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Italy - Death

Dealing with the loss of someone close is never easy; however, it can be much harder for someone who lives in a foreign land. While the traditions and customs followed by the Italians may vary as compared to other countries, the Italian legal procedures to the followed after a person’s death are not very different.

As per the Italian law, all deaths have to be registered with the Registry Office (Ufficio di Stato Civile) within 7 days. This registration is compulsory for everyone, regardless of their nationality and residential status. The death of a citizen, tourist or expat needs to be registered at the town commune, where the bereavement took place. In case of a deceased expat, the death should also be registered with the authorities of the home country.

Death Certificates

In case a person dies in a hospital, a death certificate mentioning the cause of death (constatazione della morte) should be issued by the doctor who attended to the patient. This document is quite an important one and therefore, several original copies should be obtained. If a person dies at home, the family members need to notify their doctor or the local guardia medica, who will examine the deceased’s body before issuing the certificate. In case the doctor believes that the death has occurred under suspicious circumstances, the polizia mortuaria will be notified, for getting an autopsy organized. The death certificate then needs to be submitted at the registry office. The death is often registered by the undertakers.

When an expat living in Italy passes away, the deceased person’s Consulate or Embassy should be contacted for completion of any legal formalities. This is necessary in case the deceased’s remains need to be shipped to the home country. There are several factors that determine the length of time it takes for repatriation of the remains like the location and cause of death. For example, repatriation is a lot quicker if death occurs due to natural causes; however, in case of an accident, suicide or murder, it could take much longer.


Like in the US, funeral homes generally make all the arrangements for the burial. Anybody, including a foreigner, can be buried in Italy, though the disposition of a deceased person’s remains is affected by the local laws. Some of the different burial options in Italy include –

Family tombs in cemeteries, where layered marble tomb blocks are leased out for each family member, for a fixed period of time.
Individual tombs (loculo), where layered marble tomb blocks are leased to people for 10 to 50 years. The lease can be renewed at any time.
Communal burial grounds, where people can be buried at no charge. However, these grounds are exhumed every 10 years or so and are therefore not considered as a dignified way of laying someone to rest.

While the practice of embalming is never followed in Italy, the procedure can be performed by an authorized technician or physician in rare cases.

The local municipality has started paying for cremation, which is becoming quite popular in Italy, in spite of the fact that there aren’t many crematoria in the country. However, in order to cremate a body in Italy, an authorization is required. In case the deceased did not make a request for cremation before passing away, the family needs to put in a formal request to the registry office via a notary. A death certificate, as well as identity information, is required for carrying out the burial or cremation procedures.

Traditionally, a funeral in an Italian village or town is open for everyone to attend. The body of the deceased person is placed in an open casket, which is kept at home, so that friends and neighbors can pay their respects. In such cases, the door of the house is decorated and notices are placed everywhere, to inform others about the funeral details.

Funerals are always a somber occasion in this country. It is customary for mourners to dress in black or other dark colors. Italians have a full mass at the funeral service; all the friends and neighbors follow the pallbearers in a procession, into the cemetery. In the larger cities notices are put in the newspapers and the funeral services are a bit different as people are not very closely intertwined.

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