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Moving to Italy

From Ancient Rome to the Renaissance, the boot at the bottom of Europe has had a vast influence on European art, culture and politics that continues to be felt.

Offering residents an attractive lifestyle with an emphasis on family, scenic beauty and world-famous food and wine, expats moving to Italy will be seduced by the country and its passion for la dolce vita, the sweet life.

Italians are fiercely proud of their country and show strong regional alliances. Italy is also a nation with deep Roman Catholic roots that are entrenched in everyday culture and customs. This is most obvious in the central role that the traditional family has in Italian society.

That said, an expat's experience in Italy can vary markedly depending on the location of their assignment. Those living in cities in the north of the country such as Milan and Turin will find that things are fairly fast-paced with business being a priority. The further south one moves, the lifestyle becomes more relaxed and typically Mediterranean, with locals taking longer lunch breaks and enjoying the passegiata, a much-loved evening ritual where couples and friends enjoy a gentle stroll through the main streets and piazzas. Regardless of regional differences, one thing new arrivals are sure to find is that just about every occasion in Italy is a reason to celebrate with good food, wine and family and friends. 

The focus on family also extends into business in Italy. A large proportion of Italian businesses are family-owned, from major corporations to the smaller enterprises that make up much of the local economy. Businesses with other forms of ownership still often follow a strict system of hierarchy where age and seniority are respected. Italy's main industries include tourism, fashion, agriculture and manufacturing. Many expats working in Italy take up jobs in tourism, there are also are a number of expats employed in the finance and media industries. 

In a country that is famous for its fashion, major emphasis is placed on appearances. For Italians, the way a person dresses and acts indicate their social status, family background and level of education. This emphasis on la bella figura – presenting a beautiful image – extends to a person’s confidence and body language and means that first impressions are important.

Although Italy provides a high quality of life, it also requires an equally high cost of living. This is especially true in major centres like Rome or Milan, where accommodation is expensive. Fortunately, expats can save on medical costs as the public healthcare system is both excellent and highly affordable. The public education system is also good, but as the language of instruction is Italian, some expats choose to send their children to international schools instead, which charge expensive tuition.   

Italy is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, so expats can spend their spare time exploring this culturally rich country. There is a well-established public transport network so getting around is fairly straightforward, although things may not run as smoothly as in other European countries. Those who have the desire to explore the rest of the continent will find that Italy is connected to many of its neighbouring countries via excellent train links as well via well-priced flights. 

With so much on offer, from innovative and creative industries to the majesty of its monuments, the impression Italy leaves on expats is often one that lasts a lifetime.


Fast Facts

Population: About 60 million

Capital city: Rome (also largest city)

Neighbouring countries: Italy's famous boot-like shape is formed by a long Mediterranean coastline. The northern part of the country is bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

Geography: About 40 percent of Italy is mountainous, with the most notable mountains being the Alps in the north and the Apennine Mountains along the peninsula. Non-mountainous areas of Italy are usually flat plains.

Political system: Unitary parliamentary republic

Major religion: Roman Catholicism

Main languages: Italian is the official language, while certain regions have a high prevalence of German and French speakers. English is spoken mainly in tourist centres and large cities.

Money: The currency in Italy is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. ATMs can be found easily, even in small towns. All foreigners can open a bank account in Italy, but accounts for residents have extra perks like lower interest fees.

Tipping: Tipping is not necessary in restaurants as a service fee is usually added, but for good service, diners should round up the bill by a few Euros. 

Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in September).

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Plug points can vary, but the 'Type C' rounded two-pin plug is most common.

Internet domain: .it

International dialling code: +39

Emergency contacts: Dial 112 to be connected to the EU emergency line. Expats can reach Italian police directly on 113, ambulance on 118, and fire brigade on 115.

Transport and driving Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Expat drivers may find Italian driving culture aggressive, and parking is limited in the cities.

Weather in Italy

Expats moving to Italy may expect the climate to be just as attractive as the rich local culture. However, the climate in Italy is subject to inconsistency as the country is large and the weather varies with the terrain.

The country can be divided into five main regions, the north-east, north-west, centre, south and the islands.

In northern mountainous regions of the Alps, villages and cities often experience long, cold winters with heavy snowfall along with rain and hail. Morning lows in winter are often well below freezing, sometimes dropping as low as -30°C (-22°F). Summers are mild with 27°C (81°F) being the average high in July, the region's hottest month. Even during this period, there may be snowfall.

A bit further south, cities like Milan and Venice experience extremes. Severe wet and foggy winters with close to freezing average temperatures of around 2°C (36°F) and hot and humid summers with a few short bursts of cold spells and hailstorms. Summer temperatures can climb to 32°C (90°F).

Locations like Naples and the Vatican City further towards the south of Italy experience a moderate Mediterranean climate, with very hot, dry summers and mild winters. The warmest month in this region is in August which can bring blistering temperatures of up to 42°C (108°F). Winter lows, on the other hand, are usually around a manageable 9°C (48°F).

Spring and autumn are generally short and sweet, and these brief seasons bring the most pleasant weather in Italy.

 
 
 
 

Embassy Contacts for Italy


Italian embassies

  • Italian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 612 4400

  • Italian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7312 2200

  • Italian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 2401

  • Italian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 3333

  • Italian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 423 0000

  • Italian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 660 1744

  • Italian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 5339


Foreign embassies in Italy

  • United States Embassy, Rome: +39 06 46741

  • British Embassy, Rome: +39 06 4220 0001

  • Canadian Embassy, Rome: +39 06 85444 1

  • Australian Embassy, Rome: +39 06 852 721

  • South African Embassy, Rome: +39 06 852 541

  • Irish Embassy, Rome: +39 06 585 2381

  • New Zealand Embassy, Rome: +39 06 853 7501

Public Holidays in Italy

  

2021

2022

New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Epiphany

6 January

6 January

Easter Sunday

4 April

17 April

Easter Monday

5 April

 18 April

Liberation Day

25 April

25 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Republic Day

2 June

2 June

Assumption of Mary

15 August

15 August

All Saints’ Day

1 November

1 November

Feast of Immaculate Conception

8 December

8 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Santo Stefano

26 December

26 December

*Different regions in Italy often appoint their patron saint's day as an extra public holiday. Expats should consult the provincial government in their area to find out exact dates. 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Italy

Italy is a study in contrasts. Decades of Hollywood films have created an image of the country that's hard to break. While Italy certainly is a sophisticated and beautiful place to live, not everything is as perfect as the silver screen may make things seem.

As with every country, there are pros and cons to living in Italy. Here are a few points to consider.


Lifestyle in Italy

Living well in Italy is all about perspective. Expats arriving with high expectations will likely be disappointed. By acknowledging that Italy has its faults like any other large, busy and heavily populated country, new arrivals will quickly learn to love Italy despite its challenges.

+ PRO: A buzzing nightlife

Italians tend to be incredibly social. Only torrential rain and snow can keep them indoors. Whether they're chatting to friends over a very late dinner or going for a stroll down the main street, Italians are not homebodies.

This enthusiasm for after-dinner socialising is contagious and many expats soon find themselves, gelato in hand, admiring the shops and impromptu street concerts late into the night.

- CON: Limited English speakers

Very few Italians are fluent in English. City dwellers will naturally be better off as they are more accustomed to tourists, but in some towns, there can be no English speakers for kilometres.

Many expats find that people are abrupt when spoken to in English. This usually happens in the more popular cities like Florence, Rome and Venice, where the jaded locals often view tourists as a nuisance.

+ PRO: Amazing surroundings

No matter where expats live in Italy, they'll be surrounded by an incredibly rich heritage and natural beauty. 

- CON: Dirty streets

While it isn't fair to expect century-old cities to be spotless, Italy does have a real problem with grime. The mess is a combination of age, overcrowding and an inefficient approach to proper rubbish collection.


Accommodation in Italy

There’s a long-standing joke about Italians living at home until they're 40 because they don't want to do their own washing. While there's a grain in truth to this, their reluctance to leave the nest also stems from an understanding that good housing is hard to come by.

+ PRO: Well maintained

While the decor is often dated, it would be difficult to criticise the state of most of the apartments available to rent. Italians tend to be discerning buyers and they expect their apartments to be in good working order.

- CON: Expensive, small and old

The vast majority of Italy's apartment blocks were built in the 1960s and 1970s from the same grey concrete mould. Although these apartments are small and sparse on modern furnishings, they still go for a premium.


Cost of living in Italy

The cost of living in Italy is on par with the rest of Europe. Although its economy isn't in the best of shape, its prices haven't risen. Those not from Europe may find that prices are steeper than they're used to.

+ PRO: Cheap and tasty food

Italians have amazing supermarkets. Even the smallest supermarket in the smallest town has an incredible selection of fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese. Certain products are also significantly cheaper than they may be in an expat's home country. The quality of produce is also exceptional, with strict food laws preventing the excessive use of preservatives or colourings.

- CON: Expensive amenities

Italy has limited resources, so while products made in the country might be affordable, imported goods are much more expensive. Resources like fuel, gas and electricity are also pricey. 


Education in Italy

Italian culture prioritises schooling, so even if expat children don't speak Italian, they're assured a good education.

+ PRO: Excellent and affordable

In Italy, children start learning to read and write at the age of three. Public education is free. Students are provided with a well-rounded education in the sciences, arts and history, as well as nutritious and varied school lunches. Most Italian cities also have reputable international schools, but in contrast to public schools, these can be expensive.

- CON: Difficult choices

Italian high schools are unique in that they provide specialised teaching, as opposed to teaching from a holistic curriculum. As most Italian high schools have their speciality, children attend the high school that teaches the subjects that most interest them. This choice can impact what university degree they can study for and presents a challenging decision for children as young as 14.


Transport in Italy

While it's easy to get around between the cities and towns of Italy, driving here can be dangerous. 

+ PRO: Good public transport

Although people love to complain about the state of Italian public transport, it is generally quite good. It doesn't have the punctuality of Switzerland, but it's cheap, safe and reliable in the cities and connects the entire country from north to south. 

- CON: Dangerous roads

Italian driving culture can be aggressive and drivers often go over the speed limit. Many expats also find the road rules to be confusing and the roads are often congested.


Working in Italy

Finding a job in Italy isn’t as easy as it once was, regardless of whether a new arrival is an EU citizen or not. 

- CON: High unemployment

Italy’s economy has seen better days. Every year, thousands of university students graduate with no job prospects. To be safe, expats should try to secure a job in Italy before they move away from home. Even the traditional expat hospitality jobs are in short supply now. 

