Tuesday 8 July 2014

Umbrian town will be full of hot air!

                                       The 24th Italian International Balloon Grand Prix
From July 7th to 22nd Todi will once more be hosting its annual hot air balloon Gran Premio, with some forty hot air balloons from all over the world gathering at Ponte Naia. Every morning at 6.30am there will be a colourful flight over Todi, plus a host of other activities and events.
Among the event's most popular appointments is the Caccia alla Volpe hot air balloon 'fox hunt', in which all participants chasing a balloon that is given a fifteen minute head start.
Special rates for anyone wishing to book themselves for a thrilling ride.
Info: Mongolfiera Management tel. 075 8944480, todigranprix@tiscalinet.it.



Friday 6 June 2014

San Gimignano aka Silvia

Through the ages the beautiful town of San Gimignano has had a variety of names. Apparently the origins of the town date back to when two aristocratic brothers fled from Rome and settled in the area of Valdelsa  where they each built a castle; one of them on the hill where San Gimignano now stands. The brothers decided to give their castles names and one of them chose ............Silvia. This distinctly Pythonesque choice conjures up (for me at least) an image of Eric Idle and Terry Jones, dressed up Roman garb, reclined on a hill side and reviewing their handy work. ‘Well Eric, your castle is looking good, whadya gonna call it?’ ‘Not sure brother mine, I was thinking of the Castle of Fear or the Castle of the Forest ...... but maybe I’ll just call it......Silvia’. Eric looks a bit wistful and sighs heavily looking off into the distance, could Silvia have been a woman? Whatever the reason behind this unusual choice it didn’t last and town was later named after Saint Geminianus (also a slightly unfortunate name) who saved Silvia from being destroyed by Attila the Hun. Lucky escape!
Later on there was a frenzy of family rivalry in San Gimignano and, towards the end of the medieval period, no less than 72 tower houses had been constructed in the town, some of them up to 230 feet tall! It isn’t hard to imagine how this medieval form of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ got a little out of control amongst the local nobles. So much so that height restrictions had to be implemented by the local authorities who deemed that none of the towers could be higher than the tower adjacent to the ‘palazzo comunale’. If I am not mistaken the same thing happened with cod pieces; they became so ridiculously large that their size had to be restricted.
But enough of that, here are some interesting but irrelevant facts about San Gimignano.
A fictionalised version of San Gimignano (called Monteriano) is featured in E.M. Forster’s 1905 novel, Where Angels Fear To Tread. Also, a character in the John Grisham novel, The Broker, rents a 14th century monastery near to San Gimignano.
Tea With Mussolini was partially filmed in San Gimignano and Franco Zeffirelli used it as a stand in for Assisi in his 1972 biopic Brother Sun, Sister Moon. 
Escher’s 1923 woodcut depicts the towers and a 15th century version of the town is featured in the 2009 video game, Assassin’s creed.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Italy is being invaded!

Apparently Italy is being invaded by trees. An invasion that may be hard to believe when the annoying buzz of chainsaws is a frequent sound on most days. A report has revealed that abandoned farmland, especially in mountainous areas in the south, has led to massive (yes massive) re-afforestation.  Italy now has more forest and woodland than ever before with 35% of the country being covered. There are now 27% million acres of forested land which is more than double the amount that there was at the end of the second world war.

Tourists in the green heart of Italy are used to seeing hillsides swathed in green but now even the dryer southern areas of Molise, Sicily and Calabria have seen woodland increases of 17, 11 and 10% respectively.  

The increased cover is helping to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and is also providing homes for larger wild animals like lynx, deer, wild boar, brown bears and wolves. In the last ten years the numbers of wild boar roaming the woody hillsides have increased from 600,000 to 1 million and the population of Roe deer from 10,000 to an estimated half a million.

Britain has comparatively little forest cover; only 12% whilst Ireland, surprisingly, has less than 10%.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Furia and fireworks in Florence!

Jackson Pollock and Michelangelo are not the most likely couple, but an exhibition at the Palazzo Vecchio and ex-Tribunal of San Firenze in Florence puts the action painting of Pollock in direct comparison to Michelangelo's Renaissance work. 'La Figuria della Furia' marks the 450th anniversary of the death of Michelangelo and is an experimental comparison of two geniuses.

La Figura della Furia runs until the 27th of July and is open all day every day until midnight, with the exception of Thursdays when the exhibits close at 14.00.

