Italian bureaucracy: What is a SPID and how do you get one?

There is a way to get more of your Italian admin done online, and getting a SPID is the first step.

Italian bureaucracy: What is a SPID and how do you get one?
Doing your paperwork online? It is becoming possible in Italy - slowly. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

If you’ve ever found yourself queuing outside a government office to file some basic paperwork and wished there was a way to save yourself the trip, there’s good news: some public services in Italy are available online.

READ ALSO: Why Italy is struggling to launch its planned 5G network

Italy has long lagged behind other European countries when it comes to sending bureaucracy digital: in 2019, just 23 percent of people in Italy used the internet to interact with public authorities compared to the EU average of 53 percent, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat, while a mere 14 percent submitted a completed official form online, putting Italy roughly on a par with Serbia, Croatia or Bulgaria.

But efforts are underway to reform. Since 2016, Italy has had an electronic ID system that allows residents to access public services online – though some local authorities have proved slower than others at making them accessible.

Italy’s e-ID is called SPID, the Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale or ‘Public Digital Identity System’. 

Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is a SPID?

For individuals, your SPID credentials are a single username and password that you can use to access Italian government services online, without having to go to an agency in person or show physical ID.

It substitutes other forms of electronic ID such as the chip-and-pin National Services Card (CNS), Regional Services Card (CRS) or Electronic ID Card (CIE), which also allow you to login but require you either to have a card reader that you can plug into your computer, or a smartphone plus a government app that allows you to scan your card’s microchip. Find out more about that option here.

An example of an Italian electronic ID card provided by the Interior Ministry.

Why do you need a SPID?

By April 2019 around 4 million people had requested a SPID, a small fraction of the total number who use public services in Italy. 

Given the slow pace of digital reform in Italy, there’s no danger of public services going online-only anytime soon. You’ll still be able to access them the traditional way – in person.

But for those who prefer to use the internet, the government is seeking to make the SPID the standard way of doing official admin digitally from 2021, either via the web or its IO public services app.

Certain services have already phased out other forms of login, with a SPID now required to file online requests with your nearest Immigration Desk (Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione – SUI), or submit an application for Italian citizenship via the Interior Ministry’s website.


In a so-called ‘Simplification Decree’ issued earlier this year as part of plans for post-pandemic reform, the government said all branches of public administration would have to enable access via SPID from March next year.

There’ll be a transition period until September 30th 2021 during which you can continue to use your old credentials, but after that it will only be possible to access public services online using either a SPID or a CIE plus card reader/smartphone app.

Who can get a SPID?

Any adult living in Italy can request a SPID, so long as they have a codice fiscale (tax code) and a valid Italian ID card.

All Italian citizens can request one whether they’re resident in Italy or not.

You must be 18 or older to create a SPID.

Business owners can request a SPID to use for their company (in the name of a legal representative), while there’s also a ‘SPID for professional use’ that employees or freelance professionals can hold for work purposes separately from their personal SPID. Find more information here.

How do you get a SPID?

It’s not as simple as choosing your username and setting a password. To try and prevent identity theft, getting your SPID involves a verification process that you may be able to complete online or that might require a trip to an office in person.

The first step is to choose a provider, since the SPID isn’t managed by the Italian government but provided by accredited private companies.

There are currently nine approved providers, including the Poste Italiane: find a full list here.

READ ALSO: Foreigners rank Italy ‘worst in Europe’ for internet and paying without cash

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Once you’ve chosen a provider, go to their website and get started by entering your details and generating your login. 

Then you’ll have to confirm your identity using government-issued ID and either a certified digital signature, a card reader or app, by completing a short interview via webcam or in person. The exact procedure varies by provider.

Requesting your SPID is free: every provider offers at least one basic way to do it without payment, but they may charge for certain options such as verification by webcam. 

What documents do you need?

You’ll need a few basics:

  • an email address;
  • a mobile phone number;
  • a valid identity document (e.g. ID card, passport, driving license)
  • either a tessera sanitaria (health card) or a codice fiscale card.

The final document is required to provide proof of your codice fiscale. According to the the Agency for Digital Italy (AgID), which is responsible for managing the electronic ID system, if you live in Italy you’ll need to show a tessera sanitaria, which logs your codice fiscale, while if you’re an Italian citizen applying from overseas you can just show your codice fiscale card itself.

READ ALSO: Codice fiscale: How to get your Italian tax code

If you live in Italy but don’t have an in-date tessera sanitaria, for example because it has expired or you’re not registered with the national health service, you may run into complications. Ask different providers exactly what documents they’ll accept before you apply.

How do you use your SPID?

Find a full list of public administration services accessible with a SPID here.

On their websites you’ll find the option ‘Entra con SPID‘ (‘login with SPID’), which will prompt you to enter your credentials.

Depending on the service and how much security is required, you may also be asked for a randomly generated code either sent to your phone or generated by an authenticator app, or prompted to put your CIE in a card reader and enter its PIN.

Find more information about the SPID on the Agency for Digital Italy’s website.

Member comments

  1. It would be very helpful to include a link to the website where the process begins. Thanks. You are providing a great resource to your members! We love you!

