Why live in Italy?
Perhaps a better question is — why not?
The familiar Italian phrase ‘La Dolce Vita’ literally translates as ‘the sweet life’, and it’s the temptation of this blissful life in almost perpetual sunshine in a land rich with culture, history, glamour, glorious gastronomy and vitality that prompts many Brits to consider moving to Italy from the UK.
Life in Italy is relaxed, thoroughly enjoyable and endlessly interesting, and expats living in Italy benefit from a very high quality of life.
Here’s our guide to the most important things you need to know if you’re thinking of making a move to Italy…
- 1 Italy Visa Requirements for Brits
- 2 Way of Life in Italy
- 3 Cost of Living in Italy
- 4 Popular Areas for Brits
- 5 Jobs in Italy for British Expats
Italy Visa Requirements for Brits
Thanks to both Italy and the UK currently being part of the EU, Brits are free to visit Italy for up to three months without any visa.
Of course, with Brexit looming on the horizon, in the future this may be subject to change.
At the time of writing, British citizens just needed a passport valid for the proposed duration of their stay to enter Italy. If the UK exits the EU without a deal, it’s likely that this relaxed approach will tighten up — expect to need 6 months validity on your passport from the date of your arrival in the country.
Much like Brits just visiting Italy, those intending to work in the country are free to do so for a period of up to 90 days.
After that point, you will be able to apply for a residency permit and then a certificate of residency, as detailed below.
Certificate of Residency
After your initial 3 months in Italy, it is necessary to apply for a ‘declaration of presence’ or residency permit and provide a legitimate reason for your continued stay in the country.
The declaration of presence, also known as dichiarazione di presenza, should be applied for at a local police headquarters and can be sought within 20 days after moving into a house or apartment. You’ll need to provide your passport and submit a form confirming your request for residency; and you’ll need to repeat the process every time you change residence.
At some point, an officer from the General Register Office will visit your residency to check your status and application. You will need to be resident in Italy for at least 6 months and a day of every year in order to be considered truly resident. Assuming you pass their inspection, you will be granted a certificate of residence and receive your tax number.
These are granted for different periods of time from two to five years, after which they will need to be renewed if you wish to continue living the sweet life in wonderful Italy.
Way of Life in Italy
The Italian lifestyle is a major factor in attracting Brits to a life in Italy.
Italian food is famous throughout the world — not only for its (incredible) taste but also for the sense of occasion that it brings.
Food means family in Italy, and that means multi-hour meals with all the community gathering together and sharing food and drink.
This foodie culture starts before you sit down at the table: trips to the market and hours spent whipping up food in the kitchen are all part of the Italian charm.
While many Brits move to Italy from the UK in order to take part in the slower way of life, there may be a bit of a culture shock as you get used to the sheer passion on display from Italians. They’re tactile, emotional and highly invested in their friends, families, local communities and Italian culture as a whole.
And it’s easy to see why: Italy has one of the richest and most well-documented histories of all countries on earth, and lots of idiosyncratic local cultures complementing it as well.
As of 2017, there were 54 UNESCO world heritage sites in Italy, which is the most of any country in the world. Make sure that you take the time to thoroughly explore what’s on offer while you live there.
Unlike Greece, Italy’s train network is impressive and a great way to explore the country as a whole.
High speed trains in particular get you between cities and major towns on the Western coast with minimal effort, and seem to escape the same number of strikes that the normal rail network suffers from.
Plus, you can book tickets directly online — try Trenitalia.
For the eastern coast, there aren’t quite as many high-speed rail routes, but you will find the Intercity network and the Frecciargento train waiting to whisk you away.
Buses are also an efficient way to reach more rural areas and places not serviced by the rail network.
Most British expats in Italy will choose to live on the Italian mainland, but if you fancy basing yourself on an island — or simply fancy a holiday there — you can hop on one of the many ferries servicing the country.
Driving in Italy
Plenty of Brits moving to Italy choose to drive in the country — and it’s certainly a handy way to get around.
Just make sure that you procure an international driving licence before you go.
It may take a little time to adjust to driving in Italy — obviously they drive on the right, but some Brits find the traffic lights and winding roads (particularly in the hill top towns) a little confusing at first.
Take a look at this video for some useful tips:
Cars are pretty expensive in Italy and petrol can be painful on the wallet too, so you may choose to forgo a car if you’re living in a well connected location.
Weather in Italy
Like for most other things, the climate in Italy varies dramatically from north to south.
In the heart of the mountainous northern regions the weather has seasonal extremes, with winters being snowy and cold with temperatures dropping below freezing, and summers being hot and particularly humid — often with thunderstorms.
Coastal areas benefit from a typically warm Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot, dry summers. Refreshing sea breezes in these areas serve to offer some respite from the sizzling summer temperatures.
The south of the country — including Sardinia and Sicily — can achieve scorching temperatures frequently 32° C or higher in summer, with long periods of continuous sunshine.
The south of Italy has the least rain and the most hours of sunshine of any other part of the country.
Cost of Living in Italy
The cost of living in Italy varies widely according to what part of the country, and even what specific town or city, you find yourself in.
