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Moving to Italy with pets? Here’s what you need to know

If you’re dreaming of moving to Italy but couldn’t imagine life there without your pets, you’ll need to get organised. Here’s how to make the move with your furry friends by your side.

Moving to Italy with pets? Here’s what you need to know
Can you bring a four-legged friend along on your Italian adventure? Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Starting a new life in Italy comes with a considerable amount of red tape. 

Which visa is right for you, where to live, the jobs you could do, the language you’ll need to learn – and your budget that affects all of these variables – will likely be at the top of the list. But don’t forget the administrative hurdles you’ll need to overcome if you want to bring Fido and Fluffy with you too.

READ ALSO: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

The good news is that life in Italy is pretty well adapted for pets. Landlords are generally accommodating, and dogs are allowed almost everywhere in public, with some restrictions: city parks may either prohibit them or only allow them to enter on the lead and some beaches may ban dogs in the summer months. You’ll also need to remember to keep your dogs on a lead with a muzzle if you’re taking them on public transport.

And starting your life in Italy with pets just might help you to settle in to the country. Michael Tieso from Washington, Seattle, who moved to Bologna with his Terrier mix dog, said having his pet helped ease him into a new culture and language.

I was pleasantly surprised just how much everyone loved dogs. There were so many opportunities to meet people as a result of having a dog. It made for a great conversation starter that helped me to learn Italian,” he said.

How many and what kind of pets can I move to Italy?

There’s good news for animal lovers with multiple pets. You can move up to five pets with you to Italy, including dogs, cats or ferrets, as stipulated in the EU legislation Regulation (EU) No 576/2013.

If you want to bring more than five, you’ll need to go down a different route, as the law only extends the limit if the animals are to be used for exhibitions, sporting events or competitions.

Other types of pets, such as birds, ornamental aquatic animals, reptiles, rodents or rabbits have different rules – check the Italian Ministry of Health section for their entry requirements.

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Since it was introduced in 2014, the EU law has included provisions for people bringing animals to Italy from both EU-countries and third countries – that is, non-member states.

There are slightly different rules for bringing pets from an EU country or a non-EU country. Since the “adoption of harmonised rules” and “dramatic advances made in the fight against rabies”, it is easier for EU citizens and their dogs, cats and ferrets to enjoy freedom of movement with the Union, according to the European Commission.

What every pet moving to Italy needs:

No matter where you’re coming from, all dogs, cats and ferrets must meet the following requirements:

  • They must be identified by a microchip (or a clearly legible tattoo if applied before July 3rd 2011).
  • It is prohibited to bring dogs, cats and ferrets to Italy that are:
    1. Aged less than 12 weeks and have not been vaccinated against rabies;
    2. Aged between 12 and 16 weeks and have only just had their vaccinations. You have to wait 21 days after their primary vaccination before departure.

Your pet may need treatment against the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis too. Check your country’s embassy website to see if this applies to you.

All these details need to be stamped in your pet’s passport or an Animal Health Certificate, depending on where you’re travelling from.

Do I need a pet passport or an Animal Health Certificate?

If you’re travelling from an EU country, you need a pet passport. If your country of departure is outside the EU, you’ll need an animal health certificate (AHC). The latter now includes British citizens since Britain left the EU

Once you’re living in Italy, you can then apply for the European pet passport, which allows pets to move freely within the EU. The document is a small blue booklet, identical for all countries within the EU, and is written in both English and the issuing country’s language. It lasts for the duration of the pet’s life and will have a unique ID number.

The passport must show the microchip or tattoo number, and contain proof of a valid vaccine against rabies. You can only get one from a vet, who will check that your pet meets the entry requirements.

READ ALSO: Ten wonderfully quirky Italian animal-related idioms

To get an AHC, you need to make a trip to your vet no more than 10 days before travel to the EU. The certificate will also contain specific information including contact details, your pet’s health and vaccination records. From the date of issue, the certificate lasts for four months (or until the rabies vaccine expires, whichever comes first) and is valid for travel between EU countries.

