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Guide to Living in Italy: What Are the Pros and Cons?

Guide to Living in Italy: What Are the Pros and Cons?

So you’re thinking about moving to Italy? Do it! Moving to any foreign country is such a unique, introversive experience. There are so many different ways to experience Italy, but the absolute best way is to live there.

You can fully immerse yourself into the culture, explore hidden parts of the country, see the infamous attractions for yourself, and understand yourself a little bit more. Here is the ultimate guide for living in Italy.

The more you explore different areas and different countries, the more you learn about yourself – and I mean deeper things beyond how much you love pasta. Some parts of Italy are historical, some artistic, and some modern. Plus, consider all of that and pair it with a reasonable cost of living, and well, may I say you’re in heaven?

You never want to feel rushed when you are traveling. Calling this amazing country your home is a great way to give yourself time to explore your home base and other places around Italy.

Cinque Terre

Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with mountains, lakes, islands, and historic cities. You may feel like you are in a travel movie, with artistic architecture, fantastic food and drinks, and beautiful scenery.

Italy showcases both the history of how cities used to be and how they have modernized.

Tips Before Moving to Italy

There are important things to plan out before you go, and some that will need to be planned when you get there.

Determine the cost of living relative to your home state or country.

Find out how much money you will need to support yourself and your family.

You will need a place to live. If you are moving alone, subletting may be the best option for finding an affordable place. If you are moving with a family, find an apartment or house that meets your needs and budget.

Start your search early so you have time to find the perfect place. Housing costs in Italy are generally high, especially in big cities like Rome and Milan, for apartment rental prices as well as to purchase a primary home. The monthly rent you can expect to pay is anywhere between 1,500 and 2,500 euros for a one-bedroom apartment.

On the plus side, wine is incredibly cheap and the food prices are reasonable as well since Italians pride themselves on being able to cook well with fresh, quality ingredients that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Italians also like sharing their food and pride in it with other people. A mid-range restaurant is nothing to be concerned about and you can get a good meal for two people including wine for around 60 euros.

For rent, you’ll generally have to pay for electricity and gas expenses on top of the marketed rental prices. Be sure to factor that into your estimated monthly costs of living in Italy.

Be prepared for the bureaucratic process.

The Italian government is notoriously inefficient, so brace yourself for some red tape when you go to open a bank account, get your residency permit or driver’s license, register your car, etc.

Hiring an accountant or lawyer who is familiar with the process can help make things go more smoothly. This can make the overall move cost and potentially the ongoing cost of living more expensive if you have to manage these administrative adjustments.

Figure out where you want your home base city to be.

I suggest making your home base somewhere you feel comfortable and somewhere populated enough to provide you with English speakers (if you don’t speak Italian), multiple modes of public and private transport options, and a multitude of living options.

The top choices that accommodate all of these are Milan, Florence, Rome, and Naples.

Secure your health insurance options.

If you are coming from the United States, you will need to switch to a local health insurance provider as your US health insurance will not be valid in Italy. The good news is that most Italians have great health care coverage through the government-run INPS system.

You can also opt for a private health insurance policy, which may be required if your employer doesn’t offer health insurance benefits.

The cost of private health insurance in Italy is around 50-100 euros per month, depending on the coverage you select. Healthcare costs are relatively low in Italy in general, with a private doctor visit costing around 30 euros and prescriptions typically running less than 10 euros.

Make a list of towns and cities that are a “must-go” for you.

It is easy to get lost in your home base, so having a list that you can build upon is a great way to keep track of where you want to go. This can help when you arrive and start to get a hang of things, you can start to plan large trips encompassing multiple cities, or single trips.

As an expat, you are going to want to travel a bit and see more of this amazing country and other countries in Europe. So, make of list of different places to visit in Itay so you can budget your monthly costs accordingly.

Be sure you have all your passports, visas, and police department requirements in order.

Italy is in order when it comes to internationals and that usually means you have to have a police check and you must keep it with you at all times while you are traveling, in case you are stopped by police.

Pick out a place to stay within your home base.

Airbnb is a great way to find places to stay, you can do a long-term rental very easily. This is going to be your new home! Research going into this place should be extensive. If and when you are traveling, this could be where you store your leftover luggage. You want this place to be in a safe area, with added amenities.

Insider Tip: A lot of apartments and homes in Italy do not have air conditioning, coffee makers, clothes dryers, and sometimes ovens. Be prepared to find many places without these!

apartment in sunny Italy on narrow street with red fiat driving by

Best Italian Cities for Expats, Retirees, and Non-Italians

The four popular cities recommended are the most developed, yet deliver a great amount of authenticity. They are also near airports and have decent methods of public transportation.

