Expat Guide To Living In Italy

Italy illustration

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

The Italian dream is an aspiration for thousands of expats, and the land of love is already home to 26,000 Brits. Italy has much to offer with a rich culture, iconic cities, and an elegant and relaxed pace of life.

Let’s consider all the top tips for expats considering a move and how Italy’s day-to-day life compares to the UK.

Family values, delicious traditional food, stunning beaches and a sunny southern climate combine to offer the ultimate destination for many. But did we mention the coffee? And the wine?

Italy is popular with retirees who picture themselves relaxing in the Tuscan hillsides and professionals taking up career opportunities in the metropolitan cities.

Best Places For Expats To Live In Italy

Some parts of Italy strike a chord with UK expats and are where you’ll find the biggest communities of Brits.

Some expats prefer to move somewhere they will find English speakers to help them to settle in. In contrast, others like to live a truly authentic Italian life from the get-go and feel more comfortable away from expat-heavy areas.

Italy has a tremendous amount of choice, so here we’ve listed the six most popular regions:


The island of Sicily is the largest in the Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild winters. Sicily is a quiet island, and itself has a diverse geography, with the city of Palermo and smaller towns like Vittoria being popular.


Famous for its wines, rolling hills and beautiful countryside. The capital of Florence is a mecca for cosmopolitan living, and the area is steeped in history, with some of the most famous museums, art galleries and cathedrals in the world.


Rome is the most famous Italian city, and despite its high prices and slightly chaotic pace of living, it has a great climate, a booming cafe culture, and the renaissance buildings are hard to beat.


Lombardy is often the top choice for professionals, being the financial capital of Italy and home to Milan. It leads the pack when it comes to international schools. There are also plenty of peaceful retreats around Lake Garda and Lake Como.


Growing in popularity sweeping up expats who love Tuscany but want a more sustainable cost of living. Rustic farm properties, a traditional way of life and expanding tourism industries in Perugia and Assisi mean the area grows.


Many expats in the area purchase holiday home investments in towns like Martina France, Carovigno and Vite Dei Normanni. This area is renowned for fresh produce, a vast 800-kilometre coastline, and glittering beaches.

In the cities, you’ll find excellent transport links, more restaurants and wine bars than you could ever visit, and slick apartments and condos.

Rural living provides much larger properties and more relaxed culture, appeals to retirees or Brits looking to settle somewhere laid back.

Italian Culture

First, let’s talk about coffee. It is a big part of Italian culture, and how you drink it makes a difference. Most Italians drink espresso and frown on ‘tourist’ blends such as cappuccinos, often only served at breakfast.

If you order un caffe, you’ll get an espresso – don’t expect cream, milk, cinnamon sprinkles or sweeteners.

One of the familiar sights in towns and cities across Italy is locals standing at a coffee bar; they don’t tend to pull up a seat or wait for table service.

Pasta is also an essential part of life; 63% of Italians eat it every single day.

Every region has its own variation and speciality dishes – for example, in Sardinia, you’ll find more seafood dishes and pizza that looks more like focaccia bread than the thin crust you might be used to.

A few tips for settling into Italian life:

  • Catholicism is the largest religion, as you might expect in the home country of Vatican City and the Pope. However, faith isn’t as big a focus as in the past, although around 20% of Italians attend mass every Sunday.
  • Football is a huge passion; and if you have small children or aren’t interested in the sport, you might want to stay away from the stadium on game day as it gets intense.
  • Dolce far niente is a national pastime; the sweetness of doing nothing.
  • Fashion is important to younger generations, and the big cities offer amazing people watching and enviable luxury shopping from the likes of Gucci, Armani and Versace.
  • It isn’t uncommon for children to live at home with their parents well into their 20’s or 30’s. Italians call it massimo – the attachment between Italian men and their mothers.
  • Breakfasts are small, but lunches and dinners are vast; many restaurants serve four or even five courses.
  • Most Italians greet by air kissing on the cheeks; don’t make the mistake of offering a handshake or making contact. Typically the air kiss greeting starts on the right-hand side.

Climate And Geography In Italy

The famously boot-shaped country looks and feels quite different, depending on what region you are in.

Central Italy

Central Italy includes areas like Tuscany, packed with lush greenery, river valleys and vast vineyards, all dotted around hilly landscapes and olive groves. Umbria is also found in the centre and is known as the ‘green heart of Italy.

This region is pretty hot in the summers, with temperatures peaking at around 30 °C, but also chilly in winter – although usually without snow. The further inland you are, the more likely you will see rain and thunder, although the mercury tends to stay within tolerable ranges.

Northern Italy

To the north, you will find statuesque mountain ranges and a colder climate, particularly in winter, with snow expected in the towns higher above sea level.

Summers remain warm, but the winters are harsh, with the first Alpine snowfall usually hitting in November. The Po Valley also varies wildly in climate, with lots of fog, dampness, hailstorms and snow reaching down from the mountains.

