The Key To Being A Tenant In Italy

There is a secret to being a tenant in Italy, and it involves only three things:

  • proximity
  • money
  • documentation

Allow me to explain.

First, a good relationship with a landlord is one of proximity. By which I mean: do not under any circumstances live near them (not in the apartment upstairs, in the house out back, or in any attached part of the building…not even if they beg you).

Second, in order to obtain said proximity, you often need to throw a little money at it. Enough to keep the landlords out of your hair.

Our apartment in Fondo, top right (Val di Non)
Our apartment in Fondo, top right (Val di Non)

Third, get everything in writing. I mean—everything. Every verbal agreement, every shake of the hand, every answer of: Certo, facciamolo! Certainly, we can do that!

If you landlords promises your apartment is available through summer, ask them to write it down and sign it. That way, when they suddenly inform you the place is occupied in August (because they can rent it to tourists for 4x the price), you’re not screwed. Or, when they say, “Internet’s included in the rent”, then try to take it out of your deposit when you move out, you’ll have proof of their deception.

In Cavareno, we made all of these mistakes. We took places where the landlords were living too close for comfort, we rented directly through the landlords (no one to help when problems arose), and we trusted that they would do or offer or follow-up on what they said they would.

The Italian furbizia unfortunately has a reputation. One that precedes us, and one we had to learn about the hard way.

Our first landlord was a law professor who lived directly downstairs (with wife + two kids). His great deception was concealing the “ristruturazione” (renovation) of the apartment below, which forced us to find another place only two short months after moving in.

Our first apartment in Cavareno, top-right (Val di Non)
Our first apartment in Cavareno, top-right (Val di Non)

The second landlord was an unemployed, admittedly depressed banker and his wife (+ two teenagers). They lied about renting to us through tourist season, forcing us to be homeless for a month, and also charged us for things we’d agreed were supposed to be included in the rent.

We did our best to keep good relations, but unhappy people have a way of making situations uncomfortable. As soon as our lease was up, we were more than happy to leave.

Don’t get me wrong, there were many things about our Cavareno apartments that were lovely—but this can be attributed to the area’s natural beauty, being near Jason’s family, and how we took advantage of living in the middle of the mountains (our attitudes, mostly).

The majority of the problems we had came down to the landlords, themselves.

Our second apt. in Cavareno. We were in the back part of the house, where you see the balcony (Val di Non)
Our second apt. in Cavareno. We were in the back part of the house, where you see the balcony (Val di Non)

In Perugia, we finally wised up. We rented a place through an agency—which is where the money part comes in. Whenever possible, create a situation where you have a middle man. You’ll be surprised how well it can work out.

Now, our landlord actually lives in another country, and any time there’s a problem (already, the washing machine stopped working and the oven broke), we call the agency. And they address it. I think we ended up paying roughly an additional month’s rent to have their services, but it has been worth every. damned. centesimi.

So, now—instead of questionably honest, stingy landlords who are also our neighbors—we have a fantastic place in Perugia.

Inside our first Perugia apt
Inside our first Perugia apt
View outside our first Perugia apt.
View outside our first Perugia apt.

And we have Alberto!

The hip swaggering, tight pants-wearing, open jacket-strutting, bright and blue eyed Alberto. Our Real Estate Agent extraordinaire who wears aviator glasses, sometimes even inside. He walks like he owns the street, yet in an endearingly sweet, why-else-would-I-not-be-confident? way.

I get the impression that he’s a mammone—a mamma’s boy.

Despite his apparent bravado, Alberto’s actually a kind fellow. We thank him for his help and he tells us, with a broad, eager smile, “Don’t mention it. It’s my job.” He calls me cara (a term of endearment), addressing me by my middle name (no idea why), pronouncing it like it were written in Italian: Mari-eh.

Third time’s the charm, right? Here in Perugia, so far, it’s working out. We have: (1) the appropriate distance from our landlord (did I mention he lives in France?), (2) a written agreement for everything, and (3) Alberto, who we’ve paid to be at our every beckon call.

It’s perfect. It’s wonderful. It’s marvelous.

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