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ENERGY

When can you switch on your heating in Italy this winter?

Italy has rules governing when and for how long you can switch on your central heating – as well as how high you can turn it up.

When can you switch on your heating in Italy this winter?
Some parts of Italy have to wait for December before switching on the heat. Photo: Paola Chaaya/Unsplash

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

  • Agrigento 
  • Catania
  • Messina 
  • Palermo 
  • Siracusa 
  • Trapani 
  • Reggio Calabria 
  • Crotone

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

  • Cuneo 
  • Belluno 
  • Trento


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.

Useful vocabulary

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

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DRIVING LICENCES

EXPLAINED: What’s in the Italian driving licence theory test?

The theory quiz is by far the most daunting part of Italy's driving test. We take a look at what the questions are about and what you’ll be asked to do on the day of the exam.

EXPLAINED: What's in the Italian driving licence theory test?

There are all sorts of reasons why people who’ve relocated to Italy may want to get an Italian driving licence, not least because of the potential lack of a reciprocal agreement (an arrangement allowing foreign nationals to exchange their licence with an Italian one) between Rome and their country of origin. 

As things stand, people from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa are not allowed to swap their ‘original’ licence for an Italian one. 

READ ALSO: Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one? 

And, while the Italian Highway Code states that non-EU nationals can freely drive in Italy on a foreign licence for up to one year from the moment they become Italian residents, drivers will be required to get an Italian licence at the end of that grace period. 

Unfortunately though, the Italian driving test isn’t exactly a piece of cake and that’s largely because the theory exam, which candidates must pass in order to progress to the practical test, requires quite a bit of technical knowledge and cannot be taken in English. 

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

So, for those who are considering getting an Italian licence and might, one day, be faced with the dreaded quiz, here’s what the theory test is about. 

For starters, once they have put in a request to take the theory exam, candidates have six months and a total of two attempts to pass it. 

Foreign nationals are generally advised to take the test through a driving school (autoscuola) as they will not only help you with all the relevant paperwork but will also provide you with the adequate training regarding the exam questions. 

That said, residents can also choose to take the test privately, which means that they’ll deal with their local licensing office (Ufficio di Motorizzazione Civile, which is roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) directly and book their exam independently. 

Regardless of which path you choose to go down, the structure and procedures of the test are the same for all candidates. 

READ ALSO: Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

The theory exam consists of 30 questions of the true or false type and each candidate is given 20 minutes (that’s a little over half a minute for each question) to answer them. 

Italian police officers setting up a roadblock

The Italian theory test consists of 30 questions ranging from road signage to civil liability. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Only three mistakes are allowed, with any number of errors equal to or above four resulting in a failed attempt. 

The questions presented to candidates are randomly selected, which means that some sections of the Italian Driver’s Manual (Manuale di Teoria) might not figure in the test at all. 

That said, you should know that the exam questions generally refer to the following macro-subjects: 

  • Road signage
  • Driver’s duties
  • Speed limits and restrictions to circulation
  • Safe following distance
  • General rules on vehicles’ circulation
  • Right of way
  • Braking, stopping and pulling over
  • Rules on overtaking
  • Use of indicator lights and horns
  • Personal safety equipment
  • Driving licences, circulation documents and penalty system
  • Road accidents and proper response
  • Driving under the influence and first aid
  • Rules on civil liability and insurance
  • Pollution and respecting the environment
  • Basic knowledge of car parts and vehicle maintenance

So, what actually happens on the day of the exam?

Barring some rare exceptions, the theory exam will take place at your local licensing office. 

Prior to the test, examiners will ask you to produce a valid identity document and the copy of a medical certificate testifying to good mental and physical health. After these formalities, you’ll be asked to take a seat at your designated station. 

Please note that you won’t be allowed to take any electronic device nor any notepad to your station. 

Cars queueing before road stop

Candidates only have two shots at passing the Italian theory test. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Once at your station, you’ll find a pc with a touch screen, which is where you’ll be taking the exam. 

By law, all candidates are shown a brief video tutorial prior to the test. After that, it’s game on.

Candidates cannot ask their examiners any question during the course of the exam – this includes questions about words or expressions that one might not know. 

It’ll be possible for you to move freely from one question to the other (i.e. you don’t have to answer a question to progress to the next one) and change your answers. That said, you’d best keep an eye on the remaining time (this is usually shown in the bottom-right corner of the web page).

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

Once you have reviewed all of your answers and submitted the test, you will be automatically logged out of the exam page.

What happens after I take the test?

Results will be made available online the day following the exam. 

If you pass, you’ll get the ‘pink slip’ (or foglio rosa) and you’ll have 12 months and a total of three attempts to take the practical test.

If you fail, you’ll have to wait a month before you can have another go. Should you fail your second attempt, you’ll have to re-enrol and submit a new request to take the theory exam (this means paying all the relevant fees again).

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