Rome and Milan ranked ‘worst’ cities to live in by foreign residents – again

Italy’s two biggest cities got bottom marks this year in a survey of international residents, who complained of poor career prospects, work-life balance and public transport.

Cycling in Rome: how bad is life in Italy’s capital city really?
How bad is life in Italy’s capital city really? Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Rome and Milan are the two worst cities in the world for foreigners to move to, according to the latest Expat City Ranking by InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas.

The site asked members to rate more than 25 aspects of urban life abroad, resulting in Milan coming 56th out of 57 cities and Rome coming an embarrassing last place.

At the other end of the rankings were Kuala Lumpa, taking the top spot for overall satisfaction, followed by the Spanish port city of Málaga and Dubai.

The best and worst cities for expats in 2021. Graphic: InterNations

Rome came at the very bottom for the second year running for urban work life and placed last in the Jobs and Career subcategory.

60 percent of residents are unhappy with the career opportunities available to them in the Italian capital, compared to a global average of 33 percent across the other cities surveyed.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know before moving to Italy

Just under half (45 percent) are worried about job security, compared to a global average of 20 percent, and almost a third (27 percent) dislike the working hours, compared to 16 percent of residents across all the other cities combined.

Milan and Rome's expat ratings. Graphic: Internations.

Milan and Rome’s expat ratings. Graphic: InterNations.

“The economy is terrible, and salaries are low,” one Brit in Rome told InterNations.

Despite its status as Italy’s economic capital, Milan fares little better than Rome in the jobs arena, with almost half (47 percent) of residents rating job opportunities in the city negatively, compared to a global average of 33 percent.

Milan is also viewed as a particularly expensive place to live, with housing considered unaffordable by 68 percent of the Milanese residents surveyed, versus 47 percent of Rome’s residents and 39 percent globally.

TELL US: What is living in Milan really like?

The overall cost of living is considered particularly high in Milan, which comes in 46th place in the category. Rome, by contrast, comes in at a respectable 20th place; though fewer than half (43 percent) of residents rate the local cost of living positively, versus 48 percent globally.

The one area where Milan does comparatively well is in its local leisure options, where it places slightly above the average, with 76 percent of residents awarding a positive rating (versus 72 percent globally).

People roller skate along the Navigli canals in Milan on May 8, 2020

People roller skate along the Navigli canals in Milan on May 8, 2020. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

And in Rome, residents like the warm climate, with 86 percent rating its weather highly, compared to just two thirds (66 percent) of respondents worldwide.

But neither cities do well when it comes to overall happiness rankings, with 55 percent of Milan-based respondents and 67 percent of those in the Italian capital saying they are generally happy, compared to a global average of 75 percent.


As in previous years, Rome gets especially low scores for its public transportation system: half (47 percent) of the city’s foreign residents are unhappy with the public transport network, versus 20 percent of those living elsewhere.

Overall, Rome outperforms Milan when it comes to the ease of getting settled, housing, finances, and the local cost of living – but Milan scores higher on quality of life.

A man cycles past the Duomo Cathedral as the sun rises over Milan on July 16, 2021.

A man cycles past the Duomo Cathedral as the sun rises over Milan on July 16, 2021. Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Where should foreign nationals in Italy go for the best possible living conditions?

According to a report compiled recently by ItaliaOggi and Rome’s La Sapienza University, the answer is Parma, which was named the best province in Italy for its liveability and excellent handling of the pandemic.


Following close behind Parma in the top ten were Trento, Bolzano, Bologna, Florence, Trieste, Verona, Pordenone, and Monza and Brianza.

Milan – perhaps surprisingly considering its poor showing in the InterNations survey – came in fifth place.

The report’s authors noted that the city recovered well from the pandemic and that it scores high on wealth and income; though caveated that it’s among the Italian cities suffering higher rates of alcoholism, mental health problems and suicide.

What do you think of these findings? Leave a comment below or take part in our survey on life in Milan here to let us know your thoughts.

Member comments

  1. Try living in the province of Siena and using so called professionals.
    I would rather live in the true South, where they ask you directly for money and hold a gun to your head if you don’t.
    Here, they quietly evicerate you covertly, year by year, ruining your life.
    Never, ever put a penney of investment into this corrupt country.
    The corruption is run through the masons -every one of the professionals, lawyers, accountants and architects are involved directly of tangentially.

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For members


EXPLAINED: How can you stop nuisance phone calls in Italy?

If it seems like you’ve been getting more unwanted calls on your Italian phone number recently, you’re probably not imagining things. But the good news is you’ll soon be able to do something about it.

EXPLAINED: How can you stop nuisance phone calls in Italy?

People in Italy are now getting an average of five nuisance calls (or telefonate moleste) per week from telemarketers, according to consumer rights association Codacons, which estimates that the frequency of such calls – mainly from banks, telecommunications and energy companies – is now about 20 percentage points higher than in pre-pandemic times.

This increase in cold calling in Italy comes ahead of the imminent introduction of a new ‘do not call’ list for mobile phone numbers, which spells trouble for telemarketers, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues – 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

In the European Union, data protection rules (under Regulation 2016/679) mean that you have the right not to be contacted, including by businesses. Based on this regulation, Italian courts can (and do) slap companies with large fines if they’re deemed to be using customers’ data unlawfully for telemarketing purposes. 

However, at the moment there’s not a great deal individuals can do about these annoying calls, beyond repeatedly opting out and making complaints.

But from this summer, rule changes in Italy will also mean both landline and mobile phone numbers, including any numbers that were not previously listed in the phone book, can be placed on an expanded version of the ‘do not call’ list known as the registro delle opposizioni or ‘register of objections’.

“From July 27th, the new public register will open to 78 million mobile telephone users,” Italian MP Simone Baldelli told Corriere della Sera.

Baldelli said the expanded register will become “a well-known and effective protection tool for phone users”.

EXPLAINED: How to change your registered address in Italy

It is already possible to use the registro delle opposizioni to remove Italian landline numbers from public telephone directories. Find out more about how to do that on the official website here.

As well as allowing people to register mobile phone numbers for the first time, the incoming rule changes in July will place stricter limits on the use of data by telemarketers.

“Enrollment in the new register will allow for the cancellation of any previous consents issued for telemarketing purposes, and will prohibit the transfer of personal data to third parties,” writes Corriere.

The new legislation is also set to include a ban on the use of automated or ‘robot’ marketing calls.

READ ALSO: Why the tabaccheria is essential to life in Italy – even if you don’t smoke

So how do you add your phone number to this new and improved register? 

From the information available so far, it appears that the process will be much the same as it is now for adding landlines to the existing register: you’ll be able to submit numbers to be added to the list either by phone, by completing a web form, or sending an email (either PEC or regular email).

But it’s not open just yet – it looks like you’ll have to wait until the end of July to add mobile numbers to the register.

We’ll report more details of the opt-out scheme on The Local once they’re published.

For now, readers of The Local have recommended the ‘Chi sta chiamando‘ (‘Who’s calling’) app, which you can find here for Apple or Android devices.