Yes, but moving to Italy to apply is not for everyone. You must be able to put your life on pause, spending a minimum of 3-4 months, possibly longer, residing in Italy, awaiting your recognition. So, you need the financial assets to support the travel and living expenses involved in an extended stay. You have to be prepared to navigate Italian bureaucracy (apartment hunting and lease negotiations, declaring residency, submitting your citizenship application documents, and likely obtaining a long-term stay permit). You also need to be completely prepared with your documents to be submitted in support of your claim for citizenship because any major issues with discrepancies or missing information from abroad will cause delays. You have a very short window of opportunity to accomplish all of the steps to successfully submit your application for citizenship within the 90 days per every 180 that the Schengen visa allows, or you must leave and start anew 6 months later.
Overview: Before you can apply, you must first establish residency. Unlike in the US, residency in Italy is very formal. You must register with the city. It adds you to their residence logs and entails starting trash collection and other services. Your ability to establish residency is predicated on owning property or having a lease for residency purposes (usually 6 months or more). Staying at a vacation rental, like an AirBnB, or at a hotel will not qualify you for residency.
If you can legally enter Italy on your foreign passport, you do not need to obtain a special visa. US passport holders are permitted to stay legally in Italy for up to 90 days per every 180 without a visa. (Note that this term is a cumulative of time spent in all countries in the Schengen zone. So, if you have travelled in this zone within the past 180 days leading up to your move to Italy, previous time spent is deducted from the 90-day allotment.) Residency normally requires proof of an extended visa, but there are special provisions for those applying for jure sanguinis citizenship to allow for residency to be declared. So, JS applicants are able to travel to Italy without a visa and take up residency status there with just their US passport.
JS applicants are eligible to apply for a special Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS) in attesa di cittadinanza, which is an Italian stay permit granted specifically to people present in Italy just to apply for JS citizenship (or also for those there to reacquire their lost Italian citizenship). The PdS will allow the applicant to stay legally in Italy past the 90 days if staying beyond 90 days at some point becomes necessary. This can only be obtained once you have first established residency and then successfully submitted your citizenship application.
Many cities can process JS applications within 90 days, but there are some variables outside of their control that can cause delays of months. Also, those who have applied in cities with backlogs of applications have had to wait over a year for recognition. If you intend to apply in Italy, you need to be prepared to stay open-ended, as the timeline to complete a case cannot be predetermined. It is important to note that you cannot legally work until your citizenship is recognized (or unless you obtain an employer-sponsored work visa) and it can be difficult in most cities to obtain permission for trailing family members to stay beyond the 90-days their passport allows.
We cover these processes in detail in the sections that follow.
Next Section: Where In Italy Do I Apply?