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Moving to Italy

Whether you’re moving as a family or on your own, relocating to Italy will secure you a generous slice of La Dolce Vita. With bustling cities, quaint coastal towns and colourful villages, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to deciding where to settle down. But before you pack your bags, there are a few small matters to look after.

From visas and work permits to relocating pets and finding a home, here’s what you really need to know about moving to Italy.

Visas and residence permits

The visa application process in Italy can be complex, as there are many different visas and entry requirements to consider. To find out which visa you need, fill out this form on the Italian government’s website.

Visa fees for Italy are inexpensive. Most visas costs around €116.

If you aren’t a European Union (EU) citizen and you plan to stay in Italy for more than three months, you’ll need to apply for a long-stay visa and a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno).

You must apply for the long-stay visa before you apply for the residence permit because you can only apply for a residence permit from within the country. You then have eight days from the date you arrived to apply for the permit.

If you are an EU citizen, the visa application process is much simpler. In most cases, you do not need a visa. Instead, you need to register your fixed address with your nearest Ufficio Anagrafe (General Register Office) to become a resident.

Whether you’re an EU or non-EU citizen, if you’ve lived in Italy for more than five years, you can obtain permanent residency so long as you hold a valid residence permit. Permanent residency allows you to stay in Italy indefinitely.

For more details, read our guide to visas and permits for relocating to Italy.

Language

No prizes for guessing that Italian is the official language of Italy. What can surprise new arrivals, however, is that Italy is rich in minority languages and regional dialects. Classed by the government as historical language minorities, these languages include French, Greek, German, Sardinian, Albanian, Occitan, Croatian, Slovene, Ladin, Friulian, Catalan and Franco-Provencal.

Sardinian is one of the most prominent minor languages in Italy, with 1 million speakers, most of whom live on the island of Sardinia. Sardinian even belongs to its own group within the Romance language group and is considered an indigenous language influenced by Catalan, Byzantine Greek, Spanish, Italian and even pre-Latin languages.

If you're from an English-speaking country, you’ll be pleased to know that English is spoken in most cities. That said, it is not widely spoken across the country. According to Education First's English Proficiency Index, Italy ranks 35th out of 112 countries and the population’s English skills are classed as ‘moderate’.

Finding a job

While Italy has the eighth-largest economy in the world, it has not been immune to financial crises and economic troubles. While the unemployment rate has slightly recovered since its peak in 2014, it is still relatively high at 9.3% as of 2020. As a result, finding work is often tricky, especially since preference tends to be given to Italian candidates when companies are looking to fill a role.

One of the best ways to secure employment as a new arrival is through a foreign assignment or relocation with your current employer. If this isn’t possible, having a strong grasp of the Italian language will boost your employability, along with having sought-after professional skills.

Some of the key industries driving economic growth in Italy include tourism, manufacturing and agriculture. If you have skills or experience in these sectors, you may stand a better chance of securing employment.

Opening a bank account

Expats can open a bank account in Italy regardless of visa and citizenship status. Most banks offer a non-resident bank account for those without residency status, but the products may be less comprehensive than those offered for residents and citizens.

There are many major banks to choose from in Italy, including Unicredit SpA, Intesa Sanpaolo, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Banco BPM and Banca Monte dei Paschi, to name a few. To open a bank account in Italy, you will usually need to provide the following documents:

  • Proof of identity (e.g. passport)
  • Proof of address (e.g. recent utility bill)
  • Your codice fiscale (Italian tax number)
  • Proof of employment (or proof that you are studying if you’re a student)

Bank opening times can be confusing to new arrivals, as Italian banks usually open from Monday to Friday 08:30 until 13:30, and then in the afternoon for one hour.

Another thing that can be perplexing to expats is that most banks in Italy have interest charges and monthly service fees for maintaining an account with them. Some banks even charge for withdrawals, so it’s important to shop around and find out which banks offer the fewest charges.

Relocating pets

When it comes to moving to Italy with pets, there are a few essential things to know. Firstly, to enter Italy, your pet must be microchipped. The microchip must meet ISO standards (ISO 11784/11785 compliant), and you must record the date and number on the microchip on your pet's health certificate.

Upon entry, the scanners at border control only recognise microchips that meet ISO standards and sometimes microchips from EU countries only. Other chips are allowed, but you must remember to bring your own microchip scanner in case problems arise. Failure to comply with the microchipping standards could result in your pet being put into quarantine or sent back.

