7 Things You Need to Know Right Now About Buying a House in Italy

If you’ve been following my home buying journey (if you haven’t, you can find out more here and here), the entire home buying process for me has been anything but easy. To be honest, it PULLED ME APART AT THE SEAMS, made me cry over melted gelato, inspired me to drink wine until I could say “IT’S FINE” and oftentimes made me question my sanity when I was googling septic tanks and heat pumps at 3am on a Wednesday. But I’m here to help you so you don’t go through what I went through. Even though I’m very keen on people making their own mistakes and having the courage to fight for what you want, there are a few things I’ve learned over the past year about buying in Italy and I wanted to share them with you. Have your glass of wine ready? OK, LET’S BEGIN SHALL WE.

For the love of all that’s good and holy, get yourself a lawyer

I know this is a boring way to start, but let’s just get this out of the way okay because I’m embarrassed enough as it is. I could’ve avoided A PLETHORA of issues like missing paperwork, time delays and just general unease and confusion if I’d simply paid someone to follow me through the process. I didn’t think much could happen when buying a house that needed to be COMPLETELY redone. But before I knew what I was getting myself into, one of the owners passed away, got married without telling anyone and had a secret daughter I didn’t know about and all of a sudden, ALL BETS ARE OFF AND IT’S ALMOST TWO YEARS LATER. My situation might be extreme, but I highly recommend getting a lawyer. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You live, you learn.

See that smile? That’s the smile of a girl who thought she didn’t need a lawyer. Don’t be that girl.

Never believe what anyone says and QUESTION EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY professionals

During this home buying process, I learned that people who have jobs aren’t necessarily good at their jobs or even know what they’re doing. FOR EXAMPLE, when I had to install a water meter and bring water into my home, a man with more cornetto crumbs on his shirt than in his body and unzipped pants came over to check the water access to the house. He said “Yeah, there’s no room here for the water to pass through, you’re gonna need to share access with your neighbor or it’ll cost you over 2000 euro.” And I thought wow, okay that seems TERRIBLE. But also, HOW CAN THERE NOT BE ROOM? Then, someone ITALIAN who cares about my wellbeing went to talk to the company he works for and sent another worker my way. The second worker said “It’s tight, but the water pipes could definitely pass this way and it’s on me if it doesn’t. It should cost around 700 euros.” REMEMBER THESE WORDS: DO NOT TRUST ANYONE — ESPECIALLY SOMEONE WITH CORNETTO CRUMBS ON THEIR SHIRT —AND ALWAYS GET A 2ND, 3RD AND MAYBE EVEN 4TH OPINION IF YOU’RE FEELING SASSY. 

All of these pictures are blurry because of how much my hands were shaking while witnessing the renovation take shape

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your neighbors will HATE YOUR GUTS AND THAT’S OKAY

If you follow me on Instagram (if you don’t, it’s okay, but sometimes I share fun stories and maybe you can follow me?), you might’ve seen my story about my angry neighbor who yelled at me for 5 MINUTES STRAIGHT while my gelato melted because she was mad about dust. The following week, to keep her on my good side, I repainted our shared hallway, got new pot lights installed, connected the electricity of the hallways to my place so she wouldn’t have to pay it, fixed the door and redid the steps in front of the house because they were disgusting. Guess how she thanked me? By YELLING AT MY WORKERS about working on the glass awning without telling her first and informing them (them, not me) that even though I changed the material on the veranda (because she had complained about the glass reflecting into her apartment), she wouldn’t hesitate to throw an ugly black tarp over MY veranda. I MEAN. This is a pretty long-winded example, but I need to share with you what Italians in my life told me about all this. “Oh, it’s fine, just treat her like a fly. She just likes to make noise and she can’t throw a tarp on your property. If she does, just take it off.” I mean, my non-confrontational heart is already panicked about this eventual solution, but do you see how much of a non-issue this is for Italians? If you’re having issues with neighbors (because unless you live in the countryside, houses here are stuck like glue) treat them like flies and don’t panic. Another method is a casual screaming match like most do here, but that’s just not my salsa.

