Useful Info Italy

There are many opportunities to start a new business in Italy. Although the bureaucracy may at times be a little daunting, you have quite a lot in your favour – you speak English, you know about marketing to non-Italians and you can look objectively at how things are currently done and think of ways to improve. (We hope!)

 

Tourism Business – Accommodation

 

Italy is the 4th most visited country in the world and all those visitors need services. The tourism industry is a lucrative one. Even in credit crunch times, people still go on holiday.

Little wonder that the dream of many ex-pats is to move to Italy and open their own holiday business. One consideration is that there may be government funded renovation grants available if you intend to open your home to the public, something to bear in mind if you have your heart set on a picturesque ruin. But these grants come with strings attached (no money up front for one) and so don’t rely on one for funding.

 

Apart from owning a hotel or simply renting out a vacant property to tourists, there are three main types of holiday accommodation in Italy – a B&B, a country house and an agriturismo, loosely defined as farm holiday accommodation.

 

B&B

 

This is probably the most straightforward business in that you require no special permissions, as long as you keep the business small (depending on which region you live, in a maximum of between three and six guest rooms) and that you live in the house yourself and don’t open all year round. (If you do, you will need to charge iva – VAT) Just let the town council (comune) know what you are doing and how much you intend to charge. A B&B is required to supply breakfast, but what this constitutes depends on the regional laws.

 

Agriturismo

 

Agritourism brings in over 600 million euro a year to Italy and represents 15% of the country’s tourism industry. Over half the country’s agriturismi are located in the central part of Italy. Growth is massive, over 83% between 1998 and 2007, and the region considered the sector leader is, unsurprisingly, Tuscany.

 

Agriturismi accommodation is in the farm itself or a separate building. It ranges from a room to a whole building (eg a converted outbuilding) and there may or may not be a separate restaurant attached. This business is considered a valuable extra income stream for farms and quality varies.

 

The rather vague law relating to what constitutes an agriturismo changed in 2006 and now the earnings from the rental part of the business must not exceed those of the farm side of the business and the hours spent on the rental side must no more than 50% of the time spent on the agricultural side. Growing DOC, IGP and DOP quality produce is encouraged. This has basically put a stop to any Tom, Dick or Alfonso renting rooms for extortionate rates in his ramshackle family house and calling it a farm holiday.

 

In short, to run an official agriturismo you need to be a real farmer and to offer your guests food and even wine produced on your own farm.

 

Country House

 

Given the restrictions as to what constitutes an agriturismo, the alternative is to open a country house or country house hotel. Basically this is a house in the country offering accommodation in rooms or apartments. A Country House does not have to be on a farm and does not necessarily have to supply meals from home grown or local produce, although some regions stipulate the produce should be locally sourced.

 

You may also see a business designated as a mixture of the three types, for example Country House and B&B.

 

These contents are provided by:

businessviaitaly

Business e via Italy (BEV) is an online business service designed to help anyone set up in Italy, enter the Italian market or find a business for sale. BEV also helps Italian companies reach international trading partners.

 

www.businesseviaitaly.com

 

 

 

It is difficult and dangerous to generalize too much about nationalities, after all, nationalities are composed of many different individuals. Saying that, there are some guidelines that can help when doing business in Italy. The more you understand how many Italians think (and there are of course many, many exceptions) the better your business negotiations will go.

 

In Italy, the majority of international businesses are located in the north and tend to be more attuned to the business culture in the UK and the USA. One simple example is in the response time to emails. In business you are used to instant replies, at most a day’s wait. This may well happen if you are dealing with an ‘internationally savvy’ Italian company. But many businesses may wait several days to reply, prefer to call you instead or even not reply at all. If you do receive an email it may be very formally worded, more like a business letter. Bizarrely, many companies have a tremendous love of faxes and you will often be asked if you can fax a document rather than email it!

 

The Italian tendency towards caution can result in lots of photocopies and faxes of various official documents. Stamping things with various marks and numbers is also popular. Everyone is terrified of making a mistake with documentation (which may result in a fine from the authorities), so the byword is ‘if in doubt ask for copies of everything’. The Italian reputation for burdensome bureaucracy is well deserved

 

Up Close and Personal

 

Italians generally prefer to do business with people they know directly, or who are acquaintances of people they know. It helps if you can use your networking skills to find some common ground. Get your contact to fix up the meeting and be present at least for the introductions. Always deal in person if at all possible.

