Italy: Buying A Hotel In Italy: Legal Aspects Of Investing In A Hotel Business In Italy

John Norton and Valentina Giarrusso consider the legal challenges that foreign hotel investors and corporations usually need to face when considering to buy a hotel in Italy or expand their business operations in Italy.

This article briefly compares the legislative framework and legal differences between the Italian and the English jurisdictions: for more information, contact the authors directly.

There is a plethora of laws, regulations and codes to consider before becoming or for that matter being a hotelier. There is a minefield of bureaucracy to understand, ranging from licensing rules to food hygiene and fire regulations. Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law if something goes wrong. The cost to remedy breaches of the law can range from criminal and civil actions (including fines) and even imprisonment for more serious breaches. Below, are just a few examples of legal matters to which any hotelier must adhere.

A.   Employment Matters

UK:  Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Major pieces of legislation which must be considered include:

  • The National Minimum Wage Act;
  • The Working Time Regulations;
  • The Employment Rights Act; and
  • The Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (if a hotel is to be taken over, a prospective buyer must observe the existing staff's terms and conditions of employment).

It is an employer's responsibility to check that someone taken on is entitled to work in the UK. There are fines for employers who employ illegal workers because they have failed to make the necessary checks.

It is inevitable that accidents happen in public places including hotels. Unfortunately in these current times of litigation and blame culture it's important to mitigate the threat of being sued (whether founded or unfounded). One of the most important areas of hotel insurance is public liability insurance which most insurance providers will provide as part of an overall package deal. Similarly under the Employer's Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 employers must be adequately insured for their employees as well as display the insurance certificate inside the hotel.

ITALY:  In the hospitality sector, national federations of labour unions pensions and employers' organisations are signatories to national collective bargaining agreements. The terms constitute effective de minimis standard employment provisions which apply regardless of whether the particular parties to the relevant employment contract are members of the local branch of national signatory federations. In November 2005, a supplementary health assistance plan was also created for employees and workers of the tourism sector. Under its health plan, subscription fees for full-time and part-time employees must be fully borne by employers alone.

B.   Health and Safety

UK:  Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees and those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement.

One of the most serious threats to a hotel business and guests is an unexpected fire. Typically this is caused by a kitchen fire but also occasionally occurs due to an electrical appliance overheating or a guest causing some sort of accident. As well as the obvious safety precautions such as installing fire extinguishers, fire exit signs, checking fire exits and undertaking regular fire drills a hotel manager must also limit the ability of a potential fire to spread. Therefore if starting up a new hotel or taking over a hotel in need of a facelift the process of choosing fixtures and fittings for the bedrooms and other living areas is that much more important. Only fire retardant furniture should be purchased that complies with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. Most modern furniture is compliant and will have a ready tree label attached to it confirming this. Most building insurance policies will stipulate that the hotel adheres to statutory fire regulations.

Likewise to protect the safety and health and welfare of guests, hoteliers are obliged to ensure that all gas equipment and gas appliances meet with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994. It's probable that the main industrial boiler will be heating the building constantly seven days a week to provide hot water and heating for guests. Failure to properly ensure maintenance of this boiler could result not just in machine failure but gas leakage and consequent safety disasters.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that hoteliers must take notice of substances which may cause injury or illness to their staff.  In particular employees should be provided with any proper protective clothing required to handle harmful substances. These may include some type of cleaning fluids such as chemical-based bleach for general maintenance and building repair materials. Staff are also protected under the Act in that they cannot be required to work excessive hours or any unsuitable shift pattern which could result in an accident or ill-health from fatigue. Supplementing this health and safety requirement is the introduction of the Working Time Regulations 1998 which specifically dictates rest breaks, shift patterns, annual leave entitlement and working hours for all employees. Running a small or medium sized hotel can be a busy and hard-working environment and so it's important to plan ahead for any possible absences or illnesses where cover is required at short notice.

ITALY:  Hotel management must exercise reasonable care in the health and safety aspects of the hotel premises for the benefit of their guests. Management must ensure the cleanliness of premises and rooms. It must ensure fire safety for the protection of lodging guests. In particular, careful and regular evaluation of the fire alarm, sprinkler, and extinguishing systems, fire prevention and containment, safe and adequate egress, electrical safety and employee training in fire safety must all be undertaken. Maintenance and inspections of heating and air-conditioning systems must also be carried out regularly so as to ensure appropriate indoor air quality. Hotels are also required to identify and evaluate safety and health hazards so as to implement mitigation remedies and programs.

