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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 resonate.

Offering residents an attractive lifestyle with an emphasis on family, scenic beauty and world-famous food and wine, Italy lures expats with its passion for la dolce vita, the sweet life.

Living in Italy as an expat

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 their location. 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. 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 substantial portion of Italian businesses are family-owned, from major corporations to the smaller enterprises that make up much of the local economy. 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. 

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. 

Cost of living in Italy

Although Italy offers a high quality of life, it also has 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.

Expat families and children 

Italy is exceptionally family friendly, and there is plenty for families to get up to in their free time. Italy is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as museums, family-friendly eateries, parks, forests and lakes for families to enjoy.

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.   

Climate in Italy

Northern Italy experiences long, cold winters with heavy snowfall along with rain and hail. Summers are mild with 81°F (27°C) being the average high in July, the region's hottest month. A bit further south, cities such as Milan and Venice experience wet and foggy winters with close to freezing average temperatures, and hot and humid summers. Locations like Naples further south experience a moderate Mediterranean climate, with extremely hot, dry summers and mild winters. 

With so much on offer, 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: 230V, 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.

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, but 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, among 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 such as Rome.

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 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 an Italian address may also be required. Applicants will have to provide personal information and fill out application forms. These are normally in Italian, 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.

Working in Italy

Italy’s economy is one of the strongest in the EU. Despite this, the country 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 scenery and high quality of life, it's 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 operate in different regions. Additionally, Italy has a relatively small number of international corporations, 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 significant role, with the wealth of cultural attractions in Italy drawing in millions of tourists every year.

The manufacturing sector also plays a key 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, Italy 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 quite 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 generations, 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. Those who are most likely to find employment in Italy will therefore 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 in general, 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.

Healthcare in Italy

Italy generally offers high standards of public healthcare, though this may vary 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 while 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 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 is 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, which means it can get awfully expensive and health insurance is a must. In many cases, employers are obligated 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. 

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.

Shipping and Removals in Italy

Italy is a major destination for imports and exports, given its access to seaports. Expats can therefore ship their possessions by sea, road or air. Deciding which option is best depends on an expat's needs in terms of the quantity of goods, time frame, budget and their country of origin.

Shipping to Italy

When moving to a foreign country, expats have decisions to make regarding their belongings. Some belongings may be sentimental items while others may be useful appliances that seem more convenient to ship over than to buy new. Expats should consider carefully whether 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.

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 in order for a reputable company to provide an accurate quote, based on the load size and distance. Shipment costs to Italy may be affected by size, weight and volume and 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 a company many expats find that relocation companies, rather than removals 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, among 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 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 while being transported they must be tagged with the owner’s details. Once an expat's pet 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 they should hire 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 so expats should seek advice from the vehicle registry offices themselves.

Culture Shock in Italy

Expats moving to Italy may experience some 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

When one thinks of fashion 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 among both men and women.

Religion in Italy

Most of the population of Italy is Roman Catholic and Christian, although the number of Italians who practise their religion is lowering. Still, religion plays a major role in culture, business and the way people live. Italy is a secular country but, given its ubiquitous churches and the influence of the Vatican City, religion is undeniably significant.

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, which 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. A wide variety of soup, bread, meat and fish dishes 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, and 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.

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 such as Milan and Rome are considerably higher than those in rural areas, and this is largely thanks 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 2022 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Milan, Italy's most expensive city, ranked 48th while Rome ranked 57th out of 227 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 expats, as there are still many rural properties offering excellent 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, costs will be low. Like local children, expat children can attend public school for free up until the end of primary school. Thereafter, a small fee is paid at the start of each year. Extras such as textbooks will also need to be purchased.