Remember the old saying ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover?’ Well, in Italy the reverse is true. You are judged very much on how you look and how you are dressed. Make it conservative, low key, immaculate and expensive. An Italian can evaluate a designer label from fifty paces, it’s in the blood!

 

You may have heard of the expression ‘Una bella figura’ or ‘una brutta figura.’ This is fundamental to the Italian way of doing business. You can translate it as ‘a good (or bad) impression’, although there is more to it than that. An Italian will slit his wrists rather than cut a ‘brutta figura’ with a new acquaintance. However, their idea of a ‘brutta figura’ may not be the same as yours. Arriving late, for example, is quite normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. For your Italian host. You should, of course, be on time.

 

Wildly Formal

 

 

The Italian business world is based on politeness and formality. Expect to shake hands, use titles (and in Italy if you have been to university or have some kind of professional expertise, you have a title like ‘dottore’ or ‘ingegnere’) and not to be rushed. Whilst formality and good manners are core aspects an Italian business meeting, you may be surprised by all the wild gesturing, talking across each other and even raised voices. This is quite normal. Expressing yourself, even when talking across someone, is considered a sign of a strong personality, someone confident. As your business contact gets to know you better he will become more demonstrative and tactile. All quite normal too!

 

Softly, Softly

 

Don’t be surprised if it takes some time to get to the subject you came to discuss. It may not even come up until you have been treated to a good lunch and are on the post prandial espresso! Be prepared not to reach a conclusion or get a decision straight away. Patience and cultivating a good personal relationship is key to doing business in Italy.

 

Investing

 

A fair number of people move to Italy in order to retire or semi-retire. But about a quarter of British residents are well qualified professionals in their thirties and forties who want to enjoy la dolce vita, and want, or need, to work as well.

You may be after a hands-on project or an investment that needs less involvement but still brings in a good return. Both are possible and to inspire you, we plan to feature on these pages case studies of those who have already paved the way.

 

Buy or Start from Scratch?

 

You have two main choices when deciding to invest in Italy

  1. take over, become a partner or an investor in an existing business
  2. set up on your own or with a group of like-minded colleagues or friends

Clearly the first option has its advantages. The company has already been set up, has an established list of clients and a track record verifiable through its accounts.

When considering buying an existing business in Italy first get in touch with the Chamber of Commerce who will give you advice on the market value and the legal procedure. Put simply this involves:

  1. obtaining or taking over the relevant official licences. For example, if you are taking over a hypnotherapy business, you will need to ensure your qualifications are recognised in Italy and get any documents and certificates translated. Some businesses may require that you undergo some kind of training or have an Italian certificate of competence, so check it out first.
  2. The paperwork for both buying and selling, including official transfer of ownership and entry in the Italian Business Register, must be done via a notaio (notary).
  3. The business will be registered for iva – the Italian equivalent of VAT. You will need to check if this partita iva (VAT number) can simply be transferred to you or whether you need to get one of your own. This is necessary if you are taking over as sole trader.

If you want to start your own business, then the Chamber of Commerce will guide you through the process. They have a nationwide service dedicated to doing just that called Olimpo.

The old adage holds true – stick to what you know, or at the very least something that is connected to what you know and are skilled in. Opening a restaurant near the beach in Salento may sound idyllic, but unless you have experience of the restaurant trade you could come unstuck. Also consider the time and effort involved. It may be that you don’t get time to enjoy the life you moved to Italy for in the first place.

The basic procedure for setting up a new business depends a lot on what you plan to do. Opening a real estate agency is very different from starting a vineyard, with different paperwork and documentation required. (And by the way – you can’t set up in Italy as an estate agent without sitting a lot of exams and following an official course, in Italian, which takes about a year.)

The following is a brief outline of the stages:

  1. Make a business plan
  2. Using the business plan decide what type of business (in legal terms) you will set up. This may be an srl (Società a Responsabilità Limitata) the Italian equivalent of a limited company, an src (Società in nome collettivo) a general partnership and so on.
  3. Register your business on the Business Register and get a tax number.
  4. Obtain any required certificates, licenses and authorizations
  5. Get a Business Start Up Statement

 

These contents are provided by:

businessviaitaly

Business e via Italy (BEV) is an online business service designed to help anyone set up in Italy, enter the Italian market or find a business for sale. BEV also helps Italian companies reach international trading partners.