- CON: A lot of paperwork needed

As a degree of bureaucracy permeates Italy, getting anything official done can be a confusing, frustrating and drawn-out process. To avoid this, many expats ensure that they always have a reputable bilingual lawyer on hand whenever they sign documents.


Healthcare in Italy

The chances of finding employment might be slim, but Italian healthcare is excellent and affordable.  

+ PRO: Great healthcare

Healthcare in Italy is an unheralded success story. The country's public hospitals are extremely good, and expats can easily get access to doctors, specialists and dentists in even the most rural areas.

Safety in Italy

Few people would call Italy dangerous – indeed, Italy is neither safer nor more dangerous than other places in the Mediterranean. Expats must apply the same sense that they would in any country. Overall, safety records are usually better in small towns and villages than in big cities.

That said, Italians do have a fondness for after-dinner strolls, which means it is usually safe to walk through most cities at night, sticking to well-lit and well-frequented streets and getting home at a reasonable hour.


General safety and petty crime in Italy

Most Italian cities are reasonably safe, especially as locals tend to get to know their neighbours. This affords another dimension of safety as Italians look after their own. The more people expats know, the more people that will be around to keep an eye out.

When it comes to cities, the most important thing to remember is that there are quartieri (neighbourhoods) that expats should avoid, especially at night.

It’s easy to get caught up in the romanticism of Italy and forget that poverty and discontent do exist. Tourists and residents alike can fall prey to pickpockets, and not speaking Italian makes for an obvious target. 

Petty crime such as pickpocketing, although rare, is more common in tourist areas and can happen inside busy stores and on public transport. Another major petty crime in Italy is the sale of illegal counterfeit goods. People sell fake handbags, sunglasses and jewellery in every major city. People caught buying counterfeit goods can be fined in Italy.

Expats living in cities should also bear in mind that:

•    Credit card skimming and counterfeit money are rife in Italy, so always check bills closely to ensure they are genuine, and make sure nobody is watching when entering a PIN
•    Prostitution is common although organised prostitution is illegal, so try to avoid any lone and/or provocatively dressed women on the side of the road
•    Taxi drivers may try to scam foreigners, so it’s a good idea to calculate the taxi fare and have the driver agree to an amount before setting off on a journey
•    If expats are out drinking, they must be aware of the impacts of alcohol while staying vigilant to not leave drinks unattended as there have been reports of spiking drinks


Organised crime in Italy

One might think the mafia is the stuff of old movies but one of Italy’s biggest safety concerns remains to be organised crime.

Although most expats experience no difficulties, areas in southern Italy such as Calabria, Sicily and Naples have a poor reputation as organised crime is at its worst in these areas.


Civil unrest in Italy

Italy has been affected by civil unrest in recent times. The global financial crisis has been hard on all of Europe, but Italy was one of the worst affected countries. As such, demonstrations and strikes do occur in Italy. Upcoming strikes are generally publicised (in Italian) on the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport website and expats should monitor the website.

Basic services in Italy can be affected during periods of unrest, including the availability of fuel and fresh food. Air travel, taxi services and public transport are other sectors that are often brought to a standstill by strikes. There’s usually no threat to physical safety during these times, but protesters have been known to attack property, cars and the police. Protests and demonstrations should, therefore, be avoided as a precaution.


Road safety in Italy

Italians would say they are excellent drivers, but for expats, this might not feel true. Many Italian motorists do not stop for pedestrians, no matter where the person is or whether they use a pedestrian crossing or not.

This warning also applies to cyclists. This doesn’t mean that expats can’t ride a bike altogether but that they should remain vigilant. Wear a reflective jacket and helmet, and stay close to the footpath.

Many expats avoid driving in Italy’s cities if possible. Italians have their own driving style that can appear aggressive, and therefore unpredictable, to new arrivals. One-way streets and double parking are also common in the cities which serves to heighten a new driver's anxiety.

When travelling by car, expats should practice normal precautions, such as to avoid leaving valuables in the vehicle.
Outside of the cities, the only real concerns are speed and overtaking. Most Italians treat the speed limit as a loose guideline. The deeper one goes into the countryside, the more impatient the drivers become, so expect to be overtaken often.


Natural disasters in Italy

Flooding is a frequent occurrence, especially in Venice during winter due to high waters, and earthquakes and tremors are felt often in Italy due to the country's geographic location on a fault line. Expats can find information and advice on governmental websites to prepare and follow news updates on any issues.

Working in Italy

Italy’s economy is one of the strongest in the EU. Despite this, Italy does struggle with a high unemployment rate relative to the rest of Western Europe, as well as slow growth rates. There are also large disparities between the northern and southern regions of the country. 

As Italy still boasts a large economy, developed infrastructure, beautiful setting and high quality of life, it is little wonder that many expats are attracted to the idea of working in Italy.


Job market in Italy

Italian companies such as Ferrari and Prada are world renowned, and the country is well known for being a global fashion centre and manufacturer of automobiles. At the same time, this does not give a full picture since different industries are operating in different regions. Additionally, Italy has a relatively small number of international corporations within it, while small and medium enterprises create the most jobs.

Northern Italy is well developed, industrialised and responsible for most exports. Southern Italy, on the other hand, is economically much weaker, far more agricultural and struggles with much higher rates of unemployment. As a result, many new arrivals work in Italy’s northern regions and Rome, the Italian capital.

With a lack of natural resources throughout the country, the main driver of the Italian economy is its service sector. Tourism plays an especially important role, with the wealth of cultural attractions in Italy drawing in millions of tourists every year.

The manufacturing sector also plays a large role in Italy’s economy, with the country’s biggest exports including cars, furniture, food-processing and, unsurprisingly, fashion.

While the agricultural sector makes a relatively small contribution to Italy’s GDP, the country is one of the world’s largest producers of wine, olive oil and fruit, especially in the south of the country.

The industries that have traditionally been the most open to foreigners are tourism, finance, media and communication and international business. That said, the current economic climate does make finding a job in Italy as a foreigner is challenging.

Teaching English in Italy is an increasingly popular option for expats wanting to take up employment in the country. Given higher levels of competition for jobs, those who have the relevant qualifications and experience are most likely to find work as teachers. 


Finding a job in Italy

While it is changing with the younger generation, a large proportion of Italians don’t speak English. Italian continues to be the official language of business and, as a result, foreigners looking for a job in Italy will often be expected to be fluent in the local language. As a rule, Italian businesses are biased towards qualifications over experience. Therefore, those who are most likely to find employment in Italy will have one or more degrees and will be able to speak Italian.

There are several avenues that foreigners searching for jobs in Italy can explore. National newspapers often advertise vacancies for higher-level employees, while online job portals and recruiters are also viable options. Some expats look for short-term jobs first to get experience in the Italian workplace before trying to land a longer-term appointment.

While EU citizens have a right to work in the country, those from outside of the EU will require a work permit for Italy.


Work culture in Italy

Business culture, like Italian society, respects age and seniority. New arrivals will notice this extends to the workplace where hierarchical structures are the norm. Expats will find that it is always important to dress well as appearances and first impressions are important to Italians.

Business hours in Italy are usually between 8am and 1pm and from 3pm to 7pm, depending on the business and the industry. Many businesses, especially in the retail sector, close on Monday mornings. While this is less the case at major firms in big cities, Italians traditionally take a two-hour lunch, contributing to the somewhat unorthodox working day.

Doing Business in Italy

With its glamorous image and interesting investment opportunities undercut by stagnant economic growth and deeply rooted structural problems, expats will have to navigate serious challenges to make a success of doing business in Italy.

Italy is ranked 58th out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. The country came first for ease of trading across borders and also did well in resolving insolvency (21st) and registering property (26th). At the same time, Italy’s positions for paying taxes (128th), enforcing contracts (122nd), and getting credit (119th) are cause for concern, and bear testament to the country’s notorious bureaucracy.

It is worth noting that factors such as corruption, political interference, organised crime, and unemployment manifest differently in the traditionally prosperous northern region and the less-developed south. In addition to the country’s economic realities, expats will also have to navigate the complex practices of business etiquette and business culture in Italy.


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours vary and are usually between 8am and 7pm with a two-hour lunch break, although this might not be the case with larger businesses in major cities

Business language

Italian is the language of business in Italy. While many Italians do speak English, expats should not assume that this is the case.

Dress

Italians are known for being stylish. La bella figura is a guiding philosophy for many Italians and involves always presenting one’s best – from appearance to interactions. Formal, classic dress is usually a safe bet, but expats should make an effort even in casual settings.

Gifts

Not necessarily expected, especially in the beginning stages of negotiations. It may be best to give a gift in return for receiving one first. Quality and presentation are important, although gifts do not have to be lavish. Sharp objects, chrysanthemums, red roses and black packaging should be avoided. Common gifts include alcohol, desk accessories, and books. Gifts are opened right away.

Greetings

A standard handshake is used when greeting, being introduced and leaving. Close associates and friends may greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks. Use formal titles when addressing associates – signore (Mr) or signora (Mrs) plus surname – until invited to do otherwise.

Gender equality

Women are unfortunately under-represented in the higher levels of business in Italy, although there are notable exceptions to the rule. Expat businesswomen are usually treated with respect and courtesy, and should not be surprised if they are complimented on their appearance – flirtation is fairly common. 


Business culture in Italy

The general business culture in Italy is somewhat different from what many expats will be used to. Gaining an understanding of how Italians and Italian businesses interact with others will not only aid expats' understanding of their new environment but will also help them overcome some of the obstacles they may face.

Hierarchy

The family unit is central to Italian society and this filters into the way Italians do business. In practical terms, many businesses in Italy are family-owned small to medium enterprises, and even some of its biggest corporations are also family-owned.

The way this expresses itself in the business environment is that decisions are usually made from the top down by business owners or a small core of decision-makers who are often family.

Seniority is respected in Italian business, although the power of an individual manager often depends on their relationships with those above them. As a result, a lot of time is spent networking and maintaining business relationships in Italy.

Relationships

The family-orientated nature of business in Italy means that relationships are highly valued. Outsiders should expect to spend a fair amount of time networking and getting to know their associates. For this reason, a lot of time is spent getting acquainted at meetings, especially in the early stages of the business relationship.

Communication

Communication in the Italian corporate environment is often highly expressive. Gesturing, emotional debate and rhetoric that borders on the theatrical are all common in business interactions. Italians usually prefer face-to-face, verbal communication to impersonal written exchanges.

Meetings

Meetings often have flexible agendas and are frequently interrupted. It is not uncommon for decisions to be made before a meeting takes place, so they often serve the purpose of confirming decisions and informing those who are present. While the Italian meeting space might seem informal, expats should still take meetings seriously and be punctual.

