The Italian economy has had its ups and downs over the last decade. Still, there are a number of attractive investment options in the country. If work, family or retirement will bring you to Italy, it pays to have a good picture of the investment landscape in your new home. Even if business isn’t your primary reason for traveling or relocating to Italy, you may be able to to find lucrative and rewarding opportunities in the country.
Why Invest in Italy?
Italy is a country that ranks among the world’ s top economies and busiest markets. The Italian Trade Commission reported in 2011 more than 8,492 foreign companies doing business in Italy, and many more foreign investors involved in Italian businesses.
A Large, Developed Economy
Italy is the eighth largest world economy and one of the largest in the European Union. The GDP is more than 2.1 million, and Italian consumers have significant amounts of disposable income.
A Major Center of World Trade
From Italy, investors have access to the EU’s 500 million-strong base of consumers. A further 270 million await in the Middle East and North Africa. Italy is a major exporter, sending world-renowned products to global markets.
Italian workers are highly-skilled and well-educated. Italian universities are some of the most well-regarded in the world. However, wages and labor costs in Italy are relatively low compared to the rest of the Eurozone.
Despite Italy’s reputation for bureaucracy and high taxes, the government has recently taken a number of steps to improve the climate for business and investment. New labor legislation, tax changes and tools for dispute resolution are among the reforms expected in the coming years.
Institutional Framework for Foreign Investment
As an EU member, Italy has treaty obligations to extend the same treatment to US investors as it gives to Italian nationals. There are a few exceptions, for example regarding access to government subsidies, but in general Americans can expect an open and accessible climate for investment.
The Italian government already provides a number of measures to encourage investment, including tax credit arrangements and public incentives for investment in R&D and in Italy’s southern regions, including Abruzzo.
While there is not yet a specific program for an Italy investment visa, there are similar arrangements under the current scheme. There are at least two types of visas that may be desirable to investors from abroad.
The elective resident residence visa is available for those who can support themselves in Italy without employment. After five years, visa-holders can apply for permanent residency, and they are permitted to engage in any kind of legal business in Italy.
A self-employment visa, on the other hand, is for those who intend to support themselves through business activity in Italy. Generally, applicants for this visa must document the feasibility of their business plans through the local Chamber of Commerce.
As of 2016, the Italian government has proposed a traditional investment visa for foreign investors bringing at least 1 million Euros into Italy. This visa will come with an extendable residence permit of two years. This also grants permission for family members to join the visa-holder.
How to Invest in Italy
A number of areas provide attractive options both for high-dollar and low-cost investments in Italy. While individual investors will make decisions based on their resources and interests, we will highlight a number of hot sectors for foreign investors.
Investing in Italy real estate has contracted since the economic downturn of 2008. Nevertheless, the market continues to have appeal to foreign investors. The main draw is the low prices, remaining well below the levels in other parts of Europe. While the Italian real estate market flails toward Italians, foreign investor interest keeps growing, especially in areas of the country popular with tourists and expats.
Vineyards and the Wine Industry
Italy is famous for its wines. Many fans of Italian wine are getting involved in the industry through investment in Italian vineyards. Wine tourism is growing in popularity in Italy, and many expats are eager to retire or own a second home in wine country. Expats and foreign investors are also turning to the ownership of vineyards. Various fractional investment setups and other arrangements can permit a wine enthusiast to participate in the Italian wine industry. Best of all, without actually having to manage a vineyard from day to day.
People all over the world recognize the label “Made in Italy” as a mark of high quality and skilled craftsmanship. In Italy, firms large and small still insist on hand-made product and top-quality materials. Interest in reviving artisan techniques and the use of traditional materials grows everyday in Italy. Thus, investors are turning to the Italian luxury goods industry for pointers. Whether in the arena of fashion or other products, investors in this area will enter a crowded but thriving market with many opportunities for profit on the export market.
Where to Invest in Italy
Your decision about where to invest in Italy will depend largely on your investing interests. Opportunities in the tech sector or manufacturing are mainly found in the major metropolitan centers. Wine-making and boutique agricultural production, however, concentrate in the rural regions and the country’s south. Here, we’ll highlight one of the country’s up and coming rural regions.
Southern Italy’s Abruzzo region is a little-known rural area that’s becoming more and more popular with tourists, expats, and foreign investors. Real estate investments are one of the best bets in the region since prices remain extremely low despite the increased interest in the area in recent years. Good investments in the area include tourist-oriented historic properties, homes for retirement and more. Abruzzo is also home to an important wine industry, so possibilities for investments in vineyards abound.