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How to Move to Italy as an American: Everything You NEED to Know

If you’ve ever looked into moving to Italy then you know that this process is far from easy! However, with a little help and planning, it’s definitely possible. Here is the ultimate guide for how to move to Italy as an American.

Also, I highly recommend traveling to Italy and living there for a bit before making your decision, and you can do that for free with Trusted Housesitters. You can stay at someone’s house while they are away in exchange for watching their house or sometimes their pet.

It’s a great way to travel the world for free or test out a city in Italy without fully committing!

Alright, now on to the serious stuff.

How to Move to Italy as an American

If you’d like to move to Italy as an American, there are quite a few things you need to know about! In this article, we will cover everything you need to know before you move to Italy plus how to prepare for your big move.

You’ll need to know:

  • Visa Options for Americans Moving to Italy (including options for freelancers, entrepreneurs, retirees, etc.)
  • The Cost of Moving to Italy as an American
  • The Cost of Living in Italy
  • Where to Live in Italy
  • Tips for Preparing for Your Move

Let’s get started!

Get ready for Italy by learning a few phrases in Italian on Pimsleur! I seriously love using Pimsleur to learn useful phrases quickly (instead of “The duck is yellow” like Duolingo!).

The phrases I have learned on Pimsleur have stuck with me for years, so I can’t recommend it enough for language learning.

The Best Visa Options to Move to Italy from the USA

Italy is notorious for being quite difficult with visas and it’s safe to say that the visa options for Americans to move to Italy are few and will take quite a bit of effort to obtain.

But Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world! Pizza was invented here! So you can definitely still follow your dreams and get yourself to Italy.

The options below are for anyone who wants to live in Italy long-term (longer than 90 days, which we’ll go over in the next section).

Some of the options below would probably not be feasible without professional help, so I’ve contacted an experienced visa professional who has agreed to give Wander Onwards readers a discount on their services!

Mazzeschi Legal Counsels has helped a lot of Americans move to Italy, if you contact them for help, make sure to let them know I sent you there by mentioning “Wander Onwards” and get your discount!!

Although hiring help might seem expensive at first, if you’ve ever applied for a visa, you know what an insane headache it can be. Well, to be honest, Italy is probably one of the worst.

I’m definitely a frugal person, but I know when money is well spent, and this would definitely be one of those cases.

Just think that those costs are going directly towards you fulfilling your dream of living la dolce vita!

1. The Schengen Visa

If you just want to live in Italy for 3 months then you would get a Schengen Visa. Americans and Canadians don’t need to apply for the Schengen Visa, it’s just given when you cross the border.

Check this site to see if you are from one of the 107 countries that are required to apply for a Schengen Visa.

Whether you need to apply for the Schengen Visa or if it’s given to you automatically, the rules are the same.

You only get 90 days in every 180 days to visit 26 countries in Europe.

Think of it as the United States, which is made up of different states with different laws, but you can travel across the borders of those states without needing border controls.

So what does this mean if you want to be a Digital Nomad in Italy? If you don’t want to stay for longer than 90 days, then you need to make sure that you not only leave Italy at the end of those 90 days, but you leave all of the Schengen Zone.

girl standing in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Here’s an example to illustrate that a bit:

You arrive in Italy on January 1st. From the day that you arrive in Italy, your clock starts, meaning that January 1st is included even if you got there just a minute before midnight.

You stay in Italy for 90 days roaming around Rome, Milan, Venice, etc. and now it’s time to leave the Schengen. You have to leave by March 31st to avoid overstaying your visa.

You can’t go to another Schengen country, but you want to stay in Europe so that you can go back to Italy in 90 days (90 days in every 180 days is the rule, so 90 days in, 90 days out).

You spend 90 days in Turkey, Albania, and even a bit of time in the UK, and then once you’ve counted your days carefully, you head back to spend 90 more wonderful days in the land of Margherita pizza and Aperol Spritz.

If you’re American and are using US-based services like Hulu or HBO, you’ll need to also get a VPN in order to continue to use those services while living in Italy.

I would get one ahead of time since you should be using one whenever you’re on a public wifi network like in an airport! I’ve been using Nord VPN for years and absolutely could not live without it now.