The exhibition is in two parts; the first being in the Palazzo Vecchio  and the second in the complex of San Firenze.


Also explosive are the Easter celebrations in Florence with the famous ornate and exploding cart. The cart, carrying a lit candle, is pulled from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo by two oxen. The flame is blessed and is then used to light the 'Colomba' a dove shaped fuse, which sets off fireworks and pyrotechnics. A successful explosion apparently guarantees a year of good luck for the city. Let's hope it works and that the oxen aren't of nervous dispositions.



Tuesday 11 March 2014

Spectacular 'Carnevale' in Foiano della Chiana, Tuscany

The annual Carnevale in the Tuscan town of Foiano della Chiana is purported to be the oldest in Italy, dating from 1539; the year Henry VIII married his 4th wife Anne of Cleves. The town's speciality is the construction of gigantic moving floats; as tall as the buildings in the historical town centre through which they pass, with only inches to spare on either side. Each year the 4 Cantieri of the town compete to create the most outlandish float. The floats are judged by a jury, composed by a sculptor, a painter, a journalist, a scenographer and an art critic. The Cantiere that made the most voted float wins the "Coppa del Carnevale" (Carnival Cup); this year's honour went to Cantiere Azzurri. The wine flows, much porchetta is sold and the streets are filled with 'coriandoli' (confetti). Aside from the main float competition, there are other fancy dress prizes up for grabs, and many people dress up just for fun, especially children.

Here are some images of this year's last day of Carnevale on March the 9th. 

Thursday 6 March 2014

Pope’s summer residence opens to the public

Pope Francis has announced that from this month the gardens of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo will be open to the public. The rarely used castle and surrounding  55 hectare estate are situated in the Alban hills about 20 miles from Rome and include ornamental gardens, terraces with sea views, the remains of an imperial Roman villa and a small farm that supplies the Vatican with milk and butter as well as eggs, honey, and olives.

Then tradition of this summer refuge from the heat and chaos of Roma was initiated by Pope Clement VII in the 16th century when he seized the castle and grounds from the Savelli family in lieu of unpaid debts. Pope Benedict XVI also used to spend his summers there as well as a brief period of time just after he stepped down from the papacy in 2013. Pope Francis however has indicated that he would rather work on his campaign and remain in Rome than continue the tradition.

The spectacular view of lake Albano from the property has inspired many artists including Corot and Turner and there a numerous stunning religious works of art within the complex and a fountain by Bernini graces the piazza facing the apostolic palace.

The gardens will be open every morning from Monday to Saturday with tickets costing 26 euro each. Guided visits in a variety of languages can be booked through the website of the Vatican Museums.     

Monday 24 February 2014

Classic Veneto palazzo for sale between Vicenza and Padova


Monday 17 February 2014

Tax up-date

If you are not aware by now Enrico Letta has resigned as Prime Minister for Italy and the incumbent PD party leader Matteo Renzo is the likely to be the new PM. 
This is not what I am communicating today but something rather more urgent and if the piece of legislation is long lasting, it will have far reaching consequences, probably for you, me and every other expat that lives in Italy.   As I have explained in the past a drift net procedure is often applied to new tax rules and this is one of the most archaic and serious to date.  It will affect most: yound, old, strong, weak, rich poor, and the list goes on.  If you have read this far, I would urge you to read on. 
As of February 1st 2014 banks in Italy will be obligated to withold 20% of the amount relating to transfers coming into personal accounts from abroad.  The 20% will be witheld at source, by the bank, and unless an exclusion has been applied for it will be up to the tax payer to prove that the money is not 'income' from financial transcations abroad. The witheld tax will be assumed to be an advance tax on 'profit from investment' and that the tax will need to be declared and paid on it anyway on the end of year RW form.  The tax will be witheld every 16th of the month following the transfer and the accumulated amount can be used as a deduction against your end of year tax bill.  (Profit from investment includes 'interest from savings, income from property (i.e rentals, gains from the sale of property etc.  This is what they are trying to target!!!)
Even if an exclusion is filed for and granted (at the bank) your name and details will be submitted to the Agenzia delle Entrata.  In addition, you have until the 28th February following the year of the deduction (28th February 2015) to apply, to the bank, for an improper application of the witholding tax and request a refund. 
The exclusion will be granted by production of a self certification in the form of a letter sent to the bank.  It is likely that this self certification will cover a full tax year, in which the remittances were made, but as yet the rules are unclear. 
As you can imagine the banks have been caught a little bit on the hop and are not really ready for the implementation of this little piece of legislative wonder.    However, if you are remitting funds into Italy in the form of pensions, bringing cash in to renovate a house, income from running a business abroad etc then you must go and speak with your bank manager about how to self certify that the funds have not been generated from profit on investments abroad.  
The main aim of the witholding tax is obviously to flush out those who are avoiding paying tax on assets overseas.  The government is very cleverly avoiding the necessity of tax collection through third party intermediaries and instead going directly to the source of remittances into the country, the banks and other financial institutions.   Since the banks are wholly unprepared for this it could mean a messy period whilst it gets sorted out.  The banks are likely to be inundated with self certifcation letters and the hope is that they can administer this without problem.
As an example of the chaos, it is unclear at the moment whether remittances under a SEPA transfer will be subject to the witholding tax although it is just a matter of time before that is resolved.  
The whole idea seems rather counter productive to me, in that 20% on an amount remitted into Italy is not the same as 20% on the interest on funds that have been legitimately held abroad as savings.   Ultimately, the funds being remitted into the country are less than before and hence less funds to spend and use in the economy.  I have my sneaking suspicion that this is merely a way to generate more information for the Agenzia.  For those who are declaring their assets and incomes correctly and are 'in regola' it will be mostly a form filling exercise, lodging these foms with the bank and ultimately, the legislation will be of little concern. The only benefit being that the Agenzia has more ways of matching assets held abroad versus remittances from abroad and amounts declared on the RW (end of year tax declaration) and ensuring that 1+1+1=3
That does not deter from the fact that this interim period is likely to be rather stressful for those of us who need to remit funds into the country to pay our bills.  I would urge you to speak with your bank manager and commercialista as soon as possible. 

