Moving to Italy? Here’s what you need to know before you start living La Dolce Vita

moving to italy

One of the first things you learn as an Italian living abroad is that most of the European population dreams about moving to Italy after retiring. I found this puzzling for a long time: if they were so in love with Italy – and they were right to be – why would they want to retire there, rather than move straightaway? Sure it is better to enjoy the place you dream of when you are in your prime? It then transpired that this had much to do with the idea that most people have of what life in Italy is supposed to be like. Apparently moving to Italy leads to endless meals on seaside terraces, with the occasional swim in shallow waters or, for fans of the countryside, leisurely strolls through vineyards in Tuscany, about five minutes before sundown. I can definitely see this as a retirement plan, but I can’t help but think that these wannabe expat pensioners are missing out on everything Italy has to offer to someone younger and more interested in working, traveling and being creative than sitting on the veranda and surveying the fields for hours on end. The sheer amount of artistic and architectural treasures on offer is enough to keep you walking and gasping in admiration for weeks and on top of that there are new and innovative startups opening all over the country, collectives of young creatives experimenting with multiple art forms and several arts and music festivals, enough to satisfy even the more sophisticated of tastes. Are you excited yet? If you are all set and ready to pack your life into a suitcase and hope on a plane, I suggest you take a few minutes to read our checklist of things you should know before moving to Italy.

Are you moving to Italy for the weather? Beware where you settle!

It is a very common misconception, particularly among dwellers of northern European countries, that Italy should be a “warm” Country, whereby “warm” is understood to mean “indiscriminately hot with seasons ranging from scorching summer to pleasant spring”. That is most definitely not the case. Not all Italian regions enjoy a temperate, mediterranean weather. This particular kind of weather, in fact, is only prevalent in the South of the Country, whereas the North usually has bitterly cold winters, with enough snow on the Alps and the Apennine Mountains to keep skiers and snowboarders busy for months. And no, you can’t wear flip-flops all year. Or rather, you can – we are not stopping you – but you shouldn’t and I can promise that you will not want to.

Big cities are hard work (and too many temptations)

There are those who simply can’t resist the lure of the metropolis and will feel claustrophobic in anything smaller than a solid 4 million people crowd. Beware though: major Italian cities can be exhausting. Finding accommodation in Rome, Milan or Florence can be an expensive and time-consuming affair and, once you have settled, you run the risk of never getting into a proper Italian lifestyle. All of these cities have large expat communities which will make your resolve to learn the language falter. Smaller towns, on the other hand, will offer much the same in terms of excellent food and great sights, while allowing for affordable housing, a more relaxed pace, better life quality and fewer temptations in the language department. If you wish to learn more about the secret beauty of Italian cities, I suggest you check out our Guides section.

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Getting your residency in Italy can be tricky

We do like bureaucracy in Italy, sorry. If you are planning on moving to Italy for good, you will need to deal with it eventually. If you need a visa to enter the Country, you will have a wide range to choose from (tourism, study, work, business, family reunion and so on) and you will be allowed to stay for up to 90 days, after which, if you intend to stay, you should apply for a residency visa. This will require some degree of queueing in public offices. If you are planning on handling your residency application by yourself, you will need to speak Italian, as official documents can only be discussed in the Country’s official language, so if you don’t feel confident having a complex conversation in Italian, make sure you have someone to translate for you. American and Canadian citizens do not need a visa and EU citizens enjoy freedom of residency and movement, but they will still need to become residents if they wish to overstay the 90 days term. At the moment of writing it has not yet been established whether this condition will continue to apply to UK subjects in future years or not. If you decide to have your household goods join you in Italy, you should be aware that you are allowed to import them duty-free within six months of you moving to Italy. Your motor vehicle too will be granted duty-free entry, if you have owned it for at least one year.

Pineapples do not belong on pizzas (and a few other myths that need to be busted)

Seriously. They don’t. Pineapples do not belong on pizzas any more than giraffes belong on bicycles. Also, if you ask for Pepperoni Pizza you will get a pizza with peppers on it (Peperoni). If you want a pizza with salami on it, you should ask for it. And it’s Salame, with a final -e. Just like Linguin-e and Fettuccin-e. And while we are on the subject of fettuccine, there’s no such thing as Fettuccine Alfredo, we have no idea where you got that from. Be aware that if a restaurant promises to serve you Fettuccine Alfredo, that restaurant is a tourist trap and you should leave. Also, our coffee etiquette is not nearly as strict as it is made out to be and to prove exactly how relaxed we are around coffee, we have written a whole post about it.

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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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