If you are renting, you will need a codice fiscale (fiscal code, somewhat like a US Social Security Number) to form part of the rental contract and its registration with the government. You can obtain the codice fiscale from your Italian consulate back in the USA before you leave for Italy or by visiting your local office of the Agenzia delle Entrate from within Italy.
Attention married women: the codice fiscale should always be requested in your maiden name (the name as it appears on your birth certificate).
The owner of the house or apartment that you are renting from has 48 hours to inform the Questura that their property is rented and occupied. The Questura releases a document known as “Communicazione di Cessione di Fabbricato.” You will need a copy of this document for your residency application at the comune and in some cases you may need to go to the Questura yourself to file the application for the Cessione di Fabbricato if the owner has failed to do this on your behalf.
Keep in mind that the Cessione di Fabbricato is not needed if the contract was registered with the Agenzia delle Entrate who handles this on the owner’s behalf, so this step is only for an unregistered contract known as a “Scrittura Privata” or if you are presenting a letter of hospitality in place of a lease/rental agreement.
Before you can visit City Hall (Palazzo Comunale) to apply for citizenship recognition, you need to have either your timbro or your Dichiarazione di Presenza and a fixed address in Italy in order for you to take up your residency status within the Comune. See step 1 for information on the timbro/Dichiarazione.
Your next visit is to the comune’s Anagrafe office to request a form called a Dichiarazione di Residenza (residency declaration). They will want you to fill that out and prove to them that you have a place within their municipal jurisdiction to reside during your stay in Italy. This proof can be a copy of the rental agreement or a letter of hospitality from your host. The clerk will also want to see your citizenship paperwork at this time, as the reason you are applying for residency is precisely to be able to submit your JS application, so all your documentation along with apostilles and translations will need to be reviewed by the clerk. The clerk will only want to see that you have the necessary documentation and will not want to keep it or even thoroughly examine it as you will have to return for an actual citizenship appointment after the residency application is finalized. In some large comuni that have a special citizenship office within the comune (one example is Rome), you may need to go to Ufficio Cittadinanza beforehand and show the citizenship officer your paperwork to obtain a receipt that you then take to Anagrafe for residency.
Sometimes the Anagrafe clerk will not permit you to be registered as a resident unless you have an extended stay permit called a Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS). If so, then you must obtain one before applying for residency status. Some clerks want you to have the PdS just because they believe there is a chance that the process can take longer than the 90 days your passport allows you to stay and so they won’t register you as a resident unless they know that you have permission to reside in Italy past 90 days at the time you submit your residency application. See step 4 below for information on obtaining a PdS.
Once your residency application is accepted, the clerk has to wait until a police officer stops by your house to confirm that you are physically present there before you can be enrolled in the Anagrafe del Popolo Residente (APR) database as an official resident of the town. Put your name on the doorbell or intercom and stay in town until the visit is complete. The vigile has 45 days to make the visit but it is usually completed in 3 weeks. It is not unheard of in some places for the Vigile to make more than one visit (they sometimes check 3X) before they will confirm with the City Hall clerk that you are indeed residing at the place you claimed.