Attitude to foreigners

Given the swathes of tourists that visit Italy, Italians are accustomed to foreigners and normally display a positive attitude towards them. On the other hand, the country has been dealing with waves of illegal immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Balkans, which has led some Italians to develop a negative attitude towards migrants from these areas. This usually has more to do with these new arrivals’ illegal status than their national or cultural origins. 


Dos and don'ts of business in Italy

  • Do have a sense of humour, but avoid being too graphic

  • Do talk about movies, art, travel and positive aspects of life in Italy

  • Do dress well and display confidence – la bella figura is about more than just looks

  • Do stand when an older person enters the room and pay attention to children if there are any present

  • Don’t talk about the mafia, politics or personal finances

  • Don’t ask overly personal questions

Visas for Italy

The requirements and process to get a visa for Italy will vary depending on the applicant's country of origin and their reason for visiting Italy.

Citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and those from a designated list of countries drawn up by the Italian government are afforded visa-free entry into Italy for varying periods of time. This list includes Canada, Japan and New Zealand amongst other countries.

EU and EFTA citizens only need a passport valid for three months after their departure date to pass the border. No additional tourist visa or business visa is required. Citizens of the European Union (EU) may also legally work in Italy without a work permit. All they would need to do is apply for a residence card to navigate bureaucratic channels and tap into certain parts of local life, like opening a bank account.

Citizens of countries not appearing on the visa-free list must apply for a Schengen visa to gain entry into Italy for tourism or business purposes. 


Schengen visas for Italy

There are several types of visas for Italy. The main types are the Uniform Schengen Visa (USV), the Limited Territorial Validity (LTV) visas and National Visas (NV).

The Uniform Schengen Visa (USV), or type C, is a short-term visa that is valid for up to 90 days and allows for travel to Italy and other Schengen states. 

The LTV, however, limits travel to the specified Schengen country (in this case Italy). Expats with the LTV are only able to travel within Italy or any other Schengen states that are specifically mentioned in terms of the visa application and agreement.

The National Visa (NV), or type D, is a long-term entry visa that allows the holder to stay in Italy for specific purposes, such as to study, work or permanently reside in the country. The type D visa may allow for travel to other Schengen countries.

Type C and D visas are split into several different categories, each of which has its own requirements. Prominent among these are the visas for business, subordinate work, independent work, working holiday and study. Visas can also be obtained for purposes of religion, culture, sports, or medical requirements or where a spouse is an Italian citizen.

Schengen visas allow individuals access to other EU member states (except the UK and Ireland) and member states of the EFTA.

Non-EU citizens who want to work in Italy will need to apply for a work permit. 


Tourist and visit visas for Italy

In some cases, a short-term visa is preferred, especially if expats are travelling for tourism, to visit family or friends in Italy or to initially familiarise themselves with the environment. Generally, a detailed itinerary and proof of financial means to support the trip will be required. However, for specifics on required documents, expats should contact their nearest Italian embassy.


Business visas for Italy

For those who are travelling for business-related reasons, such as having meetings, or for training or recruiting purposes, a business visa is needed. This involves providing more specific information about the company expats are working for.


Study visas for Italy

Individuals wishing to study or undertake an internship will typically need to apply for a study visa, which is generally valid for 90 days.


Residence permits for Italy

If staying in Italy for more than 90 days, expats will need to apply for a residence permit. Expats will need to provide a legitimate reason for their stay and this will determine the length of the permit's validity. For instance, a residence permit can be granted for seasonal work, study purposes, self-employment, open-ended employment or family reunification, valid for up to two years.

Expats will have to apply to renew their residence permits at least 90, 60 or 30 days before the expiry date, depending on the length the permit was granted for.

Many aspects of Italian life require having a residence permit, including opening a bank account, so applying for this as soon as possible is both necessary and useful.

*Visa requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details

Work Permits for Italy

Citizens of the European Union (EU) don’t need a work permit to legally work in Italy since they have a right to work in EU member states. These expats must simply apply for an Italian residence card after arriving in the country so that they can be formally registered as residing in the country.

Expats from outside the EU, however, must apply for a residence permit, work permit and work visa for Italy.


Residence permits for Italy

Foreigners who intend to stay in Italy for more than three months must apply for a residence permit. These permits allow foreigners to stay in Italy under certain conditions depending on the category of the residence permit.

Expats can apply for a temporary residence permit or a family residence permit if their family is to join them. Only after living in Italy for five years with a valid residence permit, can one apply for permanent residence.

Regardless of whether expats apply for a working residence permit before or after they have arrived (the ability to do so depends on their nationality), they will have to report to their local immigration centre within eight days of arriving in Italy. The residence permit is issued at the new arrival’s local police station. This requires filling out an application form specifying the type of permit required and proof of identification, fingerprints and photos must be presented. Different types of permits may have different requirements. The residence permit is in the form of an electronic smartcard to guard against fraud.

The duration of a working residence permit for Italy is valid for as long as the applicant’s entry visa. Residence permit holders have access to government services and benefits.


Work permits for Italy

Every Italian province has an office that the government describes a one-stop shop for immigration. This is the Immigration desk or Sportello Unico per l'Immigrazione. These offices are responsible for the entire process of hiring foreign workers in Italy. 

Before an application for a residence permit can be made, the expat’s Italian employer must first apply for clearance (nulla osta al lavoro) at their nearest immigration centre. This is because there is a quota of foreign workers who can be employed in Italy each year.

While the expat applicant will be required to submit certain documents, the employer takes responsibility for much of the application. Expats must still provide personal details and certain documents. Requirements can vary over time, but expats should not worry too much as their company will inform them of what is necessary. Generally, a copy of one’s ID, proof of accommodation and future employment details are required.


Work visas for Italy

After the employer receives clearance to hire a foreign worker, expats can apply for their work visa. Often, expats can only apply for their work visa from outside the country. Therefore, the expat employee must apply for an Italian work visa at their local Italian diplomatic mission.

Once the employee is cleared to work in Italy, the expat will be issued an entry visa at their local Italian consulate, which contains a tax code that is necessary for other bureaucratic and administrative processes.


Self-employment visas for Italy

To obtain this type of visa, expats will need a residence permit and a work permit for self-employment. The application for residence permits works the same. However, for the work permit, expats must contact the Italian Chamber of Commerce to apply. The immigration office then decides if the expat fits the quota and is eligible for the work permit.


Work permit validity in Italy

Expats with a permit that is valid for a year or more are required to report to the Italian Ministry of the Interior (Ministero Dell’Interno) where they will agree to fulfil certain integration objectives such as attending Italian language classes.

A working residence permit for seasonal work is generally valid for six months and can be extended by an additional three months. Permits for self-employment, employment under a local employer and family joining visas are valid for a maximum of two years.

Work permits for Italy are, however, position-specific and any change to the employee’s position must be reported to immigration. If an expat loses their job in Italy, their residence permit will not automatically be revoked. Instead, it is possible to register as being unemployed and stay for as long the permit allows.

* Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Italy

The cost of living in Italy can fluctuate greatly depending on whether expats live in the north or south. The northern part of the country tends to be much wealthier than its southern counterpart. Prices in big cities like Milan and Rome are considerably higher than those in rural areas, and this is largely due to tourism.

When budgeting, expats should bear in mind that Italy consistently ranks near the higher end of the cost of living indexes for Europe. Reflecting this, in the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Milan, Italy's most expensive city, ranked 47th while Rome ranked 65th out of 209 cities.


Cost of accommodation in Italy

Accommodation is a large expense, usually consisting of a quarter of an expat's monthly budget. Depending on where one lives in Italy, property prices and rentals will vary considerably. To rent an apartment in Milan might cost double what the same apartment would cost in Naples. Even more shockingly, a small apartment in Rome can cost up to three times what one would pay in a rural area for an apartment of the same size.

Increasingly, there has been a demand for retirement and second homes from both Italians and foreigners as there are still many rural properties offering good value for money. The cost of living in these more remote parts is much lower than it is in the city centres. One can live quite frugally there compared to other parts of Europe. 


Cost of transport in Italy

The cost of private transport can be incredibly high. Italy has one of the world's highest prices per litre of fuel. Buying a car is expensive, as is insurance, which is also notoriously slow in paying out claims.

Public transport, on the other hand, is much more affordable. Buses and subways are reasonably priced. For regional travel, expats who can spare a little extra time should definitely avoid Eurostar trains as they can be double or even triple the price of the slower above-ground trains. 


Cost of schooling in Italy

If parents choose to send their children to public school in Italy, their costs will be very limited. Like local children, expat children can attend public school for free up until the end of primary school. Thereafter a small fee must be paid at the start of each year. Extras such as textbooks will also need to be purchased.

However, if expats will be sending their children to a private or international school, they should expect sky-high costs – particularly at international schools. If at all possible, expats should try to negotiate an education allowance as part of their relocation package to cover these costs.


Cost of food and clothing in Italy

Buying local and in-season produce is a reliable way to save money while purchasing imported products from home will be expensive. 

While Italy is famous for its stylish designer clothing, it's not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to be well-dressed. Locally made clothing from chain outlets will be much cheaper than the designer goods that Italy is famous for.

However, factory outlets, which are plentiful in Florence in particular, do sell designer clothing at slightly discounted prices, and the end-of-season sales in January and July are a good time to do a bit of bargain hunting. 


Cost of eating out and entertainment in Italy

The cost of eating out largely depends on the kind of restaurant and its location. Restaurants in touristy areas or close to tourist attractions will invariably be pricier than other, less conveniently located restaurants. 

Tickets to the theatre are not usually cheap and entry to anything that could be considered a tourist attraction (for example, famous museums and galleries) is sure to be expensive. 


Cost of living in Italy chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices in Milan for January 2021.

Accommodation (per month)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 730

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 2,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 1,500

Shopping

Dozen eggs

EUR 3

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.25

Rice (1 kg)

EUR 2.40

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.80

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 9.90

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 5.70

Eating out

Big Mac meal

EUR 8

Coca-Cola 

EUR 2.55

Cappuccino 

EUR 1.60

Bottle of beer (local)

EUR 5

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

EUR 70

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.20

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 28

Basic utilities (includes electricity, water, refuse)

EUR 164

Transport

Taxi rate/km

EUR 1.50

Bus fare in the city centre 

EUR 2

Petrol/gasoline

EUR 1.60

Culture Shock in Italy

Expats moving to Italy may experience culture shock. Settling into a new country is often challenging, particularly when cultural differences are compounded with the difficulty of learning another language like Italian. Even seemingly simple transactions such as finding a house, doctor, dentist, school and bank can seem daunting and add to a new arrival’s sense of culture shock in Italy.