Italy generally lingers at the top end of the list of most expensive EU countries to live in, but this is dependent on where you are based.
Living costs in the wealthier northern part of Italy tend to be higher than in the south, and Italy’s big cities are expensive places to live compared to the country’s rural areas.
That said, on average living in Rome is significantly cheaper (around 30% overall) than living in London.
Taxes in Italy tend to be much lower than in the UK, particularly in the south, but gas and electricity are slightly more expensive.
Cars, fuel and insurance are expensive too, so if you’re on a budget it’s best to make the most of Italy’s excellent public transport system.
Northern Italy is much more expensive than the south — particularly in the larger cities. You’ll also be subject to a ‘tourist tax’ on amenities in tourist-heavy places like Venice, Rome and Florence.
Generally speaking, groceries can be a little more expensive in Italy than in the UK — hence why so many locals choose to shop at local markets rather than supermarkets. Restaurants too — especially in popular cities — can be comparable to prices in London.
Of course, like with most countries on earth, you can live in Italy on any budget.
Choose smaller towns and more obscure places to live if you’re particularly concerned with your expenses, and choose to ‘live like an Italian’ — shopping at markets, drinking local wine, and eating within your community.
Thankfully, whatever location you find yourself in, there will be plenty of dining-out options to suit a variety of budgets.
Rent is one way that Italy is routinely cheaper than living in the UK.
Aside from the best locations in the largest cities, rent is generally very reasonable and certainly cheaper than in London and other expensive towns and cities in the UK. It’s estimated that rental accommodation can reach around 25% of your monthly budget in cities.
In rural areas, rents are much lower and particularly attractive to British expats looking for retirement properties or simply somewhere far away from the rat race.
Italy does have a national health care service — the servizio sanitario nazionale — which is reasonably high quality and free, or at least very cheap, to use for expats if you have the correct paperwork as a resident.
Many British expats choose to take out private medical insurance, of which costs vary depending on your age and health status.
We’d only really recommend taking out health insurance if you’re based in the north of Italy as there are fewer private hospitals and physicians in the south.
Like with many European countries, British expats have two choices when it comes to sending their children to school in Italy: public or private?
Expat kids can attend primary school for free throughout Italy, after which there is a minimal fee for every year thereafter. Many expats like to send their kids to public school as it’s a great way to have them integrate into the local community and learn the language.
There are many private and international schools in Italy as well, particularly in the northern cities, but these are notoriously expensive and generally only chosen by very wealthy expats or those with a generous education allowance in their expat packages.
Popular Areas for Brits
The north of Italy features spectacular mountain scenery and the glittering lakes of Como and Garda where the jet set come to experience the luxurious surroundings.
Nestling at the base of the Alps, the elegant city of Turin is the hub of Italy’s most up and coming music, food and arts scenes.
A host of art nouveau and contemporary architecture, dotted with wide, tree lined avenues and grand squares make this city unique.
Tuscany and Florence
Italy’s central region includes the lush rolling countryside of Umbria and Tuscany. It’s here that one of Europe’s great art cities, Florence, is a cultural delight for expats.
Works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci are just some of the artistic wonders to be marveled at in this grand city, and it also boasts an effervescent restaurant and nightlife scene.
It goes without saying that Italy’s capital city is a remarkable destination. Rome is endlessly romantic and inspiring.
The city’s historical monuments are some of the most impressive in the world, its streets and piazzas pulsate with energy, and in the evenings traditional trattorias, chic cocktail bars, world class restaurants and hip night clubs all throb with cheerful revelry and invite you to join the party.
Sicily and Sardinia
In the south the islands of Sicily and Sardinia gleam like pearls in the Mediterranean Sea. Sicily charms your heart with jumbles of pink hued buildings and zesty scented lemon groves.
On the east coast volcanic Mount Etna smokes moodily amongst the dramatic mountain scenery, and the southern coast offers up seductive beaches where you can dine on freshly caught fish and seafood whilst listening to the gentle sound of the ocean waves.
In Sardinia the prehistoric villages and stone structures of the long dead Nuragic peoples are scattered amid the breathtaking natural scenery.
Magnificent sand dunes and superb sandy bays are the perfect place to soak up the sun.
For a taste of how the other half live, head on over to the glitzy Costa Smeralda on Sardinia’s northern coast — it’s a popular hangout for film stars and supermodels.
Jobs in Italy for British Expats
It can be difficult finding meaningful work in Italy as a Brit — and it only makes it harder if you don’t speak Italian.
If you’re currently working at a multinational corporation in the UK which has a base in Italy, it’s worth enquiring about expat transfer opportunities. This will probably net you the highest salary and most generous expat packages.
Other Brits opt for Teaching English as a Foreign Language or working within the tourism industry, both of which require high levels of English language. Be aware that these jobs are typically not as well paid and, in tourism especially, you will be competing with local Italians who’ll have the advantage.
In larger cities like Rome and Milan, the start-up scene is really taking off so techies are likely to find exciting, if initially low paid, job opportunities.
Have you thought about moving to Italy from the UK?