Death and Dying in Italy

Information on how to proceed if you need to report the death of a family member in Italy. Also information on the repatriation of remains for a burial or cremation outside Italy...

In the Event of a Death

Deaths must be registered within seven days at the registry office (Ufficio di Stato Civile) of the town commune where it took place. Registration applies to everyone irrespective of their nationality and whether they're residents or visitors.

In the event of a death, all interested parties must be notified. If a death takes place in a hospital the attending doctor completes a certificate stating the cause of death (constatazione della morte). Several copies should be made of this document as it is required by banks and other institutions.

If a death occurs at home, the family doctor or the local guardia medica should be called. If there are suspicious circumstances the polizia mortuaria must be informed (call: 113). They will arrange for a post mortem/autopsy examination. Usually the undertakers register the death.

Foreigner in Italy

In the case of the death of a foreigner in Italy, the deceased citizen's Consulate or Embassy can be contacted for further information. Although not all nationalities have to register a death in Italy, a Consulate or Embassy can be a good source of advice and support.

If the deceased was a tourist visiting Italy with a tour operator or group, the tour representative must be contacted. They should then contact the insurance company who will take over many of the arrangements.

The family of a tourist with no travel insurance will have to cover all expenses.

Funeral Arrangements

Anyone may be buried in Italy, foreigners included.

The disposition of remains is affected by local laws. The first reference should be to the local comune/municipio (town hall). A funeral home will also be able to advise.

Burial options include:

  • Family tombs: these are in the cemetery but can be expensive, these are layered blocks of marble tombs and are leased for a specific period for each family member
  • Individual tombs: (loculo) are layered blocks of marble tombs; the plot or "box" can be leased for between 10 and 50 years, after which the lease can be renewed
  • Communal burial grounds: (campo comune) are free of charge but not considered very dignified as the remains are exhumed after only ten years

Cremation is becoming more popular and is paid for by the local municipality. Note, there are not many crematoria in Italy. If the deceased has not requested a cremation the family must make a formal request via a notary to the registry office.

Embalming is not usually available.

Repatriation of the Body

Returning the deceased to their home country requires the help of the relevant local Embassy or Consulate. Consular officials can assist in having the remains returned.

The length of time required for the repatriation of remains can vary greatly and is determined by a number of factors including the cause and location of death. When the death is the result of natural causes, remains are repatriated more quickly than if the death occurred from a suicide, accident or crime.

Further Information

(With extract from Living and Working in Italy, edited by Graeme Chesters)