Meeting and greeting in Italy

Italians are more formal in addressing new acquaintances and colleagues than some expats might be used to. Someone using an informal greeting like “ciao” to someone they have just met will often be interpreted as rudeness rather than friendliness. When being introduced to an Italian, a person would say “buongiorno” (good day) and shake hands. Ciao is reserved for use among friends. Once acquainted, kisses on the cheek are often exchanged in greetings and when saying goodbye. 

Titles are used when addressing people, particularly of an older generation. In the case of professionals, a director would be referred to as "direttore", a doctor is "dottore" while an architect would be called "architetto", and so on. When addressing someone without knowing their title, a man can be referred to as "signore" and a woman as "signora".


Dress in Italy

One thinks of fashion and one thinks of Italy, and this connotation exists for good reason. Italy is home to several leading fashion houses. High fashion and professional dress are common in workplace settings. A person’s general body language speaks to style too, so expats should carry themselves with confidence and walk the walk. This is important amongst both men and women.


Religion in Italy

Most of the population of Italy is Roman Catholic and Christian, although the number of Italians who practice their religion is lowering. Still, religion plays a major role in culture, business and the way people live. Italy is a secular country. However, with its many churches and the influence of the Vatican City, a separate country located within Rome, religion is undeniably significant in Italy.


Bureaucracy in Italy

While expats often complain about the bureaucratic inefficiency they encounter in the country, Italy has a strong bureaucratic tradition. Italians are aware of the problem and public office is often associated with inefficiency, but the paperwork is largely seen as a necessary, if unpleasant, part of life. Expats should expect paperwork and bureaucratic procedures to take some time.


Time in Italy

Coupled with bureaucracy is Italian time: there is no rush. Italian time makes allowances for siestas, called riposo locally, means that banks are often only open in the mornings and shops are closed between 1pm and 3.30pm. During this time, many families take a nap and should not be disturbed by telephone calls.


Food in Italy

Food is indeed the way to the heart in Italy and this does go further than pizza and pasta. Soup, bread, meat and fish are also commonly eaten. Food is a way of creating a warm, welcoming environment, to maintain family relations and friendships and to establish new relationships too. Expats are unlikely to enter an Italian home without being offered something to eat or drink.


Language in Italy

Italian is the official language of the country and is spoken by most of the country’s population. Italian is one of the most similar languages to Latin in terms of its vocabulary. However, dialects can differ vastly between regions.

There are many language schools throughout the country which provide memorable and useful insights into Italian culture. Alternatively, expats can enjoy private lessons with a hired tutor in the comfort of their own home or hotel.

Accommodation in Italy

After committing themselves to the move to a new country, the most difficult decision an expat is likely to make is where to live.

Most expats rent accommodation in Italy rather than buy. In the bigger cities, prices are prohibitive, and homeowners are reluctant to sell.


Types of accommodation in Italy

Italy is a country of apartment blocks. The post-war population boom is immortalised in the thousands of pastel-coloured buildings that crowd every city and town. Simply put, an expat would not easily find an Italian family living in their own detached home, let alone find one for themselves.

While townhouses exist in small towns, detached homes in Italy are reserved for villas and farms. Most are hundreds of years old and come with a large piece of land and an equally large price tag. Often these are heritage-listed or bound by strict laws about what can and can’t be done with them. They are also usually in need of some serious renovation.


Finding accommodation in Italy 

It is important to know the local market when looking for a rental property in Italy. An expat could secure reasonable rent prices in cities like Perugia or Bologna, but the chances of this in Rome, Milan or Florence are very low.

Expats can find accommodation through online property portals or listings in local newspapers. Otherwise, new arrivals should contact local real estate agents, although agency fees can be pricey.

Expats should make sure that they meet the landlord and see their potential new home in person before committing to anything. Most legitimate landlords will, in any case, want to meet the tenant before finalising any arrangement. This makes it difficult to search for accommodation from overseas. Expats are likely to get the best results by conducting their search while in Italy staying in short-term accommodation. 


Renting accommodation in Italy

Most standard rental contracts are signed for a year or longer – expats on shorter stays should investigate fully furnished properties that are rented on short-term leases with utilities included in the rental price.

Renting conditions are generally good. Renters have the right to demand that anything broken or run-down be fixed and most times the landlord will pay for fixes themselves.

Long lets

The free-market contract (contratto di libero mercato) is a direct agreement between the owner (locatore) and tenant (locatorio or conduttore). These are called ‘four plus four’ contracts (quattro più quattro) because they usually last for four years, after which they are renewed for another four years.

A landlord must give six months’ notice if they wish to reclaim the property. This must be in writing and is only possible under certain conditions to protect the rights of the tenant.

Short lets

The more flexible convention contract (contratto di convenzione) comes in a few different forms. Among these is the residential-use contract (uso abitativo) with a minimum duration of three years and a renewable period of two years, which can be extended. 

If staying for a shorter period, expats should aim for a transitional use contract (uso transitoria), which is for a fixed period of one to 18 months. For this contract, tenants must prove they legitimately need temporary housing. Expats working in Rome for a limited period can prove this with a copy of their employment contract.

The convention contract is a result of the Italian government’s efforts to make more low-cost housing available and the contract follows guidelines set up by tenant associations and landlords. Owners get tax breaks in exchange for limiting how much they charge for rent – as opposed to a free-market contract, where the owner can set the rent at any price. 

Leases and deposits

Leases must be in writing and must be signed by the tenant and owner. Paying a three-month deposit is standard. When signing an agreement, expats will have to provide copies of their passport, stay permit and banking details. Expats are advised to pay deposit and rent by a bank transaction. However, where cash is exchanged, expats must be sure to ask for a receipt to keep track of the payment.

Utilities

Some regulations apply across the board regardless of the type of contract. Most expats are required to pay their utilities and this is therefore an additional cost to factor in. These utilities include gas, electricity, internet, cable and garbage collection.

Buying Property in Italy

Every year, expats from all over pack up their things and head off to get a slice of la dolce vita – the good life.

Expats intending to stay a while often find that buying a property in Italy can be more advantageous than renting. Rental properties in cities like Rome and Milan go at a premium and even the smallest one-bedroom apartments are expensive to rent.

That said, types of accommodation on the market vary from old farmhouses to outdated village homes and modern apartments to semi-detached townhouses and standalone villas. Another option is to buy a vacant plot to build on, giving expats the freedom and creativity to construct the house of their dreams.

But before taking the plunge, expats should be aware that the Italian property market can be confusing and complicated. It’s deeply set in the cultural ways of the country itself and different from what expats may be familiar with.

For starters, expats wishing to buy a home must either be EU nationals or have a valid residence permit if they wish to buy property in Italy. If these conditions are not met, however, the law of reciprocity states that expats can still purchase a house in Italy if their home country allows Italian citizens to buy property there as well.


Finding property in Italy

Various websites have information on the property market in every region. These sources can help expats to develop an understanding of the Italian property market, average property prices, as well as any taxes and processes that are unique to that region.

Once expats have a general idea of the market in their chosen region, they can begin the search for a new home on reputable property websites. However, not every property in the chosen area will be listed online. Many real estate enquiries, especially in regional Italy, are still done in person.

Although many property sales are dealt with privately in Italy, added layers of language barriers and Italy-specific property law mean that estate agents can be major assets. The best way to find properties is to contact at least three or four local real estate agents. Expats should describe what they're looking for in detail and ask them to compile a shortlist of properties.

Prospective buyers should then travel to Italy and personally inspect them. When visiting, expats can ask all the necessary questions, take photographs and record any details about the property and the area. 

Expats should also ensure that any estate agencies dealt with are registered with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Artisanship and Agriculture (Camera di Commercio, Industria, Artigianato ed Agricoltura).


Preparing to buy property in Italy

Expats should not hurry the process. Purchasing property in Italy should not happen on a whim as many people fall into the tempting traps of the beauty of Italy.

Expats must first engage a lawyer in one's home country. Some expats may brush this off as an unnecessary caution, but it's important to engage the services of an expert to represent an expat's interests. Ideally, this person should be able to speak Italian and have a strong understanding of both Italian and international property law.

Expats can compare legal fees by requesting quotes from several agencies to find their lawyer.


Process of buying property in Italy

Once they've found the perfect property in Italy, expats can get down to the nitty-gritty of buying it.

Buyers will need to open an Italian bank account, which must be done in person in Italy. An Italian tax code number (codice fiscale) will also be needed, which can be obtained from the Italian consulate in one's home country or through an Italian tax office. 

The entire purchasing process is long and quite complicated. Here is a summary of the steps needed:

Step 1

Expats must decide upon a price. They can negotiate this by being aware of the fine details of not only the property but the area too. Expats should be aware of information including how long the property has been on the market, when it was built, and the state of the property, among other things. Knowing this and then consulting with one’s lawyer and estate agent is highly beneficial. 

Once a reasonable price has been decided, expats can submit a written offer (proposta d'acquisto irrevocabile). This document is supplied by the estate agent. Once signed by both parties, it locks in the price of the property. Expats typically pay a 10-percent deposit at this stage as a sign of good faith, but it’s not compulsory.

Step 2 

Engage the services of a geometra. A geometra is a surveyor and architect rolled into one. They ensure that the property meets housing codes. Expats can hire one themselves or ask their estate agent to do so on their behalf.

Step 3

Commission a legal check of the property and a credit check of the seller to ensure that there are no title disputes or mortgages. This can be done by an estate agent, a lawyer or the geometra.

Step 4

Sign the preliminary contract (compromesso). This legally binding contract is drawn up by the estate agent and commits both parties to the transfer of ownership on the terms and conditions agreed to. At this stage, a deposit of at least 10 percent of the purchasing price must be made.

Step 5

Commission a final conveyance and legal check. This must be done by a licensed Italian notary (notaio). The estate agent can recommend one.

Step 6 

Sign the deeds of sale (rogito). This is done before a notary with a translator present if one doesn’t speak Italian. At this point, the remaining amount due for the sale must be paid to the seller.

Step 7

Ensure the notary registers the sale at the local land registry (ufficio dell' agenzia del territorio).


Finances involved in buying property in Italy

Expats can apply for a mortgage in Italy or from a lender in their home country that is registered to lend mortgage funds in Italy. Anyone can apply for a mortgage in Italy if they have enough capital, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be granted one.

Before applying, expats should note that they’ll need more than just the purchase price to cover the cost of the property. There are many taxes and fees involved.

The mortgage structure in Italy is very different from what expats may be used to, so while the base rate may seem low (often as low as two percent), other charges will apply. Set-up fees are higher, there’s less competition and banks are unlikely to lend expats the whole property value. For these reasons and more, expats should secure the services of an independent financial adviser.

Healthcare in Italy

Expats will find a public sector that generally offers high standards of healthcare in Italy. There can, however, be discrepancies in the quality of care in different regions of the country. On the other hand, private healthcare in Italy is highly regarded but can be prohibitively expensive without proper insurance.

Most Italians make use of public healthcare but those that can afford it enjoy the best of both systems. 


Public healthcare in Italy

The national health service in Italy, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), provides citizens and residents with free or low-cost healthcare that includes access to general practitioners (GPs), treatment at public hospitals, subsidised medicines, lab services, ambulance services and certain specialist care.

Although the SSN is a socialised system, regional governments are in charge of managing it on a provincial level, with the result that the standard of treatment isn't uniform throughout the country. For instance, public hospitals in Italy’s northern and central regions are known to offer higher standards of care than those in the south. As a result, expats may prefer to be treated in a major city such as Milan in emergency cases. 


Private healthcare in Italy

Private healthcare in Italy is championed by well-trained doctors and on par with the finest in the world. There are several impressive specialist facilities in large urban centres, while university hospitals are also highly reputable.

Private healthcare allows expats to avoid the queues and complications of the public system. It also enables provisions for more comforts and personal choice when it comes to doctors and facilities. 

For these reasons, although public healthcare in Italy is free for expat residents and Italians, most foreigners and many Italians still opt to utilise private healthcare if they can afford to.

Private procedures vary in cost, although the Ministry of Health sets a minimum charge for all operations in this sector. For this reason, private healthcare can be expensive and health insurance is a must. In many cases, employers are obliged to finance health insurance for their employees but, if not, expats should organise it themselves.


Health insurance in Italy

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Non-EU expats will need to have private health insurance valid for their expected time of stay or formally register for the SSN. Expats who have their residence status finalised and have an Italian identity card (carta d’identità) are then able to apply for an Italian health insurance card (tessera sanitaria).

To get an Italian health insurance card an expat would have to go to their nearest local health authority (Azienda Sanità Locale) and apply for the card, which will require various documents. This usually includes the expat’s residence permit, tax number, official identification and proof of employment, among others.

Expats wanting to claim benefits for their families will require a family status certificate (certificato di stato di famiglia) which includes personal details of relatives.

After registering, applicants must choose a family doctor and a paediatrician, if applicable. They are then issued with their Italian health insurance card, which must be presented to receive care under the SSN. These cards must be renewed every year.

If expats don't qualify for public healthcare under the SSN or EHIC, they must have private health insurance. Expats requiring chronic or specialist treatment should also consider private health insurance for peace of mind, choice of treatment centres and comfort. 


Pharmacies in Italy

Under the Italian healthcare system, medicines prescribed by one's GP are provided free of charge or at subsidised rates. Over-the-counter medicines, on the other hand, must be paid for in full. There are many pharmacies (farmacia) around Italy, including some 24-hour pharmacies, especially in the major cities. 


Health hazards in Italy

There are no particular health hazards in Italy, apart from occasionally hot weather which expats can manage by drinking plenty of water, staying out of the sun and wearing sunblock. 


Pre-travel vaccinations for Italy

No specific vaccinations are needed before visiting Italy. Nevertheless, expats should make sure they're up to date on routine vaccinations like MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), tetanus and polio. 


Emergency services in Italy

For emergency medical services, expats can dial 118 but English-speaking operators might not be available. If expats don't speak enough Italian to communicate in an emergency, they can call 112, an emergency number serving all of Europe.

The arrival of emergency services in life-threatening situations can vary and is, depending on congestion, reasonably fast in urban areas but much slower in rural areas.

Education and Schools in Italy

Families with children relocating to Italy are often concerned about choosing a school in Italy that will best suit their children’s needs. The system of education in Italy has a large state sector and a smaller, more specialised private sector.

Foreign parents should take some time to evaluate their priorities and those of their children before choosing the institution they will attend. Education in Italy is compulsory from the ages of six to 16. 

There are three levels of education in Italy:

  • Scuola dell'infanzia (three to six years old)
  • Scuola primaria (six to 11 years old)
  • Scuola secondaria di primo grado (11 to 14 years old)
  • Scuola secondaria di secondo grado (14 to 19 years old)

Italians place a high value on secondary schooling as well as tertiary education. 


Public schools in Italy

Expats will be happy to learn that state schools are free, even for foreigners living in Italy who aren't formal permanent residents. This applies to primary schools and secondary schools, although enrolment taxes do become applicable after students reach the age of 16.

Most Italians send their children to state schools and those that send their children elsewhere often do so because they prefer their child's education to be rooted in alternative teaching methods or a religion (most commonly Catholicism).

Italian state schools operate according to a centralised system, which controls school curricula and final examinations.

Despite attempts at uniformity, however, it is widely acknowledged that education in northern Italy is of a higher standard than in the south. Furthermore, options and standards can be subject to a decline in rural areas. Expats planning to live outside urban centres should consider this when choosing a school.

State-sponsored schools teach in Italian, which is often the deciding factor in whether expat parents take advantage of the public system. English is usually taught as a second language, but these brief learning experiences are some distance from first-language instruction.

Still, expats planning to live in Italy for the long term should not overlook state schools, especially if their children are still fairly young. A lot of effort is made to integrate expat children using intensive Italian language classes, cultural activities and remedial classes. Language can also be a useful asset and learning Italian can open doors for future educational opportunities and career development. Younger children will generally pick up new languages faster.

Families who decide to send their children to state schools in Italy are often amazed at how quickly they adapt. However, it is also important to make sure that children are equally proficient in their home language as language is not only useful but a part of one’s culture.

Schooling in Italy differs from that in many other countries. Following scuola secondaria di primo grado where students take up an additional European language, they are required to specialised their courses. From age 14, therefore, children must decide to further their studies in the arts, sciences, languages, or economics and so on. There are specific schools based on the subjects that students choose to specialise in as well as technical and professional schools where students learn technical skills for varied sectors such as agriculture or they learn how to become a teacher.

There is a wide range of specialisations. However, these will impact one’s choice of university in the future and therefore may be a difficult decision to make. 


Private schools in Italy

Private schools in Italy are generally either run by religious organisations or mandated by alternative teaching methods, such as Montessori education. The religious schools are largely Catholic, but they usually allow non-Catholic students to enrol.

For the most part, the standard of education does not vary greatly between state and private schools in Italy. The same curriculum is usually strictly adhered to. Some Italians consider private schools to be inferior to public schools. 

Nonetheless, private schools do offer certain benefits that state schools do not. There tend to be more options than in state schools and there is more emphasis on extra-curricular activities. However, parents often take it for granted that classes will be smaller with more individual attention to students; this is not always the case. 


International schools in Italy

An international school in Italy is the obvious option for expat families planning to live in the country for a short time or those who would prefer their children to continue with the curriculum of their home country. It is also a way to ease the transition into life in Italy as children attending these schools will be around others with similar backgrounds and will undertake a familiar curriculum.

However, this can create a bit of a cultural bubble with children not assimilating into Italian culture as a result. Some wealthy Italian parents choose to send their children to these schools, but they are in the minority. An ideal middle-ground solution for expats may be to enrol children in a school that combines the Italian curriculum with their home country's curriculum, or a bilingual international school teaching in both the child's native tongue and Italian.

A wide array of international schools can be found in Rome, Naples and Milan but there are many more scattered all over Italy, with the highest concentration found in urban centres. Curricula offered include American, British, French, Swiss, Japanese, German and many more.

There is stiff competition for the limited places available in prestigious international schools, so it's always best to start applications as early as possible. Admission requirements vary from institution to institution, as such, parents are advised to contact the school directly for specific information. Still, previous school records are a standard requirement. In some cases, extra steps may be needed, such as the child attending a personal interview or taking admission tests. 

High tuition fees are the norm for international schools, so if possible, expats should try to negotiate for an educational allowance as part of their employment contract when relocating to Italy.


Tutors in Italy

Tutoring is relatively common in Italy, especially amongst expat families. To help children integrate, parents can enlist the help of tutors at home or arrange private Italian lessons. This can still prove more cost effective than paying the costly tuition typical of international schools and therefore provide an alternative for families. Online portals can help families locate a tutor to meet their specific educational needs, be it language or in maths.


Special needs education in Italy

People with disabilities have the right to receive a full, adequate and appropriate education in Italy. Inclusive education is implemented in Italy to avoid segregating children with special needs. This requires a comprehensive range of interventions and capacities to diagnose children's needs and provide support in terms of specialised teachers, transport and adapting learning materials. Collaboration between the school, teachers and families is key. 

However, although few children with disabilities are in segregated settings, in reality these children may not be fully ‘included’ and may face micro-exclusions. One reason for this is that the level of care, though required to be uniform, varies across regions. Language barriers can also further complicate inclusive education and special needs learning.

Cuisine in Italy

Eating in Italy

a personal perspective from Camilla Helgesson

Italy is all about variety and choice. The fact that it is a relatively 'new' nation means that its cuisine is extremely diverse, and enchanting regional characteristics are more enhanced. At the same time, however, there are unwritten 'rules' that everyone follows.

Nowhere is this more evident than when we talk about food.

It can be confusing, as the Italian kitchen is defined as l’arte della semplicità, or 'the art of simplicity'. But as a foreigner it may, at first, not feel as if things are simple, as the approach to food is patriotic, regional and complicated by many rules and factors.

Rules (to be broken)


For starters, either you can buy freshly produced asparagus or you can’t. Either you can buy fresh oranges, or you can’t. If it’s not the season for an ingredient, it will be close to impossible to find it, as Italians only believe in fresh, seasonal, locally produced and harvested fruits and vegetables. You don’t put cheese on your seafood dish. The pasta has to be al dente. You don’t eat your salad before the pasta. Each sauce has its 'own' dedicated pasta shape. There is the right way to have your espresso served in the bar.

Where I come from (Sweden) you usually put everything you are about to eat on the same plate - the meat, the potatoes, the gravy and the extras. In Italy, it all comes separate. In the restaurant you decide to go for the fish, then you decide what will be on the side - potatoes or eggplants or vegetables - everything on separate plates and rarely you’ll get any gravy. You may end up eating from four or five plates at the same time.

