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Italian bureaucracy: What is a SPID and how do you get one?

There is a way to get more of your Italian admin done online, and getting a SPID is the first step.

Italian bureaucracy: What is a SPID and how do you get one?
Doing your paperwork online? It is becoming possible in Italy - slowly. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

If you’ve ever found yourself queuing outside a government office to file some basic paperwork and wished there was a way to save yourself the trip, there’s good news: some public services in Italy are available online.

READ ALSO: Why Italy is struggling to launch its planned 5G network

Italy has long lagged behind other European countries when it comes to sending bureaucracy digital: in 2019, just 23 percent of people in Italy used the internet to interact with public authorities compared to the EU average of 53 percent, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat, while a mere 14 percent submitted a completed official form online, putting Italy roughly on a par with Serbia, Croatia or Bulgaria.

But efforts are underway to reform. Since 2016, Italy has had an electronic ID system that allows residents to access public services online – though some local authorities have proved slower than others at making them accessible.

Italy’s e-ID is called SPID, the Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale or ‘Public Digital Identity System’. 

Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is a SPID?

For individuals, your SPID credentials are a single username and password that you can use to access Italian government services online, without having to go to an agency in person or show physical ID.

It substitutes other forms of electronic ID such as the chip-and-pin National Services Card (CNS), Regional Services Card (CRS) or Electronic ID Card (CIE), which also allow you to login but require you either to have a card reader that you can plug into your computer, or a smartphone plus a government app that allows you to scan your card’s microchip. Find out more about that option here.


An example of an Italian electronic ID card provided by the Interior Ministry.

Why do you need a SPID?

By April 2019 around 4 million people had requested a SPID, a small fraction of the total number who use public services in Italy. 

Given the slow pace of digital reform in Italy, there’s no danger of public services going online-only anytime soon. You’ll still be able to access them the traditional way – in person.

But for those who prefer to use the internet, the government is seeking to make the SPID the standard way of doing official admin digitally from 2021, either via the web or its IO public services app.

Certain services have already phased out other forms of login, with a SPID now required to file online requests with your nearest Immigration Desk (Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione – SUI), or submit an application for Italian citizenship via the Interior Ministry’s website.

READ ALSO:

In a so-called ‘Simplification Decree’ issued earlier this year as part of plans for post-pandemic reform, the government said all branches of public administration would have to enable access via SPID from March next year.

There’ll be a transition period until September 30th 2021 during which you can continue to use your old credentials, but after that it will only be possible to access public services online using either a SPID or a CIE plus card reader/smartphone app.

Who can get a SPID?

Any adult living in Italy can request a SPID, so long as they have a codice fiscale (tax code) and a valid Italian ID card.

All Italian citizens can request one whether they’re resident in Italy or not.

You must be 18 or older to create a SPID.

Business owners can request a SPID to use for their company (in the name of a legal representative), while there’s also a ‘SPID for professional use’ that employees or freelance professionals can hold for work purposes separately from their personal SPID. Find more information here.

How do you get a SPID?

It’s not as simple as choosing your username and setting a password. To try and prevent identity theft, getting your SPID involves a verification process that you may be able to complete online or that might require a trip to an office in person.

The first step is to choose a provider, since the SPID isn’t managed by the Italian government but provided by accredited private companies.

There are currently nine approved providers, including the Poste Italiane: find a full list here.

READ ALSO: Foreigners rank Italy ‘worst in Europe’ for internet and paying without cash


Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Once you’ve chosen a provider, go to their website and get started by entering your details and generating your login. 

Then you’ll have to confirm your identity using government-issued ID and either a certified digital signature, a card reader or app, by completing a short interview via webcam or in person. The exact procedure varies by provider.

Requesting your SPID is free: every provider offers at least one basic way to do it without payment, but they may charge for certain options such as verification by webcam. 

What documents do you need?

You’ll need a few basics:

  • an email address;
  • a mobile phone number;
  • a valid identity document (e.g. ID card, passport, driving license)
  • either a tessera sanitaria (health card) or a codice fiscale card.

The final document is required to provide proof of your codice fiscale. According to the the Agency for Digital Italy (AgID), which is responsible for managing the electronic ID system, if you live in Italy you’ll need to show a tessera sanitaria, which logs your codice fiscale, while if you’re an Italian citizen applying from overseas you can just show your codice fiscale card itself.

READ ALSO: Codice fiscale: How to get your Italian tax code

If you live in Italy but don’t have an in-date tessera sanitaria, for example because it has expired or you’re not registered with the national health service, you may run into complications. Ask different providers exactly what documents they’ll accept before you apply.

How do you use your SPID?

Find a full list of public administration services accessible with a SPID here.

On their websites you’ll find the option ‘Entra con SPID‘ (‘login with SPID’), which will prompt you to enter your credentials.

