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14 reasons why Italy is a good place to live

By October 19, 2022March 12th, 20233 Comments

When people first hear me speak English and Italian interchangeably, numerous questions arise. The more recurring are: “What’s it like living in Italy as an expat?” Or, “Do you feel more Italian or American?” Another classic, often peppered with surprise, is, “Why don’t you live in the United States, where work opportunities abound?!” Recently I’ve had many people tell me they are thinking of dropping everything and moving to Italy. With a lot of “depends”, but yes, personally I feel Italy is a good place to live.

Italy is wonderful, but complicated.

We Italians like to complain about Italy. A lot. Truth is, it certainly is a country with many problems, as anywhere else. A very big issue with living here is unemployment. Finding a stable and high paying job as a freshly graduated student is notoriously difficult in Italy, if not impossible. The majority land poorly paid positions with loophole contracts that benefit the employer. Yes, the cost of living is low, but wages are lower and prices for things like electricity, water, car parts, electronics, fuel, and other staples are high. And don’t get me started on taxes. 

So a short answer to the question “Should I move to Italy” is: Italy is paradoxically the best place to live/retire if you’re a foreigner/expat. Sadly, not the best if you’re an Italian.

living in italy as a foreigner

Career-oriented folks thinking of moving to Italy expecting to find the same professional standards they are used to, will be disappointed. But the kind of person that is content with a decent life, good food and good people, despite all of Italy’s inconsistencies and shortcomings, will agree that Italy is indeed a good place to live. You may never encounter air conditioning or ice dispensers. Trying to navigate the bureaucracy will drive you insane. You may never find financial stability. But. There’s a huge caveat on the flip side of the coin: you will live a better, longer life in Italy. 

Living here is a delicate game of balance. You work hard and maybe earn too little. But at the end of the work day, you can take a stroll on the beach, or join your friends for aperitivo, or catch an amazing sunset at the Colosseum. And that is what life is all about in my opinion.

italy is a good place to live

So, instead of focusing on the negatives, let me point out some of the reasons why Italy is a good place to live. And why I have chosen to stay, based on these.

Italy offers free healthcare

The country’s public hospitals are very good (in some cases they are exceptionally good) and people have access to doctors, specialists and dentists in even the most rural areas. But mostly, healthcare in Italy is free. Even private healthcare is affordable if you don’t want to wait two weeks for a free MRI, for example.

Italy offers free education 

In Italy, everyone is entitled to a good education, it’s not a privilege. Public education is free through high school, and students get a well-rounded education in the sciences, languages, arts, literature and history early on, plus enjoy nutritious and varied school lunches. Conversely, private schools in most big cities are expensive and close a blind eye if students don’t excel, since tuition ensures they advance every year. University costs about $1,000 a year. Many colleges are now offering classes completely taught in English. Italy is a great place to study art, design, history, cuisine, opera, fashion, engineering – all fields that thrive in Italy. 

free education in Italy

Italy enforces gun control

Speaking of education, no one in Italy is afraid of getting shot while attending school. In Italian schools, public and private, shooter drills or metal detectors are unheard of. No self-locking panic doors. No special emergency training for teachers besides routine evacuation in case of fire. People furthermore don’t generally own weapons for self defense. Some older generations may have hunting rifles, but gun owners must carry a special permit that’s updated regularly, clocking in several hours of firearm training. Violent crime is almost non existent. Terrorism has been expunged.

Italy is child-friendly

Kids are allowed (and revered) everywhere. Italy is strongly family-oriented. Local communities, children and the elderly are highly valued. Grandparents play a huge role in the upbringing of children. Especially if they live in the family household, they help out babysitting when both parents work. The family unit will, compatibly with work/school schedules, all join around the table for a family meal at least once a week.

food is a reason why italy is a good place to live

The quality of food and biodiversity in Italy is unlike any other country 

Italy is a speck of land on our planet. It occupies approximately 0.2% of the world’s landmass and is home to 0.83% of the world population. Italy is the only peninsula in the world that spreads North to South on a perfect latitude, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea by 80%. This is the only place in the world with this type of geographical distribution. Thanks to this peculiarity, great things happen in this 0.2% of the planet: 