 

www.businesseviaitaly.com

 

The Embassy of Italy in Thailand appoints VFS GLobal to operate its Italy Visa Application Centre in Bangkok

 

How to get your business visa

 

All foreigners intending to enter Italy must provide the documentation required to justify the reasons and duration of their stay.  In this section you will find more info ONLY about business visa.

 

PROCESSING TIME

 

Applications shall be decided on within 15 calendar days of the date of the lodging of an application which is admissible. The period may be extended up to 30 days.

 

WHERE TO APPLY FOR A VISA

 

Italy Visa Application Centre, 191, Silom complex building, 15th floor, Unit C, Silom Road, Silom Bangrak, Bangkok 10500

Monday 10:00 – 12:00 | Wednesday 14:00 -16:00 | Friday 10:00 – 12:00

Note: The visa fee is collected in cash at the VFS application centre at the time of handing in the application and is not refundable. For applications submitted in person at the Visa Application Centre – it is not mandatory to schedule an appointment to submit your Short Stay application, but you may schedule one if you would prefer to.

 

If you prefer to make an appointment, click here: Appointment

 

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR BUSINESS VISA ONLY

To get your business visa, please ensure to have the following documents:

 

  1. Application form, fully completed and signed by the applicant (download)
  2. Two recent passport-size photographs stapled to the application form
  3. Passport having validity of 90 days from date of expiry of visa with 1 blank page
  4. Registration Certificate of the Thai Company
  5. Letter from Thai Company explaining:
    • Purpose of the Visit
    • Professional status of applicant
    • Details regarding activities and business relation with Italian Company
  6. Invitation Letter  faxed directly to respective Embassy/consulate from Italian company and signed from authorized signatory. (Copy of which must be sent to applicant)
  7. Proof of adequate financial guarantees à Credit card copy
  8. Overseas Medical Insurance with minimum coverage of EUR 30.000 – with the inclusion of a repatriation flight if required (photocopy)
  9. A confirmed return air ticket reservation
  10. For participation in fairs in Italy, evidence of the full payment of the stall must be submitted

 

Other supporting documents are:

  1. a)     Hotel reservation or proof of hospitality offered by Italian Company
  2. b)     Photocopies of previous visa issued in the last two years by Schengen Countries, UK, USA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Switzerland.

 

Please note the presentation of the documentation requested does not necessarily ensure issuance of the visa.

 

VISA FEES

Business Visa (Type C)                  Prize (€) 60                 Price (THB) 2,400

 

Please note that currency Baht at the exchange rate is set by the Embassy so it can change periodically.

 

 In addition to the fees paid for the visa, an additional charge of THB 500 (including VAT) is applied for each visa application. Furthermore, if at the time of submission, the request was chosen the option of Special Courier Service for the return of the passport with a visa, the cost of the carrier amounted to THB 200 (including VAT). In cases where a visa is not granted, the passport must be picked up in person at the Visa Section of the Italian Embassy and the amount will not be refunded.

 

All Fees would be collected in Cash at the application submission counter. There are special conditions for some categories of people, please find more details here

Setting up a company

 

When buying a property or business in Italy you may be advised that you need to use a notaio (notary) for the legal work, but that a lawyer is not necessary. You may be told that Italians never use them. So what should you do? Our advice is always to get a good, professional English speaking Italian lawyer, an avvocato, if you do not speak fluent Italian.

 

Lawyer or Notary?

 

If you are used to a different legal system, for example that of the UK, then it can be hard to understand the difference between the two. Both professions require a law degree and have their own independent professional bodies. The notaio goes on to take a state recognized qualification and only the best candidates are selected from those that pass.

An avvocato (lawyer/solicitor) acts for the client, whereas the notaio (notary) is more independent and his or her role is to act for the state and for both parties in the transaction.

If buying a property, the lawyer will draw up the initial contracts and instruct the notary. The notary’s job involves checking title deeds, verifying if there is a mortgage or other charge on the property, witnessing signatures, transcribing the contract onto the public registry and so on. It is obligatory to use a notaio for buying property and they charge a separate fee from the avvocato. Italian notaries are said to be among the most expensive in Europe.

