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About Italy



Introduction


As the world's fourth most visited country, those looking for property investments in Italy can be sure that they are entering into a truly established market place with massive scope for rentals, and also considerable growth within the country's emerging southern regions.

Traditional locations in the northern regions such as Tuscany and the historic cities of Florence, Venice and Rome have always been on tourist agendas, while some of the previously lesser known southern destinations are now gaining recognition for their untouched charm and beauty. New budget air services to Italy are now in operation in a bid to expand its already booming tourist industry into the relatively un-tapped resource of its southern coastline. As a result, several intriguing investment destinations are springing up to become property hotspots, while prices remain far lower than in the rest of Italy, with capital growth accelerate dramatically.

Property purchasers in Italy are attracted by its southern European location and evident lack of the kind of mass development to be found in some other Mediterranean destinations. This factor is also an attraction for tourists who seek that certain Italian cachet of exclusivity that can be found nowhere else. Investments in key tourist areas have seen good capital growth at an average of 10% per annum, while the newer and now more affordable destinations in the south are predicted to yield at least double this figure over the short to medium term. Buy-to-let investments are a firm favourite amongst overseas purchasers, as are off-plan purchases on some of the latest low density resorts just waiting to be discovered.

Economically, Italy is a fully established EU state and is well connected to the rest of the world via an efficient airport infrastructure to cope with its soaring tourist numbers. The absence of capital gains tax and substantial growth figures are clear incentives for investors wishing to purchase in a lucrative, though safe property market.

Country Data


Population: 58,133,509 (2006 est.)
Flight time from UK: 2 hours, 15minutes
Vaccinations: None
Capital: Rome
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Language: Italian
GDP: 0.1%
Time zone: GMT + 1 hour summer, GMT + 2 hours winter
Electricity: 220 volts
Weights & measures: metric
Tel. dialing code: 00 39


Transport Infrastructure


Italy has a well developed system of transportation, making it easy to get around the country both by private car and via public transport. The motorway network in Italy, or autostrada, is considered to be excellent. Italy was the very first country in the world to build motorways in the 1960s and this may to some degree account for some of the highest speed limits in Europe (often 130km per hour for cars). The autostrada, a toll road system, accounts for 6,400km of road network in north and central Italy.

Drivers are not obliged to use the toll roads as there is an equally good network of state roads (strade statali). As a tourist, you may wish to avoid the motorways altogether and use the provincial roads (strade provinciali) to enjoy the real Italian countryside.

At only around 2 hours direct flight time from the UK, Italy is blessed with fifteen airports throughout the country. Major airports are at Milan, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Naples, Palermo (Sicily), Alghero and Olbia (Sardinia).

Rail networks in Italy are modern and controlled by the Rete Ferrovaiaria Italiana, while passenger trains are managed by the partially state owned Trenitalia. There are also a number of privately owned minor railways to complement these services. Eurolines buses link all major and some minor towns as well as the major airports, and timetables can be checked online in English or Italian.

Political Climate


Italy is well known as a politically stable country in which to live. There is an overriding mood of democracy in Italy and it is widely recognized amongst investors that this country represents a modern and safe political climate in which to operate.

Italian politics runs around the framework of a democratic republic with the head of the government being Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Italy has been a democratic republic since 2 June 1946 when the monarchy was abolished by a popular referendum. Legislative power is given to both the two parliament chambers and the government.

Elected by the Italian houses of parliament for a seven year term, the president of the Republic (currently Giorgio Napolitano) unifies the nation and performs many of the Monarchy's past duties, linking the judiciary, executives and lawmakers within the government. He is also the commander in chief of the Italian army.

Culture


Italian culture is truly diverse and is based upon many aspects ranging from Roman ruins, the Roman Catholic Church, the Renaissance, music, architecture, to national cuisine, fashion, customs, family values, motor cars or football...

Italy has been at the centre of the world's culture since antiquity and boasts some of the most preciously admired art and architecture in the world. Italian masterpieces include sculptures, paintings, literature and opera that are hugely respected and famous worldwide.

Dancing is also an important part of Italian culture, with the Tarantella being their most famous routine. Originating from the Middle Ages and traditionally danced during wedding festivities, this is a folklore dance where dancers rotate clockwise in a large circle.

