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PROPERTY

The Italian vocabulary you’ll need when renovating property

If you're planning an Italian renovation project, here's a guide to some of the terms you'll need to be familiar with.

Many people who purchase a house in Italy are drawn to older, neglected properties with the potential to renovate (ristrutturare) or restore (restaurare) – and no wonder.

It’s easy to get fired up about the idea of giving a new lease of life.to an abandoned farmhouse (rustico) full of charming period details, or a cute townhouse (terratetto) going for a song – and the country has no shortage of unloved older homes which might otherwise be left to rot.

READ ALSO: Searching for cheap Italian property online? Here’s what you need to watch out for

You might even have bought a ruin (rudere/rovina) and plan to knock it down and start again – something that you may be able to claim back costs for under building bonuses currently available.

And while many foreign buyers do achieve their dreams of restoring an old Italian property, these veterans are likely to tell you it’s an experience not for the faint-hearted. After all, there’s nothing like a tangle of Italian bureaucracy to put a dampener on your dreams.

And if you don’t speak Italian – at least, not yet – the process can feel overwhelming. Not only is there new vocabulary to learn, but you’ll be talking about a process that’s likely to be quite different to that in your home country.

To help you get started, here’s a guide to some of the vocabulary you’ll need during the renovation process in Italy.

The planning stages

You may be hoping to fix up the old wooden beams (travi a vista), restore the vaulted ceilings (soffitti a volta) or rebuild the wood-fired oven (forno a legna). You might want to make new additions, perhaps installing a roof terrace (terrazza panoramica) or a pool (piscina).

You’ll probably need to tackle some less exciting aspects first – from fixing up the roof (rifacimento del tetto) to updating the infissi (fixtures, such as windows and doors) and impianti (systems, such as plumbing and electrics), and hooking up servizi (utilities).

 READ ALSO: The real cost of buying a house in Italy as a foreigner

If you’re in a rural location, this could mean anything from installing a septic tank (fossa settica) to digging a well (pozzo). And the popularity of photovoltaic systems (impianti fotovoltaici) and underfloor heating (riscaldamento a pavimento) is shooting up in Italy, so that might be on your wish-list too.

Older houses in Italy very often have an awkward internal layout (disposizione interna)  – think miniscule bathrooms and kitchens, walk-through bedrooms, or dark and dingy corridors. So you might want to move a wall (spostare un muro), build a new partition (costruire un muro divisorio), or add an extension (aggiungere un ampliamento).

Of course, what’s actually possible will depend on your budget (which is also ‘budget’ in Italian – just with a heavy accent). You’ll need quotes (preventivi) for every part of the project from qualified professionals – and the right paperwork, which we’ll talk about below.

Photo: Henry & Co/Unsplash

Geometra or engineer?

No doubt you’ve already heard that your project will need a geometra, an engineer, and maybe an architect too. You may not need all three – this depends on the scale and complexity of your project. 

Figuring out who exactly you do need can leave foreigners stumped, as equivalent job titles either don’t exist or look a bit different in their home country.

As every project is unique, you’ll want to ask the advice of a building professional to find out exactly which services you will need. But to give you an idea of the difference, here’s a basic breakdown of what each term refers to:

The geometra, or surveyor, is indispensable to most renovation projects, large and small, and finding a good one can save a lot of trouble down the line. As well as providing initial surveys and cost estimates when buying a property or planning a renovation, they may also serve as project manager – and they’ll deal with permits and paperwork at the comune (town hall). 

For this reason it’s important for the geometra to be based in, or regularly work in, the municipality your property is in. Their long-standing relationships with the staff at various bureaucratic offices could make all the difference. 

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Ingegnere – An engineer can do much the same work as a geometra, but is a more highly-qualified technical professional (with higher fees to match) who would, for example, work with an architect to make sure a design is safe and sound. They may be needed for larger, trickier projects, like a complete rebuild.

Architetto – An architect, in Italy, is usually only really needed if you’re designing a new building or tackling a more ambitious reconstruction project. This professional will usually deal more with the creative side of a building’s design, usually with technical support from an engineer (though this isn’t always the case).

Many architects also prefer to work with a geometra who can take care of more mundane tasks, like dealing with the comune. This is why, if your project requires an architect, you might need to hire all three.

Many people however choose to draw up their own plans for smaller projects together with their geometra.

Photo: Green Chameleon/Unsplash

Direttore di lavoro – the project manager, keeping on top of the schedule (programma) and budget among other things. An architect, an engineer, or a geometra could all play this role, or you might take it on yourself if you can be on site.

Other professionals needed to work on your project could include the idraulico (plumber), elettricista (electrician), muratore (stoneworker) or falegname (carpenter). 

You might hire them independently, although it’s probably much easier to work with an imprenditore edile (building contractor). Either way, your geometra or engineer will no doubt have some recommendations.

Still, especially if you’re on a budget, you might end up doing a lot of jobs yourself – and you’ll soon be on first-name terms with the staff at your local DIY store (fai-da-te/bricolage) and the rubbish dump (discarica).

Getting paperwork in order

All building work in Italy legally requires some form of planning permission, whether you’re adding a balcony or embarking on a total rebuild. You definitely don’t want to end up with an edilizia abusiva (illegal building).

Your ingegnere or geometra will need to submit these applications – and there are fees involved, so make sure these costs are included in any preventivi.

READ ALSO: How to stay out of trouble when renovating your Italian property

The good news is that your geometra will have plenty of practice in dealing with the paperwork for smaller projects. A denuncia di attività (notice of works) is often enough for anything that won’t alter the exterior of the property – though rules can vary from one part of Italy to another.

For major works though you will require a permesso di costruzione (building permit) and/or concessione edilizia (planning permission). Depending on the scope of your project, an architect or specialist engineer might need to do some careful negotiating with the comune.