  • Milan
  • Florence
  • Rome
  • Naples

These are great places to live as they have access to many different cities within the beautiful country.

These Italian cities can be a lot to tackle on their own, which is another reason why they are great places to live. Living in a different country means fully immersing yourself in a place you will call home.

It is not all traveling every chance you get, sometimes you need to explore where you actually are situated and these may be the best memories you have.

Pros and Cons of Living in Italy

Let’s get into the pros and cons of living in Italy in each major city. Each region of Italy is so vastly different from the other that we will cover the major cities of Northern Italy, Tuscany, Rome, and Southern Italy.

Milan

Milan Duomo Cathedral with people walking around it

Pros of Living in Milan

Choosing Milan as your home is a great way to explore different parts of Italy. Milan has historic aspects, artistic aspects, fashion districts, and delicious food.

There is a big city feel with the Duomo and fashion district, but also a small-town feel in the arts district.

Cons of Living in Milan

Milan is the most expensive city to rent a room in Italy. In addition, it has the most traffic and Italian drivers can be a bit crazy!

Nearby Towns/ Cities to Milan

Milan has easy public transport options to Turin (2 hours), Venice (3 hours), Florence (3 hours), Genoa (2 hours), and Cinque Terre (3 hours) and is very close to smaller towns in Italy that are worth taking a day trip to.

These include Lake Como, where George Clooney owns a house; Crema, where Call Me By Your Name was filmed; Bergamo, which is a medieval throwback; and Gromo, which sits on the border of Switzerland and the Swiss Alps.

Or check out the Dolomites by visiting Bolzano. Check out these best things to do in Bolzano to make the most of your visit.

All of these will be easy to visit without much planning if you decide to make this your home base. Here are some other top places to visit in Northern Italy.

Best Hidden Gems of Milan

There are a ton of great art markets, the Popcorn Garage Market is a favorite for many. Selling vintage art, clothes, jewelry, and handmade objects.

Another hidden gem is the Navigli district, which is a beautiful area located around a canal. Many events take place here on the weekends, with a lot of shopping options!

Pro Tip: Be sure to check out restaurants in rural areas of the city, these are the best and most authentic!

See Related: Best Car Museums in Italy

Florence

Florence rooftop overlooking other buildings in city

Pros of Living in Florence

Florence is one of the smaller cities, meaning fewer crowds and more small businesses to support! In addition, Florence has famous markets which are open all the time and a great way to experience local goods.

Cons of Living in Florence

Florence has been known to be a bit dirty, which can be something you start to notice when you live there for a long period of time! It is also not the most pedestrian-friendly, cars do not halt or slow down too often for you and sidewalks are not everywhere!

Nearby Towns/ Cities to Florence

Bologna is only an hour away and is known to have some of the best food in Italy. San Marino is its own state surrounded by Italy, a truly unique place to visit where buildings sit atop mountain peaks and all the roads are cobblestone.

Pisa is an hour and a half away, and we all know what is there, the Leaning Tower is an iconic place to visit.

Finally, Rio Marino is a city on an island off the East Coast, three hours away.

Rio Marino has the best beaches and cycle paths, a truly unique area to visit.

Best Hidden Gems in Florence

Borgo San Jacopo is a neighborhood on the opposite side of tourism with many towers to view the city from. The flea market in Piazza di Ciompi is a smaller version of the leather market and is a great way to casually browse vintage items.

Pro Tip: Via Toscanella is a street full of murals from local artists that can change monthly! Take a stroll down here every month to see the changes!

See Related: Best Travel Apps for Europe

Rome

Roman Colosseum in bright blue sky with no peopleRome Colosseum

Pros of Living in Rome

There are so many Italy iconic features in your backyard if you live here! The culture is very rich here, you can feel so connected to Italy while living here.

The weather is also some of the nicest, being in Southern Italy.

Cons of Living in Rome

This is the most populated city and it is oftentimes unreliable when it comes to public transport.

Many people are often lacking the modern touch that other cities may provide.

Nearby Towns/ Cities to Rome

One that you may know of is Vatican City. The smallest country in the world is located right outside of the city and is filled with a rich history and a unique monarchy.

Tivoli is a little less than an hour away, a popular destination for a casual day trip if you are living in Rome. There are a lot of hidden gardens with high-quality restaurants.

Orvieto is just an hour and a half away and is known worldwide for its wineries. Castel Gandolfo, only 40 minutes away is a very beautiful small town and adds a modern touch different from the big city.

