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Eight pitfalls people need to avoid to make the dream move to Italy

Will your expectations of a new life in Italy match the reality? Here, one relocation expert shares some of the main issues movers need to take into account to ensure a smooth relocation.

People look out over the Italian city of Florence.
Planning a move to Italy? Be aware of the pitfalls to look out for. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Many people dream of a new life in Italy for years before taking the plunge, while others make a sudden move after being offered an exciting job opportunity.

But either way, sadly it’s not unusual to hear of people soon going back to their home countries after discovering that life abroad was not all they’d hoped for. Bureaucracy, budgets, and lifestyle differences are some of the factors that most frequently cause serious difficulties, as relocation expert Damien O’Farrell explains.

To give others planning their own move a better idea of what to expect, O’Farrell shares some of the biggest reasons why relocations to Italy don’t succeed.

Unrealistic perceptions

While Italy is home to some of the world’s most incredible apparel, food, wine, and art, it is also one of the world’s most bureaucratic countries with unbelievably slow public services and utility companies – definitely not what one would expect of a major European economy. People expecting only ‘La Dolce Vita’ quickly become irritated and frustrated.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Do your research when looking for work

Photo: Van Tay Media on Unsplash

Inadequate housing budget 

Italy’s main cities are some of the most expensive in Europe. Therefore, if an assignee or individual has a budget that is too low for the Italian market, once again, frustration quickly settles in. A person moving to Italy normally wants at least the same standard of living they have in their home country, if not higher.

High cost of living

Italy, for the most part, is an expensive country, which means that if a person’s salary or income is not in line with the cost of living, they will soon become frustrated as they will have a low standard of living. Smaller cities and remote areas are naturally cheaper.

READ ALSO: 

Lifestyle challenges 

Language difficulties, byzantine bureaucracy, and the lack of international schools outside main cities are among some of the main lifestyle issues that can contribute to an unsuccessful relocation in Italy.

Incompetent vendors 

If you’re working with a relocation and/or immigration expert, you need to make sure that they are the best on the market.

Lack of work opportunities for spouses

For those who have been offered a job in Italy, an accompanying spouse or significant other who would also like to work will probably be disappointed. The two main obstacles are usually that the spouse/partner does not speak Italian and the job market in Italy is not very dynamic – though cities like Milan offer more opportunities.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

Photo: Romain Dancre on Unsplash

Lack of high-end temporary accommodation 

Temporary accommodation in Italy is limited, even in the main cities, and what is available is very often expensive and not in line with the expectations of an expatriate. Therefore, an assignee or individual becomes unhappy living in a temporary accommodation that is not in line with their expectations.

A landlord’s market 

Rentals in Italy are generally a landlord’s market. There is normally very little room for negotiation as many landlords own multiple properties and are not rent-dependent.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

This can mean that the quality/price ratio is often low and not in line with the expectations of an expatriate. Smaller cities offer more in terms of the possibility to negotiate.

Damien O’Farrell is a Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with more than thirty years’ experience. He can be contacted via his website.

This is an edited version of an article originally published on Medium.

Member comments

  1. I would appreciate an article on visas for retirees. I have owned a house with a hectare of olive trees in North Tuscany for twenty years and have had nothing but positive experiences, even with the bureaucracy! I am not a ‘resident’ so Brexit is causing us huge problems. We do not wish to take residency as we are in our late seventies. I have looked at all the options for visas and nothing fits our status. Although we usually do not spend more than 6 months of the year in Italy we now cannot choose easily when we can come here. The perfect months are April till end of June and September till end of November, not possible within the 90 day rules. Please can you give advice to people like us and explain which visa to apply for. We are British.
    Your articles are very clear and well researched and extremely useful, thank you. Sally Kalis

    1. Hi Sally,

      Thanks for your kind comment. Here are some articles on the topic which I hope might be helpful:

      https://www.thelocal.it/20210126/brexit-what-brits-need-to-know-about-visas-for-italy/
      https://www.thelocal.it/20211004/explained-can-second-home-owners-get-an-italian-residence-permit/

      We’ll continue to post any updates on this as we get them. You can find the latest articles on this topic in our ‘dealing with Brexit’ section here: https://www.thelocal.it/tag/brexit/

      Best wishes,
      – Clare

  2. For me, what’s missing from this list is the matter of income taxes for residents. You might not earn any money in Italy as a retiree, etc. But even though you have filed and paid your USA federal and state income taxes, Italy will require taxes be paid on that income up to their rates of taxation (23%-40%) depending on your worldwide income.

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STUDYING IN ITALY

Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Hoping to move to Italy to begin or continue your studies? If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a quick guide to the most essential things you'll need to know before applying.

Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

If you’ve only just started gathering information about living and studying in Italy, there’s a lot of information to digest.

Depending on where you’ll be moving from, you may need to consider everything from visa paperwork to preparing for unusual exam methods, according to the international students we spoke to for a recent article about their experiences in Italy.

Based on their advice and personal experiences, here’s a quick rundown of the eight most important points to keep in mind if you’re planning on moving to Italy to study, as well as links to further information you may find useful.

1. Italian university teaching methods are singular to say the least. Before accepting a formal offer from an Italian university, make sure that you’re totally familiar with the structure of your chosen course. If this information is not readily available online, reach out to the university and ask for a detailed course handbook.

READ ALSO: Five things to know before you apply for an Italian student visa

2. If you’re a non-EU national, carefully read the list of official documents you’ll be required to produce in order to receive your type-D visa and, once in Italy, your permesso di soggiorno (more information available from the foreign ministry’s website here and from the University of Bologna here).

Italy is home to some of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

3. Prepare any necessary paperwork well in advance. Italian bureaucracy isn’t exactly a paradigm of administrative efficiency.

4. In Italy, university exams are for the most part conducted orally, so you might want to practise your verbal communication skills while you’re still in your home country. This will help you hit the ground running further down the stretch.

5. When it comes to finding accommodation for your first year in Italy, try your best to book a place in a university hall of residence. This will save you the trouble of dealing with letting agencies and private landlords; something students told us they found troublesome.

6. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to get yourself a place via your university’s own channels, refer to reliable student housing websites such as Uniaffitti, Affitti Studenti and Studentsville.

REVEALED: What studying in Italy is really like and what you should expect

7. Italian is by no means an easy language. However, merely having a beginner’s knowledge of the language will come in very handy when dealing with bureaucracy and interacting with local people. You can start by laying some groundwork with language-learning apps and then attend some language classes once in Italy. 

8. While in Italy, try to get out of your comfort zone and socialise with Italian students. This will help you not only immerse yourself in the local culture but also practise your Italian language skills.

See more information in The Local’s studying in Italy section.

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