The 2018 Best Countries report places Italy 22nd out of 80 countries for quality of life – behind Canada, the Nordic countries, the UK, the US and China, among others.
Overall Italy places 15th on the list, which is based on global perceptions. More than 21,000 people worldwide scored countries on factors including liveability, global influence, culture and economic appeal.
While Italy got top marks for cultural influence, heritage and adventure, it floundered in the 'open for business' and entrepreneurship categories.
Italy's overall 2018 ranking.
While Italy's economic woes are well known, what's more surprising – to the Italian press, at least – is how poorly people rank Italy for quality of life, which has long been the country's trump card.
The fact that Italy doesn't even make the top 20 is a “sign that perhaps the bureaucracy, the lack of services, precarious employment and general fragility of rules typical of the Bel paese ultimately count for more than climate or food”, observes La Stampa.
A breakdown of how participants scored Italy for quality of life.
The picture of Italy that emerges from the ranking is of a country that's better to visit than to live in.
“While Italy may make an ideal tourist destination, life in the country is more complicated,” the report noted, pointing to organized crime, corruption, the gender gap, youth unemployment, an ageing population, tensions over immigration and rising populism in politics as some of the underlying causes for concern.
Many foreigners who move to Italy report being disappointed with what they find: according to one recent expat survey, around 50 percent of respondents said they were unhappy with their job prospects in Italy and earned less than they had at home.
The picture may vary according to where in Italy you live. National surveys consistently find a broad gap between the quality of life in the north of Italy, home to most of the country's industry and commerce, and in the poorer south, where income and life expectancy are typically lower.
Despite its drawbacks, Italy rose one place in the overall Best Countries ranking this year: in 2017 it placed 16th, with a similar distribution of scores.
The top-ranked country, both this year and last, was Switzerland.
Now in its third year, the the Best Countries report is a joint project by digital news service US News & World Report, marketing company Y&R and the Wharton School, a business school at the University of Pennsylvania.