That said, if expats will be sending their children to a private or international school, they should expect above average costs – particularly at international schools. If 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, 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 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. The table below is based on average prices in Milan for January 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 2,600

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 1,680

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,270

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 850

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

EUR 3.95

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.38

Rice (1kg)

EUR 2.74

Loaf of white bread

EUR 2.27

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 11.70

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 5.96

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

EUR 80

Big Mac meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.59


EUR 1.76

Bottle of beer (local)

EUR 1.69


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.17

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

EUR 25

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

EUR 171


Taxi rate/km


City-centre public transport fare


Gasoline (per litre)

EUR 1.85

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

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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

Public Holidays in Italy




New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January


6 January

6 January

Easter Sunday

9 April

31 March

Easter Monday

10 April

1 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. 

Articles about Italy

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.

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 shake. 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 lofty 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 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. Expats in big cities will naturally be better off as city dwellers are more accustomed to tourists, but in some towns, there can be no English speakers for miles.

Many expats find that people are abrupt when spoken to in English. This usually happens in the more popular cities such as 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 of 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 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 such as 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's, say, 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.


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 four 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, it is widely acknowledged that education in northern Italy is of a higher standard than in the south. Options and standards also vary 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.

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.

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 much 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. 

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.

This can create a bit of a cultural bubble with children not assimilating into Italian culture as a result. 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, among others.

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 common in Italy, especially among 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 education in Italy. Inclusive education is implemented in Italy to avoid segregating children with special needs. This requires a comprehensive range of interventions 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. 

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.

Keeping in touch in Italy

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

Family and friends are at the centre of life in Italy, not to mention an expat's loved ones in their home country. It's therefore crucial to Italians and expats to have 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 and no longer lags far behind its European neighbours. 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 cafes and WiFi hotspots scattered around Italy and growing in number. 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.

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.

Postal services in Italy

The Italian postal service is generally reliable, but it can 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.

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 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.

Diversity and inclusion in Italy

Below is some info on diversity and inclusion in Italy to help shed some light on day-to-day life.

Accessibility in Italy

Italy is one of the most accessible countries in Europe, and there are laws that guarantee the rights to independence and autonomy of people with disabilities. In some parts of society, however, there is still a social stigma attached to people with disabilities, and some families tend to keep disabled family members out of public view.

Italian Railways have a service called Sala Blu that assists people with a disability or reduced mobility during their train journey. Most trains have flat-access or wheelchair lifts, along with disabled seating, and most buses have a ramp for wheelchair users. There are also tactile guides at bus stops. Major airports in Italy offer a service that provides help to disabled people, including assistance during boarding and landing. This can be arranged through the airlines.

Hotels, restaurants, and public buildings are mostly accessible to those with disabilities, although it’s best to plan in advance and be aware of the cobblestone streets, narrow walkways and hilly terrain that characterise many Italian city centres – these may pose a challenge to those who rely on a wheelchair. There is a lack of dropped curbs and accessible transportation in many towns and cities.

Policies and interventions for school integration still suffer from the presence of architectural barriers and the lack of technological tools.

Further reading

LGBTQ+ in Italy

Italy is one of Western Europe’s most socially conservative countries, and although being gay is not a crime, it is still frowned upon by many people, and some gay people feel the need to remain in the closet. The gay scene in Rome is centred on the Gay Street di Roma, an area behind the Colosseum that has been designated as a gay-friendly neighbourhood. Milan has Italy's largest and most open gay scene, the Porta Venezia neighbourhood is the centre of gay life in the city, and its metro station is even decorated with rainbow colours to highlight this.

Same-sex activity has been legal in Italy since 1890, and a civil union law was passed in 2016 that gave same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples, though same-sex marriage remains impossible under Italian law for now. A recent poll showed that the majority of Italians are in favour of same-sex marriage (56 percent).

People have been allowed to legally change their gender since 1982 and Italy’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The European Union LGBTI Survey found that 62 percent of LGBTQ+ people in Italy rarely or never declare their sexual orientation; higher than the EU average of 53 percent. It also found that 22 percent of Italian LGBTQ+ individuals perceive some discrimination at work, which is around the average within EU countries.

