Buying Property in Livorno - What to look out for and how to choose the right area

Apartment building in seafront Ardenza Apartment building in seafront Ardenza

When looking for property to buy in Livorno you will almost certainly have to deal with a local estate agent, or agenzia immobiliare. If you don't speak Italian I suggest finding someone who does to help you as not many agents speak good English.

The vast majority of property in and around Livorno, as in all Italian towns, is in apartment blocks, or 'condomini'. When looking at property, it is important to take into account the apartment building as a whole, as well as the area in which it is located.

Factors such as the state of repair of a building (don't forget the roof!), the floor the apartment is on, whether or not there is a lift, whether heating is independent or centralised, and what monthly condominium fees amount to, all need to be taken into consideration.

Ground floor apartments can be dark, sometimes have problems with damp, and are more prone to burglaries. Higher floors are fine, if there is a lift.
No lift, however, also generally indicates a lower price.

Condominium fees vary depending on the upkeep involved in a building, but can be as much as 200 euros a month in some cases. If there is a portiniere (whose role is usually to keep an eye on who goes in and out, as well as light maintenance duties) and/or a garden area around the building, these fees will reflect this.

Look carefully at the kind of work that needs to be carried out on an apartment, such as window frames and shutters and inside doors, and ask about wiring, and heating systems. These must all have up-to-date certifications, in other words they must be a norma.

When looking at property to buy, you should also find out about any upcoming maintenance work due on the building itself and be sure about how much this will cost. A new roof, or major facade work is very expensive. If there is no lift, there may be a plan to install one, which is a further expense for each apartment owner.

Basement storage rooms known as cantine are common in more modern buildings where every apartment has its own storeroom, on the lower ground floor. This is considered to be a useful asset, especially where the property does not have a garage (see below).

Gardens are a rarity, especially in the city centre. Although there are some surprising green areas hidden behind some city apartment blocks, they are also much sought after and usually come with ground floor apartments. Also, be aware that the description giardino can often be used to describe just a small outside area that might not correspond to your own idea of 'garden'. In residential areas like Ardenza and Antignano, gardens are more common but often part of small condominiums and detached properties which are also very expensive.

Parking is a major issue. Some apartments will have a garage of their own, others may have an assigned parking place for one or more cars, while others rely on street parking. Make sure you are aware of the parking options. Many areas now have 'residents' parking' areas, but this doesn't necessarily make parking any easier, especially in central areas, or along the seafront during the summer season. In any case, to qualify for a resident's parking permit, you must officially be a resident at the address of your property, and you need to pay a yearly fee to obtain the permit. In recent months (2019) the local council has installed blue pay parking bays on streets throughout the city, even in residential areas and in some areas operational until 10pm. This is creating even greater problems for residents who now have to compete for parking with everyone else.

Note that when Italians move house, they generally take everything with them, including the kitchen sink! That means the fitted kitchen units and curtains too. They may be willing to leave you the kitchen if they have no need for it in their new home, but this is not usually included in the property asking price and you will need to negotiate a separate price for this.

The area you choose to live in will depend on your needs, both in terms of type of apartment and location. Central Livorno is easy to get around, even by bicycle. Despite having a population of 160,000, it has a comfortable small-town feel about it. It's also quite easy to get to know people if you are willing to make an effort.

The old Venezia quarter is a lovely historic area close to the city centre where apartments are mostly in big old blocks dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, most without lifts. This is also one of the main areas for nightlife, and the venue for the annual Effetto Venezia festival in the summer.

To the south of the city, the popular area bordering on the city centre around the Villa Fabbricotti park is a very convenient location, while the outlying 'quartieri' of Ardenza and Antignano, and further still to Montenero, are more residential but further from the city (see more details below).

The Fabbricotti area is very popular because it is so near to town, yet has its large park, small local shops, and some nice apartment blocks. However, many apartments do not have private parking, and quite a large percentage still have centralised heating systems.

Heading out of town slightly, another attractive district is San Jacopo - bordering on the seafront, it gets very busy in summer, but is one of the oldest quarters with its unique atmosphere, local shops, schools and restaurants, the Villa Mimbelli park, and a variety of apartment blocks from different eras. Street parking can be frustratingly difficult in the summer months when the nearby Pancaldi lido is open (and most of it is now pay parking).

Further south still you come first to Ardenza, and then Antignano, both residential and sought after areas with  a mixture of apartments - near the sea again. These are generally the most expensive areas (especially closer to the sea). They offer a variety of local shopping and schools, as well as restaurants and bars. A bus service connects them to the city, but there is no regular service after about 8.30pm. (LAM blu & LAM rossa services)

Montenero is another expensive residential area, on the hillside to the south of Livorno, about 15 minutes' drive from the city. Property here is a mixture of smaller condominium blocks and independent villas, new and old. There are good views over the city below, but the area depends on Ardenza, Antignano and Livorno itself for many facilities. It has a primary and middle school. The lower area, Montenero Basso, is served by a regular bus service (LAM rossa line) during the day, while the upper part, Montenero Alto, relies on the funicular railway or private transport.