All pets must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before departure and after microchipping. If your pet is entering Italy from a high-risk rabies country, they will need to undergo a rabies antibody test 30 days after the rabies vaccination and at least three months before travelling.

EU residents will also require an EU Pet Passport. This allows your pet to travel anywhere in the EU. If you are coming from another EU country, your EU Pet Passport must be issued by an accredited veterinarian before departure.

EU Pet Passports can only be issued within EU countries. So, if you're travelling from a country outside of the EU, you will have to provide an Animal Health Certificate which can be issued at a local veterinarian office. This allows you to enter Italy without an EU Pet Passport.

Where to live

Many countries around the world suffer economic divides, resulting in some areas benefiting from being more affluent than others. The same is true in Italy, where the country’s northern regions tend to be the most prosperous and offer a higher quality of life.

If you choose to live in a city, you might have to contend with congestion in the centre – Rome and Milan are especially bad for this. To keep the situation under control and help reduce noise and air pollution, many cities enforce vehicle restrictions in their centres. It’s worth researching the extent of any such restrictions before you commit to a destination.

The cost of buying a home or renting property will vary depending on whether you live in a city or the countryside, and whether you settle in the north or the south of Italy. In general, rent is cheaper across Italy than in other parts of Europe. While Milan, Rome and Venice are some of the most expensive places to live in Italy, they are still less costly than London, New York and Paris.

Rome

Home to haunting ruins, rich in history and vibrant street life, Italy’s capital is one of the world’s most captivating cities. It’s no surprise that Rome is popular with expats, who tend to predominate in bohemian central spots like Trastevere and Prati. Whether Rome is right for you depends in large part on your tolerance for tourists: several million of them descend every year, and in the city’s labyrinthine streets their presence can be hard to ignore.

If tourists aren’t a problem, you will find lots to love. From the Colosseum and Piazza Navona to Fontana di Trevi, the wealth of awe-inspiring architecture and attractions found in the city’s historical streets never fails to impress tourists and expats alike. Yet there’s more to Rome than its wondrous structures and archaeological sites: Rome is also Italy’s political, religious and economic centre and home to the remarkable Vatican City.

Despite the city’s higher cost of living than many other Italian cities, Rome is around 29% cheaper than London and 43% cheaper than New York including rent.

If you are moving here with family, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a wide variety of schools in Rome, from free public schools to private and international schools. International schools can be expensive, but they’re a strong option for children who lack fluency in Italian.

Sardinia

While the hustle and energy of a large city can be invigorating, expats who aren’t obliged to live in urban centres for work can find a quieter, more relaxed approach to life on Italy’s islands and coastal towns.

As the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily), Sardinia offers 2,000km of coastline and a stunning, mountainous landscape made for exploring. Famed for perfect beaches, clean waters and picturesque towns, Sardinia is ideal for expats seeking a slower pace of life.

Sardinia can regularly reach 30°C (86°F) in the summer. It also offers the most hours of sunshine and the least rain in all of Italy. Because many island residents speak Sardinian, you’ll need a solid grasp of the local language if seamless communication is your goal.

Tuscany

Known for its vineyards and rolling hills, Tuscany is brimming with natural beauty. Situated in Italy's centre, the region offers a wide array of places to settle, from bustling cities like Florence and beautiful seaside towns like Livorno to picturesque medieval centres like San Gimignano.

The cost of living in a Tuscan city like Florence is lower than many of the world’s major metropolises, with consumer prices (including rent) 35% lower than in London and 48% lower than in New York. Expats moving to any of Tuscany’s cities will also enjoy the quiet pace of life that comes with being so close to the countryside, as well as the array of charming small towns dotted around the region.

Home to two international airports, Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa and Amerigo Vespucci Airport near Florence, Tuscany is easily accessible by plane. The most affordable and convenient way to move around Tuscany is by train, although it depends on where you want to go, as many countryside locations can only be accessed by bus or car.

Wherever you are in Tuscany, you’re sure to find miles of countryside to explore by foot – a thrilling proposition for outdoorsy expats.

Health care and insurance

Italy’s national health service, known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), provides free or low-cost health care for citizens and residents. Italy’s health care system offers an extremely high standard of care.

SSN covers in-patient treatment at public hospitals, including tests, medications and surgeries. It also grants access to family doctors and certain types of specialist care, as well as prescription drugs, medicines and dental treatments.

As with many of the public services in Italy, regional governments oversee managing public health care, so the quality of care received depends on where you live. Many citizens and residents opt for private health insurance to ensure they can access high-quality facilities as and when they need to.