 

Why use a Lawyer?

 

We have seen that you are obliged to use a notary, but are you obliged to use a solicitor? Technically, no. Many Italians buy and sell property using only the estate agent and notaio. Estate agents (who cannot practice unless they have passed state recognized qualifications) can draw up contracts, but as they get a fee from both sides they will not necessarily act in your best interests, nor keep too close an eye on the notary. In Italy, the law of subrogation means that debts stay with the property and so unpaid debts, (for example utility bills) become the responsibility of the new owner unless discovered and settled before the final contract is signed. That is the role of a lawyer, who will also check that the correct building permits (permessi) have been obtained from the town council and that there are no charges on the property.

 

How to Find a Good Lawyer

 

Unless you speak fluent Italian, it is wise to find an English speaking lawyer who is familiar with the concept of conveyancing, which is not something Italian lawyers normally deal with. Contracts have to be written in Italian and the lawyer can explain exactly what you are signing, although it is good to also have the services of an accredited translator if you feel it necessary. It is worth making sure that the avvocato does not double up on the work that the notaio is legally obliged to do, thus meaning you pay twice for things.

 

Be aware that ‘international lawyers’, for example perhaps a company in the UK advertising that they deal with purchases in Italy, often simply hand over the file to a studio in Italy and take a commission for so doing.

 

Lawyers in Italy are not allowed to advertise and so the best thing you can do is to find someone who has been recommended. The best place for this is a forum for foreigners living in and buying in Italy. In this way you can ask questions and get recommendations from people who have been through the same experience.

 

Accountant/Commercialista

 

If you are going to start any kind of business in Italy or work as a freelance or entrepreneur, you will need to find a good accountant. It is worth mentioning that you can handle your tax affairs yourself with free guidance from a ‘tutor’ at your local agenzia delle entrate (tax office) but unless you are confident, speak good Italian and are good with numbers and changing tax laws, it is probably best to let the professionals deal with it.

 

The Italian for accountant is a commercialista, and they double as business consultants too rather than just sorting out your taxes. In fact, they are really a cross between a tax lawyer and an accountant. Their title is actually Dottore Commercialista which means they have a university qualification and Ragioniere Commercialista which means they are less qualified. Don’t forget there is also a type of ‘super accountant’ – a fiscal lawyer called a ‘tributarista.’ These people are not chartered accountants at all but tax experts who specialise in advising businesses that are going to be dealing internationally and are always one step ahead of the people in the Inland Revenue! The Italian tax system is complex and  the laws are always changing (have a look in an Italian accountants office and you will see it is lined with law books!) and so it is well worthwhile getting some top class advice at the beginning.

It is often a good idea to go to a tributarista in one of the big cities like Milan, even if you are intending doing business in another part of Italy as he says they are more likely to be most on the ball.

 

What to Look For

 

Get your commercialista early on as you will find it an essential part of setting up your business. Unless you speak good Italian, search for someone who speaks English and has experience with ex-pat companies, ideally your kind of business. The icing on the cake is to find someone like this who is also within easy reach of where you live, as most commercialisti will want to see you in person at least once a year.

 

So Where Do You Find a Good Accountant?

 

A lot of business in Italy is done on personal contact and recommendation. So the most obvious first port of call is to ask people you know who already do business in Italy if they would recommend anyone. If you are in the UK then this could mean talking to the owner of your local Italian restaurant or the Italian representative who drops into your company. Everybody knows somebody and if their best friend or sister isn’t an accountant then their best friend’s cousin’s brother will know one. The problem with this approach is that you may then feel virtually obliged to use the person concerned even if their services turn out not to be what you need. And being Giovanni’s best friend isn’t necessarily a guarantee of quality.

 

Your local Italian Chamber of Commerce may be able to recommend a good commercialista who specialises in your particular area of business and your Italian bank manager may also be able to help.