Football is a major Italian passion and on Sundays stadiums in every major city are packed with fans. In addition, Italy is currently the World Champions, having triumphed in the World Cup in Germany in 2006.

Fashion in Italy is world famous and the average Italian considers it a serious matter of personal pride to be impecably groomed! Every day, preferably in national designer labels such as Gucci, Valentino, Versace or Armani, Italy's the main fashion hubs can be found in Milan and Rome.

Family life is pivotal to most Italians' lives and "Mama" is considered queen of the family. Sons normally don't leave home until they are well into their 20s and the family is a very closely knit unit, where grandparents, aunts and uncles play a large part in children’s lives. Italians are warm, welcoming people, with a keen sense of humor and fun, who enjoy sharing the pleasures of life with others. Their proverb: "Una giornata senza riso una giornata sprecata" means, "A day without laughter is a wasted day", and this is reflected by the sheer passion and individuality of their culture.

Economy


As a member of the EU, Italy can offer a well established economic climate in which to invest. Italy is considered to be a strong economy and as a member of the G8 industrialized nations, it ranks among the world leaders. These factors serve to increase investor confidence in Italy as a safe and stable economy in which to purchase property.

Economic factors which make Italy a wise investment:
  • Despite an often complex tax system, there is no capital gains tax on profits from Italian property. This allows the investor maximum returns on investment.
  • Italy has pioneered property tax reforms, offering great opportunities for the rural renovator, including substantial VAT discounts.
  • If you become a resident of Italy, you will have the ability to cut your purchase costs by as much as half. More details can be obtained from our recommended tax advisors.
  • Property prices remain relatively low (especially in the south) compared to many EU destinations, and a modest rural property for renovation can still be purchased for as little as 60,000 euros.
  • Capital growth of 20% per year is being achieved in many regions, while National Growth is currently performing at 9% pa. Many new markets in Italy still remain undiscovered and ripe for investment. Little by little, visitors are experiencing the delights of easily accessible rural properties for renovation and resale or let. With careful strategies in place, they are experiencing high yields. Beautiful older Italian houses are also earning high rent in peak season.
  • Italy is at the hub of the low cost flights revolution, with connections to its many airports from just about any worldwide airport.
  • The Italian government actively encourages foreign investment, particularly in rural areas and today offers investors grants to reform rural properties.
  • Italy is a peaceful country with long term economic and political security.
  • Italy is only 2 hours direct flying time from UK, making it easily accessible for investors and holidaymakers alike.
Since World War II, Italy has changed orientation from an agricultural to an industrial nation. It is essentially a private enterprise economy and, due to a lack of natural resources and suitable land for farming, Italy is a net importer. Italy's economic strength lies in its manufacturing industries, mainly in small and medium sized family-owned firms. Its major industries are manufacturing of precision machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, and fashion and clothing. Most raw materials needed for manufacturing, in addition to 80% of the country's energy sources and even food is imported.

Tourism


Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world with more than 38.9 million tourists per year.

Sometimes referred to as the connoisseur's alternative to Spain or France, Italy boasts an abundance of culture, history and magnificent architecture. It has a strong cultural tourism market and tourists flock to the cities of Rome, Florence and Venice seeking a rich Italian cultural experience.

Italy offers a stunning variation in natural beauty. Italy offers a well developed tourist industry and recreational activities are available to cater for all needs, from Tuscany and the lakes in the north, skiing, hiking or beach holidays to sightseeing and cultural activities. It boasts forty one UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country worldwide.

Today current trends are seeing tourists move southwards towards areas such as Calabria which is being developed into stunning new holiday resorts such as the five star Jewel of the Sea resort, near Brancaleone. Options such as this include excellent modern facilities, an existing transport infrastructure and many attractions that are set to boost the national tourist economy to exciting new levels.

Boosted by the Turin Winter Olympics of 2006, Italy's tourist industry has never looked stronger. A national tourism website and Committee for Tourism were established in 2006, which aim to further promote foreign interest in Italy. The opening of China to the West and the enlargement of the EU have increased leisure and business travel to Italy making it even more popular amongst these countries.

Visa and Entry Conditions


Visas are not generally required to enter Italy if your stay is limited up to 90 days. For longer periods however, you will need to apply for a residence permit (Permesso di Soggiorno).

