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Where to Live in Italy as an Expat

Are you thinking of moving to Italy? Well, there are many great places to choose from, but it’s important to do your research before settling on a location. This blog post will give you a brief overview of the top six best places to live in Italy as an expat. So, whether you’re looking for a quiet town in the countryside or a vibrant city with plenty of nightlife and culture, here’s where to live in Italy as an Expat!

For this post, I’ve invited a few of my friends to give an account of their lived experiences in Italy! Each of the cities below was recommended by an expat who lived there for an extended period of time.

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!

1. Milan

Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of living in Milan. Since I majored in fashion, Italy has always been my aim, and when I got into a 2-year study abroad program, I realized how I loved living in this city because of its very unique Italian culture. 

the duomo in Milan, Italy

There are two airports that serve Milan (Malpensa and Linate). Budget European airlines operate in this airport so you can easily go on weekends to neighboring countries like France, Germany, Spain, etc. (from US$40). I usually compare prices using Omio and Skyscanner.

Flying is definitely cheaper than the trains but I took many trains to Bologna and Rome because I wanted to see some scenic routes. As a student, I got discounts on train rides by showing my school ID but the usual rate is US$125 (one-way).  

Milan is an upbeat city, especially for young expats. After school, my friends and I always hang out in bars (mostly to drink coffee and have pizza). Some days, we buy a bottle of wine and drink it in the parks. 

In the winter, I like going to the spa called QC Termemilano where you can go to the sauna and drink delicious tea.

As a fashion student, I had the daily habit of window shopping in Golden Triangle which is the so-called fashion shopping capital of Milan. Many tourists come here to shop or to just admire the display windows. You can’t visit Milan without window shopping here!

Of course, the mandatory tourist circuit is the Duomo where there are many shops, cafes, and restaurants to sit in and go people watch. Just be careful when walking in the Duomo as pickpocketing is very common here. 

A furnished 900 sq f home in a prime area in Milan starts at US$1,725 with utility bills of US$175 per month. Home Internet subscription is US$25 and you can hire cleaning help for US$13 per hour. Expect to pay US$15 for eating out (downtown). Other prices you need to know include:

  • Cocktail at a downtown club: US$12
  • Beer: US$5
  • Cappuccino: US$2
  • A bottle of wine: US$10

Milan is a great destination for expats in Italy and it is also one of the most sought-after affordable expat cities in Europe. Lastly, if you plan to live in Milan, you will have to speak Italian (my favorite language) because not many can speak English and hey – Italian is a really romantic language!

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.

Written by Trisha Velarmino from P.S. I’m On My Way

2. Palermo

The capital of Sicily, Palermo is an absolute dream to live in as an expat. With fast high-speed internet, charming locals, and year-round good weather (average temperatures of 20°C in winter) there are virtually no downsides to life on the island.

Palermo, Italy

The cost of living is low, expect to pay €650 rent a month for a decent size apartment in a good part of town; food is abundant with meals ranging from €1 (street food) to €100 (rooftop restaurants) depending on the type of restaurant.

There are plenty of things to do in Palermo both after work and during the weekends. After work go for a chilled-out aperitivo by the sea or glam up and take your Aperol Spritz on the rooftop bar Seven.

During the weekends explore the more than 99 churches in Historical Palermo ranging architecturally from 11th Arab-Norman to the lavish 18th century Baroque.

Delve into the history of the former Palermitan aristocracy as you visit the many Palazzi that have recently opened their doors to the public, Palazzo Asmundo has the very best views over the Palermo Cathedral.

If all else fails and the weather is too hot, head down to Mondello for a refreshing splash in the sea.

Palermo has the second-largest airport on the island. International connections however do tend to require a layover in Rome.

Written by Caroline Muller from Veggie Wayfarer

3. Rome

Rome is hands down one of the best Italian cities for expats. From rich amenities to world-famous sights, the Eternal City has endless things to offer. 

a street in Rome with two Vespas
Photo from Unsplash

To fly into Rome, head to either Fiumicino or Ciampino airport. There are easy train and bus connections to the city center from both airports.