 

Another approach is to ask for recommendations on one of the forums for ex-pats in Italy. This is quite a good tactic as the people who offer advice are generally those who have ‘been there and done that’ and they are more likely to know what you are looking for. This may well be an English speaking accountant who has experience of UK and Italian fiscal law for example. A good forum to try is www.italymag.co.uk

 

Buying a house

 

Stage One – The Offer and the Prenotazione

 

Once you have seen a property you like, then before making an offer, do the following:

  1. Get an English speaking lawyer who will act in your interests
  2. Find out how long it has been on sale. In Italy it is quite common for a house to be on the market for many months, even years! Have a look at dates on photos.
  3. Look it up on the internet and see if it is on with other agents at different prices. If it is with another agent more cheaply, then this price has to be the starting price for negotiation.
  4. Many vendors in Italy set their own prices. Check similar properties on the internet to get a feel for typical pricing of similar houses. Properties are often valued per square metre depending on location and type. If in Italy, you can look at a magazine like Ville e Casali for going rates.
  5. Find out if the property has one owner or multiple owners (e.g. relatives who have inherited the house). Multiple owners can spell trouble.
  6. Arrange for a survey. This is not common in Italy so find an English speaking geometrà (architect/surveyor) to do this who understands the type of survey you require. Ask your agent to check with the catastale the plans of the house, what land is included and whether all buildings and rooms in the building have planning permission and the land said to be included is actually registered to the property.
  7. Make your offer. The agent may suggest you secure your interest and written offer with a small down payment as a gesture of good will. This document should place a time limit on the transaction and state the conditions.

 

Stage Two – The Preliminary Contract – Il Compromesso

 

This is done in the presence of a notaio and is a legal document which details the agreed price, what is included in the sale, what is expected of buyers and sellers and the date agreed for the final contract. At this stage you pay a deposit (una caparra). This is usually between 10 and 20% of the purchase price. If there are multiple owners, make sure they all sign the compromesso. Once signed, if you pull out you forfeit the deposit and if the seller pulls out he has to repay you twice the deposit, so this agreement is taken very seriously.

 

Stage Three – The Final Contract – Il Rogito

 

Between the compromesso and the final contract, the usual checks are carried out, but in Italy this includes the prelazione. This gives third parties (farmers) with land immediately adjoining the property 30 days to match your offer. They have first refusal, as do sitting tenants and people who do business from the property. One way of avoiding a prelazione is to buy the property through a limited company. Ask your lawyer about this.

 

It is usual to be present at the rogito, but you can give someone power of attorney to act for you. You’ll need official id (e.g. passport) and your codice fiscale (Italian tax code). Oh, and money, in the form of bankers drafts or even cash. The process involves all the parties plus notaio, geometrà and possibly the estate agent. It is a good idea to have a translator present if you don’t speak good Italian.

 

It used to be very common too under-declare the value of the house on the deeds to avoid paying high taxes. The difference was paid to the vendor in cash while the notaio had a little coffee break. This is now less common as the authorities have been tightening up, but it is still done in some places. Remember if you sell your house within five years you will be liable for capital gains tax and so if you declare a very low price on one set of deeds but the new buyer wants to declare everything on the new deeds then you will appear to have made a much larger profit than you really have. It always pays to declare the true price on the deeds.

 

Fees

 

A good rule of thumb is that purchase costs add about 15% to the price of any property you buy. Here are the main fees you pay:

 

  1. Notaio – based on the declared value of the house
  2. Stamp duty – around 7% Local tax – between 0.4% and 0.8%
  3. Real Estate tax – 3% Geometrà fees
  4. Estate agents fees – usually 3% (yes the buyer pays too!)

 

How to move in Italy

 

Moving to Italy and starting a new life is an exciting but daunting prospect. You can’t control the emotions you will experience and the unexpected things you will encounter, but in best Boy Scout style it helps to ‘be prepared’.

 

Assuming you have sold or rented out your house and have a property to live in once you reach Italy, then the next thing to think about is shipping over your goods and the paperwork you will need to have in order at the beginning.

 

Moving to Italy checklist:

 