Depending on the service and how much security is required, you may also be asked for a randomly generated code either sent to your phone or generated by an authenticator app, or prompted to put your CIE in a card reader and enter its PIN.

Find more information about the SPID on the Agency for Digital Italy’s website.

Member comments

  1. It would be very helpful to include a link to the website where the process begins. Thanks. You are providing a great resource to your members! We love you!

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LIVING IN ITALY

Why the tabaccheria is essential to life in Italy – even if you don’t smoke

A cornerstone of Italian culture, the tabaccheria is used for much more than just buying cigarettes. From paying bills to purchasing bus tickets, here are just some of the services offered at the tobacconist's.

Why the tabaccheria is essential to life in Italy – even if you don’t smoke

Italy’s tabaccherie, or as they’re more informally known, tabaccai (tobacco shops) have long been a place for more than just purchasing cigarettes.

Their iconic emblem of a large T on a small rectangle, found in any Italian city, town and village, is associated with a place for locals to buy bus and metro tickets, pay their bills, or play the lottery.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

With the number of smokers gradually falling in Italy (despite the pandemic reportedly acting as a setback for many former smokers), these non-tobacco related sides of the tabaccaio have become even more important to tabaccai owners’ incomes. 

So what exactly can you do in a tabaccheria in Italy? 

Buy bus and metro tickets

Outside of a metro station, the tabaccaio is one of the few places where you can buy tickets for local public transport in Italy.

The vast majority of tabaccai sell these tickets, and you’ll pay no more than you would at the metro station – just ask the cashier for biglietti per i mezzi (public transport tickets).

Pay bills

If you’re daunted by the prospect of navigating your way around an Italian phone or utility company’s website and don’t fancy waiting in a long queue at the post office (the other in-person alternative) during its limited hours of operation to pay your bills, then the tabaccheria is for you.

Most utility bills, including gas, electricity, water, can be paid at a tabaccaio, as can phone bills. For larger sums, you’ll typically pay a surcharge of €1 or €2 that goes to the tobacconist for handling the payment – which many find is well worth the added convenience.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

Just bring your bill with you and the tobacconist will handle the rest. Most tabaccai accept either cash or card for these payments.

The display counter at a tabaccheria in Rome.

The display counter at a tabaccheria in Rome. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Pay fines and taxes

Much like bills, fines for things such as traffic violations and parking tickets can be paid at tabaccai. Social security (INPS) contributions, and some other government charges such as waste tax (tassa sui rifiuti) can also be paid here.

You can buy a marca da bollo, or tax stamp at many (but not all) tabaccai. As a foreigner in Italy applying for things like residency permits and work visas, you’ll quickly become familiar with this term, as a marca da bollo is required for most official government applications.

READ ALSO: Living in Italy: Six essential articles to read

Top up your phone credit

If you’re on a pay-as-you-go Italian phone contract, you can easily top up your credit at a tabaccheria by purchasing a scratch card. The cards come in values of €5, €10, €15, or €20.

If you’re on a fixed rate month-to-month contract of any amount, you can also top up your credit by telling the cashier your phone number and the sum you need to pay.

Play the lottery and place bets

Playing the lottery is a popular pastime in Italy, and if you want to try your luck by buying a lottery ticket, the tabaccaio is the place to head.

Some tabaccai also have slot machines, and some let you place sports bets. Betting in the totocalcio, the Italian football pools, is a particular favourite of Italian football fans.

A man casts his lottery ticket at a shop in Naples.

A man casts his lottery ticket at a shop in Naples. Photo by ROBERTA BASILE / AFP.

Buy tickets for sports games and concerts

If you want a ticket for the next Roma-Lazio derby, look no further than your local tabaccheria.

Tobacconists in Italy are licensed to sell tickets for football matches, as well as for certain concerts and other large-scale stadium events.

READ ALSO: 15 things you’ll probably never get used to about living in Italy

…Buy cigarettes and tobacco

It’s no secret that you can buy cigarettes and other tobacco products at a tabaccheria. In fact, it’s one of the only places in Italy where you can buy them, as (along with lottery tickets, stamps and tax stamps) these are state-controlled goods that require a special license to sell.

Oddly enough, salt also used to fall under this restricted category – which is while you’ll sometimes still see old signs outside tobacco shops advertising sali e tabacchi: salt and tobacco.

Buy other odds and ends

Of course, cigarettes and lotto cards aren’t the only items on offer at your average tabaccheria.

The range of products sold at an Italian tobacconist usually includes postage stamps, postcards, and greetings cards; stationery, magazines, tissues and playing cards; and chewing gum, crisps, chocolate, and other snacks and bottled drinks.

You’ll also often find small trinkets and souvenirs, such as keychains, jewellery, and children’s toys.

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