Some of the best neighborhoods to stay in Rome are Testaccio and San Lorenzo, where you can truly experience living like a local, as fewer tourists venture there. You’ll also find some of the best restaurants in town in Testaccio, as it’s the foodie neighborhood of Rome.

Expect the cost of living to be around 1,500 to 2,000 euros a month depending on where you rent. As Rome is a metropolis, you can find pretty much any amenity in town. It’s also very easy to meet other expats in Rome, as there are many Facebook groups that connect them. 

While some of the best things to do in Rome include exploring the world-famous Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, don’t miss the hidden gems such as the Baths of Caracalla and Quartiere Coppede.

In the summer, you can also enjoy the several beaches near Rome (it’s where locals will escape to). Choose between Fregene, Ostia, and Santa Severa beaches. Or, head to Lago Bracciano for a day by the lake. 

Written By Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

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!

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4. Florence

One of Italy’s most beautiful cities, Florence makes a great base for expats in Italy. A Renaissance city, there’s a huge amount to do in Florence from art galleries and museums to gardens and riverside walks.

Florence, Italy

The setting is lovely, with the Duomo visible throughout the city, and there is a huge amount of good food available.

Florence is easier to navigate than a big city like Rome, English is widely spoken in Florence and there are some excellent language schools. You’ll be able to find gyms, yoga classes, and childcare options in English, so getting to know people is possible even if you don’t speak Italian fluently.

While saying that, it can also be difficult to connect with Florentines so expect to build relationships with other expats or people originally from elsewhere in Italy.

While the very center of town is very touristy (particularly between the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio), the rest of the city is much quieter.

You can find relatively affordable apartment rentals on the edge of the old town – the Northern part of the Old Town and Le Cure are very convenient places to stay in Florence and are within walking distance from the main attractions.

There is a small airport in Florence, which does have some international flights, however, the major international airport in Tuscany is Pisa, about an hour and a half out of Florence.

The city is well connected by train and you can use Florence as a base for exploring Tuscany, with easy weekend trips to Rome, Venice, the Cinque Terre, and Liguria.  

Written by Roxanne from Faraway Worlds

5. Verona

Verona is the perfect Italian city for expats who prefer living in a smaller, quieter town (it’s a great day trip from Bologna as well!).

Verona from above

Known for its quaint streets, historic Roman amphitheater, and Shakespearian sites (like Juliet’s balcony), there is no shortage of charm and things to do in Verona. 

While the main attractions are beautiful, the most attractive part about living in Verona is the local feel. Unlike the more popular cities in Italy like Venice and Florence, Verona still very much feels like a local town.

In the piazzas, you’ll find Italian grandmas sitting on benches chatting with friends and other locals lining up at bakeries to buy their daily fresh pasta or bread.

This is what brings the city to life. The cost of living in Verona is very affordable. You can find apartments for under €1,000 euros per month and you can walk almost everywhere in the city.

For being a smaller city, Verona boasts an incredible restaurant scene serving anything from local dishes like Risotto Amarone to delicious pizza squares. 

The location is ideal for exploring other parts of Italy. Located centrally between Venice and Milan, it only takes an hour and a half by train to reach both metropolitan cities.

If you prefer the outdoors, the Dolomites are in your backyard and Lake Garda is just a short drive or bus ride away. To say the least, Verona has everything you need and more. 

Written by Jenoa Matthes from One Year Around the World

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6. Lake Como

How about enjoying a beautiful mountain lake during your work breaks? You can get that living as an expat around Lake Como.

Lake Como, Italy

I was lucky to live in a place with a balcony overlooking Lake Como and the mountains for several months.

This way, I was able to go out and enjoy the scenery during my work breaks. These surroundings gave me new energy and inspiration that improved my way of working so much.