  1. Get funds organized using a currency exchange company, it’s cheaper than using the bank to send over euros. Open an Italian bank account.
  2. Get quotes and book your international removal company. Choose one that has experience of transporting to Italy and that is an accredited customs clearing agent. It may be possible to transport goods a partial load if you are not taking everything with you. Make several copies of the inventory.
  3. Citizens of countries outside the EU may need a visa. Check with your embassy.
  4. Organize pet passports and vaccinations for animals. Pets should be micro chipped and have a valid rabies vaccination. They should also have a pet passport.
  5. Make sure you have a codice fiscale (Italian tax number) and a permesso di soggiorno (stay permit) and if you have children a stato di famiglia (Family book/status of family document) which you get from your local town hall (comune.)
  6. Take with you several copies of wedding certificate, passport and driving licence and if you have children: birth certificates, vaccination certificates and passport size photos.
  7. Get an international driving licence
  8. While waiting to get an Italian medical card, it’s a good idea to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
  9. Take adequate supply of prescription medicine and if possible have medical notes from your doctor translated into Italian for your new Italian GP.
  10. Get your eyes tested and keep the prescription. Take spare pairs of glasses.
  11. Contact the local education authority to find out about schools. If under 18 your child has the right to be educated in an Italian school even without the right paperwork, although that has to be provided later. Get a translated copy of your child’s current curriculum to give the new school. You will need to provide: photos, stato di famiglia, birth certificate (translated), codice fiscale of parent/guardian. There are also international schools in many big cities.
  12. Arrange for Telecom Italia to install ADSL internet connection and phone lines if your property does not have those.
  13. Change utility bills to your name. Open new accounts with relevant paperwork.
  14. Get a commercialista (accountant) if you are planning to open a business or to be self employed. They can also handle any local taxes that need to be paid, for example the twice-yearly community charge (ICI) which at the time of writing is payable on new builds but not on main residences. It may be worth employing an accountant who works in both languages and is used to dealing with non-Italians.

 

These contents are provided by:

businessviaitaly

Business e via Italy (BEV) is an online business service designed to help anyone set up in Italy, enter the Italian market or find a business for sale. BEV also helps Italian companies reach international trading partners.

 

www.businesseviaitaly.com

 

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Picture captured from google map 

About Italy

 

Time zone: UTC+1

 

Area:

 

Total Area: 301,340 sq km

Capital: Rome

 

Climate: predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south

 

Population:58,126,212 (July 2010 est.)

 

Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.5% (male 4,056,156/female 3,814,070)

15-64 years: 66.3% (male 19,530,696/female 18,981,084)

65 years and over: 20.2% (male 4,903,762/female 6,840,444) (2010 est.)

 

Ethnic groups:

 

Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)

 

Religions:

 

Roman Catholic 90% (approximately; about one-third practicing), other 10% (includes mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community)

 

Languages:

 

Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d’Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)

 

Background:

 

Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor Emmanuel II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship. His alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy’s defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999.

 

Government type: Republic

 

Administrative divisions: 15 regions (regioni, singular – regione) and 5 autonomous regions (regioni autonome, singular – regione autonoma)

regions: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio (Latium), Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte (Piedmont), Puglia (Apulia), Toscana (Tuscany), Umbria, Veneto (Venetia)

autonomous regions: Friuli-Venezia Giulia; Sardegna (Sardinia); Sicilia (Sicily); Trentino-Alto Adige (Trentino-South Tyrol) or Trentino-Suedtirol (German); Valle d’Aosta (Aosta Valley) or Vallee d’Aoste (French)

 

Legal system: based on civil law system; appeals treated as new trials; judicial review under certain conditions in Constitutional Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

 

Economy – overview:

 

Italy has a diversified industrial economy, which is divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with high unemployment. The Italian economy is driven in large part by the manufacture of high-quality consumer goods produced by small and medium-sized enterprises, many of them family owned. Italy also has a sizable underground economy, which by some estimates accounts for as much as 15% of GDP. These activities are most common within the agriculture, construction, and service sectors. Italy has moved slowly on implementing needed structural reforms, such as reducing graft, overhauling costly entitlement programs, and increasing employment opportunities for young workers, particularly women. These conditions will be exacerbated in the near-term by the global economic downturn, but in the longer-term Italy’s low fertility rate and quota-driven immigration policies will increasingly strain its economy. The Italian government has struggled to limit government spending, but Italy’s exceedingly high public debt remains above of servicing the country’s debt rose. A tax amnesty program implemented in late 2009 to repatriate untaxed assets held abroad has netted the federal government more than $135 billion.

 

Agriculture – products: fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives; beef, dairy products; fish

 

Industries: tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics

 

Exports:

 

Commodities: engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals, and nonferrous metals

Partners: Germany, France, US, Spain, UK, Switzerland.

 

Imports:

 

Commodities: engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco.

Partners: Germany, France, China, Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Belgium.