Living and retiring in Italy has become a popular option for U.S. expats over the recent years. The chance to live in a land so rich in culture and history is highly appealing.
This is the country that helped shape the western world as we know it. The chance to be part of that culture is a unique opportunity.
But how realistic is it to dream of a new life in Italy? Is it an easy process and how long will it take?
Live Well For Less
The cost of living in the United States seems to rise every year. Wages and pensions are not rising at the same speed. As a result standard of living is falling. The retirements that many dreamed of and saved for a moving out of reach. Younger generations are finding it hard to get on the property ladder, much less put save for the future.
While your dollars might not go as far in the States as the once did, overseas they are
If you want to live the luxury lifestyle you can do it in Italy as well as anywhere. Italy does fine living as well as anywhere in the world. If you money to spend, Italy can provide you with all the options you need.
I Thought Europe Was Expensive. Can Italy Really Be Affordable?
If you thought that Italy was expensive then you are in for a pleasant surprise. The cost of living in many parts of Italy is actually cheaper than in the States.
Where Can I Find The Best Value Living In Italy?
Without giving too much away, you will be pleasantly surprised by the answers to these questions.
Europe was for many years seen as too expensive and also too far. But times are changing. The strong dollar has made Europe more affordable than ever. Thanks to the rising cost of living in the United States, Europe can be far more affordable than living at home.
But it’s the cost of living that has really attracted Americans to live in Italy.
The Cost Of Living In Italy As An American
The low cost of living in Italy is one of the big attractions for U.S. expats looking to start a new life overseas.
Just about everything is cheaper than in the United States. Italians do a lot of their shopping at market stalls and the fresh, locally grown produce is very reasonably priced.
If you live in the city you will find that public transport is affordable and reliable. In most cities it’s easier to get around on public transport than by using your car. Not owning a car can provide nice savings.
Utilities in Italy are another benefit of living here. If you live in the South, the pleasant Mediterranean climate will allow you to live without paying for heating or air conditioning for much of the year.
Where To live In Italy As An American
It’s a generalization, but a true one. The North of Italy is more expensive than the South. The North is where most of the best jobs are found.
It’s also home to the major cities such as Turin, Florence, Milan and Rome. These are international cities that have it all. If you want to live a high-end city retirement these cities can compete with anywhere.
However Americans living in Italy are here for the low prices and low cost of living. Luckily you can still find both of these in the North.
Turin is a major city with a very affordable price. This is as affordable an international city as you can find in Europe.
Cost Of Living In Turin
Turin is one of the most pedestrian friendly cities in Italy. If you are happy to walk, you can get away with not owning a car and seldom using public transport. If you use public transport you will find an affordable and efficient service that covers the whole city. Another option is the bike hire scheme. Tobike has bikes across Turin that you can use for getting about.
Real estate costs are much lower than other big cities in Italy. They are not exactly cheap, but if you want big city living in Italy Turin is one of the cheapest options. The rental market here is strong although you may have to sign up to a long-term lease.
Turin is famous for its outdoor markets. The savvy shoppers visit these for the big weekly shop. Here prices are lower and it’s where you can find the best quality fruit and vegetables.
Turin has four seasons. The summers are hot with temperatures up into the 90s. During the winter you can expect freezing conditions and snow. Most residents leave town during August when the temperatures are at the highest.
Cost Of Living In Milan
Milan has it all. Food, culture, opera, sports, fashion and much more. This is a city with centuries of history that has remained at the forefront of the modern world.
The best neighborhoods are found around the Duomo district. Duomo is the historic heart of Milan dominated by medieval buildings.
Brera, to the north of Duomo is the artistic hub of Milan. This elegant neighborhood is one of the most romantic parts of the city. The winding streets are home to boutique stores, farmers markets, restaurants, bars and cafes.
Brera is completely pedestrianized making it perfect for navigating on foot. This is right in the center of Milan and you can easily take public transport from here to anywhere in the city.
To the south of Duomo is the Navigli area. The region is famous for its canals and waterways, which date back to Da Vinci’s time. This is Milan’s bohemian district. Lots of excellent restaurants and bars line the canals in Navigli and it is a popular spot for people to gather.
Cost Of Living In Florence
Fiesole is technically just outside Florence, but the quiet hilltop neighborhood is one of the most popular places for a luxury lifestyle in Florence. Just outside Florence, the neighborhood has a village feel. It certainly seems a world away from the busy city down below.
On a sunny day, Fiesole offers panoramic views across Florence. There are lots of historical sites here including the ruins of an amphitheater. Many of the houses date back centuries.