Southern Italy

Southern Italy is hotter, wilder and flatter – and also has less rain. Here the greenery gives way to more arid landscapes, rocky outcrops and volcanic skylines, home to Europe’s three most active volcanoes; Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli.

The region enjoys miles of beaches and coastlines, all dipping into the Mediterranean sea. In the summer, you’re likely to find temperatures regularly in the high 30’s in °C.

Off the mainland, you’ll find the large islands of Sicily and Sardinia, to the southwest and directly west, which have similarly warm and dry climates.

The Italian Economy

When you’re choosing a country to relocate to, you want to know how strong the currency is, what house prices look like, and ultimately how stable the economy is.

House prices in Italy are a big plus point for expats. It is known as a country where the property is affordable, rental prices are manageable, and the cost of living is low, especially in the smaller towns and villages.

Check out our in-depth guide to buying property in Italy.

Mainstream media might delight in reporting chaotic politics and high public sector debt (mostly from historic regimes). Still, the reality is that Italy is the second-largest producer of mechanical goods in the EU, has reported export surpluses for consecutive years, and has low private-sector debt.

As a percentage of GDP, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that Italian private sector debt is among the lowest in Europe, ranked six places lower than the UK.

This paints a picture of a country with a sustainable manufacturing sector and low debt levels, which produces a large volume of exports and thus remains stable with potential for future economic growth.

Jobs And Employment

Depending on your work area, speaking Italian will give you a much better chance of securing a job. However, English is useful in the tourism industries and working for any internationals in the bigger cities.

Italy does have fairly high unemployment rates, so if you’re not moving with a work visa to take up a specific post, it is wise to research job opportunities in your chosen area before making a final decision.

There are sectors with skills shortages where expats will find it easy to secure work – mainly if you work in an engineering field. These include:

  • Food production
  • Technology
  • Mechanical industries
  • Textiles
  • Chemicals

The most sought after skills are in technology; expats who are software or app developers, computer equipment designers, or designers of telecommunication systems will find lots of openings seeking qualified and skilled staff.

Average salaries in Italy are around €51,213 (approx. £47.300), but there is no national minimum wage.

Some sectors have minimums established by their unions, in which case the threshold is often around €7 per hour – or approximately £6.46.

Italy Visas And Residency For Expats

UK nationals moving to Italy before 31st December 2020 have a straightforward registration process; visit the nearest official point of registration within eight days of your arrival to register your presence.

If you intend to stay for three months or longer, you must register as a resident and be issued a residence permit called a Permesso Di Soggiorno.

Expats can register at a police station, town hall or comune to receive:

  • An Attestazione Di Regolarità Di Soggiorno (certificate of residence granting five years right to stay), or;
  • A Certificato Di Residenza (certificate of residence).

After 2020, British expats will no longer be EU citizens and will need a visa or permit to move to Italy.

There are a variety of visas available, depending on your circumstances:

  • Temporary residence permits allow you to live in Italy for a defined period.
  • Employment permits allow you to move to Italy to take up employment.
  • An entrepreneurial permit grants you the right to set up a business.
  • Student visas permit you to study in Italy for a limited time.
  • Golden visas offer citizenship or residency in return for an investment.

Once you have been resident in Italy for five years, you can apply for an Attestazione Di Iscrizione Anagrafica (certificate of registration) or Attestazione Di Soggiorno Permanente (permanent residence certificate).

If you’re travelling from 2021 onwards, you’ll need to have at least six months left on your passport.

For Italian citizens looking to get permanent residency in the UK, look at our Tier 1 Investor Visa guide.

Cost of Living

The big cities and tourist hotspots are by far the most expensive places to live in. However, even in these regions, you’ll find the cost of living lower than in the UK, particularly when it comes to renting.

Living in a small town or village is often very cheap, and buying local produce with lower municipal taxes helps expats live on a modest budget.

It’s also worth knowing that you don’t pay any council tax on any main home in Italy if you are a resident.

As an example, here are the comparable costs of a few everyday items, and average rental prices, in Rome and Palermo (respectively considered the most and least expensive cities) as compared to London and Manchester:

ExpenseAverage cost Rome €Average cost Rome £Average cost London
Cup of coffee€1.29£1.19£2.98
Bottle of water€1.10£1.02£1.15
Monthly utilities€181.21£167.34£170.65
Litre of fuel€1.56£1.44£1.27
Monthly public transport pass€35£32.32£150
Monthly kindergarten€476.70£440.22£1,500.65
Monthly gym membership€62.46£57.68£42.42
Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the centre€929£858£1,762
Property cost per square metre outside of the centre€3,125£2,886£6,221

Interested in other countries in the same region, read our article about the top 10 European expat destinations.

Italian Healthcare

UK nationals resident in Italy before December 2020 can register for local healthcare services to retain their rights before the end of the Transition Period.

New expats will need to remember that the European Health Insurance Card scheme (EHIC) no longer applies, so it is crucial to ensure you are entitled to state healthcare or have insurance in place.

All Italian residents are entitled to free healthcare and can register with the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). You pay social security contributions through your employer or directly if you’re self-employed.

