Italy offers much as an overseas retirement destination, topping the charts for overall quality of life. It’s a land of historic significance, architectural marvels, traditional values, beautiful cities, never-ending feasts of culture, and amazing food. Rome and Florence aren’t budget choices, but elsewhere Italy boasts some of best lifestyle bargains to be found anywhere on the Continent. If you’re looking to indulge in quintessential Old World living on a budget, you should be looking at Italy.
Abruzzo—Italy’s Best Bargain Lifestyle
Like Tuscany, Abruzzo has history, art, and delicious cuisine, as well as beautiful scenery that changes with the seasons. However, unlike Tuscany, this region remains undiscovered, meaning the cost for everything from dinner out to a rustic farmhouse under the sun is much lower than in much of the rest of the country and lower than most anywhere else in the EU. Abruzzo is one of the best values in Europe today.
Abruzzo has 82 miles of white sandy beaches, the high peaks of the Apennines, plus ancient towns, and expansive. This is one of the few places on Earth where you could ski in the morning then relax on a beautiful beach by the sea that afternoon.
Located on Italy’s eastern coast overlooking the Adriatic, Abruzzo is the greenest region in Italy and home to 75% of the species of fauna found in Europe. Almost 40% of this territory is under environmental protection.
Pescara, L’Aquila, Chieti, and Teramo are Abruzzo’s main cities. Pescara, the largest, is the most modern. It has good connections with the rest of the country and ferries to Croatia. You’re just an hour from Rome, yet you could buy a home for less than 50,000 euro.
An Italian Home Of Your Own For As Little As 1 Euro
In fact, in Casoli, Abruzzo, as well as elsewhere in Italy, you could purchase a home for a single euro. This wouldn’t be a house you could move into right away but one that’s been abandoned for decades and likely in need of considerable renovation. However, the cost of restoring old houses in rural Italy can be as low from 20,000 or 30,000 euros, depending on the size of the house.
These 1-euro houses are an attempt by village mayors to breathe life back into their communities. To be allowed to purchase one, you must show your plan for renovating the property and, ideally, for converting it to a business that will benefit the townspeople—a guesthouse, for example, or an artisan’s shop. You could be required to complete the restoration work within a relatively short timeline—six to twelve months is typical—and to use local labor. Still, if you fantasize about a new life and a home of your own in Italy, this could be an affordable and adventure-filled way to make that dream come true.
Mangiamo! Eating And Drinking Italian Style
No discussion of living in Italy would be complete without a focus on the country’s cuisine. You may think you know Italian food, but it’s more nuanced and complex than you might imagine.
Discovering different dishes, including the lesser-known regional delicacies, is a big part of the fun of living here. Not to mention sampling the local wine. Each of the country’s 20 regions produces its own.
Outside of the main cities, you won’t find chain restaurants or fast-food franchises. Eating isn’t something to be rushed in Italy. A full Italian meal includes five courses, each savored leisurely. And no meal would be complete without a coffee at the end.
In fact, in Italy, there’s always time for a coffee. Before any meeting or interaction, you’ll be offered one, and you should always accept. You should reciprocate, as well, offering any visitor or guest in your home or business un caffé.
Living In Italy Full-Time
As is the case for many European countries, you must begin the process of applying for residency in Italy from your home country. Don’t show up in Italy intending to become a full-time resident until you’ve first acquired the requisite stamp in your passport from the Italian consulate in your home country. This stamp acts as a temporary residency permit and is renewable for up to five years. At the end of those five years, you can apply for permanent residency.
Most retirees opt for the elective residence visa, which allows you to live but not to work in the country. You can’t be employed in Italy under this visa, but you can do remote work or be self-employed. To qualify, you must show you have the means to support yourself without taking anything from the Italian economy. The Italian government will want to see reliable income of at least 31,000 euros per year for an individual and at least 38,000 euros per year for a couple. In addition, you’ll be required to provide an Italian residential address and proof of health insurance to cover at least 30,000 euros worth of medical care.
Important Note Regarding Italian Taxation
Italy taxes on worldwide income but has double-taxation treaties in place with several countries, including the United States and Canada, meaning you shouldn’t pay tax twice on your income.
Bringing Your Pets Along For The Adventure
Italy is very dog-friendly. It’s not uncommon to see dogs seated at dining tables in restaurants alongside their owners. The process of bringing your pet into the country with you is straightforward: You’ll need to have your pet microchipped and up to date on vaccines and then to have a European Community veterinary certificate completed by a federally accredited vet within 10 days of arrival. The certificate also needs to be endorsed by the USDA. One certificate can be used for up to five animals.
Finding Somewhere To Live
Unless you’re interested in taking advantage of Italy’s currently depressed property market and buy a home, you’ll need to find a place to rent. Italians, especially outside the country’s biggest cities, aren’t typically renters. Most of the population owns their home, meaning inventory for long-term rentals is limited. Finding a place to rent on an annual contract can take time and requires an on-the-ground, word-of-mouth hunt.
The good news is that, when you find a place to rent, the cost—like the cost of everything in this country—likely will be a bargain. In the Abruzzo region, you can rent an apartment for as little as 200 or 300 euros a month.
If you intend to settle in small-town Italy, you’ll find making friends and connections in the local community difficult. The stereotype about close-knit Italian families comes from a kernel of truth, and penetrating the barrier against outsiders, especially in rural regions, can be an uphill battle, especially if you don’t speak Italian. Having a grasp of the language, including the local dialect, will go a long way to helping you fit in.
Religion Can Be Important
More than 80% of Italians identify themselves as Catholic. Joining your local parish—even if you’re not Catholic yourself—can be a good way to get to know them. Join in for saint’s days celebrations, processions, and festivals. Your new neighbors will appreciate and reciprocate the effort.
To Market, To Market
Living in the Italian countryside, you might not see the inside of a supermarket very often. Outside the big cities, Italians shop at small local shops and markets and even grow some of their own produce.
Shopping locally has its benefits. It means being able to access the foodstuffs Italy is world-famous for at the source and at a discount. Plus, it gives you a chance to get to know your neighbors.
The Second-Best Health Care In The World
Italy’s health care system ranks as the world’s second-best, according to the World Health Organization, after that of France. Its public system, known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), offers affordable and often free, high-quality care. As a non-EU citizen, you can gain access to the public system—which covers tests, medications, surgeries, and hospitalizations—by paying a small yearly fee. The amount varies according to income, but the minimum per person per year is 338 euros.
The SSN is regionally based, and the standard of care available varies, sometimes dramatically, region to region. If the available public care isn’t of a standard you find comfortable, you can opt for private health cover, which allows you to choose your doctor and to be treated in private hospitals, which can be more like five-star hotels.
Downsides To La Dolce Vita
Bureaucracy complicates everything, including the property-purchase process. Waiting longer than you can imagine possible for paperwork to be processed is a fact of life living in Italy. You must accept it as part of the experience.
Italy is no stranger to ruinous volcanic activity. The central Apennines is one of the most seismically active areas of the country, with quakes occurring as recently as 2017. Construction safety standards have been elevated by law, but you should ask about them when purchasing a new property.
Founding Publisher, Overseas Opportunity Letter