The sunlight, sandy beaches, rich culture of art, history, food, and friendliness — it’s no wonder you might think about moving to Italy from the UK.
Find out more about life in Italy, how to move to Italy after Brexit, options for buying in Italy and options for retiring to Italy, as well as how we can help to make your move smoother.
‘La Dolce Vita’: Life in Italy
One of the first cultural differences a Brit may come across are Italian greetings. While known for their closeness and friendliness, Italians have more formal greetings than perhaps Brits may be used to — is is customary to shake someone’s hand and say buongiorno, while ciao and a kiss on the cheek may be construed as rude with someone you don’t know so well. Between friends, however, greetings are much warmer: it is very normal to kiss each other on the cheek and go in for a long hug.
When chatting with friends, don’t be shocked by Italian sincerity — both in friendly and hostile situations! While Brits tend to shy away from full honesty out of sheer politeness, an Italian will usually tell you from their heart how it is, which, at first, might seem confrontational. But mutual honesty often gives way to closer relationships, and you might just find that friends you make in Italy last for a long time.
Living in Italia
If you’re learning Italian, you might notice a difference in the use of formal speech. While ‘you’ is appropriate for everyone in English in every context, Italians will use the traditional ‘lei’ instead of the informal ‘you’ when talking to strangers. However, if you are moving to Italy from the UK, your Italian neighbours will be glad to hear that you are learning their language; they won’t mind if you use less formal language because your efforts will speak volumes.
Another thing that guides may skip over is the plethora of Italian dialects. While most Italians speak what is referred to as ‘standard Italian’ (the Italian you will learn from a textbook), many speak a dialect as their first language. In southern regions, dialects are used between friends and family. Learning a local dialect is a wonderful way to integrate yourself into the local way of life.
Religion in Italy
As a predominantly Catholic country, religion plays a large part in the daily life of many, from the beautiful cathedrals and churches to the observance of Christian holidays. Very little will be open on important Christian holidays such as Easter Sunday, so avoid leaving your shopping too late!
Working in Italy
A world away from the atmosphere of the fast-paced, exhausting daily grind so commonly plaguing UK cities, working in Italy is more about working hard and playing hard. When moving to Italy from the UK, you will notice minor differences that Italians cherish, like an hour’s lunch break, normalised coffee breaks, and long dinners that are seldom rushed and make for a better work-life balance and feeling your best. The Italian lifestyle of la dolce vita isn’t so much about taking it easy all day but rather making the most of your downtime.
If you were living in Italy before Brexit came into effect, you are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement, and there is no need to apply for a visa. Post-Brexit, things are a little more complicated, but offices are still very keen to take on skilled workers and native English speakers.
British citizens looking to work in Italy will need to apply for an Italian work permit or another residence permit that allows them to work in Italy; for example, a study visa will enable you to work, as does a residence permit granted by marriage. It’s also worth looking into familial connections to other European countries: you might be able to obtain EU citizenship if you have parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents from an EU country, giving you the right to work and live in the EU.
If you’re looking for seasonal work in Italy, British English is a great asset. Just like full-time work, you will need an Italian work permit and residence permit, but costs for these may be lower if only valid for a shorter duration. It is worth the effort even for a shorter-stay visa, since you can find work as a teacher, tour guide, or in the hospitality sector (at a bar, hotel or restaurant, etc.). Explore some of the most beautiful towns and coastlines in Europe during summer and get paid for it! In the winter, ski resorts employ thousands of staff and instructors, and many of these jobs include a ski pass.
Driving in Italy after Brexit
Are you looking to drive in Italy? If you have moved to Italy on or after 1 January 2022, you can use your UK licence for one year from the date you became a resident. However, your existing British driving licence cannot be renewed. As a resident in Italy, you will need to exchange it for an Italian one — meaning that you will need to take another driving test when you arrive. In the meantime, following EU law, you will need your passport, vehicle registration document, proof of insurance and GB sticker on your UK vehicle. You must also have a reflective jacket, warning triangle and headlight beam deflectors in your car.
What about driving in Italy in general? We hear many stories of poor Italian drivers in the UK, but the reality is that Italian roads are no less safe than the average EU country. Safer, in fact, than much smaller countries such as Belgium and Luxembourg. There are, however, some things unique to driving in Italy that are helpful to be aware of before moving there.
