On Setting Up An Apartment In Florence, Italy
Despite only been here for about a month, Florence is turning out to be a really wonderful home so far. Picking out some of our own furniture this time around has made our apartment feel like home way faster than I could have expected. But finding an apartment was a huge challenge, so I thought I'd provide some tips for finding and setting up an apartment to be your home in Florence. I'd image that this information would also be helpful for those setting up homes elsewhere in Italy, so grab a coffee and keep reading!
Tips for searching for an apartment in Florence:
We went into our move from Vilnius thinking it would be no problem to rent an apartment from afar, but this was mistake in our mindset. In Italy, there are very specific steps that need to be completed before renting, and this is something I really wish we had known -- it would have prevented so much stress!! So, if you are moving to Florence (or Italy in general), book yourself a hotel or Airbnb in the area you'd like to live for at least a few nights. Then, plan on spending a week or less getting your fiscal code (more below) and visiting apartments that you've arranged to see (make the arrangements before you arrive), before moving in.
Before your move, select some apartments you are interested in renting and contact the associated real estate companies to set up showings for those first few days you arrive. Idealista and Casa are great websites to find available apartments, but do note that contacting through the website doesn't get anywhere. You must call the real estate company that is noted on the right side of the apartment page. We were unable to get in touch with any real estate agent via email, so just keep in mind that calling is better -- I think the many, many emails I sent just went into the internet void.
I've also heard that Tenocasa is one of the most reputable real estate companies, so they might be able to help in your apartment search as well.
After our frustration with not getting an apartment before our move, we were able to make arrangements with the real estate agents and landlord for the apartment we wanted to rent. They were nice enough to meet us on a Sunday (which I hear is common) and we were able to see the apartment and sign the contract the same day. Then, we were able to move in the following day. Our situation was a bit unusual, so I think it would be best to plan for at least a few days while the realtors and landlord draw up a contract.
Do keep in mind that most real estate companies will require 1,000 EUR as a payment. From our search, two bedroom apartments were in the 750-1,500 EUR per month range depending on the sq. meters and the location.
First steps for renting:
Before renting an apartment in Italy, you must have a fiscal code (codice fiscale), which is actually surprisingly easy to obtain. You simply go to the office in your city (the office in Florence is sort of near the train station), give them a copy of your passport, and a filled out form. It took me about 30 minutes in total to get fiscal codes for myself and Baby ISO (he wasn't present). Getting a fiscal code is free.
You need a fiscal code to sign a lease as well as do pretty much everything else in Italy. I'd suggest getting this the first day you arrive in Italy, before seeing any apartments.
Setting up your new apartment:
Apartments in Italy range from overly furnished to completely unfurnished -- without even kitchen cabinets. Our apartment came partially furnished, so we needed to visit Ikea. Do note that ordering online for delivery requires a fiscal code (see, I told you you need it for everything), and often, delivery won't be scheduled for 15 days! But, you don't have to worry about sleeping on the floor for two weeks until your furniture gets delivered. J was able to make a trip to Ikea in Florence and after purchasing everything we wanted, schedule delivery for the following day. This meant only one night of camping out on the floor!
Something I was worried about prior to our move to Italy was the slow (dial up circa 1990s!) Internet speed. Prior to our move, I also read that it could take up to two weeks for service people to set up the Wi-Fi in your home. If you are a freelancer, that just won't cut it, so I was really nervous about this. But, the internet isn't that slow (not the fasted but not the worse) and setting up Wi-Fi didn't take too long. So, freelancers or online workers moving to Italy -- take a deep breath and relax!
Actually, we ended up simply choosing the company TIM and requesting services to be set up via their online portal. The service person came about 3 days later and all this required was a fiscal code, passport number, and apartment information (address, etc). Do note that you also have to set up a phone when you engage internet services for some reason.
We also tried to engage Wi-Fi services in a TIM store, but actually had no luck as the worker didn't even write down our contact information and another TIM store employee said we needed additional residence paperwork that we aren't due to have for months. So, I really suggest using their online portal (and Google translate), since we struck out with the in-store staff.
If you are worried about not having Wi-Fi for any amount of time, can I suggest that you purchase a Huawei mobile broadband device*? Before my move, a friend suggested I buy one when I told her how concerned I was about not having Internet for awhile. This was the best purchase I've made in a long time and I expect I'll be using it a lot in cafes and while traveling within Italy. With this device, all you need to do is buy a sim card (we use Wind) when you arrive -- but you need a fiscal code to buy a sim card.
The Internet speed when using the Huawei device* is actually faster than our home Wi-Fi, but the internet isn't really that terrible (and I'm coming from Lithuania, which supposedly has the fastest Wi-Fi speeds in Europe). We are able to stream movies on Netflix, upload images, surf the web, use online platforms, and use multiple devices at one time.
Things I'm Still Figuring Out
We haven't quite figured out how to pay utilities yet since all of the meters are in our apartment -- do we need to send the readings to the companies each month? If you've figured this out for Italy, do let me know!
Florence is pretty darn buggy in the summertime, and considering that windows and doors don't have screens, those bugs just all come right on in. Right now, I'm playing gardener and growing tons of rosemary and lavender to hopefully keep the pets away. Any other kid and pet-safe tips for keeping the mosquitoes at bay?
What else are you itching to know about setting up an apartment in Florence or simply about Italy in general?
Do note that I've inserted an affiliate link for the Huawei device, but that is the same device I'm currently using and I LOVE it. I used it constantly for 3 weeks and it has given me such peace of mind since I work online.