Love a little post-flood basement demolition

Whatever budget you have in mind, double it baby.

Yes, people warned me of this and I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that going overbudget is one of the only things you can be sure about when renovating a house, but I just didn’t think it was going to happen to me. I kept telling myself “Well I won’t get carried away, I just want the house to work properly and that’s it.“ I thought it was a no-brainer and everyone was being dramatic and just NEGATIVE NANCYS. But then, the basement flooded three times. And after pulling out the old toilet, they found an old septic tank full of water hidden under the just-about-to-collapse basement floor. And then the wooden beams in the veranda were rotting, so they had to be changed or they could collapse on my head. And what, you’re not gonna fix the crumbling cement on the window ledge? You need doors that can properly close. Level the floors. And you need stairs to go into the garden… Let me be your negative nancy: WHATEVER BUDGET YOU HAD IN MIND, DOUBLE IT. Don’t be a fool for Italian home buying love like me.

Under this seemingly normal floor hides an used septic tank full of water and a floor that is about to collapse

People in stores will have A LOT of opinions — you’ll have to fight like hell for what you love

If you don’t learn how to be STERN and VERY CONVINCED about what you like, I can promise you that you will end up with BATHROOM TILES THE SIZE OF YOUR BACKYARD. There’s a lot l don’t know, but one thing I do know is that Italians love an oversized beige tile. And they think you’ll love it too. GREAT IF YOU DO, but during one of my tile meetings, I was told “This is not Canada, this is Italy“ when I said no to all the LARGE AND IN CHARGE TILES and said I wanted a much smaller tile LIKE PEOPLE HAVE IN CANADA. The water’s rough out there and Pinterest pictures are not enough to save you. FIGHT FOR YOUR NORTH AMERICAN SUBWAY TILE AND DON’T BACK DOWN. I BELIEVE IN YOU. IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT.


“Cry about [insert house problem]” scheduled appointments will be very important to your survival

When I lived in Vancouver a few years ago, I started seeing a therapist — because it seems that if you don’t mourn the loss of people you love, you will end up emotionally crippled and unable to get out of bed, WHO KNEW! — to help me deal with the death of my mom and brother. Because I had just pushed all of my issues REAL DEEP (wow lisa, so original) for so long without actually dealing with any of it, she made me schedule daily crying and mourning time to slowly heal AND JUST CRY IT OUT. Nothing wild, just 5 minutes. And it’s a technique I eventually started using for everything stressful in my life. Hate your job? Set a 5-minute I hate my job venting/crying session after work and LOOK FORWARD TO IT. Stressed about the house renovation and feel like you’re in WAY OVER YOUR HEAD? Schedule a 5-minute sesh of PURE YELLING about the price of home renovation. I like to accompany these reminders (that I set on my phone) with wine, but that’s not recommended by my therapist. Cry it out, and go back to being a badass bitch and fighting for that subway tile, my love.

When the house looked like this, I was A BIT OVERWHELMED and scheduling a lot of cry time.

And finally, get yourself a few Italian friends (OR MAYBE LOVERS, WHO AM I TO JUDGE?) to help you out

I cannot stress this enough. I’m the first girl who wants to do everything on her own without anyone’s help. But I can promise you, learning to accept help and building a small community of people around you is incredibly important before taking on a project like this. I’m fluent in Italian, but you can tell just by looking at my face and the way I carry myself that I don’t come from this country. I couldn’t have done this renovation thing without my Italian crew who was ready to FIGHT FOR ME. I cannot count the number of times I called places or professionals and was given a certain price or opinion and then realized I was being “INCULATO” (fucked over, sorry but there’s no other word) when an Italian called and asked for the EXACT SAME QUOTE. Add being a woman who is making renovating decisions to the mix and it gets messy. Unfortunately, it’s easier (not saying this always happens, sometimes strangers are great!) to be taken advantage of if you don’t know somebody who knows somebody. Everyone who’s been recommended to me BY ITALIANS THAT I KNOW AND TRUST have always been professional and great workers. NOT SAYING THIS IS ALWAYS THE CASE SO DON’T COME AT ME. I don’t know if this is what you wanted to hear, it’s definitely not what I would’ve wanted to hear two years ago, but it’s been crucial for me.