Pursuant to public places anti-smoking legislation, hotel common areas(e.g. lobby, restaurant, convention hall, etc.) must be smoke-free.

Smoking is only allowed in special sealed-off areas fitted with smoke extractors and inside hotel suites reserved for smoking guests. Hotels are also required to ensure good disabled access facilities and to remove any physical barriers making it difficult for disabled users to access hotel premises and services.

C.   Environment and Waste Matters

UK:  If a business produces food waste - most catering businesses do – it is essential that it is disposed of correctly. It mustn't contaminate the environment and it can't be fed to livestock. If a waste carrier is used to get rid of waste they must be properly authorised.

ITALY:  Hotels have to meet specific legal requirements pertaining to the separate collection and treatment of solid, organic and liquid waste; treatment and disposal of used oils, fats and hazardous waste (if any); waste water and sewerage system plant and disposal. For this purpose, hotels are bound to draft and implement a waste management program detailing selection, storage and disposal criteria and methods to follow. Hotels must also comply with applicable rules pertaining to noise. Plant rooms, kitchens and laundries, waste management areas (including compactors), garages, discotheques and lobby areas must not exceed decibel limits as stated by law.

D.   Food, Beverages and Hygiene

UK:  All businesses in the food sector must comply with strict food safety legislation. Before a hotel can be opened, the business must be registered with the local authority environmental health department. The local environmental health officer will be able to give advice and guidance as to what should be installed in the premises to make sure operating areas are hygienic and furthermore  how to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and regulations made under it.

If food is served at the hotel there are legal duties to ensure the food is prepared in a hygienic fashion and in the proper way for the safety of guests. Many local colleges provide formal training courses on food hygiene for those new hoteliers who have limited experience in this area. Poor hygiene and food management can result in food poisoning of guests. Food poisoning represents one of the most serious threats to a hotel/hospitality business. Food poisoning can be created because germs can cause diseases and illnesses if allowed to spread between humans and food. Germs thrive at certain temperatures in order to multiply and spread and so understanding which types of food need to be heated or cooled and at what specific temperatures ranges is vital.

If an environmental health officer visits a hotel and discovers poor hygiene standards they have the right to close the hotel for the welfare of your guests. General cleanliness is also one of the top factors that guests would consider in deciding whether or not to return to the hotel they have stayed in. Therefore formal hygiene training of kitchen staff and staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance is not just a legal obligation but good business practice. Underpinning this approach to ensuring compliance with food hygiene standards must be an overall system and procedure for quality standards. Having a written document process for checking cleanliness, food temperatures, maintenance schedules, safety and security checks are all highly relevant to comply with a whole raft of statutory obligations.

Likewise most hotels also like to provide guests with alcohol as well as food. Therefore hotels need to adhere to the Licensing Act 1964.  Assuming a licence has been granted most hotels are free to source their alcoholic beverages from whatever source they see fit. However, the Act dictates all aspects of serving alcohol such as the cleanliness of optics, pipes and glasses as well as the unit measures which you can advertise and sell at. A 'public room' would need to be converted into a bar to serve alcoholic beverages. If planning to serve alcohol during mealtimes a residential and restaurant licence is a legal requirement which is sometimes known as a Function's Licence.

ITALY:  Where a bar/restaurant service is operated, hotels are required to adopt an internal HACCP auto-control system (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and a code of correct hygiene practice whereby responsibilities, standards and processes are carefully established to ensure that food and drink handling, preparation, storage and delivery as well as health & safety conditions of related hotel facilities and workers comply with EU and domestic regulations. In particular, food handling, preparation and storage, must avoid or minimise their impact on guests' health, including food poisoning or the transmission of other diseases. Regular and unscheduled inspections are generally made by local health authorities to verify compliance with these legal requirements.


This article summarises just a few of the key statutes and regulations hoteliers need to think about whether getting started or achieving a legally compliant and well-run hotel. It is important to ensure that you are fully aware of all other laws related to your individual situation and how they may apply to your plans. A hotel business will thrive if all these factors are well managed because guests will always recommend a well-run establishment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions