Italy has become one of the most sought-after countries by many foreigners and in recent years more and more people are looking to purchase a property in the country. With its incredible variety of landscapes, seas, lakes and mountains, big cities and small quaint towns, Italy has something to offer for each kind of lifestyle and pace of life. As reported by the Financial Times, foreign buyers are attracted to Italy’s real estate market mainly for two reasons: the possibility to work remotely and the desire to spend one’s retirement years in the Bel Paese, which is considered to be the perfect retreat. But can anyone purchase a property in Italy?
In accordance with article 16 of “Decreto Regio”, no.262 of March 16, 1942, foreign citizens can benefit from the civil rights which are normally granted to Italian citizens only if Italian citizens can benefit from the same rights in their counterparts’ countries. Therefore, please remember that if you do not reside in Italy, you can purchase a property there only if there is an international treaty between Italy and your country of origin that permits a condition of reciprocity. In other words, a foreigner can purchase a property in Italy only if an Italian citizen can purchase a property in the foreigner’s country. This condition is referred to as “reciprocità” (reciprocity). It is within the duties of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to verify reciprocity between Italy and other countries on a regular basis.
Reciprocity does not need to be verified for citizens of EU countries, EEA countries, stateless people or refugees who have lived in Italy for at least three years, and for resident aliens in Italy, i.e., foreign nationals who live in Italy on an official basis. These individuals also hold a permit of stay (“carta di soggiorno”), which may be issued for various purposes, such as to study, work or to join family members who are currently living in Italy. It is worth pointing out that being a legal resident in Italy might not be sufficient to purchase a property in Italy; in other words, you might not be able to do so unless there is a reciprocity agreement between Italy and your home country.
Another case in which reciprocity might not be verified involves countries with whom Italy has signed the so called “Accordi bilaterali in materia di promozione e protezione degli investimenti” – Bilateral Investment Treaties or BITs. These treaties establish the terms and conditions for private investment by nationals and companies of one state in another state. In particular, they set standards of conduct, which apply to governments’ treatment towards investors from other countries. They also set standards for fair and equal treatment and they guarantee protection from expropriation, free transfer of means and full protection and security. The list of countries with whom Italy has established conventions and treaties can be found at this link.
Please note that if you are a U.S. citizen you can purchase a property in Italy without having to be a resident of Italy. With regards to this, it is important to bear in mind that owning a house does not automatically imply permanent residency in Italy. In other words, if you are not an Italian citizen and you are planning on purchasing a property in Italy, you will only be able to stay in Italy for the period of time allowed by your visa. If you are a U.S. citizen, you will be able to travel to 26 European member countries of the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days without applying for a visa. Nevertheless, there are visas which allow their holders to stay in Italy for prolonged periods of time, such as the Elective Residence Visa, which allows foreigners with high financial assets to stay in Italy for a year on the condition that they do not seek employment while living in Italy. One of the requirements to apply for the Elective Residence Visa is owning a property or renting one.
In conclusion, this article has sought to provide information regarding the condition of reciprocity that allows foreign citizens to purchase a property in Italy. If you would like further information or assistance, please feel free to contact our team at Italian Real Estate Lawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 The decree which regulates immigration and foreign citizens’ rights in Italy at the time of writing is Decreto Legislativo no.286 of July 25, 1998.