Renovate a commercial property in Italy: Complete Guide.


If you are willing to renovate a commercial property in Italy there are several things you need to know. Italy is a very bureaucratic country and you have to know how to act if you want to renovate a commercial building. Often many buyers and entrepreneurs buy properties even before assessing the works to be done, or what they entail. In this post we will show you what information you need and what you need to do to renovate a commercial property in Italy.


What building documents do you need to start the works? In order to renovate your italian commercial property you will need a CILA (if the works are not structural), or a SCIA (if the works involve the structural parts). In some rare cases, it’s necessary to submit a PERMESSO DI COSTRUIRE (permession to build) if the works involve the renovation of a very big and valuable building. These requests must be presented directly to the municipality.
In most cases, you will not need to wait for an authorization, but you can start work as soon as you present the documents through your architect. 

Considers that over 100 square meters, a percentage ranging from 25 to 50% will be used for technical rooms, warehouses, staff rooms etc. So consider that the commercial area open to the public and to the sale will be smaller than you think. For example, if you are designing a clothes shop that requires staff and salespeople, you will also have to design changing rooms for employees, divided by gender, in addition to bathrooms and a snack area. You will also have to provide bathrooms for customers, including a bathroom for the disabled. The rules on disabled people in Italy are very strict: it’s necessary to install stairlifts or to build ramps, where there are stairs.


For works involving structures, the professional must necessarily be a graduate (engineer or architect). The documents and the structural project must be submitted to the “Genio Civile”, civil engineering, (a regional office). Authorization times vary according to the seismic zone and the size of the works.

If your renovation works consist only of the demolition of partitions, and do not involve load-bearing walls or pillars, you won’t need to present these structural documents.


If you want to renovate your commercial property consider that safety on site is very important in Italy. For this it is necessary to appoint the professional who will notify the opening of the construction site. As a safety coordinator in the planning and execution phase (CSP or CSE) he will draw up a construction site project (PSC) in which he will examine all the risks deriving from the presence of workers from several companies, and from interference in the works. Note: If you have only one company you will not have to prepare these documents (even if it is very unlikely that you have only one company in renovation work).
The local authority to which the safety documents must be presented is the ASL.

Some general rules for site safety in Italy: whoever enters the building site must be notified in advance to the office in charge (ASL). He must wear safety shoes, safety helmet and, if necessary, other safety devices. The building site must be fenced and marked, and entry to non-employees must be prohibited. The construction company also has to affix the necessary safety signs.

Be careful that everyone’s respecting the rules on site safety: as long you are the client of the work, you are also the main responsible for any problems / incidents. And the fines are very salty. So rely on a licensed professional.

The ASL, which is another local authority in Italy, also deals with the rights of employees in the workplace.

Some tips about the Basement floor

Note that if you want to make employees work in the basement of the building you will need to ask permission to the ASL. In fact, the underground floors of the buildings are often without light and ventilation. A good idea is to allocate underground floors to technical premises without having to stay in person. Check with your architect the local and municipal regulations.


Before opening the business you will need to have a business file and docs submitted to the municipal office. This documentation includes the floor plans of the building, with identified sales areas and non-sales areas (such as bathrooms, warehouses, technical rooms). Consider this: the more sales area you have, the more you will pay. In fact, the sales areas costs more than non-sale ares. Once the municipality has approved your project, you can open your shop or your store.


In order to renovate your commercial property in Italy and to open your shop, your store project must comply with fire regulations. This means that the planning plans must respect a series of constraints and obligations relating to: doors width, emergency corridors, stairs, lifts, fireproof materials, etc.
The body that deals with this is not the municipality but it is the Fire Department (Vigili del Fuoco).

Note this: if the gross area of your entire store/shop (including non-sale areas such as bathrooms, warehouses etc..) is less than 400 square meters (mq) you will not have to submit or request any authorization from the Fire Department.

So if you have a big shop or a large store you will have to answer these needs. Your firefighting consultant will be able to adapt your store project to the things requested by the Fire Department.

There are many things you will have to think about.

For example, you will need to design a hot tubs pumps and heaters technical room for the fire extinguishing system. You will need to set up a detection and alarm system. You will need to make safety exits with panic bar, and make sure they are never obstructed.  Firefighter controls on this topic are increasingly stringent, and sanctions are severe if these regulations are not complied with. Therefore, consider that if the surface of your store is larger than 400 square meters, you will have all these additional costs related to design and installation of the fire system.

Consider that you will have some “visual obligations”. All this can affect the internal and external appearance of the store: warning signs, ventilation grids, fire protection, fire extinguishers etc. For example, some things, like the fire extinguishers must be red and visible, the doors of emergency exits must be visible and illuminated, the hoses must be red and placed in the right places and so on.


If you want to renovate your commercial property in Italy you need to think about this local authority. The “Soprintendenza” is that public body that takes care of protecting historical and monumental buildings. First of all, you must check with your architect if your building is subject to historical / monumental constraints. If so, you will have many restrictions on how you can renovate your building.


For example, you can’t change the façade design. So you can’t build or remove any windows
(and not even change their size), decorations, painting, colors, and everything you see. The only part where you can intervene will be the show windows. But even there you will have to respect some rules: the images and contents must conform and must be authorized. Therefore, images of bad taste or incompatible with the style of the building can’t be placed.

A palace of the “Soprintendenza” in Roma, Italy.