On a last note, I will be looking into some possible ways to plan around the witholding tax over the course of the next few days.  I will communicate these once I have any more information. 

If you would like to contact me to discuss this or any other matter you can do so on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com  or call  me on +39 333 6492356. 


I would also urge you to send this information to every expat you may know to ensure that the word is received loud and clear before real damage can be done. 


Wednesday 12 February 2014

Time for (more) political change in Italy?

Speculation mounts as to the future of Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, with reports that the stellar rise of Matteo Renzi may unseat him as head of the current government. Read more from the BBC: Italy PM Letta in battle for survival with Matteo Renzi 

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Going, going, gone! BBC last week and now ITV and Channel 4

If it wasn't bad enough losing the BBC channels last week the ITV channels disappeared last night along with Channel 4!
Now we all know that we weren't really supposed to be watching these channels and that the possibilty to receive them was a fluke, but anyone who has actually watched Italian TV will probably understand why a bit of TV from the UK is a necessity to a Brit abroad. To make matters worse the BBC radio stations have also gone, though it is still possible to listen to them via Internet; for the moment at least..
So what to do? If the Internet connection is fast enough you can stream stuff and there are ways of hiding your IP address so that you can watch BBC I player on a computer or device of some sort. Still, it's all a bit of a palaver; so maybe we should be trying to wean ourselves off the goggle box and do something else. Monopoly anyone?

Melting glaciers in northern Italy reveal corpses of WW1 soldiers

Buried for nearly a century, the remains of soldiers lost in World War I are slowly being uncovered thanks to the melting of mountain glaciers high in the Italian Alps.


Meredith Kercher killer Rudy Guede FREED on day release to study history degree.

Rudy Guede is now on day release to study a history degree. Read the full story.

Monday 10 February 2014

Unbelievable video captures avalanche.

WATCH: Amazing video captures avalanche burying small Italian village

Read more: http://www.fm98wjlb.com/articles/national-news-104668/watch-amazing-video-captures-avalanche-burying-12051087/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz2sw8oYmRJ

Police say that the 29-year-old suspect wished to found an anti-Semitic movement.

Police say that the 29-year-old suspect wished to found an anti-Semitic movement.

Tempio Maggiore: Rome's Great Synagogue
Tempio Maggiore: Rome's Great Synagogue Photo: Arthur Wolak
Italian police have identified a far-right activist suspected ofsending boxes containing severed pig heads to Rome’s main synagogue, the Israeli embassy and a Rome museum with a Holocaust exhibition.
Italian media reports identified the man as Ernesto Morosini, 29. Police told reporters that the suspect wanted to found an anti-Semitic movement and had sent the macabre packages to gain support.
Police have opened an investigation against him for instigation of racial hatred.
Rome Jewish Community President Riccardo Pacifici issued a statement thanking the forces of order for “the speed and promptness” of “a job well done.”
The pig heads, delivered by a courier service, were discovered January 24, just days before International Holocaust Memorial Day

GEOX - An Italian success story

Interesting article about the birth of the now-world-famous Italian shoe and clothing brand: Geox


Friday 7 February 2014

Sochi schedule 2014

BBC. What are you thinking!!!

