Settling in to your new home in Sulmona and the Valle Peligna
Now you have your very own property here, how to go about settling in and maybe making a new life for yourselves? Some bureaucratic formalities can be overcome quite quickly but it’s not unusual to spend a longer time simply adapting to the different rhythm of life.
Italian Residency – yes or no?
This is a prickly subject and one which will yield all sorts of conflicting information online. In a nutshell, those with citizenship of an EU member state*, including dual-nationals who are listed on the AIRE, should have no problems gaining residency – either to work or to enjoy a well-earned retirement. There is an ‘Elective Residency’ visa, which is available to retirees from the US for example, but you need to prove you can support yourself without working or generating money here in Italy. Owning a property here does not automatically give you residency rights.
A few years ago there was a ruse which involved applying for residency in order to pay lower property taxes on your purchase. This rarely, if ever, saved the purchaser any money as the long-term tax implications of being resident here are complicated. Don’t go there…
Doing work to your property
It’s rare to find a property here which doesn’t require at least a little internal updating and upgrading. Some of the village or rural properties may need a lot of work to both the structure and the internal space but don’t let that put you off. Plenty of buyers have undertaken work but do be realistic about how much time it will take and how elastic your final budget is. If you are not an Italian speaker, or an experienced self-builder, or can’t get here often to oversee the work, choose your main contractor carefully. Consider using an interpreter or at least someone who can make calls on your behalf and attend meetings with you. See how we can help you, too. We’ve had a lot of experience doing this not only for ourselves but for clients here too over the last couple of years. Note that building permission from your local ‘Comune’ (town hall) will be required, you’ll need the services of a ‘geometra’ (engineer / surveyor), if not an architect, and all works will need to be signed off to conform to local building regulations.
A silly Italian rule states that unless you are an Italian resident, or are listed on the AIRE (Registry of Italian citizens resident abroad), then you cannot purchase a car here. If you can drive here to visit your holiday home then it’s certainly an option. Note that you can’t legally leave your non-Italian registered car here permanently so you need to bear this in mind too. Short-term rental cars are available here in Sulmona or from all the airports including Pescara. If you are not an EU resident you can lease a car for a period of 21 days or more. That might well be a better option. Google ‘Car leasing for non EU residents’.
The Expat community in Sulmona
There are a few families and couples dotted around, many of whom have become friends, but there isn’t an ex-pat community per se. If you crave the company of English speakers you will find plenty – especially in the summer months – but you won’t find Bridge or Croquet or too many July 4th barbecues. Whether you see this as a positive or a negative depends on you!
Support services – what and who do you need on a daily basis?
You’ll need to find yourself a doctor (possibly a specialist of some kind), a dentist, hairdresser, vet, dog-minder, optician, car mechanic, beauty-therapist, possibly a cleaner etc. Do ask for recommendations from neighbours and local contacts. That’s how it works here and it will give you a good excuse to initiate a chat.
Learning the language
Absolutely essential. Holidaymakers get by very well with restaurant Italian but when you have a property here then you need a much greater proficiency in all sorts of lexical areas or you will quickly find yourself at a disadvantage. It will be harder to make friends too. Some Sulmonesi do speak English but they are rarely where you need them – at the Comune, at the doctor’s, at the garage etc. Try to invest both time and money in learning at least to a level where you can then self-study and / or make friends with someone to help you develop your conversational skills.
Tax and Financial Affairs
At some stage, most people will require the help of a commercialista – something between an accountant and a business advisor. Not everyone will pay tax here, or need to submit an annual Italian tax return, but there will be a steady succession of things where you will need help understanding ‘the system’. TOP TIP: Find that person before you really need them.
Ongoing help and advice
There are plenty of people who will willingly help you here – either on a casual, friendly basis or on a more professional basis for an appropriate fee. You may also like to join one of the many Facebook groups for expats in Italy. We started one specifically aimed at those living here in Sulmona which you may find useful. It can be found here.
We hope this blog post has been helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear them.
*post written May 2016