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BUREAUCRACY

Eight pitfalls people need to avoid to make the dream move to Italy

Will your expectations of a new life in Italy match the reality? Here, one relocation expert shares some of the main issues movers need to take into account to ensure a smooth relocation.

People look out over the Italian city of Florence.
Planning a move to Italy? Be aware of the pitfalls to look out for. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Many people dream of a new life in Italy for years before taking the plunge, while others make a sudden move after being offered an exciting job opportunity.

But either way, sadly it’s not unusual to hear of people soon going back to their home countries after discovering that life abroad was not all they’d hoped for. Bureaucracy, budgets, and lifestyle differences are some of the factors that most frequently cause serious difficulties, as relocation expert Damien O’Farrell explains.

To give others planning their own move a better idea of what to expect, O’Farrell shares some of the biggest reasons why relocations to Italy don’t succeed.

Unrealistic perceptions

While Italy is home to some of the world’s most incredible apparel, food, wine, and art, it is also one of the world’s most bureaucratic countries with unbelievably slow public services and utility companies – definitely not what one would expect of a major European economy. People expecting only ‘La Dolce Vita’ quickly become irritated and frustrated.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Do your research when looking for work

Photo: Van Tay Media on Unsplash

Inadequate housing budget 

Italy’s main cities are some of the most expensive in Europe. Therefore, if an assignee or individual has a budget that is too low for the Italian market, once again, frustration quickly settles in. A person moving to Italy normally wants at least the same standard of living they have in their home country, if not higher.

High cost of living

Italy, for the most part, is an expensive country, which means that if a person’s salary or income is not in line with the cost of living, they will soon become frustrated as they will have a low standard of living. Smaller cities and remote areas are naturally cheaper.

READ ALSO: 

Lifestyle challenges 

Language difficulties, byzantine bureaucracy, and the lack of international schools outside main cities are among some of the main lifestyle issues that can contribute to an unsuccessful relocation in Italy.

Incompetent vendors 

If you’re working with a relocation and/or immigration expert, you need to make sure that they are the best on the market.

Lack of work opportunities for spouses

For those who have been offered a job in Italy, an accompanying spouse or significant other who would also like to work will probably be disappointed. The two main obstacles are usually that the spouse/partner does not speak Italian and the job market in Italy is not very dynamic – though cities like Milan offer more opportunities.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

Photo: Romain Dancre on Unsplash

Lack of high-end temporary accommodation 

Temporary accommodation in Italy is limited, even in the main cities, and what is available is very often expensive and not in line with the expectations of an expatriate. Therefore, an assignee or individual becomes unhappy living in a temporary accommodation that is not in line with their expectations.

A landlord’s market 

Rentals in Italy are generally a landlord’s market. There is normally very little room for negotiation as many landlords own multiple properties and are not rent-dependent.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

This can mean that the quality/price ratio is often low and not in line with the expectations of an expatriate. Smaller cities offer more in terms of the possibility to negotiate.

Damien O’Farrell is a Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with more than thirty years’ experience. He can be contacted via his website.

This is an edited version of an article originally published on Medium.

Member comments

  1. I would appreciate an article on visas for retirees. I have owned a house with a hectare of olive trees in North Tuscany for twenty years and have had nothing but positive experiences, even with the bureaucracy! I am not a ‘resident’ so Brexit is causing us huge problems. We do not wish to take residency as we are in our late seventies. I have looked at all the options for visas and nothing fits our status. Although we usually do not spend more than 6 months of the year in Italy we now cannot choose easily when we can come here. The perfect months are April till end of June and September till end of November, not possible within the 90 day rules. Please can you give advice to people like us and explain which visa to apply for. We are British.
    Your articles are very clear and well researched and extremely useful, thank you. Sally Kalis

    1. Hi Sally,

      Thanks for your kind comment. Here are some articles on the topic which I hope might be helpful:

      https://www.thelocal.it/20210126/brexit-what-brits-need-to-know-about-visas-for-italy/
      https://www.thelocal.it/20211004/explained-can-second-home-owners-get-an-italian-residence-permit/

      We’ll continue to post any updates on this as we get them. You can find the latest articles on this topic in our ‘dealing with Brexit’ section here: https://www.thelocal.it/tag/brexit/

      Best wishes,
      – Clare

  2. For me, what’s missing from this list is the matter of income taxes for residents. You might not earn any money in Italy as a retiree, etc. But even though you have filed and paid your USA federal and state income taxes, Italy will require taxes be paid on that income up to their rates of taxation (23%-40%) depending on your worldwide income.

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ITALY EXPLAINED

The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

While summer holidays are important everywhere, Italy takes the tradition of le vacanze estive particularly seriously. Here's what to expect now that August has arrived.

The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

1. Cities are largely deserted

If you’re in a city or town, prepare for it to feel strangely empty away from the obvious tourist destinations.

In Rome, car journeys that once involved a half-hour battle through wild traffic become surprisingly quick and stress-free. And where are the crowds at your usual after-work drinks spot in Milan? Even the smallest towns will be noticeably quieter than usual.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

This is because all sensible Italian residents have packed up and gone to the beach or the mountains for a month. Next year, you’ll know to do the same.

2. But beaches are packed

Italy was a nation of staycationers even before the pandemic, and in August it’s tutti al mare: everyone flees to the beach, or maybe the mountains, at the same time.

Expect resorts to be packed and hotels, Airbnbs and campsites to be fully booked, especially as international tourists return after two years of travel restrictions.

3. Shops have cheery ‘closed for holidays’ signs

Shop workers and owners take time off like everyone else and it’s very common for small independent businesses like bakeries, pharmacies and florists to close for up to a month.

Some will tell you when they expect to reopen, others just put a sign in the window saying ‘chiuso per ferie’ – closed for holidays.

4. The summer sales are (still) on

Those shops that do remain open – mainly large chain stores and supermarkets –  offer discounts throughout August to those dedicated shoppers who aren’t at the beach. Italy only allows two retail sales a year, and one of those runs through July and August.

5. Everyone you email is out of the office

Need to contact anyone urgently at work this month? If they’re in Italy, then too bad.

Office workers are also usually on holiday, and a great many offices close altogether for three or four weeks.

Forget about out-of-office email replies suggesting an alternative contact or that the person will be checking their email sporadically – they will be on the beach and whatever you want can wait until they are back.

This applies to banks and to any kind of government bureaucracy, and you may also have trouble getting medical appointments at this time of year.

There’s only one place to be in Italy in August, as far as many Italians are concerned. Photo by Giovanni ISOLINO / AFP

6. There are ‘red alert’ heat warnings in place

This summer has been an unusually hot one and Italy has already experienced several extreme heatwaves. But as we get into August temperatures will no doubt be high across the board, meaning the country’s health authorities put heat warnings in place on the hottest days and strongly advise people to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

7. Every major road has a traffic warning

Italy’s state police make good use of the red pen when putting together the official traffic forecast for August. All weekends feature ‘red dot’ traffic warnings as people head off on holiday, or return home.

The final weekend of August, when people head home in time for il rientro (the return to school and work in September) is also best avoided.

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