If there are any valuable artefacts inside you will have to keep them. For example, a beautiful old staircase can’t be demolished. You can demolish only partitions and elements that are not considered as monuments. Obviously you can demolish all the false ceilings, counter-walls, systems etc. But if there is something old that the “Soprintendenza” catalogs as “valuable” then you will not be able to remove it during the restructuring.
Note that permits from this body are those that require more time and effort by the professional.


Have you already renovate your commercial property in Italy? Time to think about the commercial signs! In order to install signs on the front of your store you will need to request permission from the municipality. Your architects will submit this documents, which must be presented for any permanent logo, advertising image or sign that is affixed to the facade. In fact, not everything is granted. Many images, colors, logos may not be tolerated by the municipality, especially if on a building of high architectural value. Normally the logos and the writing of your business will be accepted, as long as they are not scabrous, offensive or not appropriate to the building. Therefore you will not have to exceed in size, and in brightness. Some municipalities force you to install retro-illuminated signs to avoid disturbing the eyes. Also for this request you will have to pay a fee. And the municipal office will decide whether to authorize the installation of the signs. 


Then, if you want to renovate commercial properties in Italy, it is also important to mention the part relating to the energy performance of a building. If you renovate a commercial property you will need a professional who draws up a document (Pratica Termica ex L.10). It’s equivalent to a design of the insulating and the heating system. If you sell or rent a commercial property you will need to let a professional do the A.P.E. (certificate of Energy Performance). It’s a document that certifies the energy class of the building. And therefore informs about how efficient the building is in terms of thermal dispersions and how much its heating system is performing.

Moreover, your professional has to hand these types document to the Municipality (Town Council).


Your professional will need to prepare a document that certifies the acoustic performance of the building. In Italy there are precise rules on acoustic parameters to respect. The professional, if necessary, will have to provide acoustic insulation to limit the sounds produced by your business, and ensure that they do not disturb the people near you. Therefore it will be necessary to present these documents on acoustic performances to the municipality.


If you want to renovate a commercial property in Italy you need to make sure which use is registered. The commercial category is C/1 (Shops) or D/8 (big stores or shopping centers). You will then have to make a change to the intended use, if necessary.
The local authority that deals with these changes is the “Catasto”, the land registry. At the end of the works, your professional will have to register the due cadastral changes.

Consider that a variation from residential to commercial will have an impact on the taxes you will have to pay on the property. The Catasto in fact catalogs the properties, to allow the identification of the tax to be applied on each property.


In order to renovate your commercial property in Italy, you will certainly need a site area on public land. You will then have to request, through your architect, the authorization to install the site fence on the sidewalk/public space. You will therefore need to pay a fee for this. And you will have to build an occupation that complies with safety regulations. And, if necessary, create alternative passages for pedestrians.
(The acronyms to identify these documents are various from town to town: OSP, COSAP, OSAP etc … So if you read one of these acronyms you know that they are talking about occupation of public space.) 

Watch out: public space occupation can be very onerous, especially in big cities and historical city-centers. So you have to finish your works quickly to avoid paying more. (The fee varies according to the town, the street and the occupied square meters). Also remember that in special periods, like Christmas, you may have denied public land occupancy. So try to plan your works with foresight.

renovate commercial property in Italy
Commercial advertising on the site fence, Italy.

The public space occupation area will also help you to install the scaffolding. (Consider that if it’s a very large or non-standard scaffolding, you will need a structural design.)


If you want to renovate your commercial property in Italy, maybe you are considering doing some advertising. On the site fence (and even on the scaffolding) you can attach the advertising images, upon request to the municipality. The images and writings that you would attack must respect the limits, parameters and measures required by the municipality.

The municipality will request you the quoted drawings with measures of the occupation and also the renderings.


By the way if you need further informations about building documents and local authorities in Italy you can also read this:

The professional

Renovate a commercial property in Italy isn’t a joke. Note: in all these documents you will need a signed statement by the professional (architect or engineer). So you will have to hire and consult a professional. (Many local authorities receive the documents only with the digital signature of the professional. And so the documents must be sent online).

In order to present the documents to the local authorities, the professional will need the authorizations and the signatures of various people. Like for example: owner of the building, eventual tenant and legal representative of the construction company. The architect will then be delegated by the client for the presentation and for the drafting of the documents.
Note: the licensed professional (architect or building / civil engineer) can sign all these documents on his own, or you can have the various documents signed by different professionals. Often, for convenience, you choose a single professional or a single team of architects who sign all the practices, so as to have a better organization.

The time to prepare these documents obviously depends on the extent of the work.

Responsibility in Italy

Beware: the architect, as a professional, has the planning responsibility in compliance with building regulations. But don’t think that the client has no responsibility. In fact, the client signs all the documents and he is also responsible for the architectural documents.

The customer who commissions the work, even in the case of a large company, must always be a person. Such as a legal representative or a private person. The customer can’t therefore be a company, but his representative.


As you can see, in order to renovate your commercial property in Italy, the documents to be produced are many. Therefore you will need a team of competent professionals who can assist you in every phase of the work. Your professional has to be able to advise you on the best strategy.

In fact there are many documents, permits and organizations with which you will deal with the opening of your business.

Not always all these documents / permits are necessary, as we have made a complete list. Often, especially if you have to renovate a building of architectural value, or particularly large, you will need all these permissions.

Some documents require a longer approval time by the local authorities, others require less time.

Therefore you will need a team of expert architects and engineers. They can answer your questions and they can guide you step by step on this bureaucratic path.

Do you want an advice on your commercial property renovation in Italy? Do you need an architectural team? Ask us anything.

Write us:       or      Contact us

We will be happy to follow you step by step.

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