Read insurance contracts carefully before signing them. If you don't understand Italian, ask someone to check a policy and don't sign it until you fully understand the terms and the cover provided. Policies often contain traps and legal loopholes in the small print, particularly exclusion clauses, so if you cannot understand a policy it's recommended to obtain professional advice before signing on the dotted line.
Always check the notice period required to cancel (annullare) a policy. Policies are usually automatically extended for a further period if they aren't cancelled in writing by registered letter two months before their expiry date. Most Italian insurance policies are valid for ten years, with the exception of motor polices, which run for one year. If possible, you should insure with a company, whose contracts are valid for one year and renewable annually. If you haven't paid your renewal premium within ten days of the expiry date, your insurance may become invalid (therefore, in the case of motor insurance, you would be driving without insurance!). You may cancel an insurance policy before the term has expired if the premium is increased, the terms are altered (e.g. the risk is diminished), or an insured object is lost or stolen. This must, however, still be done in writing and by registered post. Cancellation is also permitted at short notice under certain circumstances beyond your control. If you're changing insurance companies, the new company will be happy to cancel your old policy for you and simply give you a standard letter to sign.
If you wish to make a claim, you must usually inform your insurance company in writing by registered letter within two to five days of the incident (e.g. accidents) or 24 hours in the case of theft. Thefts must be reported to the local police within 24 hours, as the police report (denuncia) usually constitutes irrefutable evidence of your claim. Like insurance companies everywhere, some Italian companies do almost anything to avoid paying in the event of a claim and use any available loophole. In fact, Italian insurance companies have taken the art of delaying payments or not paying claims at all to unimaginable heights, which is why it's essential to deal with only reputable companies (not that this provides a guarantee). It isn't unusual for legitimate insurance claims to take years to be resolved â€?and even then for the outcome to be unsatisfactory.
If you have a problem with a claim or other problems with an Italian insurance company that you cannot resolve, contact the Italian Insurance Industry Trade Association (ISVAP) in Rome (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.