Other than that, the two most important things you’ll need when embarking on a renovation or restoration project in Italy are pazienza (patience) and, preferably, un sacco di soldi (a lot of money)!

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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MONEY

How to get a discount on the cost of solar panels for your Italian property

Solar panels are an understandably popular choice in Italy, and if you're thinking of installing them on your own home there's funding available to help lower the cost. Here's what you need to know.

How to get a discount on the cost of solar panels for your Italian property

As utility bills rise, more home and business owners in Italy are looking at installing solar panels as a possible way to reduce costs in the long term.

Solar panels are already hugely popular in Italy, with the nation ranking top worldwide for solar-powered electricity consumption.

READ ALSO: Who can claim a discount on energy bills in Italy?

And no wonder: it’s a solid bet in a country where there is sunshine in abundance. But what about the costs of installation?

The good news is that there’s financial help available from Italy’s national government aimed at encouraging uptake of solar energy, as well as other incentives from regional authorities in many parts of the country.

It’s in the government’s interest to incentivise solar power, as Italy has vowed to transition to greener energy with its National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate (Piano Nazionale Integrato per l’Energia e il Clima 2030 or PNIEC).

So how could this benefit you? Here’s a look at what you can claim at both a national and a regional level.

Regional funding for installing solar panels

As well as the national government subsidies available for covering the cost of solar panel installation, some regions have introduced their own bonuses or discount schemes.

The sunny southern region of Puglia and the wealthy northern region of Lombardy have seen the highest number of residential photovoltaic systems installed, according to market research.

it’s not surprising, then, that these two regions’ governments are offering cash incentives to help cover the cost of installing solar panels.

Depending on the type of system you opt for, you could expect to pay between around €5,000 and €13,000 for installation, design, labour and paperwork.

To contribute to this initial outlay, the local authority in Puglia has created a pot to help homeowners on lower incomes move towards renewable energy.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about installing solar panels on your home in Italy

Newly introduced in 2022, the so-called Reddito energetico (energy income) offers households with an annual income below €20,000 a bonus of up to €8,500 for installing photovoltaic, solar thermal or micro-wind systems in their homes.

The bonus is intended for residents who have citizenship of an EU country or, if you are a citizen of a non-EU country, you can still claim the bonus if you have been resident for at least one year in a municipality in Puglia.

The €20,000 annual income refers to a household’s ISEE – an indicator of household wealth calculated based on earnings and other factors.

A worker fixes solar panels. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

For this particular scheme, if you claim this bonus from the authorities in Puglia, it precludes you from also claiming funds at national level concurrently – such as through the popular superbonus 110 home renovation fund (see below for more on this).

Although there are other government bonuses, such as the renovation bonus (bonus ristrutturazione) that offers a much higher maximum total expenditure of €96,000, it can only be claimed as a 50 percent tax deduction spread over 10 years in your tax return.

For lower income families in Puglia, this may not be as cost effective as the grant from the regional authorities, which may equate to more money towards the cost and supply of solar panels.

For more information and to apply for Puglia’s renewable energy bonus, see here.

Lombardy is also stumping up funds to continue the solar power momentum experienced in the region.

While the coffers for private properties are currently closed, the region has made funds available for those with small and medium-sized businesses – again, in a move designed to lessen the impact of rising energy costs.

Business owners can claim a 30 percent grant for the installation of solar panels. There are more funds available to cover the cost of consultancy during the process too.

For more details on applying for this energy bonus in Lombardy, see here.

Other regions have also taken the initiative with encouraging more homes and businesses to change to solar-powered energy.

The region of Tuscany is offering an incentive on installing solar panels to residents in the form of tax deductions spread out over several years.

Works permitted include installing winter and summer air conditioning and hot water systems using renewable sources. This covers heat pumps, solar panels or high-efficiency biomass boilers.

For further details and information on how to apply, see here.

Each region may have its own solar panel bonus, either in the form of grants or tax deductions, available to private residents and/or businesses.

Check your regional government’s website to find out what may be currently on offer.

Solar panels are an increasingly popular option for those renovating homes in Italy. Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

National subsidies for installing solar panels

If your region isn’t offering any cash incentive to install solar panels on your property, there are government funds available, which cover all 20 regions.

The authorities introduced and extended a package of building bonuses in order to galvanise the construction industry following the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

While there is no single, separate package of incentives for installing solar panels in 2022, you can take advantage of other government bonuses that include the cost of solar panel installation and supply.

As noted, you could use the renovation bonus (bonus ristrutturazione), which amounts to a 50 percent tax deduction spread over 10 years in your tax return – or through the superbonus 110, a scheme that promises homeowners a tax deduction of up to 110% on expenses related to property renovation and making energy efficiency measures.

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The property must make at least a double jump in energy class or reach the highest efficiency rating when accessing these bonuses.

There’s a substantial amount of funds on offer to install your solar panels.

Using the renovation bonus, there is a maximum total expenditure of €96,000 (per single housing, including condominiums). Remember this amounts to a 50 percent tax deduction, so the maximum saving you would make is €48,000.

The renovation bonus has been extended until 2024 and, where solar panel installation is concerned, you can claim for the costs of labour, design, surveys and inspections, as well as VAT and stamp duty.

You must tell Italy’s energy and technology authority, ENEA, that you’ve done the works within 90 days in order to access the state aid for solar panel installation.

If you choose to use the superbonus route to claim funds for your solar panels, however, you can spread out the tax deduction costs over five years. Alternatively, you can apply for it as a discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura) or through the transfer of credit (cessione del credito).

The limit when using this bonus is €48,000, which can now be accessed for a while longer as the government extended the deadline for single family homes.

See HERE for details on how to claim it.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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