Living in Italy – how to find a gardener

How do you find a good gardener in Italy? This is the kind of million dollar question we’re still asking ourselves after a few years now.

The last guy was good but he used to charge us a fortune, cash in hand, per hour per person whether we were paying for his years of experience or those of the apprentice. And we adopted his rake on a long-term basis when he didn’t come back to pick it up. Lovely man, just a bit expensive.

Then we had a friend who helped us out for a while with the smaller stuff, like mowing lawns and just general pruning. But he nearly took his head off riding the lawn mower under the plum tree, upset the difficult neighbour by dumping green waste on our field, insisted on washing down the mower’s engine and seeing him with a chain saw in hand was just plain scary. A lovely man who’d give you the shirt off his back, just a liability in the yard.

So on that point of liability, some tips on finding a good gardener in Italy, bearing in mind we’ve yet to find ours (although my DIY job on the hedge in summer was not too bad if I do say so myself):

  • It’s expected you will pay cash in hand, no invoice. In that case do not settle for the only discount being you won’t pay IVA. This is a real bug bear of mine – saving money through the fact that the supplier doesn’t pay tax just annoys me. So ask for a further discount if there’s to be no invoice. If you’re scrupulous, request an invoice upfront before the work starts as prices will be quoted ex-IVA and you don’t want any nasty surprises at the end.
  • Regardless of whether you’re being invoiced you want to know from a safety and liability point of view that you’re covered. So ask for a contract to cover the days that people will be on your property.
  • Make sure you’re clear with the contractor about a timeframe – number of days, number of workers, tasks per day, when you can expect the job to be finished and hourly rate.
  • Discuss whether the gardener will use your equipment or their own. Our advice would be to have a gardener use their own. If they use yours that’s another discount to be discussed.
  • Chat about the work every so often, getting updates and checking on status.
  • Offer coffee.
  • Make sure garden waste removal is part of the initial expectation.
  • Expect a slash and burn approach. Italians will be ruthless with your garden.
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