Liguria grows the best basil in the world.
In Friuli Venezia Giulia, Prosciutto San Daniele can thank the Italian wind called bora and the Dolomites for its unique nature.
Parma ham would not be what it is without the winds blowing from the Apuane Alps and the Mediterranean into the micro-region of the Padana Plain.
Gragnano, near Naples, makes the best pasta in the world. Here, the fresh breeze from Castellammare di Stabia meets the winds blowing down Mt Vesuvius, which create a unique microclimate that dries the fresh pasta in a special way.
The region of Abruzzo grows the best saffron in the world. 
In Calabria the local licorice is the tastiest on Earth.
Myrtle berries in Sardinia give us unique liqueur.
Pachino tomatoes and citrus grow abundantly in the volcanic, sea-facing soils of Sicily.
The Aglianico wines from Basilicata…I can keep going, but you get my drift.

italy is a good place to live

In Italy – let me remind you, 0.2% of the world landmass – there are 7,000 edible plant species. The second region in the world is Brazil with 3,300. Italy is home to 58,000 animal species: 42,000 species living in the air and soil; 10,500 saltwater species, and 5,500 in the freshwater habitat. Second to Italy is China, the third largest country spread over 6.3% of the Earth’s surface, with 20,000 species. Italy boasts 1,200 local native grape varieties. The second place is France, with 222. Italy grows 533 olive cultivars. Spain grows 70. In Italy you can find 140 wheat crop varieties. USA is in second place with 6.

This abundance is biodiversity. Italy is the country with the biggest biodiversity in the world..

This translates into landscapes of excruciating beauty with islands and volcanoes; miles and miles of sandy and rocky coastlines; Alpine peaks, lakes and hills. Italy comprises so much in such a compact space: romantic cities, timeless hilltop towns, vineyard-covered countryside.

Vineyard discovery

Given the above biodiversity and the importance of agriculture in the country’s economy, Italians tend to not eat that much processed food. The Italian dining culture, aperitivo with friends, street festivals, neighborhood markets… everything steers people to congregate and enjoy the abundance of the Italian table, in compagnia, that is, together.

It’s no surprise then, that Italians plan just about everything around meal times. Food is sacred and it’s a long process of enjoyment, whether at home or dining out. At the restaurant, parties are not rushed to leave the table. Many businesses close for lunch in the middle of the work day. Employees take full 1-hour lunch breaks. 

The pace of life is slower in Italy

This brings us to the next element that explains why Italy is a good place to live. Everyday life in Italy is theater, but the rhythm is slow. Vita lenta is a reality, not just a hashtag. The pace is generally relaxed, laid back, producing low levels of stress. Italians have six weeks of paid vacation a year. The work day is full, but there are plenty of coffee breaks. Even in big cities, the cadence is for the most part unhurried. It’s a culture that prioritizes family and friends over work and to-do lists.

The cost of life is less in Italy

Simpler life in Italy comes with a lower price tag. With a net difference between pricier northern and more affordable southern Italy, the cost of living is overall lower. We must consider that wages in Italy are less than in other countries, but rent, food, and other living expenses are lower in the Bel Paese. 

The weather in Italy is welcoming

While many people view Italy as enjoying perpetually sunny and moderate weather – and the city of Rome enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year – the truth is that there are four seasons. Experiencing a change of season helps mark the rhythm of the Italian year, and contributes greatly to crop rotation and the aforementioned biodiversity. Italy is located in the “southern temperate zone,” where the sea that surrounds the country by 80% determines a peculiar weather condition called Mediterranean climate, characterized by mild, sometimes rainy winters and sunny, hot, and usually dry summers. But at nearly 740 miles in length north to south, Italy also has a variety of sub- and micro-climates where seasonal weather differs greatly. 

The people of Italy are good looking, open and friendly 

Italians value human relations, they are warm, hospitable. Even in the worst tragedy, they can always find something to laugh about. This makes me think that in Italy we are lucky to have Naples and its population, no other country in the world can say the same. An extraordinary city: chaotic for some, but the mix of fantastic art, exceptional food, colorful history and – mostly – the passion of its people, make it completely worth it. Also, their coffee is on another level, but I digress. 

the importance of the dolce vita

The importance of the sweet life

Italians live to surround themselves with people they love, taking the time to enjoy even the simplest things: a delicate zucchini blossom, a well-made cup of espresso, the feeling of salt on your shoulders after a swim in the sea, taking in the smell of pine needles and wild mint on a countryside passeggiata. Italians prioritize the important things in life. This is the very definition of the sweet life. 