Lake Como is a great area for expats, as there are so many things to do in the area on your days off, from spas to tons of outdoor activities.

The lake invites you to do boat trips, go swimming, hiking, or do any kind of water sports you can imagine. This not only helps you to clear your mind after work, but you also get more in touch with locals, which makes your expat experience even more special.

Besides, early morning walks or runs by the shore of Lake Como can help you to focus and start your day with the right mindset. Sounds like the perfect place, right? 

Even though it’s such a natural paradise, Lake Como is also easily accessible, as it’s quite close to Milan. So you can fly to one of Milan’s airports or to Bergamo and take the train straight to one of the many towns at the lake, such as Lecco, Varenna, or Como.

If you’re curious about more things to do in Lake Como, take a look at the travel blog

Written by Jill from Jill on Journey

7. Lucca

Lucca is one of the best Italian cities to live in as an expat. Its location in Tuscany is ideal for exploring many of Italy’s top tourist destinations. Hop on a train to Florence and you’ll arrive in about an hour and a half.

Lucca, Italy
Photo from Unsplash

You can get to the coastal town of Viareggio in less than half an hour. Pisa (which is the nearest airport), Siena, San Gimignano, and all of Tuscany are all very accessible for day trips.

This walled fortress city boasts all of the modern conveniences like high-speed Internet while retaining its historical charm. Walking around Lucca on top of its walls provides wonderful views of its towers with a backdrop of mountains. 

Lucca is large enough to have lots of awesome restaurants and every kind of store for shopping, but small enough that everyone is friendly and welcoming. The prices are more affordable than in the bigger cities of Rome and Milan and English is commonly known, but tourists do not over-run the city. 

The local Italian cuisine is some of the best in Italy. The must-try pasta specialty, Tordelli Lucches (similar to a meat ravioli) will grace many menus with each restaurant preparing its own homemade version. Try as many as you can!

Written by Denise from Chef Denise

8. Cagliari

Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, is one of the most underrated cities in Italy and has yet to become a popular place to live among expats and digital nomads.

Cagliari, Italy
Photo from Unsplash

Sitting on the hills overlooking the clear waters of the Mediterranean, this mid-sized city enjoys mild weather during the winter, whereas summers tend to be hot.

That’s when the locals pour over to Poetto, the main urban beach; Calamosca, a lovely cove close to the center of town, or the nearby beaches that are within an easy drive from town.

Plan to live in Cagliari for a while and you’ll find an abundance of things to see and do. The city is home to a plethora of Roman and Punic ruins – the Roman Amphitheater and the Necropolis of Tuvixeddu are just two examples.

Scattered around the historic center you’ll find plenty of beautiful churches and interesting museums – the most interesting one is the Archeology Museum.

A walk along the historic Castello district will reveal some of the best views of the city. Head to the terrace of Santa Croce Bastion for an impressive sunset over the roofs of the Stampace district.

As the capital of the island, Cagliari has a fantastic selection of restaurants for any budget. The city is well connected to the rest of Italy and Europe via regular and budget airlines thanks to its Cagliari Elmas airport.

Unfortunately, the cost of living in Cagliari has gone up in recent years. Expect to pay €750 minimum per month for a one-bedroom apartment, excluding expenses. Food is still available at reasonable prices in local stores and markets.

Written by Claudia Tavani from Strictly Sardinia

So, Where is The Best City in Italy to Live in as an Expat?

The cities above are some of the best places to live in Italy as an expat! They offer a great mix of culture, amazing places to travel to nearby, and expat communities.

If you’re looking for a beautiful and welcoming place to call home in Italy, any of the cities above are excellent choices. Are there any other cities you think should be on the list? What’s your favorite city to live in as an expat in Italy?

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Trisha Velarmino

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

What a curated list! I loved that it's short and I can understand the places to live in Italy in detail. Thanks for putting this together, Dayna!