Prices in this region are expensive, and 5,000 Euros per square meter is not unusual. Liquidity is high, and if you are likely to easily find a buyer should you want to sell.
Cost Of Living In Lucca
Lucca is found about 60km to the west of Florence and is one of the top expat cities in the region. It is famous for having 100 churches and also the Renaissance architecture. This is a compact neighborhood with cobbled streets, perfect for walking around. The center is fully pedestrianized and the winding streets can take some time to get used to. The roads are fairly unstructured and the high buildings make finding landmarks tricky. But getting lost is half the fun.
Lucca benefits from a central location but without the high number of tourists that you can find elsewhere in Florence. The impressive walls that surround the city date back to the Middle Ages and were designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Cost Of Living In Rome
Assuming you don’t buy a property, the majority of your budget will be spent on rent. Real estate close to the historic center is extremely expensive. If you can afford it, you will be able to live in an area that can compare with anywhere in the world.
Most people chose to live in the neighborhoods close to the center though. The Bologna and Nomentana regions are popular with expats. These are steady, middle class areas with good transport links to the rest of Rome. A decent sized 1 bedroom apartment will set you back around 1,500 Euros. This is the going rate in other popular expat zones such as Mote Mario and Balduina.
There are a few neighborhoods where you can find some bargains. The Garbatella district is one of these. This used to be a slightly run down area but is becoming more gentrified. The Testaccio area is slightly more expensive but provides a good standard of living for the money. The nightlife is busy there are lots of markets and cafes at affordable prices.
There are some really big advantages to living in the South of Italy.
The first is the cost of living. Real estate prices here are an absolute bargain. The cost of living is similarly cheap. Restaurants, supermarkets, public transport, everything here is less than in the North.
The second is the climate. The South of Italy has a Mediterranean climate. It’s hot in the summer and mild in the winter. If you are used to shoveling snow in the winter the South can be like a paradise.
The countryside in the South is often described as rugged. In place, especially in the mountain areas, it can even be wild.
But there are still some of the rolling hills that Italy is famous for. And the beaches are spectacular. This is where Italians come to holiday and the Mediterranean and Adriatic are warm and inviting during the summer months.
Cost Of Living In Abruzzo
Abruzzo is one of the last undiscovered parts of Italy. But this state of affairs isn’t likely to last long.
Abruzzo is one of the most affordable places to live in Italy. It’s also one of the most of the most diverse. The countryside varies from the shimmering Adriatic Sea to wild and rugged mountains. There are small towns, villages, and remote houses miles from anyone.
The only thing Abruzzo doesn’t have is a major city.
Real estate in Abruzzo is super-cheap. The prices here are some of the lowest in Italy. You will be buying historic properties with character and style. If you are good at DIY then you can get a real bargain. But there are plenty of well-maintained homes to choose from too.
Cost Of Living In Sicily
As well as being one of the most beautiful parts of Italy, Sicily is also one of the most affordable.
In terms of providing value for money perhaps Sicily is one of the best places in Europe. Real estate prices are low. Sicily recently came to global attention thanks to a real estate from 1 Euro offer. This came with some caveats, but gives an idea of the value you can find here.
The countryside is a real bargain while the main town, Palermo is also very affordable, especially considering the proximity to the Mediterranean and the favorable climate.
The food from markets is cheap and fresh. The local dishes are some of the best in Italy. This is high praise considering food in Italy is world famous.
Communities in Sicily are close knit. If you don’t speak Italian you will find integration difficult. Lots of expats encounter a major culture shock moving to Sicily. You will need to be resilient to survive here. If possible you should rent here for 6 months to get an idea of everyday life.
People here are reserved around outsiders so you will have to be patient. Once you are accepted you will find a new world opening up for you.
The Price Of Rent In Italy
The rental market is strong in Italy. You can find plenty of options in all price ranges.
Prices in the North are usually more than in the South. Cities are more expensive than the countryside.
The big international cities, Milan, Venice, Rome, and Florence are all expensive. These cities have everything but you will have to pay top dollar for it.
Outside of these cities though, prices are usually less and often much less than you would expect to pay in the U.S.
Renting before you buy is always a good idea. It gives you an idea of what the area is like, and you can discover if you really want to live there long term. Thanks to the low rental prices this is a great option in Italy.
There are some key differences between the rental market in Italy and elsewhere.
One is that rental contracts are far more long term. In Italy a one year lease is considered short-term and very hard to find. Chances are your landlord will want you to sign for much longer. 3 years is a fairly standard lease contract.