I‘ve lived abroad for many years and love helping others find work abroad and figure out their “Move Abroad Plan.” Check out my class below to get you started ASAP!

learn how to find work abroad, process visas, & more!

2. The Self-Employment Italy Visa (Lavoro Autonomo)

The Self-Employment or Self-Employee Italy Visa is the best option for Digital Nomads wanting to move to Italy for longer than the 90 days allowed visa-free (for certain countries).

If your dream is to live in Italy permanently (or as long as they’ll let you) then this option is for you.

This visa was made for freelancers who don’t plan to be hired by an Italian company, therefore they can’t be sponsored by a company to get their visa.

Although this visa does exist, getting it is another story. Like I mentioned before, you need to be determined.

There are a couple of things that are important to keep in mind and that explains why this visa can be so hard to get.

The Self-Employment Visa is Subject to Yearly Quotas

Basically, this means that you can’t just apply at any time for this visa and there is only a certain number of people that can apply each year.

This is known as the “decreto-flussi.” Each year, Italy announces how many visas are available for that year.

But it gets a bit more complicated than that which is why I highly recommend that you hire professional help to make sure you have the best chance possible to get the visa.

Each year, when they reveal how many visas they will give out.

You Must Obtain Clearances by the Labor Office & the Police

This is known as the “Nulla Osta” or a Police Clearance and it needs to be done in Italy or by the professional you hire to do it for you.

girl in front of Positano, Italy
Positano, Italy

Requirements for the Self-Employment Visa in Italy

All of the requirements listed below are not exhaustive, but they can give you a general idea of whether this is a good fit for you.

  • Accommodation in Italy
  • Nulla Osta or Police Clearance from Italy
  • Documents & Proof of Self-Employment Activity
  • 8,500 euros of savings to be exempt from healthcare contribution

Although those are the requirements stated, they can deny you for any reason they want so it’s not guaranteed even if you meet all of them.

If you want help applying for this visa, contact Mazzeschi Legal Services and tell them “Wander Onwards” sent you for a discount.

3. The Elective Residency Italy Visa: Residenza elettiva

If you already have some passive income set up, then this might be the visa for you. On the Elective Residency visa, you are not allowed to actively work.

However, you need to have certain passive income requirements in order to qualify.

Requirements for the Elective Residency Visa

  • Passive Income of 31,000 euros per year
  • Plus 20% for a spouse and 5% for a child
  • Accommodation for a Year
  • Health Insurance

This visa is sometimes known as the “Retirement” visa since those are usually the only people who have 31,000 euros or more in passive income (pensions and retirement funds).

However, there is no age limit on this visa. Passive income can come from rental units, pensions, 401ks, investments, etc.

diy your move with tutorials, a digital planner & more

4. The Start-up Visa for Italy

Have an idea for a new company? If Italy deems it “innovative” then that idea (plus some cash) could get you a visa to Italy!

Here are the requirements for the Start-Up Visa for Italy:

  • Submit Innovative Project/ Company
  • Have 50,000 Euros to Invest in that Company (After you receive the visa)
  • Register your new company in Italy
  • Be appointed as the sole director of your company
  • Obtain a work permit for your spouse
  • Obtain a Family Permit

Throughout this process, don’t forget to take care of your mental health, as moving abroad and all the work it takes to do it can be incredibly exhausting. I’ve used Betterhelp for more than a year now, and it has helped me so much while living abroad.

5. The Entrepreneur Italy Visa

This visa and the next one are definitely for those who have a bit more dough that they’re willing to spend (or invest) in order to achieve their dream of living in Italy.

For the Entrepreneur Visa for Italy you’ll need:

  • 500,000 euros to invest (you’ll invest AFTER getting the visa)
  • Create 3 jobs in Italy

6. The Investor Italy Visa

Have some money that you don’t know what to do with? Me neither! But on the slight chance that this applies to you, here are some investments you can make in Italy that will grant you a residency visa:

  • 2 Million Euros in Government Bonds
  • 1 Million Euro Donation
  • 500,000 Euro Shares in an Italian Company
  • 250,000 Euros in a Start-Up Company

7. The Digital Nomad Visa

Finally, in April of 2024, Italy launched its digital nomad visa. This is one that many of us have been waiting for over the past few years. 

Designed for non-EU citizens, the Italy digital nomad visa actually has relatively low-income allowances compared to other European nations. 

