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Moving to Italy
A comprehensive guide to moving to Italy
When you dream about your imminent move to Italy, the first things that come to mind may be great weather, excellent wine, and delicious cuisine. The InterNations GO! guide provides you with all the essential info about moving to Italy, such as visas and popular expat destinations.
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Relocating to Italy
At a Glance:
- Italians are proud of their language, and will appreciate you making the effort to speak Italian, rather than expecting English to be spoken everywhere.
- Italy has a particularly diverse climate, from Alpine mountains in the north to Mediterranean islands in the south.
- Nationals of non-EU countries will need to apply for a long-stay Schengen visa if they are looking to stay in Italy for longer than 90 days.
- Italy has plenty to choose from when it comes to picking an expat destination, with each town and city having its own culture, history, and industry, making each place unique.
If you have always wanted to live la dolce vita, it’s time you packed your bags and started planning your relocation to Italy. The boot-shaped country is full of spirited people, sun, good wine, and, of course, great food! But this is not all a move to Italy has to offer.
With approximately 60.6 million inhabitants, Italy is Europe’s fifth most populous country. Historically, it has been a consistently popular destination for migrants and expats alike. With culture-rich cities, 7,600 km of beautiful coastline, lakes, mountains and islands, Italy’s various regions each have their own individual qualities. The south, including the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, is particularly popular with the older generation, who look to spend their retirement years in the sun. Meanwhile, Italy’s largest cities and centers of business, Rome and Milan, are popular with expats looking to boost their careers.
Rich History and Linguistic Variety
A nation with a particularly rich cultural heritage, Italy’s story dates all the way back to the Roman Empire, and its countless monuments, museums, churches, and galleries attract both tourists and expats to all corners of the country.
If you are considering a move to Italy, remember that Italian is the nation’s official language. In general, Italians are very proud of their language, and they will be much more welcoming if you at least try and speak their language rather than assuming they will speak English with you. If the Italian language is not yet your strong point, then there is always the option of moving to the northern regions of Trento or Valle d’Aosta, where German, French, and small amounts of Slovenian are spoken as minority languages. However, similarly to much of Europe, English is more widely spoken in the large cities of Rome and Milan, and is also very often the language business is conducted in.
Italian National Pride
Before moving to Italy and making it your new home, you should be aware that Italians are very proud of their country, customs, and food. Therefore, if you plan to move to Italy, avoid criticizing any of these aspects of life in this Mediterranean country, at least in the beginning.
This is not to say that moving to Italy should be reconsidered. Quite the opposite — some foreign residents are so happy there they may never return to their country of origin.
Enjoy the Diverse Climate
Due to its location, Italy’s climate is diverse, with the northern Alpine region experiencing vastly different temperatures to the southern Italian island of Sicily, for example. Contrary to popular belief, Italy is not always hot and sunny.
In the north, the Alps — Italy’s longest mountain range — has a mid-European climate, with milder summers and cold winters, during which snow can be expected. The climate in the region surrounding the Po river, which flows eastwards across northern Italy, is generally characterized by hot and humid summers, and cold, wet winters. The central and southern regions, as well as the Italian islands, have a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters.
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Visa Requirements for Italy
You must be sure to have all necessary visas available prior to your move. The visa requirements for Italy depend on your nationality.
Since Italy is part of the European Union, all EU citizens (including the UK) may enter the country without any additional paperwork, provided they have a valid national ID or passport. If your country is not part of the EU, and you are not a citizen of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Switzerland, Monaco, or the Vatican City, then you must apply for a Schengen visa.
However, nationals of selected countries do not need a visa for stays that are shorter than 90 days and that do not involve gainful employment. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists all the countries currently covered by the visa-waiver agreement.
For longer stays, there is a range of visas that can be assigned to people entering the country, depending on the reason for their stay.