And there you have it! I hope these tips help and I haven’t scared you away from buying a home in Italy. In the past I’ve been asked to write guest articles about the Italian dream of home buying, but I’ve said no because I don’t want to sell you this Under The Tuscan Sun FAKE ASS DREAM. Yes, I LOVE LIVING HERE. No, I don’t regret buying my place because it’s going to be pretty cute in a few months and I can’t wait to share what it looks like when it’s all done, but BUYING A HOME IN ITALY IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. The paperwork will make your eyes bleed, the overwhelming amount of opinions will make you spend money you don’t have on wine to DULL THE PAIN and you will want to give up ALL THE TIME. But the good stuff in life is never easy and fighting for what you want feels good. The anxiety will eventually go away. So I’m gonna keep fighting, and I hope you will too. And I’m not just talking about home buying. Whatever you want, FIGHT FOR IT.

See you around Florence xx


18 thoughts on “7 Things You Need to Know Right Now About Buying a House in Italy

  1. I think that has to be the MOST Canadian response to a 5-minute meltdown from a neighbour! That is exactly what I would have done as a Brit – and it’s amazing that she still had something to complain about. I think the real victim in all of this was the gelato though… 😅


    1. Builders got to love them
      There up there with those who have opinions on everything but no knowledge
      And then there’s those lads that just want to wander round in that swagger of knowledge
      But yes lawyers are good to have even when you have a gaggle of them and you have to ask have I got a right of way to my property and they look like you’ve asked what Einstein propounded in short form version
      When you thought you’d heard it all because you know rationale doesn’t live here you find the ground floor that your house sits on belongs to somebody else that nobody has spoken to in years because of some dalliance with another relative on a long forgotten summer day which has evolved into a deadly sin requiring screwing up of hankies and many tears
      But a septic tank under the floor full of unmentionables as my granny Would say takes the tin of biscotti
      With the never ending Italian book of building cants it amazing what roberto the builder still gets away with
      Good luck keep your gelato dry your glass topped up and carry on smiling because one day you too with have water running from the tap in your hall


  2. oh wow amazing tips.. I am in search of finding the right house for me and dogs. well my first thing was to find a lawyer, which I have now but the house well nothing out there yet 😦 love your posts thank you for sharing.


  3. Bought a 70s condo. Made friends with downstairs neighbours. Renovated top to bottom. Moved in and flooded 5 floors within the first 2 hours. Not friends with neighbours anymore. :(….sometimes those hidden pipes still get you no matter the plans or budgets.

    Love your posts! The bring much laughter and reno PTSD. Hugs to Kiwi!


  4. You are a champion. Follow you on Insta and here because I’m cheering you on! HGTV is TV folks, the reality here in Italy when it comes to neighbors yelling (adults having hissy fits) oh it’s real! I repeat YOU ARE A CHAMPION!


  5. Lisa, I love following your home-buying journey, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the going gets easier for you. I think it’s going to be amazing when all is said and done and you’re going to sit with a bottle of wine and cry, but tears of joy this time!

    Have you read “The Reluctant Tuscan” by Phil Doran? You might enjoy it 🙂


  6. I bought in Italy, but I haven’t restored. I agree with you 100%. Just because they are a contabile, avvocato, dottore, etc., doesn’t mean that they know what they are doing. I have told this to other people, but many do not want to accept the fact that Italians can be dishonest or clueless or both.
    Italians think they can treat you differently than someone who was born there. They see you as an “other”, meaning they don’t have to apply moral rules. Sorry to disillusion you. I love Italy, too, but there is a reason my grandparents immigrated.


  7. You have always had badass tendancies. If badass means fighting for what you want regardless of popular opinion, then a true badass you are!!!Nothing worth having comes easy, and you my dear took the long road every time. The road filled with obstacles. And look at you now. So incredibly impressed. Love you.


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