The requirements so far are:

  • An annual income of at least €28,000
  • Proof that you’ve worked as a digital nomad or remote worker for at least the last six months
  • Health insurance
  • Proof of accommodation for the duration of your stay
  • No criminal convictions in the last five years

As with most digital nomad visas, the Italian digital nomad visa is set to last one year and costs €116 to apply. 

It seems like the most important requirement in terms of financial investment is health insurance. You can sign up with the Italian National Health Service for an annual payment of €2,000, or you can find your own (often more expensive) private plan instead. 

The healthcare fees, together with the visa fee, rental deposits, first month’s rent, and flights are obviously a large initial outlay, but with the lower income requirement and lower cost of living in Italy, this should be recouped pretty easily, especially if you’re on a US remote working wage. 

If you want help applying for any of the visas above, contact Mazzeschi Legal Services and tell them “Wander Onwards” sent you for a discount.

How Much Does it Cost to Move to Italy as an American?

The cost of moving to Italy from America will vary greatly depending on what you plan to bring and where you plan to live.

In general, it is not worth the hassle and money to bring your furniture and possessions all the way to Italy from the USA.

It’s better to sell whatever you have in the US or put it in a storage unit and buy all new things once you get to Italy.

If you sell a lot of your things, then you can use that money to buy new things!

Here are the things to factor into the cost of moving to Italy from the USA:

  • Cost of Flight to Italy & Extra Suitcases
  • Cost of Bringing Pets
  • Cost of Hiring Help to Get a Visa
  • Cost of Paying Visa Fees & Visa Taxes
  • Cost of Renting an Apartment, Apartment Deposit, and Possibly an Agency Fee
  • Cost of Utilities, Wifi, & Phones

If you sell everything, don’t have any pets, hire help to get your self-employment visa (5,000 euros), then move to a budget city in Italy, the cost of moving would be under $10,000.

Over time, you could be saving money if you move to a city that is cheaper than your American city.

Not to mention that traveling between countries from Italy is so much cheaper. You can use Omio to compare prices between buses, planes, and trains across Europe.

You can travel for insanely cheap by bus around Europe, I highly recommend Flixbus!

private coaching session

Cost of Living in Italy for Americans

Although there is a ton to consider when calculating the cost of moving to Italy, it is almost guaranteed that once you’re settled, the cost of living will be much lower than where you moved from in the USA.

You’ll need to include the cost of health insurance until you become a resident of Italy, I highly recommend Insubuy for both travel and private expat health insurance.

The best way to compare the cost of living in Italy to the cost of living in your city in the USA is to use Numbeo.

You can type in any two cities in the world and compare what your costs would be. You can even type in how much you spend in that city and it will re-calculate how much you would need to get by in your new Italian city.

So if you were living in Los Angeles with a budget of $6,381.25 per month (including rent, etc.) then you could live in Rome with the same standard of life for $4,489.58.

cost of living in Rome, Italy

But if you are living in Los Angeles currently for just $3000 per month, then you can type that in and it shows that you would only need $2,110 per month to live in Rome.

If you are looking for a city in Italy and you have a higher budget, here are the cities that would be best for you:

  • Rome
  • Florence
  • Milan
  • Bologna

If you are on a lower budget, then these cities will work best:

  • Genoa
  • Palermo
  • Naples

I’ll go over the best cities in Italy for Americans in the next section to help you decide which one is best for you and your lifestyle!

I highly recommend reading “Eat, Pray, Love” or if you want some serious “move to Italy” inspiration, you’ve got to read Under the Tuscan Sun.

The Best Places to Live in Italy as an American

Now that you’ve figured out which visa you want to apply for, it’s time to figure out which amazing Italian city you will call your new home!

Although any city in Italy is worthy of visiting, you definitely need to choose a city that fits your lifestyle. As an American, I love my amenities and my international airports, so I couldn’t move to a city long-term without both of those things!

The cities listed below have great expat communities, international airports, and incredible Italian culture and food.

Palermo

If you love living near the ocean and affordable living, Palermo, Sicily could be the perfect home for you! It has a big digital nomad community and a ton of great places nearby for traveling.

Palermo, Italy
Photo by Unsplash

Milan

Milan is a great base if you want to be closer to the North of Italy like the Dolomites and Lake Como. It’s the capital of fashion and many expats report being happy in this city.

