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Where to Live for Expats in Italy

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: April 2014

Italy has a total of 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country in the world. With such cultural riches and elegant architecture, plus beautiful countryside, fine food and wine, an enviable climate and relaxed, outgoing people, it is no wonder that many expats are seeking out Italian lifestyle.

Wages and standard of living are higher in the more prosperous north of the country. Concomitantly, property prices and the cost of living are higher too. This is particularly true for Milan and its satellite towns in Lombardy. Milan is Italy’s business, finance and fashion capital. It has the largest proportion of expats in Italy, has many jobs available and plenty of well-dressed people. Other expats are attracted to the area slightly to the north of Milan, the beautiful countryside around Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda. This area is ideal for the retired as it is most tranquil.

For those who prefer to be near the sea, Liguria, the Italian Riviera, is another very popular region. The fine climate, food and attitude to life help Ligurians to be some of the longest-lived people on earth. Like other areas of Italy, the western half of the Riviera is a tourist trap and somewhat spoilt, but the east is less well-known.

Romantic and uniquely beautiful, Venice (nicknamed la Serenissima) is a gem of a city. Property prices are currently rising, meaning that now may be a good time to look at buying. However, while it is undoubtedly charming to be surrounded by water and beautiful buildings, Venice does have its impracticalities. The city is sinking, making floods routine inconvenience, and in high summer, tourists are everywhere and the canals can become rather fragrant.

A little to the south in Central Italy, Tuscany is one of the most desirable regions for expats, thanks to its agreeable climate, fine architecture and well-appointed gardens. The capital, Florence (Firenze) is one of the world’s great cities of art. The appeal of Tuscany is well-known though; most of the good properties have already been taken and prices are high. Instead of waiting for a bargain in Tuscany, you could look elsewhere – the neighbouring province of Umbria, and also nearby Marche, Abruzzo and Molise offer similar attractions at lower prices.

To live in Rome is to live inside history, and it is bound to captivate anyone with an interest in the past. Although it is known as the Eternal City, Rome hasn’t stagnated. It is a modern, lively capital city that has a great deal to offer, such as shopping, sightseeing, or just relaxing in a piazza. Rome is also a cosmopolitan city: nearly 10% of the population are expatriates, so you will be in good company if you live here. However, accommodation and the cost of living are rather high and wage levels do not completely compensate for this.

The sun-kissed south, the Mezzogiorno (‘midday’) is in some ways the most traditional, unspoilt part of the country. It is renowned for having some of the friendliest, most hospitable people in Europe. Nevertheless, the economy is still lagging behind the rest of the country and employment is quite hard to come by.

The largest city in the south is Naples. The locals say Vedi Napoli e poi muori – ‘See Naples and [you can] die.’ The city certainly looks amazing from a distance, with the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius in the background, and it has plenty of magnificent buildings. However, as you look closer, some of the charm may start to fray a little. Naples is an exaggerated version of Italy, a city of contradictions: opulence and poverty; beauty and mess; order and chaos. Some also find it a very exciting city to live in. Neapolitan property prices are very reasonable, though wages are also lower than they are further north.

 

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