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For members


Why the great autumn wardrobe switch is serious business in Italy

Some of Italy’s foreign residents may still be wearing t-shirts, but Italians are preparing for the most stressful style-related event of the year: the summer-to-autumn wardrobe switch. Silvia Marchetti explains what it’s all about.

Why the great autumn wardrobe switch is serious business in Italy

People have always said to me that Italians stand out (particularly abroad) because of the way they dress, the style of their clothes, the designer labels, the gorgeous bags and shoes. 

But it’s not because they really do dress better than others, rather they are extremely picky about what they wear, and when they wear it, at which precise time of the year. 

Italians are dead serious about adapting their dress code to the different seasons in response to dropping or rising temperatures. The ‘wardrobe switch’ is a major event that consumes entire days of a family’s weekends or spare time. From the kids to granny, all must change their apparel. I remember my grandparents used to mark it on their calendar, a bit like when you have to take the car for the annual check called the tagliando

There are four major wardrobe switches, as many as the seasons. The most tiring is the summer-to-autumn one, which usually occurs mid-September when the summer heat abates. 

Summer clothes are taken out of the closet and laid on the bed, then autumn apparel is plucked out from an upper closet space and neatly laid on the other side of the bed to be scrutinized. 

READ ALSO: Pumpkin risotto and the great wardrobe switch: How life in Italy changes when autumn arrives

It’s then time to do some clearing out: the switch is the time to try on autumn clothes and see if they still fit or are no longer wanted or liked (meaning you’ll be shopping for new ones). 

This stage can take hours, if not days. Jackets, which usually take up more space and are kept in the cellar or attic, are also cleaned of dust and tried on. 

Photo: Dan Gold/Unsplash

The summer apparel is then packed away and replaced by the autumn clothes, which are laid out in the same spot where the t-shirts and shorts once were. The same goes for shoe switches. Back in the box with those flip-flops, which are a major no-no after September 20th, and back on the shelves for boots and sneakers. 

When an Italian decides that summer is over, summer is over even if it’s still 25 degrees outside. My boyfriend just switched from shorts to trousers, even though he’s sweating most of the time. 

And it may seem that there’s a particular dress code that everyone follows. Autumn calls for ‘camicette’ shirts, light leather jackets, jeans, and bright little stylish scarves in silk or cotton to protect against the first potential cold air. Rain coats and casual jackets dubbed spolverini (dusters) are also taken out of storage.

The motto is ‘vestirsi a cipolla’, meaning ‘to dress like an onion’, with layers of shirts and sweaters that can be peeled off throughout the day depending on temperature swings. 

READ ALSO: Ten Italian lifestyle habits to adopt immediately

It’s a way to avoid sweating at noon or getting too cold in the evenings. But it’s also a stylish dressing habit to show that we are fully equipped, including financially, to cope with the changing seasons. If you don’t buy at least one new item of clothing per season, that’s just ‘not cool’.

A ‘booster’ wardrobe switch happens again in December, when the piumini, or hardcore winter ‘duvet’ coats, and knitted wool sweaters are taken out to reinforce the autumn apparel. 

Even if it never gets that cold in Italy compared to some countries, Italians still like to wear wool hats, gloves and some even wear furs, heavy boots and mountain-climbing uniforms – perhaps just for the sake of showing off some of their cool skiing apparel. 

Whether in autumn, winter, spring, or summer, the wardrobe switch is also an excuse to go shopping. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Then when spring arrives, winter clothes disappear and autumn attire starts mixing with some t-shirts, sleeveless jackets, and lighter cotton pants. 

But it’s still too early to wear shorts for men or skirts without stockings for women: showing off white bare legs is so unstylish.

Alas, when it’s finally summer, flip flops and sandals pop out again and the switch is an occasion to throw away unwanted summer clothes from the previous year and buy new bikinis, skirts, tank tops and fancy colorful shirts. This can be quite painful if you happen to have gained weight during the cold months. 

Italians are serious about wardrobe changes given their reaction even to just slight temperature drops or hikes.

I know that for foreigners seeing Italians wearing coats now in September even if it’s not yet so cold can be quite shocking in the same way it is for Italians to see Americans or Germans wearing t-shirts in December. 

READ ALSO: ‘Five ways a decade of living in Italy has changed me’

But climate change is disrupting the traditional wardrobe switch. My granny used to say that the so-called ‘middle seasons’ in Italy which are those between summer and winter (she meant autumn and spring) were luckily very long and pleasant. But nowadays even Italy has very short springs and autumns. In recent years there’s been a sudden jump from hot summers to half-winter seasons. 

This affects the way Italians are dressing, as I see fewer leather jackets around or raincoats unless it’s actually raining. The other day I was swimming in a pool and in the afternoon when I came back home there was a strong wind and I had to put on my piumino (long duvet coat) plus a hat. 

Luckily I have a huge walk-in closet so the left part is for winter, the right part is for summer and in between are all those items that used to fall within my granny’s ‘middle seasons’. So I always have everything at hand to cope even with the uncontrolled effects of climate change.

Friends of mine are already going into depression because they’re planning the wardrobe switch for next weekend – but they already miss the summer and don’t want to give up on the sexy shorts and elegant sandals. 

There’s no doubt about it: when it comes to clothes, most Italians can be very fussy indeed.