Duomo in Milan, Italy
Photo by Unsplash

Rome

Rome probably has the biggest American community on this list and it’s not uncommon to hear English while walking through the city.

Rome, Italy
Photo by Unsplash

Genoa

Genoa is a bit of an underrated gem in Italy. It has the largest historical center in all of Europe and is just a short train ride away from Cinque Terre and Positano.

It’s a bit colder during the winter months than other cities on the coast of Italy, but if you love living near the ocean while also living in a big city, Genoa could be for you!

Genoa, Italy
Photo by Unsplash

Naples

Naples is one of the oldest cities in the world and can really sweep you off your feet with its old streets and bustling lifestyle. There is always something going on in Naples, plus it has the best pizza in the world and just a short trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.

Naples, Italy
Photo by Unsplash

4 Essential Tips for How to Move to Italy as an American

1. Understand Your Tax Burden

Although a lot of people think of Italy as a high-tax country, they actually have quite a few tax breaks. Make sure to research your tax burden so that you’re not surprised!

I use MyExpatTaxes to keep track of my US and abroad taxes all in one place.

Read my guide on expat taxes to help you get started on your research.

2. Have a Cushion of Savings Prepared

There will probably be a lot of unexpected costs that come with moving, so make sure that you have a decent cushion in your savings account just in case!

You’ll also need to have a Wise account open to transfer dollars to euros while in Italy. Another way to do that is through Revolut.

I actually use both for different reasons!

Also, did you know that Venmo doesn’t work outside of the US?! Cashapp is the alternative I use while abroad.

3. Visit Italy & Where You Want to Move Before Moving

If you plan to stay in Italy long-term, you definitely need to visit and stay as long as you can in the city you plan to move to in order to make sure it’s right for you.

You don’t want to do all this work to move to Italy only to find out that it’s actually not a good fit! Or maybe you want to try a different city than you originally planned.

Spending a bit of time and money to make sure you know all you can could potentially save you more money in the end.

4. Be Patient & Prepare for a Lot of Paperwork

Lastly, make sure you start this process with an insane amount of patience. Things in Italy work differently than in the US and you will definitely get frustrated.

Be prepared to show an original copy of basically everything you’ve ever received since you’ve been born, plus another copy after that, then translated and apostilled.

There’s a huge learning curve so just be prepared for things to not go how you think they should. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Have you moved to Italy as an American or are you planning the big move? Let me know in the comments!

Read More About Moving Abroad:

Tony

Sunday 20th of November 2022

I stumbled upon your site and enjoyed reading it so much!

My husband and I are in the process of buying an apartment in Palermo, your advice and comments are spot on.

The simplest things such as opening a bank account can be daunting to say the least. When you say to have patience you hit the nail on the head.

We plan to live there part of the year and part in our home in Baltimore. I'm really intimidated about starting the process of applying for a resident visa. Thankfully we are working with a company who specialize in working with people who are looking to purchase properties in Sicily.

We have traveled to Sicily a few times and I have family who immigrated from there to the U.S. so it feels like home to me on some level and my husband who is Filipino loves it there!

Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge!

Diana

Wednesday 7th of December 2022

@Tony, my husband and I are planning a move to Palermo area in the next 2 years. He will have his citizenship in the next year. I would love to get updates in your experience. We need to plan and would love to get tips. Good luck!

Anne

Saturday 24th of September 2022

When annually does Italy have their quota lottery or is it just a monthly rolling quota?

How long would be reasonable to expect the submitted process to take using your attorney and gathering required documents?

If you pick Naples for instance, how do you go about finding rentals? Since you have to have a place lined up to pass document review, do you rent ahead and just hope you are approved? A little confused about this part.

If not Italy, anc you had one city, big or small, to pick that is reasonable and beautiful and has amenities and culturally diverse, where would it be?

Love your writing!!!'

Mar

Tuesday 13th of September 2022

In order to get residential in Italy… you need to get divorce first if your spouse doesn’t want to move to Italy with you?

Madeline

Saturday 2nd of July 2022

I’ve been seriously considering moving to Italy lately, even bought an Italian textbook to learn the language. Thank you for the advice! Going to be looking more into all this during my free time!