A total of 82,095 Italians emigrated last year – a 20.7 percent increase on 2012 – new figures from statistics agency Istat show.
The biggest number flocked to the UK, where 13,000 Italians set up home last year. The second most popular country was Germany, with 11,000, followed by neighbouring Switzerland (10,000).
France was less popular, being the country of choice for 8,000 Italians last year. The US, which has historically welcomed waves of Italian immigrants, saw just 5,000 arrive in 2013.
Thirty percent of over-25 year olds emigrating last year had degrees, with the most well-educated Italians moving to the UK and the US.
For Diego Pelle, a bar manager from Rome, moving to London this year was a chance to escape the worsening business climate.
“In Italy the situation for improving your business is really bad; the government wants to kill small- and medium-sized companies,” he told The Local.
Family-run businesses in Italy are often hit with burdensome bureaucracy and high taxes, and face a long wait for government reforms to have a positive impact on earnings.
Currently working on an ecommerce project, Pelle moved to London to live in “a meritocratic city”. Career development in Italian cities, by comparison, all too often depends on contacts and favours rather than fair competition.
“I can learn so much here and I have many business possibilities,” said Pelle, who saw no future prospects for young Italians at home.
Like many other Italians, he is reluctant to return home soon. Last year, just 2,000 Italians moved to Italy from the UK, while 4,000 returned from Italy and 3,000 from Switzerland.
With youth unemployment hitting a record 43.3 percent and the national rate at 13.2 percent, those who leave are understandably cautious about returning.
Foreigners are also turning their backs on Italy, with immigration down 12.3 percent on 2012.
Around 307,000 foreigners moved to Italy in 2013, a drop of 43,000 compared to the previous year.
Romanians continue to make up the largest group, with 58,000 moving to Italy last year, although numbers fell by 29 percent. Morrocans made up the second largest group, 20,000, followed by Chinese and Ukrainian immigrants.