For Michael, this was the most stressful part of moving his dog to Italy. However, he was surprised that getting the paperwork together wasn’t as complicated as he feared. “Everything just needs to occur at a specific time, and with the right people. For example, the AHC needs to be created just days before travel confirming the pet is healthy. 

“That part can feel stressful as it’s just days before you’re meant to travel, but as long as everything is in order, it works out pretty smoothly,” he said.

He advised creating a checklist and a calendar to ensure you follow the steps with the vaccinations, the vet and the documents you may need in your home country before departure.

It’s wise to start the process early and give yourself plenty of time before your departure date to complete the pet paperwork. As a rough guide, you’ll need around four months to go through the process, according to the Italian Ministry of Health.

If you’re moving to Italy from Britain, UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss states: “Your vet will be able to advise what you need to do in order to obtain the correct documentation to travel and you can find the latest pet travel advice on gov.uk or by searching ‘pet travel’.”

Citizens of the United States will need to reference the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to get their AHC.

An example of the certificate you’ll receive as a third-country national can be seen here.

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Travelling to Italy with your pet

Once you’ve got the paperwork, it’s time to get working on the logistics.

If you’re travelling by plane, you’ll need to check the requirements of your carrier. Can your pet be in the cabin or will they need to travel in the hold? What are the weight restrictions? What are the extra costs? What happens if you have a layover? There’s no single definitive answer to these questions and you’ll need to check with the individual airline.

American pet owner Michael said the plane journey with his dog was a “nightmare”. He explained that thanks to the layover, he almost arrived in Italy with his dog lost in transit.

“We had a layover in Frankfurt and they almost didn’t transfer our dog to the next flight to Bologna. I was told on the phone the price I paid included both legs. Unfortunately, this was not the case and because it was on the phone, there was no way to prove that I was told this.

“On arrival at Frankfurt, we struggled to find where our dog was and somehow managed to pay (again) and get our dog onto the same flight as ours before takeoff. It was stressful,” he added.

Sharing from his lesson, Michael recommends you confirm that your dog will be transported across all legs of the journey if you’re moving to Italy by air. He also says it’s a good idea to give them a long walk right up until they board the plane.

What to do once you arrive

Once your pets have got their paws on Italian soil, how can you help them find their place in their new home? Firstly, there’s more paperwork. It’s essential that you register your dog with the regional anagrafe degli animali d’affezione (pet registry, also referred to as the anagrafe canina or dog registry), which records your pet’s microchip number alongside your contact details.

Registration isn’t compulsory for cats, but it might help with tracing them back to you in case they get lost.

Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

You have a time limit to register your dog once you’ve arrived and if you don’t, there could be a fine (the time and penalties vary by region). You can register either at the veterinary services (Servizi Veterinari) of the Local Health Authority ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale), or by asking a vet.

Registration involves an administrative fee of around €30 and you’ll need to provide:

  • Proof of identity
  • Tax code (codice fiscale
  • Proof of the dog’s inoculation and microchip number

But how do you find a vet? There’s a huge range of options with many public and private clinics. Accredited vets broken down by regions can be found on the Italian Ministry of Health’s database. The National Federation of Italian Veterinarians – Federazione Nazionale Ordini Veterinari Italianiis also a useful portal to start your research. Inputting your area will bring up all the local vets.

Vet fees can be extremely high, so getting pet insurance is wise. This is especially useful if you have an accident and your dog bites another animal or person, for instance. There are many providers: some well-known ones include Allianz Pet Care or AXA.

Animal first aid services – pronto soccorso veterinario – may be available in your area in case your beloved pet gets injured or ill and needs emergency medical help. It isn’t standardised throughout the country, so you’d need to check what’s available in the area you want to move to.

In the worst case scenario, you can call the national emergency number – 118 – and you would be directed to the nearest animal medical assistance, just as you would for humans.

Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

If you want to ensure your pet stays valid for travel in the EU, now that you’re in Italy, you’re eligible to apply for the pet passport. You can get these from the local health authority veterinary services – the AUSL (Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale).

You’ll need to book an appointment at your local Centro Unico di Prenotazione CUP office, which is a centralised booking system for healthcare services. This is where you begin the process of obtaining your pet passport. Michael said this was “straightforward” and costs around €15.

What can you do to help your pet settle in?

Getting used to your new neighbourhood will be adventure enough for your little beasties. You may consider talking to a dog trainer to help them adjust to the new streets. A good way to find a reputable canine expert – educatore/educatrice – is to talk to your neighbours. No doubt you’ll strike up conversation when they see new furry faces at the park.

Word of mouth is strong in Italy and there’s no exception when it comes to referring dog professionals. Searching online can help too, as some may have a website or social media presence. Try putting ‘educatore cinofilo’ – dog trainer – into your search engine and you’ll find the businesses closest to you.

The APNECAssociazione Professionale Nazionale Educatori Cinofili (National Professional Association of Dog Trainers) – is also a good jumping-off point to find qualified professionals all over Italy. Costs for training sessions can range from around €20-50 per hour and the course duration depends on you and your dog’s needs.

It may seem like an agility course, for both man and beast – but with planning and patience, you too can make the move to Italy with your furry family members in tow.

Member comments

  1. This article was very informative, the one question I still have is, do the animals have to be quarantined upon arrival? It’s not mentioned so I’m assuming not.

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For members

ITALIAN LANGUAGE

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

To become an Italian citizen, you may need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

From being able to confidently order a gelato to total fluency, there’s a huge variation in the levels of Italian attained by foreigners in Italy.

But there are certain bureaucratic processes that require formal qualifications. When applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence (but not via ancestry), you must prove proficiency in the Italian language at B1 level or higher.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy’s language test for citizenship

In most cases, getting a carta di soggiorno residency permit has no formal language requirement, though some non-EU nationals may need to sit a language test at the lower A2 level. Read more about that here.

This article relates solely to language ability for obtaining citizenship; the application process has several other requirements depending on which route you take. Read more about this here.

So what does B1 mean?

A B1 level certification is a ‘lower intermediate’ level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

This level of proficiency allows you to “communicate in most situations that arise while travelling” and to understand topics “regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

So there’s no need to write with perfect grammar, have an extensive vocabulary, or be able to recite Dante’s Inferno in the original language – but people at this level should be able to make themselves understood in most everyday situations.

It should also be enough to follow most conversations and TV shows or get the gist of what’s in Italian newspapers.

If you’ve lived in Italy for a while, there’s a good chance you’re already at this level or close to it. After all, a decent grasp of Italian really is necessary for everyday life in the country outside of the main city centres and tourist hotspots.

If not, it might be time to sign up for Italian language classes – if you haven’t already. 

If you want to check, there are numerous Italian language level tests available online, such as this one.

What does the B1 language test involve?

The exact structure of the test varies between the four administered by educational institutions approved by the Italian Education Ministry or Foreign Ministry.

They are: The University of Siena for Foreigners (CILS); The University of Perugia for Foreigners (CELI); The Dante Alighieri Association (PLIDA); and The University of Rome 3 (CERT)

These tests can be taken at language schools around Italy and abroad. If your language school advertises B1 testing for citizenship, make sure they are accredited by one of the above institutions.

The structure of the test also differs depending on whether you’re taking the B1 cittadinanza exam or a regular B1 level Italian language certification.

READ ALSO: 12 signs you’ve cracked the Italian language

Could you pass an Italian language test at B1 level? Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Both tests involve answering similar questions at the same level, but the B1 cittadinanza is essentially a shorter version which costs less to take. The downside is this certificate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes, such as for university applications.

And though it’s shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.)

If you’re fairly confident of passing and don’t need it for anything else, it may be the more convenient option.

In any case, the test will involve at least four sections; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.

Listening 

For this section you will have to listen to two recordings; one of a conversation, and another of a short monologue.

