Births & Deaths
Births and deaths in Italy must be registered within seven days at the registry office (Ufficio di Stato Civile) of the town (comune) where they take place. Registration applies to everyone irrespective of their nationality and whether they’re residents or visitors. In the case of hospital births, registration is done by the hospital or clinic where a child is born. If you give birth at home, you must complete the registration yourself. An Italian birth certificate (certificato di nascita) is issued automatically.
In the event of a death, all interested parties must be notified. If a death takes place in a hospital, the attending doctor completes a certificate stating the cause of death (constatazione della morte); you should make several copies of this, as they’re required by banks and other institutions. If a death occurs at home, you should call your family doctor or the local guardia medica. If there are suspicious circumstances, you should call the polizia mortuaria by ringing 113 and they will arrange for a post mortem examination (autopsy). As with births, deaths must be registered in the town where the death occurred, although the undertakers (see below) usually do this for you
When a death occurs, it’s important to find a reliable undertaker as soon as possible, particularly as they handle most of the documentation. Funerals in Italy are among the most expensive in Europe, frequently costing around €2,600, and it’s important to obtain personal recommendations and check that an undertaker abides by the Italian Code of Conduct for Undertakers (codice italiano di comportamento per le imprese funebri). You’re recommended to ignore recommendations given by hospital staff (who may be getting a commission) or people hanging around hospital mortuaries offering their services.
Bodies can be buried in three ways in Italy – in a family tomb, in an individual tomb (loculo) or in a communal burial ground (campo comune) – and they can also be cremated. Plots for family tombs are expensive (between €2,600 and €5,200), whereas loculi, which are layered blocks of marble tombs, can be bought for between €500 and €1,000 (usually for an initial period of around 30 years, after which the ‘lease’ is renewable). Interment in a communal burial ground is free but considered demeaning by many Italians, as the remains can be exhumed after just ten years (there’s an acute shortage of cemeteries in Italy). Embalming isn’t usually available.
Cremation is becoming increasingly popular, not least because it’s paid for by the local municipality, although crematoria are few and far between. If the deceased hasn’t requested cremation, a family member must make a formal request via a notary to the registry office. Families usually either keep the ashes in the family tomb or loculo, lease a special urn from the comune or dispose of the ashes in the local campo comune, which is free of charge. Note that it’s illegal to keep ashes at home or dispose of them in any other way.
The body or ashes of a deceased person may be sent to another country. You need to provide the funeral agent with the documents relating to the death and the identity of the deceased, so that he can obtain the necessary permits. It generally takes from four to seven days to arrange shipment. When a death occurs at home, the body is prepared for shipment or burial in the home, as Italian law forbids undertakers to store them.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.