The following reasons are covered:
- business travel
- diplomatic reasons
- elective residence
- family member (accompanying dependent)
- family member (family reunion)
- medical treatment
- re-entry visa
- religious grounds
- sports competitions
- transit (including airport transit)
- work and travel
If you want to stay in Rome for more than three months or work there, a Schengen visa is not enough. As a non-EU foreign national, you will need a “National Visa” to be able to reside (and work) in Italy. Your future employer will have to bring your case before the Labor Office and the Immigration Office to receive an entry clearance. This will be sent directly to the Italian Embassy or Consulate where you have sent your visa application. Your work visa application can then be processed.
To find out which nationals entering Italy require which type of visa, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more detailed information.
The visas with which non-EU nationals enter the country are divided into the following three categories:
- Uniform Schengen Visa: This visa enables non-EU or Schengen Agreement citizens to enter a Schengen country for up to 90 days. There are single-entry and multiple-entry visas of this kind.
- Limited Territorial Validity Visa: As its name suggests, this visa is issued for only one specific Schengen country, i.e. Italy. It cannot be used to travel to any other countries in the Schengen Area, such as Germany. This visa is not usually applied for. However, it may be assigned by the Italian government, as an exception to the normal Schengen Visa system, e.g. for humanitarian reasons.
- Long-stay or “national” visa: You will probably apply for this sort of visa if you are planning to move to Italy for more than three months. You need to do this in person at your local Italian Embassy or Consulate. You usually need to bring the following documents with you:
- a valid passport
- accommodation arrangements
- document detailing purpose of visit
- proof of financial support during your stay
The long-stay visas are then subdivided into the other main categories, like student visa, family visa, or work visa.
Please be sure to visit your local Italian Embassy or Consulate for more specific information and application forms.
Popular Expat Destinations in Italy
Where to Go
Italy covers a surface area of over 300,000 square kilometers and offers some of the most culturally rich cities in the world. So, if you haven’t been sent on a company transfer to a specific place, it may be a bit difficult to decide where exactly you want to begin your new life in Italy. Some large cities where many expats choose to relocate to are Rome, Milan, and Florence.
Rome (Roma) is the capital of Italy and is home to over 2.9 million inhabitants, approximately 10% of whom are non-Italians. As the capital, Rome hosts all principle institutions of the country — it is the center of all political, economic, and diplomatic headquarters. It also offers a number of tourist sites, including the Vatican City and the Colosseum. The city welcomes approximately 10 million visitors annually, and numbers are even higher during a “Holy Year”, when millions of Christians make the pilgrimage to the Vatican.
The economy of Rome is largely dominated by the service sector, particularly those services linked to tourism. High-tech companies, research, and construction also contribute to Rome’s affluence, making it the second wealthiest city in Italy after Milan.
Milan (Milano), recognized as one of the world’s fashion, architecture and design capitals, is located in the northern region of Lombardy. Its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of up to 3.2 million, making it the largest city in Italy.
Milan has many architectural highlights, including its gothic cathedral. The city is also a renowned center of performing arts, particularly opera, with the world-famous La Scala opera house located there. In addition, Milan is one of the world’s leading financial centers. For much of the 20th and 21st centuries, the city has been a major manufacturer of textiles and garments, automobiles, chemicals, industrial tools, and heavy machinery. However, the significance of traditional industries has been decreasing in favor of the service sector. Despite Italy’s flagging economy, the Milanese still enjoy a fairly high quality of life.
Other Expat Destinations
Florence (Firenze) is the capital city of the famous region of Tuscany, the region where many of the best Italian wines come from. Florence is not as big a city as Milan or Rome, with only about 400,000 inhabitants. However, it houses some of the greatest art collections in the world and is a favored tourist destination, welcoming millions of tourists every year.
There are thousands of other well-known destinations that expats choose when moving to Italy, such as Genoa (Genova), Naples (Napoli), Turin (Torino), Venice (Venezia), and Palermo, to name merely a few.
Your permanent residence in Italy, as in every country, will depend on your reason for moving, the type of job you are seeking or have been assigned, and your personal taste. You could, for example, even choose to live in Italy’s smallest town of Morterone in the region of Lecco, which is currently home to 37 inhabitants!