Italy’s unrivaled cultural and historical heritage

If you like art and beauty, Italy is definitely a good place to live.

The cities and towns of the Bel Paese are literally open air art galleries. Museums and monuments compete with the abundance of art found everywhere. Italy is the birthplace of some of the most incredible music, theater and opera. Poignant poetry, literature, architecture, design, artisan crafts all stem from here. Virtually every city in Italy (no matter how big or small) is full of cultural attractions like churches full of masterpieces, beautiful buildings, Medieval walls, ancient ruins (sometimes dating back several millennia), etc. And then there’s the high concentration of Heritage Sites, which is staggering. There are 1,154 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the globe. Tiny Italy takes the crown as the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a whopping 58. China comes in next with 56. Access to such readily available cultural abundance completely changes the quality of life.

photo of fountain in St Peter's Square - Vatican & Colosseum tour

Italy is small, and everything is close by

In Italy you are never more than 120 miles away from stellar beaches or top-notch ski slopes. It’s therefore a terrific base for exploring all of Europe. If you live in Milan, in just 2 hours by car or train you can swim in the crystal waters in the Cinque Terre, ski in the Dolomites, or have lunch on Lake Como. If you live in Rome, a 1 hour train ride gets you to the Uffizi in Florence or to your favorite pizzeria in Naples. You can be in Paris, Lisbon, Athens or London in under 90 minutes flight. Even geographically speaking, Italy is a good place to live.

Venice, period. 

One of the most magical places was also the biggest influence on civilization: Venice, Italy. A fragile city built on a group of 118 small islands in a murky lagoon, and yet one of the most beautiful man-made masterpieces in the world. It was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It was an important center of commerce (especially silk, grains, and spices) and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th. Venice was the first real international financial center, from the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 1300s. From anywhere in Italy, you can take a fast train and arrive in one of the world’s most stunning stations. Hop on a ferry. Lose your bearings in the calle alleys. Soak in the beauty. Drink a spritz.

venice, italy

Italy has arguably the greatest history of cinema

Since its beginning, Italian cinema has influenced film movements worldwide. One of the first cinematic avant-garde movements, Italian Futurism, took place in the late 1910s. After a period of decline in the 1920s, the Italian film industry had a resurgence in the 1930s with the arrival of sound. A popular Italian genre during this period, called Telefoni Bianchi, consisted of comedies set in glamorous situations. While Italy’s Fascist government provided financial support for the nation’s film industry, with the construction of the Cinecittà studios (once the largest film studio in Europe), it also engaged in censorship. A new era took place at the end of WWII with the birth of an influential movement, Neorealism. Neorealist films typically dealt with the working class (in contrast to Telefoni Bianchi), entirely filmed on location, using no constructed sets. Many neorealist films, but not all, used non-professional actors.

italian cinema

My grandfather Vittorio De Sica was a leading figure in the neorealist movement and one of the world’s most acclaimed and influential filmmakers of all time. Poetry and cruelty of life harmonically combined in his films. Among these, Oscar winners like Sciuscià (1946) and The Bicycle Thief (1948; ranked among the best movies ever made and part of the canon of classic cinema), followed by the poetic and surreal Miracolo a Milano (1951). The 1952 film Umberto D shows a retired government worker and his dog struggling to make ends meet while maintaining some form of dignity. This film is considered De Sica’s masterpiece, and one of the most important works in Italian cinema. Friend and talented director Paul Mazursky publicly said he was inspired by this film for his “Harry and Tonto.” Italian neorealist cinema influenced filmmakers around the world, and helped inspire other film movements. 

If you are a cinephile, you’ll agree that Italy is a good place to live.

italy is a good place to live

I hope this writing inspires you to do what makes you happy, be that dropping everything and moving to Italy to enjoy the sweet life, pursuing an old dream or learning to play the trombone.

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