Insurance Agents & Companies
Italy had a relatively undeveloped insurance market until the 1980s, when many foreign companies stepped in to fill the vacuum and now control a large slice of the market. There are numerous Italian and foreign insurance companies to choose from, either providing a range of insurance services or specialising in certain fields only. Some foreign insurance companies operating in Italy cater particularly for the needs of expatriates, major insurance companies having offices or agents in all main cities (there are also "Direct" telephone insurers). Insurance agents, brokers (agente) and companies are listed in the yellow pages under Assicurazioni and many advertise in the expatriate press in Italy. Most insurance companies or brokers will provide a free appraisal of your family's insurance needs.
There are many independent brokers in Italy, who can offer you a choice of policies and save you money. However, as in many countries, it is often difficult to obtain completely independent, unbiased insurance advice, as brokers may be influenced by the commission offered for selling a particular policy. As with all financial matters in Italy, be careful who you choose as your broker and the company you insure with, as a number of companies have gone bust in recent years and insurance fraud is not unknown. When buying insurance, particularly car insurance, shop until you drop! Obtain recommendations from friends, colleagues and neighbours (but don't believe everything they tell you!). Compare the costs, terms and benefits provided by a number of companies before making a decision. Note that premiums (premio) are sometimes negotiable. However, the most important point is whether an insurance company pays claims fully and promptly, or, as many do, delays paying for as long as possible and fights every euro of a claim.
The entire insurance industry has been going through a crisis in recent years and (at long last) is becoming more consumer-driven. One major change in recent years has been the advent of telephone and Internet insurers, which allow you to obtain and compare estimates in minutes. Some Internet brokers allow you to compare rates online (www.diagramma.it) or you can contact individual insurance companies such as Genertel (800-202 020, www.genertel.it), Linear (800-992 222, www.onlinear.it), Lloyd 1885 (800-999 999, www.lloyd1885.it) and Zuritel (800-247 247, http://www.zuritel.it).
While buying insurance over the phone or on the Internet is a great convenience, you need to exercise some caution, particularly if you're buying a policy from an insurance company that you are not familiar with. Not all insurance companies are equally reliable or have the same financial stability, and it may be better to insure with a large international company with a good reputation than with a small Italian company, even if this means paying a higher premium. You can check whether a company is registered in Italy with the ISVAP, the Italian insurance industry trade Association ( 06-421 331, www.isvap.it)
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.