For those of you who own a second home in Italy the news that we have lost all BBC channels is devastating. This really is a bad decision by the BBC. I would strongly recommend they investigate viewing figures, past and present. They will soon realise what a terrible mistake they have made. ITV now has a perfect opportunity to strengthen their position in Europe. Someone please give the BBC a shovel! 

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Italy's treasures apparently overlooked

Italy is threatening to sue the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's for failing to value its historical and cultural treasures. The country that gave birth to Dante, da Vinci and La Dolce Vita, thinks financial analysts would not have issued a damaging credit downgrade against Italy if they had paid more attention to its cultural wealth than its budget deficit.
According to the Financial Times, Italy's auditor general, the corte dei conti, believes that S&P may have acted illegally and could be sued for a staggering €234bn.
The paper cites a letter from the corte dei conti notifying S&P that it is considering legal action: "S&P never in its ratings pointed out Italy's history, art or landscape which, as universally recognised, are the basis of its economic strength." S&P has described the claims as "frivolous and without merit".
The investigation extends to S&P's rivals Moody's and Fitch, with further details expected to be revealed by the corte dei conti on the18th of February. Moody's dismissed the allegations, while a spokesman for Fitch said: "As we understand the prosecutor's concerns, we believe Fitch at all times acted appropriately and in full compliance with the law."

Boulder crashes onto Capri road


Tuesday 4 February 2014

Kuwait to invest 500 million euros in Italy


Build your own car at home for 4000 pounds in 60 minutes.

Only in Italy. Absolutely amazing concept. We might start giving them away if you purchase a property through us. For further information and/or to place an order go to http://www.osvehicle.com.

Monday 3 February 2014

Auerbach long-lost painting found in Milan.

Sotheby's senior art specialist Oliver Barker found the painting by Frank Auerbach  in Milan. The painting entitled Morning Mornington Crescent has been in storage since 1973. Mr. Barker had a tip-off and immediately flew out to Italy. The painting will be sold in London with an estimate of 800,000 GBP on the 12th February 2014.

Friday 31 January 2014

The future of the real estate industry.

Here's an excellent article from Ed Cumming.

Google Glass will revolutionise how we buy houses

Cutting edge technology Google Glass is poised to change the way property is bought and sold for ever. We take a look into the future

