Unclaimed Italian Properties: Legal Aspects

Have you ever wondered about the abundance of unclaimed properties scattered across Italy? In this blog post, I will delve into the legal aspects surrounding unclaimed Italian properties and shed light on the steps one can take to navigate this intriguing realm.

A Legacy of Migration: Unclaimed Properties in Italy

Between 1861 and 1985, over 29 million Italians embarked on a journey to other countries, seeking new opportunities and a better life. Approximately 18 million Italians permanently settled abroad, primarily in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and Argentina. As they left their homeland, many Italian emigrants unintentionally left behind property and land, which has become unclaimed over time.

However, it is essential to dispel a myth surrounding the fate of these properties.

Debunking the Myth: Property Confiscation by the Italian State

Contrary to popular belief, the Italian State did not confiscate the abandoned properties of Italian emigrants. The truth is that these properties remain unclaimed, with the original owners, who passed away many years ago, still listed on the title deeds. Today, there are thousands of such properties and parcels of land scattered across Italy, representing an opportunity for descendants of emigrants to potentially reclaim their ancestral assets.

Over the years, many individuals have sought assistance in finding their ancestors’ unclaimed properties, leading to various encounters and cautionary tales.

The Pitfalls: Beware of Scams and Misleading Offers

Regrettably, some individuals have fallen victim to fraudulent organizations promising help in locating and retrieving unclaimed family properties in Italy. These organizations often request upfront fees and then vanish, leaving those who responded without any further communication. It is crucial to exercise caution if you receive such letters, and instead, conduct thorough research on the company, verify their credentials, and refrain from solely relying on the information provided in the letter.

Authentic avenues exist for researching and identifying unclaimed properties in Italy.

Legitimate Research: Freedom of Information and Land Registry Records

Legitimate researchers turn to sources made available under freedom of information laws to seek unclaimed properties.

Since 2014, the Italian Tax Authority has provided public access to online land registry records and titles. To begin your search, you will need to register an account and provide specific information, such as the name of the presumed owner (even if deceased, including maiden name if applicable), the exact town of birth in Italy, the name of the presumed owner’s father, and the presumed owner’s date of birth (records available post-1880).

However, despite this convenient resource, navigating search results and relying solely on land registry records have their challenges. For instance, interpreting the search results can be daunting. Additionally, these records may not always be accurate, potentially displaying outdated information or the name of a previous owner. Therefore, caution is necessary when utilizing this approach to claim unclaimed Italian properties.

Challenges and Limitations: Interpreting Results and Accuracy

Interpreting search results can pose difficulties when pursuing a DIY approach. Furthermore, it is essential to note that land registry records may not always be accurate. In some cases, they could display outdated information or the name of a previous owner.

Understanding Unclaimed Italian Properties

Unclaimed Italian properties are abandoned real estate due to historical events, family disputes, or unforeseen circumstances.These properties can range from magnificent villas to quaint rural houses, each with its unique story.

Historical Context and Legal Framework

To comprehend the legal aspects of unclaimed Italian properties, we must delve into the historical context and legal framework that governs them. Italy has a complex legal system, deeply influenced by its cultural heritage and historical background.

The Impact of World Wars and Migration on Unclaimed Italian Properties

World Wars I and II, coupled with significant migration waves, led to the abandonment of many properties in Italy. Families were uprooted, leaving behind ancestral homes and land that fell into disrepair.

Italian Succession Law

Italian succession law plays a crucial role in determining the ownership and fate of unclaimed properties. These laws are governed by the Italian Civil Code, which outlines rules for inheritance and the transfer of assets.

In cases where a property owner dies without leaving a valid will, Italian law governs the distribution of assets through intestate succession. This process involves identifying legal heirs and allocating shares of the property accordingly.

The Role of Local Authorities

Local authorities, such as municipalities and provinces, play a vital role in managing unclaimed properties in Italy. They have the responsibility to identify and safeguard these assets, ensuring they do not fall into disrepair or become lost forever.

Procedures for Acquiring Unclaimed Italian Properties

Acquiring unclaimed Italian properties can be a complex process. It typically involves thorough research, legal consultations, and navigating bureaucratic procedures. The process varies depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the property and the applicable laws.

Individuals interested in claiming properties must conduct due diligence to establish their legal entitlement. This often requires gathering historical documentation, researching family lineage, and consulting with legal professionals well-versed in Italian property law.

During the pursuit of unclaimed properties, individuals may encounter various obstacles, including conflicting claims, unresolved legal disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. To overcome these challenges, patience, perseverance, and legal expertise are crucial.


Pursuing unclaimed properties in Italy means navigating complex legal landscapes, but the reward is immeasurable – rediscovering heritage and history. Are you intrigued by the allure of unclaimed properties in Italy? Have you embarked on a journey to reclaim your ancestral heritage? Share your experiences, comments, and questions below. If you need assistance or want to explore this captivating topic further, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

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  1. Pamela

    My great great grandpa, John Jordano emigrated from Trein, Italy. His father remained there. The original name was Giordano. When my great-great great Grandpa Giordano Passed away, a letter came from a lawyer in Italy stating that there was land but my grandmother or her brothers and sisters would have to go live there. The letter would have gone to Giordano’s living great grand children Florence, Blanche, Glen and Rosco Dowse. My great grandmother Ella Jordan was John Jordan’s daughter (Giordano), and my Grandma’s mother. I have always wondered what became of the land. I have had trouble tracking this since John Giordano changed his name to Jordan when he emigrated to the US. He had been studying to be a priest in Italy and changed his mind , eaving his inheritance behind.

    • Giandomenico De Tullio

      Thank you for taking an interest in our article. We appreciate your comment. What an interesting story.
      Although it is common to find property records of those still on title born in the 1880s, earlier birth dates may have not yet been digitised. Obtaining property records in prior periods may require a manual search in the town records. It may be easier to start with names that you know in the 1900s and then work backwards.
      There are thousands of unclaimed properties abandoned by Italians who emigrated to other countries. According to Italian succession law, descendants may still file to make a claim. If we can be of help, please get in touch: info@detulliolawfirm.com