The best of local


The regions have a big influence on the kitchen, too. If you go south towards Naples, Italians make the extra effort to stop and buy the freshly produced Mozzarella, in its own region, and then take it along either to the beach or back home. Pizza is best in Naples, the lemons in Capri, the ham from Parma, the Parmesan cheese from the north region of Reggio-Emilia. Each region has its own specialty, and they take great pride in it.

Food in Italy is a ceremony and something that unites families and friends. In other countries you may go out together for a drink - here you go out for the sole purpose of enjoying a good meal together. Food here is a passion. I have Italian friends who can drive 30km just to enjoy the best ice cream available. Don’t be surprised to overhear a conversation between construction builders on their break about how to prepare the best tomato sauce.

Cuisine as a door to culture

I arrived in Italy in 2005 and quite soon realised that Italians have a unique relationship to food that I doubt you will find elsewhere. Italians approach food as religion. Italian food is a combination of the best ingredients possible, how you prepare them, your attitude to the food and how you eat it. To come to know Italian food and how to talk about it will be like a door to the culture of this country and its soul, and it will leave you transformed.

Transport and Driving in Italy

Road and transport networks are extensive and well maintained in Italy, and as such, so is the public transport system. Given the efficent and moden train and bus systems, most of Italy is reachable by public transport. Despite this, travelling by car is still a popular option among Italians, even though owning a car in a large city can be expensive and driving in Italy can be stressful. Options for getting around in Italy are broad.


Public transport in Italy

The Italian public transport system is well-connected and varied. Expats will be able to choose to travel by road, rail, air or on the water to locations all over the country.

Trains

Trains are the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel around Italy. The rail system in Italy is extensive and most destinations can be reached by train.

High-speed rail routes connect many of Italy's major cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan and Bologna. These routes are operated by Trenitalia and NTV which is also known as .italo. 

Trains are colour-coded according to their speeds. Frecciarossa (red) trains have a regular speed of 186 miles per hour (300km per hour), Frecciargento (silver) trains go up to 155 miles per hour (250km per hour), and Frecciabianca (white) trains operate at a maximum of 124 miles per hour (200km per hour).

Regular trains run much slower but are a cheaper option, perfect for shorter journeys within cities (if time isn't an issue) or for travelling between smaller towns. There are daytime services as well as night trains travelling along regional routes.

Some trains travel internationally into some of Italy's neighbouring countries including Austria, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, the Vatican City and San Marino.

It is possible to buy a rail pass or single tickets when travelling by train. Fares are reasonably priced, especially within major cities. Tickets are bought at train stations or online.

Buses

Intercity buses have urban (urbano) and suburban (extraurbano) routes. Though a cost-effective way to travel, getting around by bus can be slow. Travelling by bus in bigger cities can be especially painful as the traffic and narrow streets of the city centres can cause delays.

Tickets can be bought from bars, tobacconists, newsstands or station ticket machines and online options are often available too. Most cities offer 24-hour tickets for tourists. The correct ticket must be validated on the bus or on-the-spot fines could apply. 

Metro

There are seven cities with metro train systems in Italy, including Rome, Milan and Naples. Milan's is the most comprehensive, with a total of four lines and over 100 stations.

This metro is a cheap, comfortable and effective way to navigate Italy’s major cities and is the preferred way to get around for most people. Tickets can be purchased at the metro stations from ticket machines or booths.

Trams

Trams are a convenient overland form of rail travel and help people get around in a city. However, trams in Italy are not as common as other forms of transport as their routes are not as extensive. Still, expats can make use of trams in several Italian cities, including Milan and Rome.

Ferries

Ferries are the ideal mode of transport between Italy and the islands off its coast. Navi are large ferries with services to Sicily and Sardinia while traghetti are small ferries that service the smaller islands. There are also ferries owned by private companies that service most ports. Those with cars or motorcycles can take them onto the ferry and then use them on the islands.


Taxis in Italy

Metered taxis are available throughout the country but are more suitable for short trips within local areas. Expats should always insist that the driver turns on the meter. If the driver refuses or claims that the meter is broken, it is important to negotiate a flat fare before getting into the taxi.

Taxis can be found at official taxi ranks. It's advisable that expats either catch a taxi only at these designated areas or order a taxi via phone from a reputable company.

Italian drivers are known for favouring speed over safety and taxi drivers are no exception. So passengers should be prepared for a hair-raising drive with little regard for speed limits or rules of the road. 

Alternatively, rideshare apps such as MyTaxi, Welcome Pickups and, for scooter-specific trips, Scooterino operate in the city. Uber also operates in Italy, but only their more exclusive services are available, most of which are more expensive than taxi services. Many expats prefer using taxi apps as it gives them more control over routes and service prices while diminishing language barrier issues.


Ridesharing in Italy

An alternative to conventional taxis is ridesharing. Mainly for intercity travel, apps like BlaBlaCar connects those driving in a particular direction with those wishing to travel the same way and vice versa. Many expats find it to be a unique way to meet people while carpooling is a more environmentally-friendly option than driving solo. 


Driving in Italy

Driving in Italy can be stressful as the Italian driving culture may be more aggressive than expats may be used to. Lack of parking is also a concern, especially within city centres. For this reason, as well as petrol expenses, most expats use public transport within the cities and use a car for country excursions or intercity trips.

Those looking for a faster way to get around while saving on petrol should consider driving a motorcycle or Vespa. These are popular modes of transport in Italy, especially in the summer months. 

Fast, well-maintained highways span the country’s landscape, but many operate on a toll system which could become expensive if commuting every day.

When on a toll road, motorists will pass through an Alt-Stazione (toll booth) where they collect a ticket. At the next exit, drivers submit the ticket at another Alt Stazione and pay the appropriate toll charge. 

Payment methods include cash, credit card, and prepaid cards, for example through Telepass. Telepass is an electronic tolling system. It allows drivers to pass through toll points without stopping, either paying a flat rate or a rate dependent on distance.

In the event of a breakdown or emergency, expats can call 116 from one of the emergency telephones that are situated every two kilometres along the highway. This will contact the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), Italy’s breakdown service. Expats need not be a member and can pay per incident. 

Expats can ship their cars to Italy, but foreign cars must be adjusted to meet Italian requirements. The costs may be dependent on the vehicle’s characteristics as well as the shipping company.

Foreign expats can drive in Italy although those with non-EU driver's licenses will have to apply for an International Driver's Permit. This permit is not a license, merely a translation. Expats may be able to apply for this permit before leaving by checking their respective embassy website. Alongside these items, expats should also be aware that they should carry proof of liability insurance in their vehicle.


Cycling in Italy

Like much of Europe, Italy is generally a cycle-friendly country. Most major cities have cycling networks such as dedicated lanes or paths. Bike-sharing schemes are also common in the larger cities and can be a very convenient system. However, in the case of travelling on a road with cars, cyclists will need to keep their wits about them to steer clear of unpredictable local drivers.


Walking in Italy

The cheapest way to get around in Italy is walking! As Italy is a safe country full of beautiful things to see, walking is an easy and pleasant way to navigate oneself while getting some exercise. Whether it's in the city centre or small cities, going for strolls or walking to get somewhere are common. 

Buying a Car in Italy

Expats have a multitude of options for getting around in Italy, including public transport, bringing their own car into the country or buying a new or used car. Pros and cons of each must be weighed up to see what the most cost effective and convenient option is. 

Most of Italy’s cities are congested and chaotic. Therefore, for expats, buying a car in Italy might not be such a good idea if they're staying within the city limits. While Italians might feel comfortable driving in Italy, expats may not be as immune to the unpredictable Italian driving culture.

Another problem is that Italy's major cities were designed to accommodate medieval and Renaissance transportation, which is to say, foot traffic. Coupled with limited parking, driving in Italian cities requires that expats navigate through pedestrian-only zones, one-way streets and extremely tight alleyways. Hence, most expats prefer to take public transport.

That said, public transport may be useful and cheap, but freedom is limited. A car can be beneficial for expats wanting to explore the rest of Italy and beyond. 

Expats can buy a new vehicle in Italy or ship or drive in their car into the country. While importing one’s car into Italy by shipping it in or driving it in are valid options, vehicles must then be registered which has the potential to be a tedious process.

Many expats may prefer to buy a car in Italy, especially as this means expats can choose a left-hand-drive car which is preferred for driving on the right side of the road.


What to consider when buying a car in Italy

When the distance between the car door and tiny alleyways is mere millimetres, size matters most. Size can also mean the difference between getting into tiny, almost non-existent parking spaces in Italian cities and driving around aimlessly for another hour.

There are many affordable small cars on the market. Smaller cars tend to lack power, baggage space and speed, which may limit travel within Europe. Like anywhere else in the world, expats should consider buying a reliable car that’s locally made, such as a Fiat, to save in buying and on mechanic fees. 

Expats should be aware of the costs of having a car. On top of usual maintenance, car owners must pay an annual car tax, car insurance and have vehicle roadworthy tests carried out. The annual car tax is called Bollo and can be paid in various locations including expat’s local ACI, banks and post offices. Cars that are older than four years old require vehicle roadworthy tests, called a revisione, every two years.

Furthermore, driving can be costly given that many Italian highways have a toll system.

Once the decision has been made to purchase a car there are several ways to go about it.


Buying a car in Italy 

To buy a car in Italy, expats must be an Italian resident, and therefore must have applied for temporary or permanent residence.

Expats must then decide if they want to buy a new or second-hand vehicle as well as choose a good local car dealership that can explain the process properly. This local garage can also provide aftersales services, so expats should find a garage that is recommended by others.

Once they have found the right vehicle, expats must go to the ACI Public Registry Office with a certificate of residence, ID, tax code and proof of insurance to register the purchase and change of ownership. 

If buying a used car, expats may request a mechanic to ensure it is in the agreed condition. Additional documents from the owner will be required to register the transaction.


Car insurance in Italy

Car insurance, or assicurazione auto, in Italy is expensive. However, things have improved in recent years, especially as the competition amongst insurance dealers has increased.

There are two main types of insurance – comprehensive (casco), which can be prohibitively expensive, and third party (responsabilità civile), which is the bare minimum available in Italy. Extra coverage is available at an additional cost and ranges from theft to natural disasters.

Those who get into an accident might also be liable for any medical fees that are a result of the accident, so expats will need to investigate health insurance options as well. 


Driving licences in Italy

Expats with an EU licence can drive in Italy without problems. EU citizens are also given the option of exchanging their current licence for an Italian one, which can be done at a Driver and Vehicle Licensing Department.

