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 passeggiata (a long, leisurely evening stroll). 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 doing 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 a number of expats employed in the finance and media industries. 

There is a well-established public transport network, so getting around in Italy 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 as 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 well suited to families, and there is plenty for young and old alike to get up to in their free time. Italy is home to the globe's largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, not to mention plenty of 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 but offer a high quality of education.

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. France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia border the northern part of the country.

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, though 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, the ambulance on 118, and the 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.

Expat Health Insurance

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Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Medical insurance specifically designed for expats. With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider.

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