Struggling to make your radiator work? Before you call a plumber, check whether you’re in one of the parts of Italy that isn’t allowed to switch its central heating on yet.
What are Italy’s heating rules?
In the interests of saving energy, Italy has national rules in place about when different provinces can use central heating (riscaldamento centralizzato), based on their average seasonal temperature.
As you’d expect, northern and mountainous areas are the first to be allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December. (Find a full list below.)
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The rules are supposed to apply to every property in Italy, including independent houses and apartments with their own separate heating system (riscaldamento autonomo), where it’s up to individual occupants to limit their heating use.
But the restrictions are more easily enforced in shared buildings with a single, communal boiler, such as apartment blocks, offices, schools and hotels. In that case the amministratore, or building manager, will be responsible for regulating when the heating comes on and off.
Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP
How long can you keep the heating on?
Italy’s rules also cover how long you’re allowed to keep the central heating on each day, ranging from six hours in the warmest parts of the country to 14 hours in chillier regions.
Those hours are confined to the daytime: radiators can come on after 5am and must be switched off again after 11pm.
There are additional rules for public buildings, but for private residential buildings the national norms leave it up to each condominio, or homeowner’s association, to decide exactly what time of day the heating comes on or off. It’s usually decided by a vote, but if you’re a renter you won’t necessarily get a say.
You should be able to find the times in your building listed in the regolamento di condominio, or condominium regulations, or by asking your landlord or a well-informed neighbour.
How high can you put the heat on?
Italy also regulates how high you can turn your central heating up. Again, it applies to everyone but is more easily enforced in shared buildings.
Private homes, offices and schools are not supposed to be heated to more than 20 degrees C – though the norms allow a margin of 2 degrees, so the very warmest you can go is 22 degrees C.
Meanwhile factories and workshops should be kept at 18 degrees C (or 20 degrees C if really necessary).
Which parts of Italy can switch their heating on first?
The country is divided into six zones based on climate, starting with the warmest where heating use is most limited and ending with the very coldest where central heating can be kept on round the clock, at any time of year.
The following date and time restrictions apply every year:
Zone A: December 1st to March 15th, 6 hours/day
- Islands of Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione
- Porto Empedocle
Zone B: December 1st to March 31st, 8 hours/day
- Reggio Calabria
Zone C: November 15th to March 31st, 10 hours/day
- North-west: Imperia.
- Centre: Latina.
- South: Bari; Benevento; Brindisi; Cagliari; Caserta; Catanzaro; Cosenza; Lecce; Naples; Oristano; Ragusa; Salerno; Sassari; Taranto.
Zone D: November 1st to April 15th, 12 hours/day
- North-west: Genoa; La Spezia; Savona.
- North-east: Forlì.
- Centre: Ancona; Ascoli Piceno; Florence; Grosseto; Livorno; Lucca; Macerata; Massa Carrara; Pesaro; Pisa; Pistoia; Prato; Rome; Siena; Terni; Viterbo.
- South: Avellino; Caltanissetta; Chieti; Foggia; Isernia; Matera; Nuoro; Pescara; Teramo; Vibo Valentia.
Zone E: October 15th to April 15th, 14 hours/day
- North-west: Alessandria; Aosta; Asti; Bergamo; Biella; Brescia; Como; Cremona; Lecco; Lodi; Milan; Novara; Padova; Pavia; Sondrio; Torino; Varese; Verbania; Vercelli.
- North-east: Bologna; Bolzano; Ferrara; Gorizia; Modena; Parma; Piacenza; Pordenone; Ravenna; Reggio Emilia; Rimini; Rovigo; Treviso; Trieste; Udine; Venice; Verona; Vicenza.
- Centre: Arezzo; Perugia; Frosinone; Rieti.
- South: Campobasso; Enna; L’Aquila; Potenza.
Zone F: No restrictions
Photo: Beppe Gasparro/AFP
What if it gets cold before then?
The rules are based on average temperatures, so they don’t always reflect the current weather.
If there’s an unusually cold spell local mayors have the power to authorise extra heating use, whether by bringing forward the start date or allowing boilers to stay on for a few more hours a day.
What if I don’t need the heat on?
Don’t worry if you’re a hardy type who doesn’t need as much heat as your neighbours: Italy’s heating rules do not mean that your radiators come on automatically. You should be able to regulate your own radiators by adjusting the valves.
And you shouldn’t be billed for more heat than you use: even if your spese condominiali (shared building charges) include a fee for heating calculated as an average across all residents, the law says that communal central heating systems must be fitted with meters that allow you to track exactly how much you used. If it comes to less than you paid for, you can request a refund.
riscaldamento centralizzato – central heating
riscaldamento autonomo – independent heating (separate from the rest of your building)
caldaia – boiler
termosifone or radiatore – radiator
contatore – meter
accendere – to switch on
spengere – to switch off