Citizens of select non-EU countries can exchange their licences for an Italian licence within one year of attaining Italian residency without having to sit any tests. However, old licenses will no longer be valid. Up until they have an Italian licence, these expats will need to obtain an International Driving Permit, which is a translation of their present licence.

For other expats, including Australians, Canadians and expats from the USA, there’s a 12-month grace period where expats from these countries can drive on their current license in Italy. After that, they will have to take driving lessons and pass a written and practical driving exam. 

Keeping in Touch in Italy

Expats in Italy will be able to keep in touch with people back home easily and efficiently.

Family is at the centre of life in Italy, whether it is the family that a person was born into or the one that expats make during their stay in the country. For that reason, Italians demand an open and varied communication network that makes keeping in touch in Italy easy.


Internet in Italy

Italy's internet is generally reliable and has increased in recent years so to not lag too far behind its European neighbours.

Expats will not be limited by internet speed and will still be able to Skype and watch videos with ease. One of the biggest benefits to the internet in Italy is that there are no download limits, so expats can surf and chat for as long as they like without worrying about their speed being reduced.

Popular and fast service providers are Vodafone Italy, EOLO, Telecom Italia, Fastweb, Wind, Tiscali and Linkem.

There are internet cafés and WiFi hotspots scattered around Italy and the number of them is growing as well as normal bars and restaurants that have free WiFi. Simply register a free account with Free Italia WiFi for access. Students will also find free WiFi around their universities while commuters with Italian phone numbers will access the internet for free on the trains.

However, anti-terrorism laws do affect internet usage limiting the number of hotspots, while public wishing to make use of internet cafés must be able to produce a valid identification card.


Mobile phones in Italy

The top providers in the Italian mobile phone market are TIM (owned by Telecom Italia), Vodafone and Wind.

Some expats will be able to use their current mobile phone in Italy including those from other EU countries, although network-locked phones will first need to be unlocked. 

Expats will need proof of residence and identification such as a passport to obtain an Italian SIM card. All providers offer a choice between a fixed post-paid contract or prepaid credit. For topping up on prepaid plans, recharge vouchers are available at supermarkets, tobacco shops, bars, ATMs, over the phone and online.

Italian mobile phone operators tend to offer a variety of packages. Most service providers have packages with unlimited phone calls, internet usage or messaging. Some also have special packages for people who make a lot of international calls.


Landline telephones in Italy

Telecom Italia is the undisputed king of Italian telecommunications. The former state-owned company once enjoyed a monopoly on the market and while it now has some competition, it is still very strong and is a solid choice for expats who value reliability. The company owns almost all the hardware in the country, so if something goes wrong with the landline, a person would probably get help sooner than if they were with another provider.

That said, Telecom is not always the best or cheapest provider. This depends on where in Italy one goes. Regional areas are not as well serviced as the cities and that can limit a person’s choices and impact their bill.

Some of the other major players in the landline market in Italy are BT Italia, Wind and Tiscali.

Finally, when choosing a landline, new arrivals need to consider whether they also need internet, cable or mobile phone services as well. In Italy, it pays for people to get all their telecommunications needs in one place as companies offer all-in-one bundles that can result in huge monthly savings. 

Once a decision has been made, setting up a landline in Italy is easy, since the phone company takes care of all the details. All customers must do is go to one of their stores with their tax number (codice fiscale), proof of address and identification.

When making international calls, expats will be better off either buying an international phone card or using an internet call service like Skype than using a landline.


Postal services in Italy

The Italian postal service is generally reliable however, it is also known to be lackadaisical, and expats should avoid sending valuables by regular post as a precaution. Italian customs can be nonchalant, but if they do decide to stop a package, it may never be seen again. Queues at post offices are sometimes long as many people pay their monthly bills there.


English-language media in Italy

Major British and American newspapers and magazines are available at some city newsagents and English bookstores. Italian news publications in English, such as The Local, are easily accessed online but are hard to come by in print.

Shipping and Removals in Italy

Italy is a major destination for imports and exports. As well as being part of the European Union, the country is connected not only to the mainland European continent but also to the sea. Therefore, expats can ship their possessions by sea, road or air. Deciding which option is best depends on an expat's needs in terms of the speed of arrival and their financial means as well as the home country destination.


Be sure about shipping to Italy

When moving to a foreign country, expats often have many belongings that they wish to move with them. Some may be hard to let go of while others may be useful appliances that seem more convenient to bring with than to buy new items. Expats should choose carefully if shipping is worth the effort. Many accommodation options are semi- or fully-furnished in Italy, while household goods can easily be purchased in the country too.


Hiring shipping and removals companies in Italy

To streamline the process of shipping to Italy, expats should draw up a detailed inventory of household items so that a reputable company can provide a comprehensive quote, based on the load size and the distance travelled from the country of origin to the Italian destination. Shipment costs to Italy may be affected by size, weight and volume and so expats will need to check the regulations and restrictions with their shipping company.

It is advisable to get different quotes from companies that are accredited within the shipping or removal industry. There are companies that offer a 'groupage service', where possessions are allocated space in other containers. This is a cheaper option, but it does typically mean waiting longer for goods to arrive.


Hiring relocation companies in Italy

When choosing which company can assist with the move, many expats find that relocation companies provide the most comprehensive services. Relocation companies can help not only ship possessions but assist new arrivals in getting settled, finding accommodation, conducting school searches and finding opportunities for language classes, amongst other matters. For more on this, see the Expat Arrivals guide to relocation companies in Italy.


Insuring goods in transit to Italy

It is important for expats to insure their items at the cost of around one to two percent of the total value of the goods. Expats may also consider using a different company for insurance than for the one used for the process of shipping and transport.


Customs regulations in Italy

To avoid any problems, expats should research the current customs regulations pertaining to Italy before shipping their goods. They should also ensure that their shipping company of choice has border clearance and understands customs formalities in Italy. This will also help expats familiarise themselves with necessary procedures.

Expats will need to provide documentation to their chosen shipping company. This often includes a passport copy, residence visa, work permit, an inventory list translated into Italian, a fiscal number (Italian tax number) and a residency certificate, although additional documents may be required. 

Expats will be able to ship their household goods to Italy with no import tariffs if these goods have been owned by the expat for longer than 12 months and if the goods are not for resale. Therefore, it's ideal to be able to provide receipts for each item showing the date of purchase.

Restricted items include all consumable goods (including alcohol). New furniture and household items will be subject to duty taxes, and the import of all electronic equipment will require an Import Permit from the Italian Ministry of Posts and Communications, and possibly a receipt of purchase.


Shipping electronic goods to Italy

When shipping electronic goods and appliances, expats must keep in mind the issue of international voltage standards which vary. Standard electricity in Italy is at 230 volts, so appliances designed to work using different voltages will be incompatible and attempting to use them is potentially dangerous. Simply finding a plug adapter will not render the appliance compatible.

Still, shipping electronic goods is possible, but again, be sure that these are covered by insurance and that receipts can be provided.


Shipping pets to Italy

Expats can bring their furry friend (or friends) into Italy; however, there are certain regulations required. Pets must be over three months old and must have a valid Veterinary Certificate providing details of the owner, as well as the animal and their vaccinations, including a rabies vaccine. If this is an animal's first time being vaccinated for rabies, they must wait three weeks before entering Italy.

A microchip for identification is essential, and whilst being transported they must be tagged with the owner’s details. Once an expat's fluffy family member has arrived in the country, an Italian vet will issue an EU Pet Passport which allows travel around Europe.

Expats should check that their shipping company takes pets or take the route of hiring a specialised pet transport company. It's important that expats find the most convenient means of transport so that their pet experiences as little stress as possible.


Shipping vehicles to Italy

Getting around Italy is often most convenient when expats have their own car. Having a car gives expats freedom to move as they wish and not be limited by public transport. That said, expats living in big Italian cities may not need nor want to drive.

Buying a car is an option, which may be best as these vehicles are likely to be suitable for Italian roads (i.e. small and convenient).

Still, rather than buy a new car, many people choose to drive their own car to Italy, especially if their home country is in Europe. Another option is to get a shipping company to import their vehicle to Italy.

Shipping companies can help take the weight off expats' shoulders as well as the inconvenience of a potentially long drive. Many companies are flexible and can arrange to ship household goods and vehicles in the same storage container to save space and fees. Specialised frames for the vehicles such as motorcycles can be custom made.

If expats wish to keep their car in Italy for over half a year, it must be registered in Italy and de-registered in one’s home country. Expats must go to the Motorizzazione Civile office and the Pubblico Registro Automobilistico within six months of the arrival of the vehicle. Required documentation is subject to change over time and so expats should seek advice from the vehicle registry offices themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions about Italy

Expats considering a move to Italy will naturally have many concerns about life in this culturally rich country.

From safety concerns to the weather, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Italy.

What is the incidence of crime in Italy?

Thanks to mafia-themed masterpieces like The Godfather, there is a misconception that Italy has a high crime rate, but most crime in Italy is confined to bag-snatching and pickpocketing. Although organised crime in Italy is a reality, it's unlikely to affect day-to-day life in any way.

What is the population mix of Italy?

Ethnic Italians constitute 95 percent of the population, and the largest ethnic minority is Romanian. Over the past few years, statistics have shown increasing waves of immigration from the EU countries of Eastern Europe and illegal immigrants from southeastern Europe and North Africa. The population density of Italy ranks among the highest in Europe. This means that Italian culture influences many aspects of life and expats may experience elements of culture shock in Italy.

How is the economy of Italy performing?

Italy’s economic growth in the past 15 years has been one of the slowest in the European Union. However, despite slow growth, the economy itself is one of the largest in the world. Italy is a member of the G8 group of industrialised nations and the economy is reliant on importing raw materials for industry. Still, expats can find opportunities for work in tourism, finance, media and communication and teaching English as a foreign language, amongst other areas of work.

What type of government does Italy have?

Italy is a parliamentary democracy with a history of coalition governments. 

What is the climate like?

Italy’s climate varies from one region to another, with Mediterranean conditions experienced on the coast and continental weather and temperatures in the interior. Higher elevated areas close to the Alps and Apennines encounter particularly frigid conditions. Rainfall occurs mainly during the autumn and winter seasons, with the wettest parts in the north of the country. Temperatures tend to fluctuate year-round between 11°C and 30°C (51°F to 86°F). The hottest month is July and the coldest is January, when the average daily minimum and maximum can range from 4°C to 6°C (39°F to 42°F).

How can I buy a car in Italy?