These work like National Insurance Contributions in the UK, so you can pay voluntary contributions if you are not employed.

The process of registering includes:

  • Registering as a resident at the local anagrafe (registry office).
  • Receiving your residence certificate or application receipt.
  • Using this to register at the local health authority – the Azienda Sanitaria Locale.
  • You receive a health card and then should register with a GP.

Emergency care, hospital admissions and GP appointments are free, but you’ll need to pay for other services, including prescriptions (unless you are exempt), some tests and referrals to a specialist.

You can also take out private health insurance, which enables you to use private practitioners.

Make sure you get the correct expat healthcare insurance and cover while travelling or living in Italy.

Expat Taxes in Italy

Let’s be clear; taxes in Italy are complicated. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth relocating to your Tuscan hillside villa, but that you need to understand the tax regimes before you make any financial decisions.

The Italian government has introduced new initiatives to attract residents with foreign pensions and encourage more expats to move, making it more financially appealing as a destination.

These measures also include benefits for expatriate Italians to entice nationals back to their home country.

Income Tax

The standard income tax bands and rates, known as Impostasul Reddito Delle Person e Fisiche, or IRPEF, are as below:

Income fromIncome toTax rate
€75,001And above43%

Italian income taxes are split into national, regional and municipal charges.

As well as your personal income, where your money comes from and how long you spend in the country impacts how much you will need to pay.

New expats who have been living in Italy for less than six months or under 183 days need only pay income tax on the income they have earned from Italy. However, permanent residents must pay IRPEF on all income.

Regional income tax varies between 0.9% and 1.4% in addition to national income tax, depending on the area where you live.

You must also pay municipal income tax, between jurisdictions, between 0.1 and 0.8% of your income.

For example, if you earn €60,000 per year and live in an area with the highest local taxes, you will pay a total of 43.2% tax.

Tax Incentives For Expats Moving To Italy

In addition to the standard income tax bands, there are tax incentives available that, in some cases, can reduce your tax liability by as much as 90%. These were introduced as part of the lavorati impatriati – the Decree of Growth.

All types of employment are eligible, and the legislation means that:

  • For the first five years of residency, only the first 30% of your income is taxable.
  • Some regions in southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia reduce this further, with only 10% of your income taxed for the first five years.
  • If you buy a property or have a dependent child, this extends for a further five years, during which time you pay tax on only the first 50% of your income.
  • Should you have three or more dependent children, the exemption remains at 90% for a full ten tears.

In addition, other incentives are available; tax residents can opt to pay an annual €100,000 substitute tax on their foreign-sourced income, which may offer considerable savings for high net worth individuals or those earning a significant income.

Retired expats pay a 7% flat rate on foreign-sourced income.

Suppose you are considering purchasing property as an investment or living in Europe. Make sure to check out our guide to buying a property in Portugal. A country further afield but still in Europe? Check out the guide to buying property in Greece.

Expat Guide to Living in Italy FAQ

History, lifestyle, and Italy’s charm all combine to attract British expats and many fall in love with the country.

But life in Italy is not suitable for every expat – and here are the answers to their most asked questions about living in Italy.

Is Italy a safe place to live?

Yes, Italy is a safe country and is similar in crime rates to other countries in the Mediterranean.

Thanks to mafia movies like The Godfather, many Brits are under the impression that Italy is rife with organised crime. Still, the reality is that you’ll find crime rates low, and in the bigger cities, mostly opportunist petty theft and pickpocketing.

Can expats easily find work in Italy?

It depends on your skillset and chosen sector; there aren’t as many skill shortages as in other European countries, but many expats find work in the tourism and teaching sectors.

You can also find work in the food, textile, mechanical and chemical engineering industries and will have a better chance of finding a role if you speak Italian, are moving as a professional, or hold an internationally recognised qualification.

Where is the cheapest place to live in Italy?

This diverse country offers a vast choice for where to live, from beachside villas to fast-paced city living and rural mountainscapes to quaint countryside villages.

Therefore, the cost of living is very different between regions, but you’ll find the cheapest city to be Sicily in Palermo, and areas of Abruzzo, Puglia and Basilicata more affordable.

Is the Italian education system a good standard?

There are both public and private education options in Italy, varying in standards. The system works differently than in the UK; children attend:

• Primary school for five years.
• Secondary school for three years.
• High school for five years.
• Then college if they go onto further education.

Can I live in Italy on my budget?

If you’re relocating to Italy and have a fixed budget, it is essential to know you will live comfortably on your income.

The average cost of living is slightly higher than in the UK, at around 7.2% more expensive. However, rent is considerably lower and is, on average of just under 23% lower.

Big cities are, of course, more expensive than rural areas, and you’ll find that Rome, Venice, Naples and Florence all require a relatively high budget.

Other European Destination Guides

Make sure you read the guide on moving abroad before you decide. In addition, you can find other European country guides following the links below.

Below is a list of some related articles that you may find of interest.

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