So, you have moved to Italy – or are planning to – and you want to generate an income. Renting out a part of your own property is an obvious choice, because it makes the most of an asset you already have, often with a minimum of capital outlay. Expatriate owners have an advantage here: there are many tourists who like to stay at places owned by their own compatriots, valuing the familiar point of reference in an unfamiliar landscape.
Assuming that you have set your sights on something more modest than a hotel, Italy offers a number of alternatives. This article will focus on the 3 most popular, and explain the rules for starting a business in each category. These 3 categories account for about 99% of the accommodation-based businesses started by expatriates in Italy.
Bed & Breakfast
Bed and Breakfast is the most popular choice – partly because it is so easy to set up. You only need to visit the office office (local town hall) and declare the start up of the activity and the prices you plan to charge.
The regulations that apply to B & Bs are determined by Italian law # 135 of 2001. Some regions have additional local laws, but the following points apply through Italy:
- The person operating the B & B must be resident in the house where the guest rooms are located and the breakfast is served.
- A maximum of 3 bedrooms (more in a few regions) must be furnished with a maximum of 2 beds each. A cupboard, bedside tables, lamps, chairs and a waste bin must also be provided.
- A double room must have a minimum area of 14 square meters; A single room must be at least 8 square meters.
- If the B & B is closed for at least 90 days during the year, the activity is classified as saltuario (occasional) and you do not need to register for IVA – Italian Value Added Tax – or issue any invoices. In most parts of Italy, closing for 90 days each year is not a problem – note that the 90 days do not need to be consecutive.
- The price list, stamped by the comune , should be displayed behind the door of each room.
Affittacamere (Room Rentals)
If you want to offer more than 3 rooms, you probably want to go the affittacamere route.
According to Italian law # 217 of 1983, affittacamere can offer no more than 6 rooms: like a B & B, these must be located in the building that you live in. If the rooms are located in furnished apartments, there should be no more than 2 apartments. Other services (such as cleaning and laundry changing) may be offered.
Unlike a B & B, an affittacamere is considered to be a full-time business: it must exist before being registered with the local chamber of commerce and submit annual accounts.
An agriturismo is a farm that offers accommodation. If it also offers food, a significant proportion of the produce on offer should originate from the farm itself. The majority of the revenue from the farm should be generated by farming, not by the accommodation.
You can only start an agriturismo if you are registered as a farmer. The income from the accommodation can be integrated with your farming income – it's a very uncomplicated and unbureaucratic way of enhancing your revenue. Given the advantages that agriturismo status offers, farmers who offer farm accommodation almost invariably take this route.
These three categories – B & B, affittacamere and agriturismo – are the only options if you want to offer 6 or less rooms. With 7 or more rooms you are into albergo (hotel) territory – but that is beyond the scope of this article.