Students require a visa to stay up to one year in Italy. Visas normally take between 2 and 12 days to process and issue.

For further information on visas and particular documentation required, you will need to contact your nearest Italian Consulate.

Climate


The Italian climate is generally favourable due to the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The varied climate is determined by its geography - mountain areas, particularly in the Alps of the north, suffer long, cold winters which are excellent for skiing holidays, while land protected by the hills and mountains, such as Liguria in the north west, enjoy a mild year-round climate.

The warm Mediterranean climate attracts sun seeking tourists all year-round. During summer all parts of Italy can experience very high temperatures, while the Sirocco wind blows in from North Africa, acquiring humidity over the Mediterranean Sea.

Due to the warm climate, Sicily is becoming an increasingly popular winter tourist destination. Temperatures reach their hottest at 30°C in July.

Traveling Here


Italy is only around 2 hours direct flight time from the UK and is blessed with fifteen airports throughout the country, so getting to your destination is easy.

Northern Italy

Budget airlines, Ryanair and EasyJet, fly to Milan, Bologne and Venice, and a return ticket will cost in the region of £200. Florence can be reached via Pisa from Stansted, Liverpool or Glasgowwith Ryanair.

Central Italy

Flights to Rome are easy to come by from many airports through a wide variety of airlines while prices vary according to airline and date of travel. Perugio, in central Umbria, is not accessible using budget airlines and may cost slightly more (around £300) with British Airways or Alitalia. Direct flights are available to Olbia in Sardinia through EasyJet for approximately £200.

Southern Italy

Ryanair operates direct daily flights from Stansted to Brindisi and Bari airports, both of which are located in southern Puglia. The airline also offers direct flights from Stansted to Calabria and to Palermo, Sicily. EasyJet flights leave Stansted to Naples at a cost of around £190.

Many property purchasers and investors are now looking at the southern Italy, in areas such as Calabria. Here, not only are property prices far lower than in the overcrowded and expensive regions further north, but investors find unspoilt natural beauty and rural Italian culture that are second to none.

Travel to Calabria is easy and affordable via its airports at Reggio Calabria, Crotone and Lamezia Terme, and international airlines are increasingly bringing an influx of tourists to this emerging region. Both Ryanair and Easyjet have cheap flights to Rome where you can make a connection to the Italian airline Alitalia, which makes the one hour flight several times a day to Reggio Calabria and Lamezia Terme. Alitalia also fly from London Heathrow to Rome Fiumicino and on to Reggio Calabria and Lamezia Terme. Flights with Alitalia to Calabria can cost as little as 57€, depending on when you book and what time of year you are traveling. Ryanair also currently operates a direct service to Reggio Calabria from Stansted.

Cuisine


Because Italy was historically composed of different states, you will find a great difference in cuisine as you travel through the country. What doesn't vary however is the approach to a meal, which can seem like a banquet and goes on for hours.

The main meal of the day will start with an antipasto, followed by a risotto or a pasta dish. This leads on to a fish or meat course, after that cheese, and last of all fresh fruit and coffee.

Eating in Trattorios is cheaper than in Ristorantes although both will offer you a wide choice of local cuisine. Eating in Italy is a gastronomic adventure and the dishes mentioned below are only a tiny sample of what is available.

In Rome try the abbacchio - suckling lamb in white wine flavoured with rosemary, or broccoli romani - broccoli in white wine. Then, of course, there is salsa romana - a sweet-sour brown sauce with raisins, chestnut and lentil puree served with game. Instead of pasta you could have gnocchi alla romana - semolina dumplings, which are delicious and light.

In northern regions of Italy where the winters are colder, you will find more "filling" foods such as minestrone - thick soup with chopped vegetables and osso buco - shin of veal cooked in tomato sauce served with rice.

When in Venice don't miss the fegato alla veneziana - calves' liver thinly sliced and cooked in butter with onions, or the baccala alla vicentina - salted cod simmered in milk and eaten with wines such as Soave, Bardolino or Valpolicella.

In the southern regions you will find coniglio ai capperi - rabbit cooked with capers and ostriche - fresh oysters baked with breadcrumbs, all mouth-wateringly fresh. You will also find lasagne with artichokes and meatballs, onion soup prepared with Italian brandy, fresh sardines in olive oil and oregano and aubergines prepared in many different ways.