Where technology goes, estate agents quickly follow. First it was online listings replacing shop windows and catalogues. Then it was phone apps, so you could browse the market while you were in a meeting. Or on the bus. Or walking down the street (to the infuration of fellow pedestrians). Next came QE codes, those funny little square barcodes, so you could take a picture of an estate agent’s sign outside your dream property and have the details automatically pinged into your pocket.
What’s next? Which wonderful new technologies are on the way to make it even easier to browse, bid for and buy the house of your dreams?
One of the expected trends for this year is a surge in wearable technology. At the forefront of the trend is Google Glass, a device that looks like a pair of spectacles, but which can take pictures and video.
“It’s a game changer,” says Steven Reilly, whose company, Vistabee (www.vistabee.com), is one of the leading providers of videos for property. They make thousands of videos a year, for Zoopla as well as other individual agents. Recently, however, they have started to make videos of homes using Glass.
Reilly says that the possibilities the new gadget provides are nearly endless.
“It is going to really disrupt the market. Compared with normal videos, it feels incredibly immediate. People don’t feel as if they’re looking at a camera, so they relax and the experience is much more natural. The viewer gets a real point-of-view perspective of a house. It gives you a real sense of place. People buy houses based on their gut instincts, and this really gives you that. It really democratises visual content for homes – anyone can get at it, wherever they are in the world.”
Glass creates the possibility of an agent giving a tour of a new home live to viewers around the world, who would be able to ask them the kind of questions you normally need a viewing for: is the house noisy, what does it smell like; could you just check round that corner.
“The quality is really exceptional,” Reilly adds. “Potentially it can replace the first or second viewings of properties.”
Douglas & Gordon (www.douglasandgordon.com) is one estate agent which has decided to take the plunge, and get videos made using Glass.
“It could also have a big effect on the property search process,” says Ed Mead, a director at the agency.
“Potential homebuyers wearing Glass could be able to drive around a chosen area, and geo-tagged properties could pop up on the screen. This would allow buyers to get a feel for the street and the neighbourhood, while also enjoying the property’s interior. If properties are geo-tagged in this way, it could have a significant impact on the industry.”
Another piece of technology making its way to an estate agent’s window near you soon is the drone.
As has often been the way, innovative individuals are finding civilian uses for military products. Rather than spying on the Taliban, these flying robots are being converted to domestic use.
Steven Reilly of Vistabee (left): 'The viewer gets a real point-of-view perspective of a house'
Police forces have adapted them to monitor potential troublespots. Amazon, the retailer, caused a stir at Christmas when it announced that drones would soon be able to deliver packages direct from the factory to your front door. The video might have been tongue-in-cheek, but the underlying message was serious: drones are big business.
In the USA, they are already being used to help sell property. A five-bedroom house in Greenwich, Connecticut, on the market for £3.69m ($6.1m), was having difficulty finding a buyer using conventional marketing materials.
A small remote-controlled drone, with a camera fixed to it, was brought in. Hovering up to 50ft around the house, it took pictures of the house in its romantic snowy setting. Indoors, it took a sweeping panorama of the spacious living room. The house sold soon afterwards.
Drones can take shots that you would otherwise need a crane or a helicopter for, at a fraction of the cost. They can showcase a house in a new and unusual light – and that can be just enough to entice a buyer. They are also getting smaller by the day.
“There is already a drone that you can fold up and put in your pocket,” adds Reilly. “They are potentially a very exciting development for video making too.”
Of course, it isn’t every house that gets the drone fly-by or Google Glass treatment. As is so often the case, consumer technology will start at the top of the market and then work its way down.
For now, these new techniques are ways for people to set their offering apart at the very top of the market. In time, however, they will become an essential item in every vendor’s toolkit.
Futuristic they may seem now. But as happened with sat nav and Skype, technology that was once beyond our wildest imaginations will soon be part of everyday life.

A close shave, Italian mountain style...

An Italian farmhouse in the foothills of the Dolomites just about survived a close call with a truck sized boulder. The landslide above the property loosed both the boulder seen in the photo above, which ploughed through the adjacent barns, and another of equal size that is practically kissing the back wall of the building, dwarfing the car the also managed to survive:

Thursday 30 January 2014

Italian property market expected to boom in 2014.

The Italian property market is expected to see a healthy boost following the lowering of the Italian resale tax that is due to start on January 1st 2014.
Property tax has been the main issue for prospective property buyers in Italy and with the considerable savings calculated for next year, experts have predicted to see a flurry of sales.
According to A Place In The Sun, a buyer purchasing a €400,000 Italian property can expect to save €3,600 in 2014 with the lowering of the Italian Land Registry Tax. Savings are also high for those buying an Italian property for residential purposes rather than investment and buyers can expect to save €1,236 for every €100,000 of the sales price.
Linda Travella, of Casa Travella, commented: “This is a really positive step for the Italian property market. I am advising anyone in the process of buying a resale property to postpone completion until after January 1st so they can make a considerable saving.”
Interest in buying Italian property has already been seen from overseas investors including outside the EU. Italy is still a prime holiday destination that many tourists flock to every year, therefore owning Italian property is an ideal investment.
This latest measure by the Italian government to lower the Land Registry Tax should result in the Italian real estate market seeing a strong recovery in 2014.
Sources: Property Showrooms, A Place In The Sun, Property Abroad

Italian, a fascinating language.

PRESERVATIVI (condoms) instead of CONSERVANTI (preservatives):

Il cibo in Italia è più buono che in America perchè non ci sono preservativi.
(‘The food is better in Italy than in America as there are no condoms.’)

SCOREGGIARE (fart) instead of SCORAGGIARE (discourage from):

Sei stata bocciata all’esame? Non ti scoreggiare, puoi rifarlo l'anno prossimo.’
(‘You failed the exam, huh? Don’t be farted, you can take it again next year.’)

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters Locates Italian Battlefield Where Father Died during World War II

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters Locates Italian Battlefield Where Father Died during World War II
Silvia Donati | Monday, January 27, 2014 - 10:17

In the photo: Pink Floyd's Roger Waters makes a video in a British Cemetery in Cassino to honor Br...See more