It’s a common belief that the cost of living in Italy is generally cheap and cheerful, and this is often thought to explain the nation’s comparatively low wages.
However, Italy in fact outpaced both the UK and the US for living expenses last year, ranking as the 26th most expensive country in the world.
Good news for those living in or travelling to Italy this year, though – the latest figures for 2022 show that Italy has now slid down the scale, behind the UK and US, coming 32nd in the global ranking, according to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index for 2022.
It is classified as being cheaper than France (19th), the UK (26th), the US (27th), and the famously expensive Switzerland – which was ranked second most expensive in the world for the second year running. And once again, Bermuda placed first.
The survey was compiled using the notoriously expensive city of New York City as a benchmark. New York was given an index score of 100. So a country with a score higher than 100 is more expensive than New York, while below signals that it is cheaper.
Italy scored 66.47 overall. It has got cheaper for groceries, dropping four places in the global scale and is now around 12 percentage points cheaper than the US, but is still more expensive than the UK.
While people in Italy have seen energy prices surge in January, with a knock-on effect on food prices and other costs, the same has also happened in many other countries.
Italy ranks 34th for a food shop compared to 36th place for the Brits. But it is cheaper than the US (19th), Canada (20th) and Australia (9th).
Compared to its European neighbours, you’ll pay more at the till for your weekly groceries in France (16th), Denmark (22nd) and Austria (26th). On the other hand, Italy is more expensive than Germany (41st) and Spain (54th) for supplies to stock your fridge.
In a separate recent survey specifically focussed on this aspect of living costs, Italy was in fact much higher up the scale for the cost and affordability of a grocery shop.
The findings from Net Credit are based on not just supermarket prices, but they also consider income. Researchers calculated the affordability of a basket of goods in each country as a percentage of the average daily wage.
The shopping basket they surveyed focused on ten staples including breakfast cereal, eggs, cheese, milk and bread.
Factoring this in, Italy ranked 15th most expensive worldwide for the cost of groceries, calculated as being 33 percent of a daily salary.
Common expenditure prices in Italy
- Milk – €1,15
- Loaf of fresh white bread – €1,56
- Local cheese (1kg) – €12,24
- Beef (1kg) – €14,68
- Bottle of wine (mid-range) – €5,00
- Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught) – €4,50
- Meal per person at low-cost restaurant – €15,00
- Three-course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant – €55,00
- Monthly pass on public transport – €35,00
- Petrol (per litre) – €1,62
- Basic utilities (Electricity, gas, water, rubbish) for 85m2 Apartment – €162,79
- Apartment rent (1 bedroom) in city centre – €588,95
- Apartment rent (1 bedroom) outside of centre – €449,53
- Price per square metre to buy an apartment in city centre – €3,092.74
Numbeo’s Cost of Living index, weighs up average estimates for expenses for a four-person family, ranging from clothing, groceries and dining out to transportation, recreational activities and utilities.
And its rent index is based on the costs of renting one- and three-bedroom apartments in and outside of city centres.
For this category, Italy ranked 44th out of 139 entries in total worldwide, compared to 37th last year. It again comes behind Spain, the UK, the US and Canada.
Italy was found to be eleven points cheaper than the UK on average compared to eight points last year, and over 20 points cheaper than the US when it comes to rental accommodation.
Restaurant bills – which were found to be higher on average in Italy than France, Germany, the US and the UK last year – have become relatively cheaper in 2022. Italy recorded around six percentage points lower than the UK for dining out, whereas it’s now about the same compared to the US.
It is still much more expensive than Spain, coming in at around 17 points more costly for eating out.
According to Numbeo’s country profile, the average Italian monthly salary after tax is €1,443.39 compared to $3,596.78 (€3,176.10) in the United States and £2,011.40 (€2,400) in the UK.
While salaries are lower in Italy and many living costs don’t differ greatly between Italy, the UK and the US, you can at least bank on a cheaper cappuccino in Italy.
On average, it will set you back €1.40 in Italy, compared to €3.87 in the US and €3.34 in the UK.
These three countries don’t differ that much for a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, costing between €53 and €59.
Certain produce is more expensive in Italy such as local cheese and meat, but it costs less to use public transport overall.
Monthly utility bills were recorded as being higher in Italy than the US, but not the UK.
Meanwhile, average private monthly childcare costs in Italy are cheaper compared to the UK and US, based on one child attending full-time.
In its Cost of Living City index for 2022, Milan has ranked the highest for Italian cities coming in at 117th place out of 578 cities worldwide. It’s followed by Parma (148th) and Genoa (149th). Rome came 177th.
Parma recently came first in the country in a survey on the best and worst places to live in Italy. It took the title for its healthcare, work and business opportunities, level of environmental protection, life satisfaction levels and how it managed the Covid-19 pandemic.
Previous European studies have shown the cost of groceries, eating out, internet and communications to be relatively high in Italy.
Within Italy itself, there can be huge regional differences. Broadly speaking, the north of Italy tends to be more expensive than the south, and cities pricier than rural areas.
Milan is notorious for high rents, as are tourist hotspots including central Florence and Venice – and generally speaking people living in these areas will face higher costs for most goods and services.
But average recorded prices are brought down by the fact that it is relatively cheap to rent in small towns and villages, while the cost of services can also be markedly lower outside the major Italian cities.