So, you finally decided to do business in Italy, you have identified the type of company that you want to start, the funding is in place and you are ready to brave the intricacies of local bureaucracy. The next big decision you need to make concerns the region, city or town in which you want to start your enterprise. As we have previously explained, Italy is an extremely diverse Country, and differences extend beyond local traditions and recipes: Italian regions have different regulations when it comes to business and taxation and the cost of living may vary wildly from place to place. Here’s what you need to know.
Startup culture is a relatively new phenomenon in Italy, but it is developing quickly, with more regions aspiring to the title of “Italian Silicon Valley”. So far, no specific region has been able to claim that title, but excellent examples of startup-friendly ecosystems have been springing up in Veneto (specifically near Treviso), in Sardinia and in Rome. When it comes to startup, several elements come into play that you don’t normally need to factor in when starting a traditional enterprise, such as the presence of aggregators and incubators, other startups in the area and the possibility of accessing young talent. In that respect, Lombardy, Lazio and Piedmont have been leading for quite some time, for sheer number of accelerators and incubators, although it is always worth to look at individual regions for specific focus on certain types of startups and topics – in 2016, for instance, Lombardy created a specific fund for startups with a social impact.
Big city or small town?
Is it easier to do business in Italy’s main cities or in one of the Country’s thousands of small towns? That’s a moot point. Depending on the specific nature of your enterprise, it may be easier for your business to thrive in the countryside, closes to natural resources, or in a major city, where you will have plenty of opportunities to connect with the media industry, potential investors and other entrepreneurs. You will also need to consider the cost of living in different environments: if you plan to relocate, on your own or with your family, you will need to balance your initial profit against rent and utilities. The average small-business owner might find it easier to thrive in a small village in the provinces rather than in Rome or Milan, but many international entrepreneurs tend to favour the cities anyway, as they generally provide a more varied and multicultural environment.
Want to do business in Italy? Try Trentino
When doing business, things like access to credit, tax incentives and interest rates matter enormously. In this respect, Trentino Alto Adige has emerged as the perfect destination for aspiring entrepreneurs. A lucky combination of low interest rates, a concentration of innovative enterprises and extremely high standards of living have made this region a veritable heaven for young startuppers and founders wishing to do business in Italy but still be at the heart of Europe. Being close to the north-eastern border, Trentino offers excellent connections to continental Europe and a largely bilingual environment, since it is home to the largest German-speaking community in the Country. Trentino also offers financial incentives to new enterprises working with research and innovation, as well as female-led enterprises. It doesn’t hurt that Trentino Alto Adige boasts the fastest optic-fiber broadband in Italy.
Not only in the north…
While the north-south divide is still very real when it comes to business-friendly regions, things are taking a turn for the better. While regions like Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy and Trentino still rank highest in that respect, southern regions have started implementing startup-friendly programs and generally providing a positive environment for new businesses to start. Apulia, for instance, has been offering easy access to credit for SMBs, so that new investments and enterprises have flourished, particularly in the tourism industry. Abruzzo also scores particularly high in terms of successful enterprises, partly because of the relatively affordable cost of living and partly because of its excellent infrastructure and easy access to major highways.
Business made easier: the way ahead
Providing more manageable conditions for new entrepreneurs to do business in Italy is one of the Country’s current priorities. Bureaucracy has long been one of the main factors in cramping the Country’s potential and successive administrations have proven that simpler procedures inevitably boost the economy.