The format varies and each section will be played at least twice.

Here is a sample question from a past paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of someone talking about the southern region of Puglia – click here for the audio and transcription.

Ascolta il testo. Poi leggi le informazioni. Scegli le informazioni presenti nel testo (3 per testo).

A) Il programma radiofonico riguarda la cucina tradizionale italiana.
B) Gli ascoltatori partecipano a un quiz e possono vincere un viaggio.
C) La regione Puglia ha ricevuto un importante premio.
D) Questa estate in Puglia è diminuito il numero dei turisti.
E) In Puglia ci sono paesi tranquilli dove ci si può rilassare.
F) La Puglia offre un’ampia scelta di sistemazioni turistiche.

Reading and grammar

This section involves reading two pieces of text, testing your reading comprehension and grammatical knowledge.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about new public services from the regional government in Tuscany.

A) La Regione Toscana vuole migliorare i servizi online per i cittadini e i turisti.
B) Attraverso un numero verde i cittadini possono segnalare difficoltà, chiedere informazioni, dare consigli sui trasporti pubblici.
C) L’attivazione del numero verde ha lo scopo di limitare i danni ai viaggiatori nell’ambito del trasporto locale.
D) Il numero verde 800-570530 non è attivo il sabato e la domenica.
E) Se il numero verde riceve una telefonata di protesta su un servizio deve informare la ditta responsabile di quel servizio.

See the text and further questions here.

Writing

For the writing test, you’ll need to choose between two prompts and then write 80-120 words.

In this example, you’re asked to write to your landlord to tell them you’re moving out because you have problems with the neighbours.

You’re asked to explain the problem and ask what you need to do, and whether you need to pay rent for the next few months.

Hai dei problemi con i vicini e hai deciso di cambiare casa. Scrivi un messaggio al proprietario del tuo appartamento per chiedere cosa è necessario fare. Spiega perché vuoi trasferirti e chiedi se devi pagare l’affitto dei prossimi mesi.

Do you understand the prompt? Now you need to prove your ability to get the double letters and accents in the right place when writing.

Speaking

The speaking section is in two parts.

The examiner will ask you to begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself.

It should be a discussion, with the examiner asking questions and giving other responses which you are expected to understand. This part will last 6-7 minutes.

Then you’ll be given a choice of several topics to talk about for 7-8 minutes. These topics can be almost anything; you won’t see exactly what they are in advance, but the examiner should give you some time to read through the options and may help you decide which one to choose.

Your answer should include certain grammar points and involve giving your opinion. Again, the examiner will prompt you with questions and it should become a discussion.

Some examples of topics you may be asked to talk about:

    • Preferisci vivere in città o in campagna? Quali sono i vantaggi e gli svantaggi?
    • Quali sono gli aspetti della cultura italiana che senti più lontani rispetto alla tua cultura?
    • L’assistenza sanitaria in Italia e nel tuo Paese: somiglianze e differenze.
    • Quali documenti ti servono per ottenere la cittadinanza italiana? Quali sono le procedure?

Translation:

    • Do you prefer to live in the city or in the countryside? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
    • What are the aspects of Italian culture that you feel are most distant from your culture?
    • Healthcare in Italy and in your country: similarities and differences.
    • What documents do you need to obtain Italian citizenship? What are the procedures?

Could you keep a simple conversation going on these topics in Italian? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

These sample questions are from the CILS B1 cittadinanza exam – see more details on the university’s website here. Exam questions will vary and the structure of exams from other institutions may differ.

READ ALSO: Which italian verb tenses are the most useful?

It usually costs €100 to sit the B1 cittadinanza exam, though some schools also add a default charge for a preparatory course.

Even if you already have a higher level of Italian, exam preparation courses could be useful as they explain the exam structure and likely content.

Find out more about taking the exam in a separate article here.

Speak to your local Questura or consulate, or see the Interior Ministry’s website (in Italian), for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for citizenship.

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