Best Hidden Gems of Rome

Rome is full of art, where da Vinci and Michelangelo are there, and so are many other amazing artists. Check out Quadro for street art and visit the Pyramid of Cestius as it’s the only pyramid in Europe.

Rome is one of the best cities to visit in Europe due to its vast history, great food, and plenty of things to experience nearby.

Pro Tip: Take a stroll through Trastevere, one of Rome’s greener neighborhoods, you can feel like you are in a little town while walking here.

See Related: Best Party Cities in Europe

Naples

window showcasing bay area with trees and bright blue water

Pros of Living in Naples

This is a great southern city where you can access the beachy parts of the south and the historical parts of the north very easily.

As the third-largest city in Italy, Naples has a very small-town vibe with narrow streets and neighborhoods for residences. Naples has also been considered the safest of the four cities.

Cons of Living in Naples

While Naples is in the Southern region, it’s a bit more of a beachy city it is a little less modern when it comes to technology. The city does not usually accept credit cards.

In addition, they have had a bit of an issue with trash and stray animals in the city center.

Nearby Towns/ Cities to Naples

Pompeii is just 40 minutes away, with Mount Vesuvius and historical buildings, it is interesting to see how the city has reformed since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The Amalfi Coast is only an hour and a half away and full of so many cities and towns. The Coast, in general, is absolutely stunning, with coastline beaches, bright blue water, and marble mountains.

Almost any town you go to here will be incredible. Capri Island is two hours from Naples and is an iconic island off the coast of Italy.

Living in Italy is so special because you can see history and islands, two completely different worlds, in one country.

Best Hidden Gems of Naples

Naples is full of underground tunnels where there are a lot of treasures, it is like its own museum. Naples sits on the edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea, so there are many great places to get wonderful views – one of which is Villa Doria d’Angri.

Check it out!!

Pro Tip: Always look up at the ceilings whenever you enter buildings in Naples, artists loved putting art on the ceiling for a dramatic effect on their art.

See Related: Best Sites Like Skiplagged

How to Save Money on Living Expenses in Italy

bowls and plates of food on table

Living in any country can be expensive, and living in Italy is, unfortunately, no exception.

Here are some tips for saving money on your living expenses!

Go to Apertivo

Apertivo is essentially a happy hour, with free food! Milan is one of the better-known places for Apertivo. Italians eat dinner later at night, usually, 8 – 10 p.m. Apertivo starts around 5 p.m.

You pay a few extra dollars on a cocktail and get all-you-can-eat food. Some places have better spreads than others- scope it out!

Walk if you can!!

Living in Italy you should be able to walk most places. The second best option is train, bus, or tram. Hiring a car or taxi can really be expensive in Italy, as rideshares are not as common. Public transport for the win!

Visit local markets for produce.

Supermarkets can be very expensive, and you are supporting locals. Italy is full of local artists and homemakers. During your time in Italy, it is good to support local businesses.

Don’t eat out every night.

Believe it or not, boxed pasta is even better in Italy. It is nice to eat out, but don’t make it a habit!

Wait for saldi to shop.

Saldi is a twice-annual sale lasting for about six weeks each. It is basically like an extended Black Friday. Almost all stores cut their prices, it is so worth it to save up!

Haggle, negotiate, and don’t be shy.

You can negotiate prices basically everywhere in Italy. If you look like a tourist, they will almost immediately up the price. Try to haggle, you may get really lucky and save up bits daily.

See Related: Best Ways to Save Money for Travel

Tips for Managing Transportation Costs in Italy

long train going through green mountains with small houses and villages

Living in Italy is an amazing opportunity to travel. You truly can see the whole country. The greatest thing about Italy is the public transportation. You can get a transport card that works all over the country. So, when you travel from city to city you can use them anywhere.

In addition, trains have beautiful scenery. Many people want to travel by car when they travel through Italy, but trains have just as pretty views.

When traveling from major city to major city, use trains or busses like Flixbus. They have comfortable options and have some major deals.

Plan big trips ahead of time and day trips spontaneously. The best part about living in Italy is being so close to so many characteristic small towns and scenery.

Plan all your trips out for your “must-go” cities, but find some little towns nearby as you go along! Check out airline and flight websites often to look for deals.

You would be surprised how often a random flight within Italy or to other countries goes on an amazing sale. Check it out and snag it if you see it!

See Related: Best Things to do in Ravello

How to Move to Italy

Living in a foreign country can be challenging at times, especially if you don’t know how to learn the process of moving and living in another country.