Though public transport in Italy is extensive, it has its faults. So, often, expats choose to buy a car. Anyone can buy a car in Italy, as long as they have a residence permit. Then they must find the car they want, be it new or second hand. Once they have decided, they must go to the ACI Public Registry Office to register the transaction and put the car in their name. Car insurance is a must, so factor this in when thinking about costs. It's also important to think about the feasibility of owning a car, especially in big cities like Rome.

Articles about Italy

Banking, Money and Taxes in Italy

Modern banking traces its origins to the Renaissance in Italy. In fact, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the third largest bank in Italy, is the oldest surviving bank in the world and has been open since 1472.

The Italian banking sector is modern and efficient. With a bit of research, patience and perhaps translation, expats should have no problem navigating the systems of banking and taxation in Italy.


Money in Italy

The official currency of Italy is the Euro (EUR) as in other member states of the European Union. One euro is divided into 100 cents, which are also known as centesimi.

•    Notes: EUR 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 
•    Coins: EUR 1 and EUR 2. 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents

In Italy, large figures are separated into thousands with a full stop rather than a comma.


Banking in Italy

The major banks are in and around big cities, with local branches dispersed throughout the country. The better-known banks in Italy are the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Intesa Sanpaolo, Unicredit and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. International banks such as Deutsche Bank and Citibank also operate in the country.

Banking hours are generally between 8am and 1.30pm from Monday to Friday, depending on the bank. Some banks are open for another hour in the afternoon. When possible, expats are advised to do resolve banking business on weekday mornings.

Italian banks are notorious for having high interest-rate charges, so expats are advised to shop around before signing any contracts or taking out any loans.

Opening a bank account

Expats can open a bank account in Italy regardless of their citizenship or residence status. Non-resident accounts (conto corrente non residenti) are popular with expats since they usually pay interest and are not subject to local interest taxes. Often, this type of account allows for use in both Euros and foreign currency.

If expats plan to live in Italy for a long period, they may prefer to use a resident account. There are several types of resident bank accounts, including current, joint, savings and deposit accounts. 

Choosing which bank can depend on its usability, if it provides services in one’s home language and its fees.

The best way for expats to open a bank account is to go to a bank in person, although the non-resident account may be done by mail. It is not often that banks allow individuals to open accounts online. Rather, they must physically go to the branch with their passport and codice fiscale (tax code). Proof of Italian address may also be required. Applicants will have to provide personal information and fill out application forms. These are normally in Italian, however, so it may be a good idea to bring a fluent friend along.

Different banks will have different procedures, and some will be more familiar with working with foreign clientele than others. As a result, expats are advised to compare the packages and requirements on offer at different banks.

ATMs and credit cards 

ATMs in Italy are known to locals as bancomat. They are widely available in cities and towns. They are user-friendly as expats will be able to choose their preferred language at the beginning of the transaction. ATMs often have a daily withdrawal limit and expats can check this with their bank.

As is the case in many other countries, larger stores usually accept debit and credit cards in Italy. This can often be confirmed by credit card logos displayed on windows and at till points. The most common card companies in Italy are CartaSi, Visa and MasterCard. Diners Club and American Express are also available in certain areas.

Expats should be aware that international accounts often have hefty transaction fees, especially when it comes to drawing money from a credit card. They can check these international charges with their bank before leaving.

Card cloning does occasionally occur in Italy, so expats should be vigilant when paying with credit cards or drawing money from an ATM. 


Taxes in Italy

Taxes in Italy are collected by the Italian Agency of Revenue (Agenzia delle Entrate) which has offices at national, regional and provincial levels.

Expats working in Italy will require a tax number. This is needed for most paperwork, such as opening a bank account, signing official contracts and starting a new job. To get one, an expat would need to take their passport or ID document to a provincial tax office (ufficio imposte) and fill out an official form to apply for one.

It is possible to apply for the tax number in one’s country of origin through the Italian embassy.

Income tax in Italy is progressive, which means that the more an expat earns, the more tax they may be subject to. Expats who are subject to taxation in Italy will have to pay direct tax to the central agency of revenue as well as regional and local taxes.

Foreign residents who live in Italy for more than 183 days a year are only required to pay tax on income they earn in the country. Permanent residents are expected to pay tax on income derived locally as well as internationally. Italy has, however, entered into double-taxation avoidance agreements with several countries to ensure that foreign citizens are not taxed on their income twice.

Given the complexity of dealing with tax, especially in a different language, expats should consider seeking professional advice to navigate the system of taxation in Italy.

Expat Experiences in Italy

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories from other expats who are living there. Read what these expats have to say about their own unique experiences in Italy. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Italy, and would like to share your experience. 


Hope, an American lawyer and blogger, got her first passport in 2006, then started to travel the world. She shares her entertaining experiences, likes and frustrations with us, giving insight into living, working and making friends in Florence. Read more about Hope's expat experiences in Florence.  hope

Caroline is an American architect who originally moved to Italy in 2015. She shares her experiences of daily life on her blog and is now sharing with us her personal insights on culture, work as well as practical information on rent in Verona. Read more about Caroline's expat experiences in Verona.

caroline

Tim Doel moved from the United Kingdom to Milan in 2016 to start a family with his Italian wife. He gives his unique take on building a family in one of Italy's busiest cities and shares his advice on how best to settle down and establish roots for expats moving to the city. Read more about Tim's expat experiences in Milan.

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Gabrielle Schubert is an American expat from Brooklyn, New York. She and her family spend much of the year in Italy and as their love for the country has grown their trips have become longer and longer. Although she is not an expat in the conventional sense she does get the best of both worlds with the urban hustle of New York teamed with the tranquillity of rural Penna San Giovanni. Read about her unique expat experience in her interview.

moving to italy

Diana Skok Corridori is an American expat who has been living in Milan, Italy's capital, for almost a decade. She says she loves the international character of the city and reckons the quality of life it offers is fantastic. You can read her blog at vinovitaviaggi.com or find out more about her expat life in Italy.

Alice Kim moved to Milan three years ago, starting out as a student of fashion and design and now running her own company helping other expats settle into their new Italian life. Having been through the culture shock of moving to a new country, she is in a good position to give others advice to make settling in that much easier. Read more about her expat life in Italy.

Pauline Ninck Blok study the Italian language at university in her home country of the Netherlands and it was during this time that she discovered her love for Italy. She has been living there since 2001 and says her secret to adapting to expat life is to be relaxed and go with the flow of a new country. Read more on her expat life in Italy.

Hayley is a Canadian expat who has been living in Italy with her husband and their daughter for over five years. She speaks to Expat Arrivals about overcoming her anxieties about speaking Italian and buying a feast for next to nothing. Read more about her expat experience in Italy.

Jessica is an American expat living in Italy. She moved to Casarano in the southeastern province of Lecce in 2012 to be with her Italian fiancé, who is now her husband. Although Jessica finds Casarano a bit small at times, she enjoys the fact that she gets to experience the real Italian life, as opposed to just life in another big city like Rome. Read more about her expat life in Italy.

Martina is a German expat living in Italy with her husband and three children. They moved to the northern city of Bologna because of her husband’s job. Despite the slow pace and constant bureaucratic delays, they enjoy the lifestyle in Bologna, which includes many entertainment options, warm summers and the proximity to the mountains and sea. Read more about her expat experience in Italy.

Linda is a French expat of Algerian origin living in Italy. After ten years of living in England she decided to take a year off to follow her dream of becoming a writer and freelance journalist and now finds herself living in Olbia, on the Italian island of Sardegna. Read more about her expat experience in Italy.

Sarah Ager is a British expat living in Italy. She moved there because she fell in love, both with the country and a man, and now lives in Bologna, working as an English teacher. Sarah considers herself to be a post-modern Anglo Muslim woman and enjoys blogging about her experiences of life in Italy. Read more about her expat life in Italy.

Amy Jones is a British expat who moved to Torremaggiore in the Puglia region of southern Italy to take up a post teaching English at a private language school. Besides her three colleagues there is not much of an expat community to speak of in her town, but Amy finds the locals are friendly and the food, is of course, fantastic. Read more about her expat experience in southern Italy.

Ernesto is a Mexican expat who is living in Italy’s capital, Rome. Having previously studied in Milan, he recently returned to Italy to work for a mobile marketing company where he is responsible for the Indian market. Prior to that, he lived in India, thus qualifying as quite the experienced expat. Read about his expat experience in Italy.

Elisa Scarton is an Australian expat who initially moved to Tuscany for a year, and fell in love with and married an Italian man. They live in the town of Manciano in the beautiful Tuscany region. A freelance journalist, Elisa now writes a travel blog and online travel guide about her new home. Read about her expat life in Tuscany.

Valerie Schneider and her husband moved to Italy in 2006 and quickly settled into life in the beautiful city of Ascoli Piceno.  Valerie is a freelance writer, and she and her husband have a company that offer customized tours. Read about her experiences of expat life in Italy.

Brian Bogaard is a South African expat who was moved to Milan, Italy, by his company. He loves the sense of history, but not the high prices. He is committed to befriending Italians rather than remaining locked into the expat scene. Read about his take on expat life in Milan, Italy.

Camilla Helgesson left Sweden for Rome in 2005 and thanks to the excellent coffee hasn't looked back since. She is the web manager for Relocation Enterprises Group. She loves the people, passion and great food of Italy, but can't stand the endless red tape! Read all about her Italy expat experience.

Jessica Spiegel has had her sights set on Italy for some time now, but the local affinity for bureaucracy has left her unravelling red tape for the past two years. Still, she continues to push forward and now she shares her personal story about one American's struggle of getting a permit to live in Italy story with Expat Arrivals.

Anna Savino is an expat from the US who has turned a short-term stint in Italy into a long-term commitment by marrying a local flame and moving to beautiful Piedmont. "Six years ago I was 22-year-old party animal full of aspirations, transplanted into the cold foothills of the Alps," Anna says. "I was lonely, lost, and fed up with this meagre Italian life I was living. I stayed a second year because of pride, because I knew I could love it and learn the language and I did." Read her account of expat life in Piedmont, Italy

Sonia Piacente first visited Italy on a group trip. "It was fantastic but it was Italy that won my heart. I went back home after 10 days and I told my parents that I want to move to Italy. I kept going on and on about how wonderful it was. The lifestyle, the people, and the food!" Sometime later, she struck up a pen-friendship with an Italian man, who in due course became her husband. Here is her experience of la dolce vita as an expat in Italy.

Jasmine is a freelance writer, foodie and fashionista from Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy. A former pharmacist, she now spends her time writing a fun and colourful blog that highlights her delectable Italian experiences. Read about how she compares Canada and Italy, as well as her advice on meeting other expats, in her Expat Experiences interview.