The Italian legal system guarantees that you can have resort the the courts as a general channel for protecting your rights.
But in some matters you first need to attempt mediation, with your lawyer’s assistance, and only if that fails can you bring a court action: these areas are condominium disputes, property rights, division of assets, inheritance, family agreements, rent or lease, loans for use, business leases, claims for damages due to medical malpractice, defamation in the press or other media, and disputes relating to insurance, banking and financial contracts..
Another option is arbitration, where the dispute is adjudicated by a private arbitrator designated by the parties to the dispute. Recourse to arbitration as an alternative to court action must be agreed upon by the parties concerned.
Specific time limits apply according to the type of claim. The standard time limit is 10 years; however, some types of claim have shorter time limits (Sections 2934–2961 of the Civil Code).
To obtain a final judgment adjudicating a dispute, you have to go to court. To identify the court with jurisdiction, you must consider the type of dispute and the national and EU rules governing jurisdiction.
The basic rule is that the competent court is the court of the place where the defendant resides; this is the rule of territorial jurisdiction that determines what is described as the ordinary forum for natural persons (foro generale delle persone fisiche). Depending on the value of the dispute, or on the specific matter at issue, you will have to turn to a specific court in the relevant area (the justice of the peace (giudice di pace), or the general court (tribunale) sitting with one judge or with a panel of judges), or indeed to a court outside the ordinary forum for natural persons (in which case there is said to be mandatory territorial jurisdiction (competenza per territorio inderogabile)).
See the factsheet on ‘Jurisdiction’.
Actions concerning movable property for a value of up to €5 000 must be brought before the justice of the peace (giudice di pace). The justice of the peace is also competent for actions having a value of up to €20 000 if they relate to compensation for damage caused by the movement of vehicles and boats. Actions where the sum at issue is larger are handled by the general court (tribunale) sitting with one judge. Certain matters are assigned irrespective of their value to the justice of the peace (Section 7, third paragraph of the Code of Civil Procedure), the single-judge general court (Section 409 of the Code of Civil Procedure) or the general court sitting with a panel of judges (Section 50-bis of the Code of Civil Procedure).
See the factsheet on ‘Jurisdiction’.
As a general rule, you will have to be represented by a lawyer: professional representation is mandatory (obbligo di difesa tecnica). This rule does not apply to claims for small sums (claims of €1 100 or less before the justice of the peace) or if you yourself are a qualified lawyer (Section 86 of the Code of Civil Procedure).
The application must be addressed to the other party and filed with the competent office of the clerk of the court.
The application can be made orally only in claims before the justice of the peace (Section 316 of the Code of Civil Procedure). In all other cases it must be written, in the Italian language. The application cannot be sent by fax or e-mail.
There are no set forms; the application must indicate the parties, the court, the subject‑matter and the heading.
You will need to pay to the State a fee, which will depend on the amount you are claiming, at the time you file the application (single fee under the Consolidated Law on Legal Costs, Presidential Decree No 115/2002).
The amount and timing of payment of lawyer’s fees will depend on the arrangements you make directly with your lawyer.
Both Italian nationals and foreign nationals can claim legal aid if they fulfil the legal personal income requirements (Consolidated Law on Legal Costs, Presidential Decree No 115/2002).
The action is considered to have been brought
The court will not consider whether the case has been presented properly until it comes to trial, when both parties can be heard.
The time allowed for entering an appearance, and the timing of other steps to be taken by the parties or by the court, are set out in the Code of Civil Procedure. Each court applies these rules from one step in the proceedings to the next or by setting an overall schedule for the proceedings (Article 81‑bis of the Decree implementing the Code of Civil Procedure).
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