Making the move to Italy is a big decision, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. With a little planning and preparation, you can make your dream of calling Italy your home a reality.

1. Learn the Italian language.

Unless you’re fluent in Italian, you’ll need to learn some basics before making the move. There are plenty of resources available to help you learn, including online courses, language schools, and private tutors.

2. Find a job in Italy.

Networking is key when looking for work in Italy. Start by reaching out to your personal and professional contacts to see if they know of any openings. You can also search online job boards or attend job fairs.

3. Purchase a home or rent an apartment.

Once you have learned the basics of the Italian language and have a job lined up, it’s time to find a place to live. When searching for a place to live in Italy, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.

  1. Location: Do you want to live in a smaller town or a big city? Do you want to be close to the beach in the south or the mountains in the north? Each of these changes dramatically in terms of rent costs but also what culture to expect during your time in Italy.
  2. Budget: How much can you afford to spend on rent or a mortgage? The cost of living and monthly rent can vary significantly in this country.
  3. Size: How much space do you need? Will you have roommates or will you be living alone? Rent can be cheap in a big city if you live with friends or random roommates. However, if you are a single person and want your own space, expect to spend a lot more on rent.

You should consider finding an apartment real estate agent that specializes in housing for expats. This makes the process much easier.

4. Adjust to Italian culture.

From the food to the culture, there’s so much to love about life in Italy. It may take some time to adjust and you may have culture shock initially, but it’s worth it to experience everything that Italy has to offer.

Making the move to Italy is a big decision, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. With a little planning and preparation, you can make your dream of your own lifestyle in Italy a reality.

Things to do while Living in Italy

These places are the most recommended cities and small towns, as well as the activities that they are unique for.

  • Milan – Duomo! While you are here, you must see the Duomo, it looks like a fake background, that is how beautiful it truly is. This cathedral took nearly six centuries to finish!!
  • FlorenceMarkets! Florence and markets go hand in hand. You can find some of the best products and markets in Florence. Taking a trip to Florence means getting some bargain shopping from the markets! Take a look at the Duomo!
  • Rome – an obvious one, The Colosseum! How often can you say you stood by an artifact from 70 A.D.? This is a pretty large artifact, to say the least, meant to seat 50,000 – 80,000 people, the size of the Colosseum will blow your mind.
  • Naples – Limoncello factory tour! There are so many different limoncello makers in Naples, find one and they will gladly show you around and give you some tastings!
  • Venice – Gondola ride! At almost any stop, gondoliers will be awaiting passengers. You can haggle with them on the price. Venice is the one place you can take taxis, water taxis! After you feel like royalty in a gondola, travel the rest of the canals via a water taxi.
gondola in venice canal
  • Cinque Terre – Five Island Hike! These five towns, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are situated in beautiful coves on the coast. The hiking trails between each town offer unique views, and each town has its own unique vibe. You can also take a water taxi from town to town if you are feeling like a hike is too much.
  • Alberobello, Puglia – Museum Hop! Alberobello has a plethora of museums located in houses, huts, and historical buildings. Walking around the streets and popping into these museums is a great way to learn more about Italy.
  • Sardinia Mountain Beach Tour! Sardinia has alcoves and mountains on top of beaches. The best way to see all of them is through a 4×4 tour. Exhilarating and beautiful, so worth the price!
  • Positano – Amalfi Drive! The Amalfi coast is unlike any other, the coastal town is picturesque Southern Italy. Grab your camera and do the famous Amalfi Drive along the coast.
  • Cefalu, Sicily – Boat Tour! Sicily is an island in Italy and the best thing to do there is explore the water. You can book a boat tour in advance or just catch one when you get there!
woman walking through cobblestone street
  • Bellagio – Sip Cocktails and walk the streets to enjoy the natural beauty. This one may not seem too crazy, but Bellagio is too beautiful to do anything else. Situated on Lake Como, the town has a birds-eye-view of the lake and the cobblestone streets. Relax, take it all in, you’re living the good life!

FAQs

What’s it like living in Italy as an American?

Life in Italy as an American is a great experience. Italians are very welcoming and hospitable, and the culture and scenery are beautiful. There are plenty of opportunities to live in Italy as an American and the cost of living will generally be cheaper than in the United States.

Is it expensive to live in Italy as an American?

It depends on the Italian city you choose to live in but overall, Italy is a relatively affordable country to live in when compared to Western Europe.

Is Italy a good place to live?

Yes, Italy is a great place to live. Its temperate climate, rich culture, and abundance of natural beauty make it a popular destination for expats.

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