Biggest Expat Hot Spots in Italy
Where is the best place to settle down in Italy as a British Expat? If you're looking for more information on where to settle down and whats on offer in each region read our helpful guide. on British Expat hot spots.
For those of you thinking about the move to Italy, which region to settle down in is arguably a tough decision. The British expat community is dotted all around this amazing country. From the mountains of the north, to the lush wine regions, the drier areas of the south and the islands. You are, indeed, spoilt for choice.
You might be tempted to close your eyes and stick a pin in the map, but when I did that, I ended up in the Mediterranean Sea – not very helpful! It basically boils down to what you want your next chapter in life to be.
While many British have been here for decades, the flow of British over the past 1-5 years is quite high at 22% of the British expat population. The British Embassy report that most Britons have settled in Italy to work (34%), while smaller numbers moved to be with their families or retire, 29% and 27% respectively. Only 2% are in Italy to study, which is understandable in light of the fact that a vast majority of UK nationals currently living in Italy (almost 60%) are aged 55+ and 20% fall into the 45-54 age group.
These are the popular settlement areas.
What are the popular options in Italy?
Around a fifth of British live in Lombardy, with the major cities of Milan, Brescia and Bergamo proving to be popular. With about a sixth of Italy’s population producing about a fifth of Italy’s GDP, Lombardy is the most populous region in Italy and one of the richest regions in all of Europe. For the British, the lure of a great lifestyle beckons. There are museums, exhibitions, cultural activities, entertainment all year round. The restaurants and cafes offer food from all over the world.
Milan has a strong industrial heritage, but has even deeper Roman roots, with a plethora of ancient history. You can still find the Roman walls that used to surround Mediolanum (Milan’s name when it was a Roman capital). It’s expensive to live there, and you’re looking at spending between 1200 – 1800 euros per month for a 2-bedroom rental apartment near the city. Lake Como is expensive but very attractive and only a 40-minute journey away from Milan. You’ll be rubbing shoulder with celebrities moving there!
On the other hand, Brescia is a little cheaper at around 900 euros for a similar central rental. It possesses a beautiful promenade, lots of shops and boutiques, clubs and discos, and bars and cafes to socialise within. Bergamo is divided into two parts, the upper city and lower city. The upper city is literally on a hill and is the more exclusive part of town. Bergamo has an airport, which is classed as based in Milan, but it’s actually around a 45-minute drive away from Milan. It is prettier, less polluted and chaotic than Milan, with rentals around the same price as Brescia. Some of the most gorgeous lakes of North Italy are a short journey away.
With around 18% of British choosing Lazio, Rome has to be towards the top of the list. The beauty and romance of Rome should not be underestimated. It’s a busy place, but with lots of quieter options to relocate within a half-hour commute of the centre, it’s a magnet for British expats seeking the unique blend of history, art, culture, liveliness and opportunity.
The quality of life is the main attraction. It possesses a real café culture and a vibrancy that’s seductive. However, do head outside the centre to find somewhere to live. Renting can be expensive; around 1500-2000 euros per month for a 2-bedroom flat. And, the chances are you won’t get much outside space. Just outside the centre, you’re looking at half that amount, with a garden or patio, and you can easily access central Rome for your cultural fix. As a result, it’s a fantastic place to start living in Italy.
Tuscany is a bigger area that you think! It actually covers about 23,000 square km of space, and that includes an array of mountains, countryside, cities and beaches. There’s plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities and it offers a great quality with a temperate climate, good public transport, lots of cultural sites and activities and a low cost of living.
With 12% of expats, choosing here to live, Tuscany is one of the more expensive places to live in Italy, with only Lombardy being more expensive. Rentals are start from around 850 euros and can be as much as 1800 Euros per month for a 2-bedroom apartment. This is because it’s a tourist hotspot, especially the nearer you choose to reside towards the cities of Florence and Siena and the beaches. In spite of this, the cost of living in Tuscany is still fairly low, and house buying prices are attractive. Also, Tuscany is a safe place to live, as, even in cities, crime rates are fairly low. It is certainly a magnet for expats!
7% of expats live in Piedmont, and if you move here, you must love snow. In winter and spring, it snows a lot here, and has many ski resorts. It also shares a border with Switzerland and France, so you can hop over the border for a different cultural fix every now and again. The property options are dazzling. Choose from farmhouses with vineyards, mountain chalets, city apartments, villas by the lake, castles and palaces.
Turin is home to two large universities, an international airport, and a vibrant sports culture. Called by many "the first capital of Italy," Turin is a city of rich history and architecture from all eras. Since Turin is largely cosmopolitan, adjusting to life there as an expat may prove less difficult than in smaller towns. It is also famous for its culinary delights especially rich desserts and red wines, but you can always walk this off given the amount of walking trails around the outskirts. Rentals are moderate, at around 750 euros per month for a 2-bedroom apartment in the city, and much cheaper in the villages. Moncalieri and Chieri, around 20 minutes’ drive south of Turin may be a much better place to settle for expats with children. With an international school at Chieri and wooded hills, it’s quieter and there are good parks for kids to play in.
With 4% of expats choosing Umbria, it’s no wonder really. Umbria is 'picture postcard' Italy. With stunning scenery and quaint villages, it’s the image that most expats dream up when they think of a new life in Italy. Around 70% of Umbria consists of medieval hilly towns that test not only your driving skills, but your leg muscles too as you climb the countless steps! There are endless green fields here, with vineyards and olive groves, woods, lakes, rivers and mountains. In fact, Lord Byron dedicated poems to the beauty of this region, and American born writer Henry James called Umbria “the most beautiful garden in all the world.”
Rental prices are cheaper than many areas of Italy, and you’re looking at around 550 – 700 euros per month for a 2-bedroom rental apartment. Work-wise, like many places online work is an option, but there are engineering and technical industries here, as well a tourism, and cultural and sports too.
The rest of the British expat community are dotted around Veneto, Abruzzo, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia. So, the choice is yours and I guess there will be many visits to Italy before you settle on a final option. It really does pay to travel around to get a feel for a place before you buy or rent long-term. Good luck with your searches!