an apt, setting up bank accounts, and of course, getting a visa. So start with the Italian consulate and thoroughly read the materials they provide. and ask a lot of questions. If you're able to go to Florence before you move - ask the local officials their interpretation. Good Luck!

Posted by
11981 posts

You can open a bank account in Italy while you are still a US resident. Although not all banks do it. Mine does in spite of being a US resident. My mother's bank doesn't allow me to. They require Italian residency.
However I wouldn't open a bank account in Italy or anywhere else until you are sure to move there. Monthly fees and taxes add up and you are not allowed to have an interest bearing account as a US resident.. but the biggest issue is the FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) reporting requirements to the US Treasury, which are a pain. Why subject yourself to that pain and expense if you don't need to?