Moving Your Stuff to Italy

Photo courtesy of Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Photo courtesy of Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

With reasonable certainty that you will soon have your Italian visa, it’s time to start thinking about moving your stuff to Italy, and llining up moving company candidates. In my situation, I had already furnished my home in Umbria with the basic necessities, and I was determined to pare down dramatically what I had in the U.S. It was time to free myself from the encumbrances of “too much stuff”. Watch “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz on Ted Talks if you want some perspective and inspiration for simplifying. This was a real eye-opener for me.

I had private garage sales (for friends) and Craigslist help me unload some furniture. In short, I edited down to about 30 boxes, including one for my beautiful Specialized road bike. This meant i would be sharing a container vs. having my own. This is something you will have to ascertain before you talk to movers. I had been talking to several companies, and interest waned with a couple of companies when they figured out I would be “small potatoes” and not worth the return on such a small shipment.

You may find that you have enough to have your own container, and then you should be rockin’ along with suitors for your business.

I was really, really happy with International Van Lines. I found them to be very responsive. I provided an estimate of the number of boxes and weight of my shipment, and they provided an estimate based on my pick-up date and the delivery address. When they picked up my stuff, I was slightly over the estimate and the up-charge was palatable. But, what I liked most about International Van Lines, and a couple of other companies, was their routing of the shipment. This leads me to offer the following advice:

Choose a company that can route your shipment through an arrival port in the U.K., and not through Italy.

I had heard horror stories of people who had their good shipped through ports and customs in Italy. Such stories helped me to determine going through the U.K. would be far wiser. These stories included scenarios of being notified that a shipment had arrived in Italy and was being held pending missing paperwork/documentation – even when things supposedly were already in order. “Storage” or “holding” fees were imposed until things were cleared up. In some instances, people learned later that their shipments had not yet arrived, yet they already were being charged storage fees.

And then again, there are many people who have had this go without a hitch with an Italian point of entry. But, and this is a very big BUT, Italian customs are notoriously inconsistent. In my opinion, if you choose this route, you are taking a very big chance. A shipping agent may assure you all will be fine, but once your goods are in the hands of Italian customs anything can happen.

International Van Lines routed my shipment through Felixstowe Port, in England. In essence, my shipment cleared EU customs, and then made it’s way across the Channel and land to Italy.

With the right documentation (your moving company will inform you what is needed) you will not have to pay customs on your household goods. You’re granted a one-time duty-free shipment of household goods. Talk to your mover about any significant electronics (e.g. computers) you may be shipping. I designated that my iMac was over a year old, and I attached a copy of the dated purchase invoice to the outside of the box, should there be any questions. If your electronic equipment is less than a year old, you may be required to pay duty on it.

When my shipment left the U.S. port, it was first X-rayed/scanned to determine if any prohibited items (your mover will provide a list) stood out. So, be on the up-and-up.

For my small shipment, I found the cost to be very reasonable. The only drawback was that I had to wait longer for the delivery of my goods, since I was being consolidated with other shipments. For me it took almost three months. You may want your goods sooner, and that will have to be part of your negotiations.

Lastly, make sure your mover knows the conditions of your delivery address. Living up a small rural road in the Umbrian Hills restricted the size and types of vehicles that could make it close to our house. Fortunately, with a small shipment, that wasn’t an issue. If you’re facing a similar situation, but you have a large shipment, your estimate should include a surcharge that shows your shipment being shuttled from a larger truck by a smaller truck to your home.

Disclaimer: These are suggestions based on my unique experience and they should, in no way, be a substitute for your own “due diligence” in researching the logistics and legalities of moving your household goods to Italy.