Further reading

Gender equality in Italy

Gender equality in Italy has increased markedly in the last ten years, but the country still ranks below its Western European peers in the EIGE Gender Equality Index. There is a growing acceptance of gender equality, especially in the north of Italy, but in some sections of society women are still expected to stay at home and care for the house and children, rather than join the workforce and earn a salary. Only 67 percent of women work in Italy, compared to 79 percent of men.

Women in Italy excel in both secondary and tertiary education, and 60 percent of Italian university graduates are female. Despite the statistics, there are plenty of opportunities in the workplace for women, and the majority who graduate from university go on to get good jobs.

Further reading

Interview with Juli-Anne, a Jamaican expat in Italy

Women in leadership in Italy

Women remain under-represented in senior management roles, and although the gender pay gap has decreased in Italy, women are on average still paid 14 percent less per hour than their male counterparts. This gender gap in retribution is as if women work for free for two months per year. 28 percent of senior managers in Italy are women.

Female representation on the boards of Italy’s largest companies is just less than 40 percent, which puts Italy towards the top of the rankings among the G20 countries.

Women occupy around a third of the seats in Parliament, which is a similar ratio to countries like the UK, Germany and The Netherlands.  

Mental health awareness in Italy

Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by stress and loneliness. International companies are becoming more aware of the impact of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental illness is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes, as well as promoting knowledge and decreasing stigma by holding in-house workshops. There is a level of stigma in Italy, and misunderstanding of mental disorders, which can prevent or delay people seeking help.

Expats who are registered with an Italian GP (medico di famiglia) can make an appointment to see them and if necessary, they will refer patients to a suitable hospital or the local mental health centre (CSM, centro di salute mentale). Expats who are not yet registered with an Italian GP can contact the local health authority (ASL, azienda sanitaria locale) to register. Once registered, the ASL will provide a list of state-enrolled doctors to select from. There are also plenty of excellent English-speaking private psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals that can be contacted directly.

Further reading – a list of English-speaking doctors in Italy

Unconscious bias training in Italy

The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're often inaccurate and based on assumptions.

Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.

Further reading

Diversification of the workforce in Italy

There are around 2.5 million foreign workers in Italy in total, and the number of non-EU residents in Italy has increased by 44 percent over the last ten years. The number of non-EU nationals working for companies in Italy is highest for men working in the northeast of the country at 15 percent. The promotion of ethnic diversity and inclusion in the workforce still faces many obstacles, principally because of the bureaucratic procedures for hiring foreigners in Italy.

Despite the socially conservative attitudes of many Italians, leading companies in Italy scored very highly in a recent Diversity Leaders table published by the Financial Times. The table assessed employees’ perception of inclusiveness or efforts to promote various aspects of diversity within their respective industries.

Safety in Italy

Italy is one of the safest countries in the world, but petty theft is common, and expats should avoid walking alone late at night, be street smart, and keep their valuables hidden. There are incidents of pickpocketing in busy or touristy areas and on public transport. There are low rates of violent crime, and incidents are much lower than in the US, for instance. While Italy is a safe place for single women, Italian men can be flirtatious, and it is not uncommon for women to hear “ciao bella”. It's usually best to ignore the comment and walk on.

Calendar initiatives in Italy

4 February – World Cancer Day
28 February – Rare Disease Day
March – TB Awareness Month
17 May – International Day Against Homophobia
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Gay Pride events in Rome and Milan
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
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Weather in Italy

Italy can be divided into five main regions, the north-east, north-west, centre, south and the islands. In the 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 such as 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 further south experience a moderate Mediterranean climate, with extremely hot, dry summers and mild winters. The warmest month in this region is 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.


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 among 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 enter 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 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

Transport and Driving in Italy

Road networks are extensive and well maintained in Italy, as is the public transport system. Given the efficient and modern train and bus systems, expats can reach most of Italy 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 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 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.


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. 


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 are a convenient overland form of rail travel and help people get around in a city, but they aren't 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 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 turn 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. 

Ridesharing in Italy

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.

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 bike-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. That said, 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.