From Ancient Rome to the Renaissance, the boot at the bottom of Europe has had a vast influence on European art, culture and politics that continues to be felt.
Offering residents an attractive lifestyle with an emphasis on family, scenic beauty and world-famous food and wine, expats moving to Italy will be seduced by the country and its passion for la dolce vita, the sweet life.
Italians are fiercely proud of their country and show strong regional alliances. Italy is also a nation with deep Roman Catholic roots that are entrenched in everyday culture and customs. This is most obvious in the central role that the traditional family has in Italian society.
That said, an expat's experience in Italy can vary markedly depending on the location of their assignment. Those living in cities in the north of the country such as Milan and Turin will find that things are fairly fast-paced with business being a priority. The further south one moves, the lifestyle becomes more relaxed and typically Mediterranean, with locals taking longer lunch breaks and enjoying the passegiata, a much-loved evening ritual where couples and friends enjoy a gentle stroll through the main streets and piazzas. Regardless of regional differences, one thing new arrivals are sure to find is that just about every occasion in Italy is a reason to celebrate with good food, wine and family and friends.
The focus on family also extends into business in Italy. A large proportion of Italian businesses are family-owned, from major corporations to the smaller enterprises that make up much of the local economy. Businesses with other forms of ownership still often follow a strict system of hierarchy where age and seniority are respected. Italy's main industries include tourism, fashion, agriculture and manufacturing. Many expats working in Italy take up jobs in tourism, there are also are a number of expats employed in the finance and media industries.
In a country that is famous for its fashion, major emphasis is placed on appearances. For Italians, the way a person dresses and acts indicate their social status, family background and level of education. This emphasis on la bella figura – presenting a beautiful image – extends to a person’s confidence and body language and means that first impressions are important.
Although Italy provides a high quality of life, it also requires an equally high cost of living. This is especially true in major centres like Rome or Milan, where accommodation is expensive. Fortunately, expats can save on medical costs as the public healthcare system is both excellent and highly affordable. The public education system is also good, but as the language of instruction is Italian, some expats choose to send their children to international schools instead, which charge expensive tuition.
Italy is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, so expats can spend their spare time exploring this culturally rich country. There is a well-established public transport network so getting around is fairly straightforward, although things may not run as smoothly as in other European countries. Those who have the desire to explore the rest of the continent will find that Italy is connected to many of its neighbouring countries via excellent train links as well via well-priced flights.
With so much on offer, from innovative and creative industries to the majesty of its monuments, the impression Italy leaves on expats is often one that lasts a lifetime.
Population: About 60 million
Capital city: Rome (also largest city)
Neighbouring countries: Italy's famous boot-like shape is formed by a long Mediterranean coastline. The northern part of the country is bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
Geography: About 40 percent of Italy is mountainous, with the most notable mountains being the Alps in the north and the Apennine Mountains along the peninsula. Non-mountainous areas of Italy are usually flat plains.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary republic
Major religion: Roman Catholicism
Main languages: Italian is the official language, while certain regions have a high prevalence of German and French speakers. English is spoken mainly in tourist centres and large cities.
Money: The currency in Italy is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. ATMs can be found easily, even in small towns. All foreigners can open a bank account in Italy, but accounts for residents have extra perks like lower interest fees.
Tipping: Tipping is not necessary in restaurants as a service fee is usually added, but for good service, diners should round up the bill by a few Euros.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in September).
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Plug points can vary, but the 'Type C' rounded two-pin plug is most common.
Internet domain: .it
International dialling code: +39
Emergency contacts: Dial 112 to be connected to the EU emergency line. Expats can reach Italian police directly on 113, ambulance on 118, and fire brigade on 115.
Transport and driving Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Expat drivers may find Italian driving culture aggressive, and parking is limited in the cities.
► For info on planning your finances, see our Cost of Living in Italy guide
"I enjoy the diversity of the people in Milan. It is a very international and open city. The quality of life is good as I think Milan is the Italian city most aligned with the American way of life." Read more about Diana's expat experience in Italy here.
"Italy is a great choice. It can be hard and difficult to understand sometimes, but if you have an open mind and are adaptable to new cultures it offers great opportunities." Alice shares her experiences of Italy here.
Are you an expat living in Italy?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Italy. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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