Ask the Experts: holiday rentals, buying a home and more…

Our experts are here to help with all your questions about Italy. This month, how to rent or buy a house in Italy, and to what extent you will be covered for medical care when Britain leaves the EU…

Holiday rental research
How would you go about getting the best deal on your holiday rental in Puglia? There are so many more ways to book these days that we’d like some practical advice on how to find the best location at the best price.

There can be a huge difference in the cost of a holiday rental, and the difference often depends on who you book the rental through and how you pay for it.

What you often find is that owners will advertise their rental properties with different agencies. Some of these agencies will add extra fees to the base rental, meaning that the cost to you can be substantially higher than the advertised price. Agencies will justify these extra fees by saying that the additional cost to you includes guarantees or insurance that the property is as advertised, though previous guests’ reviews are often as good a guide to this.

Some of the larger agencies are really just shop windows for advertising properties and do not fully know or understand each property’s individual features – such as its layout, location, distance to shops, restaurants, beaches, and other essentials.

One of my personal bugbears is agencies who take little responsibility for their guests but think it is fair to charge them excessive additional fees – and then also charge the owner a percentage of the rental price (an additional service/booking fee of £150 on a £2,400 per week rental is not unusual on some websites).

If you find a property you like the look of I would suggest you do the following before making a commitment to an agency:

Do a Google search on the property name. Although this may bring up several properties it should not be hard to find if other agencies are advertising the one you’re interested in.

Find out if the agency is acting as a shop window or is an independent agency offering other services relating to the rental.

Check the property details on each website for rental price, additional charges, property information, and other costs.

Check the client reviews on each website and the pricing and promotions each agency offers to potential clients. You need to find out if additional fees are charged – for example, booking fees, credit card fees, etc.

If you’re still not sure, a call or email to a reputable agency should elicit a prompt response. Remember that to get the best deal on a holiday rental you should research the property on different websites for details and cost comparisons.
Jackie Lear, Puglia Holiday Rentals


Villa holiday Italy
With a bit of research you can discover your perfect holiday rental home


Concierge services
We are planning to rent a villa in Tuscany for a holiday and noticed that you offer a free concierge service. Would you be able to explain what that entails? We are a party of seven: a family of five (two adults, two children under five and a one-year-old) plus two grandparents. We are hoping to find a place with a pool suitable for us all.

Our free concierge service is all about making your stay in Italy a thing of lasting memories. We help you find and organise services or experiences you’d like to enjoy, as well as answering any questions or doubts you may have before you come.

This can range from having an arrival shop done, so you find the fridge full when you get there, to organising a meal cooked by a chef in your house with a trio of classical musicians to play during your meal, as we did this year for somebody’s special birthday.

Popular options are cookery courses, local chefs, wine tours, bike and car hire. Tours with local guides or truffle hunting are possible, and balloon rides over Chianti can be spectacular. But it’s not all about buying in extra services – sometimes the concierge service is simply about advice. Would you like to know where to go wild swimming? Or where to go for good walks in the area?

We all visit the houses and the areas – most of us have lived there too – so the advice (and our contacts) are first-hand. If a property says it’s near a restaurant, we will have walked the path. If you want to visit the Uffizi during your stay, we can book your tickets, but we can also tell you the easiest way to get there, and where to get the train.

We see the free concierge service as an extension of the villa matching: we’re here for you to ask us questions about where you’re going, to help you organise activities and to solve problems, so that your stay is as good as it should be. Holidays are memories to be treasured; we want to help them be just that.
Dan Wrightson, Invitation to Tuscany

Hot air balloon italy
A concierge service can help with special touches like balloon rides (photo by iStock)


Estate agents in Italy
We want to buy a property in Italy, but as this is our first time we’d like to know what services an estate agent can offer us?

In Italy, an estate agent (agente immobiliare) acts as a mediator (mediatore) between the seller and the buyer. He or she will bring the prospective seller and buyer together to facilitate the negotiations and, most of the time, but not always, will draw up the offer to buy (proposta) and/or the preliminary sales agreement (compromesso).

Another important distinction compared with other European countries is the fact that an Italian estate agent can represent both seller and buyer at the same time. That might seem a bit strange for foreigners but – speaking as an Italian-registered estate agent myself – it can help to have someone with a good overview of the whole process, who has good contact with both parties. Of course, you can ask a lawyer for assistance but this is not always necessary.

It is also possible to ask an estate agent to be your ‘buying’ estate agent. At ItaliaCasa we frequently work in that capacity. However, in this case, it is important that your estate will be the first one contacting the ‘selling’ estate agent – and not you.

Especially with estate agents catering to foreign buyers and focussing on holiday properties, you should expect to waste less time finding your dream house because they have already selected the most suitable properties. Also, they will advise you on when to ask an expert for a structural survey, for example. And they will do all the necessary checks on the legality of the property – e.g., if the person who says they are the owner really is the owner!

Unlike in many other European countries, the estate agent is not a “free” profession. Before you can work as an estate agent you have to enrol on a course, sit for exams organised by the Chamber of Commerce and register as an estate agent. If a person or a company is not registered as an estate agent they cannot ask for a commission.

The role of an estate agent is always evolving, so it is recommended to select an agent who is a member of a professional association like the FIAIP (one of the largest associations of professional estate agents in Italy), of which ItaliaCasa is a member. These organise courses and workshops, keep their members up to date and strengthen their professionalism. So start your search well by selecting a properly registered estate agent!
Robert Hofsteede, ItaliaCasa 

Italia! legal expert: medical insurance

We are planning on spending extended periods of time in Italy over the coming years. We have a young daughter (15) with a disability and are wondering if she will be able to access medical services/hospitals if required and also obtain prescription medication whilst there?

Citizens of EU member countries (and also Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) are entitled to be treated by the National Health Service of these countries, including Italy, as long as they have obtained a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC card – known as TEAM (Tessera Europea Assistenza Malattia) in Italy – entitles the holder to state-provided medical treatment for pre-existing and chronic medical conditions, as well as emergency care if they have an accident or become ill while on holiday in those countries.

Individuals who are not citizens of one of the above countries, and who are visiting Italy for less than 90 days, are entitled to emergency medical treatment only. Those who stay for longer periods, with a valid residence permit, can register with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale or SSN), which entitles them to receive various medical treatments, depending on the type of permit they have. Those who are staying in the country for longer than 90 days without a valid residence permit are entitled to receive emergency medical care as well as pregnancy and maternity care, medical care for minors, compulsory vaccinations as well as prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

Specific rules apply, depending on the reasons for your stay, so it is always advisable to seek advice before travelling to ascertain which medical treatments you or your family are entitled to. It is also often advisable to take out private medical insurance, particularly when the state-provided medical service is limited to emergency care.
Laura Protti, LEP Law