10 Must-Knows for Moving to Italy

I was recently asked to speak at an event on what I consider to be ten things you should know about before moving to Italy. Therefore, I’d like to take you through, based on my thirty-plus years of assisting expats, the ten things I believe you should know before moving to Italy.

1. Be Legal — I have written many posts on this topic, simply because it is so important, especially if you are a Non-EU citizen. After the 90 days allowed by the Visa Waiver Program or relevant Visa, if you stay in Italy without the proper Visa, you are illegal, regardless of your nationality. Please make sure you obtain the relevant Visa before permanently moving to Italy. EU citizens, on the other hand, should register as Italian residents at the Town Hall within 90 days of relocating to Italy.

2. Employment — Unless you are moving to Italy as part of an intracompany transfer or a retiree, you will probably need to work. There are a lot of opportunities in the IT sector, but sectors that traditionally once yielded jobs like banking, are laying off people like there is no tomorrow, as branches keep closing. It is a good idea to network with Italian headhunters on LinkedIn who specialize in the sector in which you would like to work.

3. Cost of Living — Unless you choose to live in a small town, life in major markets like Rome or Milan can be expensive, especially if you want to live on your own. Expect to pay at least €850 for a small apartment in a big city. Considering the average salary is approximately €1.400, living on your own can be a challenge, and you will probably need a second job.

4. Stay Clear of The Moaners — You simply do not have the luxury to hang out with expats who are constantly hating on Italy and Italians. They will sap your energy and chip away at your enthusiasm for why you moved to Italy. I cannot stress enough how you must leave these individuals alone. Just like you must avoid the moaners, don’t overly focus on the negatives in Italy. As much as you can, focus on all the wonderful aspects of Italy and be grateful for the fact that you can experience it firsthand.

5. Get the Right Help — If you are going to be living in Italy long-term, please engage the services of a competent lawyer and accountant for any legal or tax advice you may need. Many expats try to do it themselves, as they are under the impression that they can get away with things in Italy, as they believe that the law is not enforced. This is not the case, and in my thirty-plus years of assisting expats, I’ve seen hundreds end up in tear when the authorities come knocking!

6. Lease Contracts — When a landlord enters a person-to-person lease agreement in Italy, they pay considerably less tax, than if they sign a contract with a company. Therefore, this can reduce the number of properties you can see, if a person-to-person contact is not an option. Occasionally, a property owner may be willing to accept a higher rent to offset the higher taxes associated with a corporate contract, but this cannot be guaranteed. I always advise my clients to never rent a property in Italy without a proper lease contract. Once the contract has been signed by both parties, the landlord then has thirty days to register the contract with the tax authorities, he/she should provide you with a copy of the registration once completed.

7. Driving Licenses — Unless you come from a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Italy, after one year of being a resident in Italy, you will need to take the Italian driving test. Unfortunately, this is only available in Italian. You can also take the test in French or German, if you are a resident in the areas of Italy that have these languages as an official language. For example, a state-issued US license will be valid for one year from when you request residency at the Town Hall and not from when you receive confirmation of your residency. The best thing to do is to apply at a driving school once your residency has been confirmed and you have your Italian ID card. The driving school will supply you with the driver’s manual that you will need to study to complete the course and initiate the exam. If you are taking Italian lessons, you may want to ask your teacher to concentrate the lessons around the manual, so that you can be prepared for the test. Depending on how old your EU license is, and whether it has an expiry date or not, you should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (Motorizzazione) for further information to see if you need to exchange your license or not.

8. Car Importation — Every EU and Non-EU citizen, who brings their foreign registered car to Italy with them, must register their car with the Italian authorizes within sixty days of becoming an Italian resident. This process can be extremely time and labor intensive, especially if the vehicle needs any modifications to be in line with European directives, and depending on where you have the service done, the cost is normally not less than €800 + disbursements. Please also note that insurance companies in Italy are not normally willing to insurance a foreign registered car, therefore, if you are planning on living in Italy long-term, it is highly advisable to register your car in Italy. Right-hand drive cars also present challenges in Italy, especially with insuring them.

9. Remote Locations — I often receive inquiries from people who would like to move to a remote part of Italy, especially the towns where houses are being offered for €1.00! These can be great locations for anyone seeking a bucolic lifestyle, but two important things to remember are: 1) If you need to work there will be almost no work opportunities 2) If you want to work online the internet connection may not be the best in such a remote part of the country. Make sure you do your due diligence before taking the plunge.

10. Realtors — Apart from a few exceptions, many realtors in Italy do not update their websites very often, therefore their online listings may be no longer be available. Quite often, the realtor may not have photos of the properties on file, and if they do, they may only have a few. Italian landlords normally don’t like to give a realtor exclusivity on their property, which means that the same property can be listed with several realtors. Given this lack of exclusivity, properties can quickly disappear from the market, even on the day you are scheduled to visit it! Realtors in Northern Italy, in cities such as Milan and Turin, normally take two months’ rent as commission, or a yearly percentage of the rent that usually works out more or less as two months’ rent. In the rest of Italy, the standard is one month’s rent.

Relocating to a foreign country can be challenging and Italy is no exception. Regardless of whether you are moving here under your own steam, or as part of an intracompany transfer, the same issues of culture shock, isolation, and bureaucracy can still come into play. For this reason, in order to help you to live the most successful life possible in Italy, I believe it is very important for you to be aware of the ten must-knows that I have just detailed above. Enjoy your time in Italy!

If you require any case-specific assistance, please feel free to contact me www.damienofarrell.com

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Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in Global Mobility.