The islands of Sardinia and Sicily offer a wide choice of seafood. In Sardinia lobster is served in stews, grilled and even in soups. While in Sicily, swordfish stuffed with brandy, mozzarella and herbs, grilled on charcoal is one of the well-known regional dishes.

Crime and Police


There is a mistaken belief that Italy is rife with crime but this is largely untrue. In Italy you won't see the harmful public drunkenness that can be a problem in Britain, or violent street crime as in many US cities.

Italy has a relatively low crime rate. Certainly there is organized crime - from the Sicilian Mafia and Neapolitan Camorra to high-level corporate crime, but these rarely have an impact on the ordinary visitor to Italy. Meanwhile, domestic violence is the most widely reported violent crime in Italy.

However there are some crimes to be aware of:

Pickpockets - As in all European countries, these abound in busy centres and tourists simply need to take a few steps to ensure they do not fall victim:
  • Don't flash expensive goods such as cameras about
  • Keep your money in a money belt, or front pocket
  • Split up your money and keep cards and passports in separate places
  • Wear a handbag with a strap short enough to tuck firmly under your arm, but not long enough to dangle freely from your shoulder
Car Crime
Most car crimes are petty. Cars parked near beaches during the summer have been broken into and had items stolen. Robbers take things from cars at petrol stations often by smashing car windows. There have been incidents of car-jacking, but these are few.

To avoid petty car crime keep your valuables out of sight. Don't leave belongings on the seats.

The Police

There are a number of different forces that you should be aware of in case you need to contact the police.

Carabinieri -wear military type uniforms with white shoulder belts. They handle general crime, drug offences and public order.

Polizia Statale - assaults and thefts should be reported to them.

Vigili Urbani - direct traffic and issue parking fines in the cities.

Polizia Stradale - take care of crime and traffic offences on the motorways.

If you are a victim of a crime your first call should be at the local police station or Questura where they also deal with lost passports and other formalities.

Emergency Phone Numbers:
  • 112 for the Carabinieri
  • 113 for general emergencies
  • 115 for the fire service
  • 116 for roadside assistance
  • 118 for an ambulance

Real Estate Overview


As an EU member, Italy offers fellow EU members ease of investment when purchasing property. The Italian property market is highly popular amongst British buyers because property in Italy often offers better value for money than comparable options in other popular European destinations such as France or Spain. However, to this point it has mainly been Northern Italy which has experienced the majority of sales. One of the best kept secrets in global property investment is Southern Italy! Where else can you invest at emerging market prices in a country which is not only a founder member of the EU, but also a member of G8, the world’s biggest economies?

Many property purchasers are attracted by the lack of mass property development in Italy, while smaller developments, existing re-sales and rural renovations have formed the bulk of the Italian property market. Italy is fast becoming an alternative to Spain, France or Portugal and as a result, the Italian property market is entering a growth period. Over the past ten years, property values in Italy have risen steadily in much-loved areas such as Tuscany, where capital growth has been around 10%. Meanwhile, in the southern Italy, near Reggio di Calabria, lesser known secrets are beginning to emerge as highly profitable alternative options where high annual growth figures are attracting many a shrewd property investor.

A move away from the traditional hotspots of Tuscany, Rome, Venice and Florence is now certainly being witnessed, while investors are opting for better value for money in the more unspoilt rural regions such as Calabria in southern Italy. Here five star resorts such as the one at Jewel of the Sea near Brancaleone are proving a popular option amongst discerning investors who seek a mini emerging market within this stunningly unspoilt region. Easy access via budget airlines for overseas tourists also makes it an ideal option.

Sandy beaches, Alpine landscapes, lakes, lush vegetation and a generally Mediterranean climate are great attractions, maintaining Italy's firm position on the discerning tourist's map and maximizing buy-to-let options for investors in key locations.

Holiday homes and buy-to-let investments remain hot property options in Italy, while the demand for property in the major resorts of Italy has sent property prices through the roof in some areas. Meanwhile, many property purchasers today seek more rural, scenic and better priced properties in Calabria. Chosen in suitable locations with easy access and amenities, these properties are gaining increasing popularity and are set to achieve equally high returns on investment in the very near future.
 
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