Moving to Milan?

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Moving to Milan

Are you planning a move to Milan? The prosperous heart of northern Italy offers expats both a businesslike atmosphere and plenty of cultural treasures. Our InterNations Guide on moving to Milan helps new arrivals with advice on administrative issues as well as tips for finding a new home.
The majestic cathedral is one of the most famous sights in Milan’s city center.

At a Glance:

  • Milan is a diverse city, with an international population and a fascinating history.
  • There are several bureaucratic steps to take before you are fully registered in Italy, like getting your tax identification number and residence certificate — so be prepared!
  • When it comes to accommodation, do your research beforehand, as the neighborhoods in the city vary widely in terms of price and facilities.


Milan vs. Rome

Starting life as an expat in Milan means you will be settling in Italy’s second-largest city. Milan is located in the very north of Italy, about 50 km from Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, and less than 200 km from the Austrian border. This means that a move to Milan doesn’t necessarily bring you the sunny, Mediterranean climate that is often associated with Italian life. Summers do get warm around the River Po Basin, reaching temperatures of up to 30⁰C in July, while winters are cold, wet, and foggy.

But even if a move to Milan doesn’t promise you beach vacations under the Italian sun, it will lead you to the heart of Italy’s economic and financial engine. If Rome is the nation’s political center, then Milan is its commercial one. While Rome offers you the wealth of its historical heritage, Milan acts as Italy’s innovative cultural trendsetter. This doesn’t mean, however, that Milan does not have a fascinating history of its own.

The City’s Turbulent Past

The ancient city of Milan has a long history. Founded before even the Romans were in Italy, the city has witnessed centuries of political and cultural change, including the Renaissance, the unification of Italy, and the rise of Mussolini. In the second half of the 20th century, the post-war economic boom was unfortunately overshadowed by political extremism, street violence, and terrorist incidents in the 1960s and 1970s.

Since then, however, Milan has transformed into a peaceful and prosperous city. Although it has obviously been affected by the general economic downturn taking place in Italy, Milan is still the business and financial center of the country. Home to many companies in the fields of advertising, finance, fashion, and commerce, the city is also located in Lombardy, the wealthiest and busiest region in Italy.

City, Province, Metro Area

Moving to Milan might take you to the metropolis itself — or to the sprawling region known as the Greater Milan area (Grande Milano). The city of Milan forms the center of a populous province with the same name, but the metropolitan region extends even beyond the provincial borders into other parts of Lombardy. Grande Milano includes other cities like Bergamo, Como, Lodi, Monza and Brianza, Pavia, and Varese. This wider metropolitan area covers approximately 12,000 km² and is home to over 8 million people, making it even larger than the metropolitan regions of Naples or Rome.

The Metropolitan City of Milan, on the other hand, is one of twelve provinces in Lombardy and is densely populated and highly urbanized. It has about 3.2 million residents and includes the city of Milan as well as 133 other municipalities. Many of these comuni are satellite towns of Milan. Their population grew when migrant laborers from the south of Italy or, later on, from abroad moved to Milan in order to work in manufacturing.

The city of Milan itself is a pretty expensive place to be. It’s no wonder that the number of its residents decreased a little in the past. However, in recent years, Milan has once again become a popular place to move to. In 2016, its nine boroughs (zone) counted about 1.7 million inhabitants.

The Diverse Backgrounds of the Population

Milan has a large foreign population. As mentioned above, its former need for a huge labor force, due to its large manufacturing sector, not only attracted Italian workers from agricultural southern Italy, but also immigrants from various countries.

In 2016, there were about a quarter of a million residents of non-Italian origin in the municipality of Milan. The largest population groups included residents from Eastern Europe and Africa, with smaller expat groups from all over the world.

When in Milan, chances are high that you might hear your mother tongue on the street — especially as the city is also a popular destination for leisure and business tourism. The official language is, however, Italian. Although Milan is accustomed to welcoming foreign visitors, some Italian skills will come in handy for moving to Milan. Don’t be surprised if your knowledge of Italian seems to suddenly fail you, though — some residents of Lombardy speak northern dialects such as milanese.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Francois Carpentier

"With the help of InterNations, my wife and I met a lot of other French expats at the famous aperitivos here in Milan."

Annabelle Molenaar

"The Milan Community of InterNations is just so great: regular events -- several easy-going Ambassadors -- really friendly expat crowd!"

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