Starting a business in Italy: North vs South

Starting a business always calls for a very specific set of skills, a reasonable amount of resources and the right attitude. These, however, are but the basic requirements for an aspiring entrepreneur: the success of any new enterprise is going to be influenced by a number of other factors, including the environment in which it is developed. If you are planning on starting a business in Italy, for instance, you should be aware that certain regions provide a friendlier environment than others for startups and new enterprises, while others are only well suited to host certain specific businesses. The reasons for this disparity are several: from local regulations to urban development and infrastructure. In this respect the differences between northern and southern Italy extend well beyond cuisine and local traditions. Where should you consider starting a business in Italy?

It’s not all black and white

Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens trentino alto adigeTrentino-Alto Adige can be found at the top of most rankings, particularly when it comes to the overall health of its enterprises. The struggles that entrepreneurs have faced over the past decade in other parts of the Country have barely been felt in this region, which still boasts the highest national concentration of leading companies, particularly in the fields of footwear, mechanics and domestic appliances. Before you hasten to conclude that there is a clear-cut north versus south distinction, you should consider that a recent research has also found the central-southern region of Abruzzo to be the fourth-best place in which to start and run an enterprise in Italy, while the neighbouring region of Marche ranked third-to-last. Such dramatic differences can be determined, for instance, by the availability of public contracts and tenders that local enterprises might access, as well as by variable local and regional taxation.

Innovation, quality of life and natural resources

Milano DuomoStarting a business in Italy will mean, for most entrepreneurs, relocating. This means that the place where you decide to run your business will also have an impact on the overall quality of your life, as well as on your potential market. When analysing this aspect, you will need to factor in both the kind of enterprise you are going to found and the kind of life you are hoping to lead. If yours is the kind of business that thrives in an international environment that promotes innovation, you should probably look at the northern regions of the country, particularly Lombardy, and probably settle in or near a major city. On the other hand, if your business is specifically tied to the availability of certain natural resources or on the stability of the weather, the rural areas of Apulia or Sicily might be more fitting for your purpose. Each choice will come with its own consequences in term of accessible markets and lifestyles. If your natural habitat is the metropolitan buzz of Milan, you might find it harder to adapt to the slower-pace of the southern regions – particularly when that pace is applied to bureaucratic procedures too. Moreover, while the scarcity of infrastructures in certain southern regions has made it harder, over the years, for entrepreneurs to prosper, this also means that in those regions you will face a weaker competition, making it easier to gain traction on the market once you have made your business viable.

Starting a business in Italy: what the future will look like

doing business in italy coworking spaceLocal institutions are increasingly aware of and interested in the opportunities for growth that new enterprises represent. This often translates in support programs for young entrepreneurs, consisting of financial aids, tax cuts, tutoring and the offer of public retainers to relevant companies. These initiatives have gone from sporadic to fairly regular, which allows us to hope for a better, easier future for both Italian and foreign entrepreneurs working in Italy. Again, in this respect Trentino carries the banner with over 2000 enterprises accessing some form of support every year, funds to help cover the costs of attendance at international trade-shows and special projects dedicated to young startuppers and women entrepreneurs.

In Conclusion

Are you starting a business in Italy? Make sure you take into account all relevant aspects before you settle for a specific location.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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