You may need to furnish your rental as well. It’s not uncommon to find that apartments don’t come with a cooker or washing machine.
How Easy Is It For Americans To Move To Italy?
For EU citizens moving to Italy is incredibly easy. You can look for work, buy a house, and stay as long as you need. All you need to do is register your address with the nearest General Registry Office.
For Americans it is slightly more difficult. We go into more detail on how to move to Italy here. Your patience will be tested at times. The moving process could certainly be made more efficient. However a good lawyer will make things much more bearable.
Bank accounts are harder to find for Americans since the FATCA act. At the end of the day money talks and there are always banks keen to take care of your funds.
However, the effort spent in moving is a small price to pay for the lifestyle and opportunities you can find in Italy.
Jobs In Italy For Americans
If you move here as a retiree it’s important to remember that you are not allowed to work in Italy.
Unfortunately, working in Italy is not as simple as in many other countries we recommend at Live and Invest Overseas.
For a start, you must obtain a work permit before you arrive in Italy. You cannot arrive in Italy and start looking for work.
What this means is that to get a work permit you must have a written job offer.
Generally this type of work comes from multinational corporations with a base in Italy. If you have a very special set of skills you might be taken in by an Italian company. But these cases are fairly rare.
The Italian company needs to prove that the job can’t be done by an Italian before they can hire from overseas.
The Italian economy is not strong at the moment. There are very limited opportunities for Americans or any overseas workers.
Expats who want to earn some pocket money can teach English online or do some freelance writing. These work from home options are a great way to keep busy while boosting your income.
Benefits Of Moving To Italy
One of the big perks of moving to Italy is that the Italian customs will allow you to move your household items here duty free.
This has to be done within 6 months of becoming a resident. You also have the option of bringing a car duty free providing you have owned the car for at least a year. Again this has to be moved within six months of arrival. You will need to register the vehicle in Italy and get Italian plates.
Italy allows new residents to move their pets. You need to have the animal in question micro-chipped and get a certificate of health from a vet.
Another benefit of moving to Italy is travel within Europe. Air fares within Europe are often less than US$20 if you book early enough. Italy is a great base from which to explore the rest of the continent.
It’s easier than ever to get direct flights to destinations across Europe. Flights can be reasonably inexpensive if you book in advance.
Cheap Flights From Italy
Cheap flights to the United States from Italy can be hard to come by. Booking early and out of season can save you some money but prices are similar to elsewhere in Europe. Fly into Rome or Milan for the best prices from the States.
Flights from Italy to the rest of Europe are inexpensive. Low cost airlines such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air can be extremely cheap. Book early and you can find flights throughout Europe for less than US$20.
Italy makes a great base to explore the rest of the continent. Further afield, Africa is waiting on the other side of the Mediterranean.
Italian Culture Shock
Moving to Italy is likely to be a bit of a culture shock.
Italy has its own customs and traditions, many of which are quite unlike living in the States. Some of these will be welcome. Others less so.
On the downside is the bureaucracy. The red tape is everywhere. Even simple applications and forms can take a long time and be unfeasibly complicated.
Italians don’t generally queue up for things. In most cases a ticket system will be used to keep order. If for whatever reason this is not the case you can expect a crowd of people pushing to be seen first.
In grocery stores where there is a queue you can expect people to stand much closer to you than in the States. Personal space boundaries here are almost nonexistent although this has changed recently thanks to the Coronavirus.
The lunch break in Italy can last anywhere from two to five hours. Italians like to take a slow lunch and then enjoy a nap. Upon waking most people take a stroll and then return to work for a couple of hours. The 9-5 working day is not a part of Italian culture.
You can forget about getting anything done during lunch time. Everywhere will be closed.
This ties in with the late hours that people eat the evening meal. Most restaurants won’t be ready for guests before 8pm. During the summer people eat as late as 11 or 12pm.
Things move more slowly in Italy than in the States. Nobody likes to rush whatever the situation. If you have an appointment and are running late this can be quite stressful. But they not to worry. There’s a good chance your appointment is running late as well.
Cash Is King
For most small purchases you will need to get into the habit of using cash. Lots of stores don’t have a card machine. This is especially true for small stores. Additionally, if you are using a foreign credit card you can expect a transaction charge to be added to your payment.
If you want to live in a small town or in the countryside, cash is essential. Many people have got out of the habit of carrying cash today, but in Italy you will find yourself making regular trips to the ATM.
This makes getting an Italian bank account setup as soon as possible vital. Overseas debit cards incur a charge to withdraw money at the ATM.