Firstly, the Italian ZTL: zona a traffico limitato, a restricted traffic area introduced to protect historic city centres from excess traffic and pollution. There are around 200 of these in Italy, and only residents and registered vehicles can enter these areas during the specified time; not observing this risks an expensive fine. Since these are often neither well-marked nor marked in multiple languages, it is essential to be aware of them when driving in cities. If you live or work in the historical centre of a town, you will be able to register your car as permitted to access the ZTL.
Moving to Italy from the UK, you may find that driving in Italian cities can also be difficult due to complex networks of narrow, one-way streets, and some rural roads can be equally narrow and challenging. Italian motorways (autostrade) are mostly toll roads, They’re very well kept and are often well worth your money rather than trying to find a cheaper, more scenic route.
If you’re not a keen driver, the public transport integrated into the Italian lifestyle almost makes driving unnecessary. Far cheaper and more convenient than in the UK, trains and buses will take you anywhere you need to go in a city, and almost anywhere you need to go in a rural area. A car is probably most convenient for mountainous journeys and village-hopping trips, but otherwise, there’s almost definitely a high-speed train that will get you there faster.
Where to Live in Italy
In your move to Italy from the UK, it may be challenging to decide where to live: city, countryside, rented house, purchased house.
Renting a house or apartment in Italy can be tricky. Often, the best properties are found not on real estate sites but on Facebook or sites such as idealista.it and subito.it, where landlords often list properties themselves. Particularly on Facebook, renters can fear they are being scammed when the posts aren’t moderated, which is why the best thing is always to go and see the property in person and ask as many questions as possible.
After Brexit, buying a property in Italy might seem overly complicated. However, with high rent in some areas and an Italian tradition of purchasing a property to keep in the family, it may well be the right decision for you if your move is permanent.
Before Covid, house prices in Italy were stagnating, but we have seen an increase in prices since lockdowns and restrictions ended. Italy does not have the same Golden Visa scheme as Spain and Portugal, allowing non-EU nationals to gain residency through high-value real estate purchases. However, it is considered a ‘no restrictions’ country, meaning that UK nationals are free to buy a property.
The question isn’t ‘should I buy a property in Italy?’; it’s ‘where should I buy a property in Italy?’ For professionals looking to relocate to Italy, most job opportunities are in the cities, making it a good investment. Here’s our guide to where to live in Italy and where to buy your first Italian property.
A beautiful, historically significant city in Tuscany, Arezzo has Florence’s charm and culture without the sky-high prices or the tourists. With excellent train links to local towns and a lively historical centre, this is perfect for those working in Arezzo with the occasional commute to Florence or Bologna. While tiny apartments on the outskirts of Florence will start at around €300,000, a two-bedroom apartment in the centre of Arezzo will go for as little as €200,000!
Who wouldn’t want to purchase in the homeplace of the pizza? Local cuisine aside, Naples has a lot to offer, including its proximity to the sea, transport links, and many job opportunities for UK professionals. Compared to some Northern cities, Naples property prices are much lower, as is the cost of living. A three-room apartment can go for as low as €170,000 in the city’s historical centre, adding to its value as a future holiday let.
One corner of Italy’s ‘industrial triangle’ and a historically important port, Genoa is a testament to new developments in an ancient city. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus and Giuseppe Mazzini (a key figure in the unification of Italy), the city is a hub for both business and tourism, making it the perfect investment. Prices here start at just €150,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment in the historic centre.
Another corner of the ‘industrial triangle’ and the birthplace of Fiat, Turin similarly offers a lively city atmosphere, a wealth of job opportunities as well as a sizeable community of expats. However, one of the biggest draws of this city is the novelty of being so close to the mountains. Located just 90 minutes from some of Italy’s top ski resorts, the city is incredible for keen skiers and those who just want the opportunity to escape city life from time to time. Prices are a little higher here, but a two-bedroom apartment is unlikely to set you back much more than €250,000, and many of them are new-builds.
The third corner of the industrial triangle and undoubtedly a more expensive option, Milan is the business centre of Italy and the national home of fashion, art, international businesses, and job opportunities. The city also has a vast network of fellow expats. Moving to Italy from the UK and buying real estate in Milan is a bold move, but the property can be a high-return investment. Prices are wide-ranging, but a smaller apartment might start at €300,000, while a 2-bedroom flat in the city centre is unlikely to be less than €400,000.
Retiring to Italy After Brexit
If you or a loved one is relocating to Italy for retirement, there is no better place to be. Moving to Italy from the UK is a step forward into an idyllic, calm, and stimulating later life.
Post-Brexit, British citizens need to apply for an elective residency visa, or ERV, a long-stay permit allowing retirees to reside in Italy. It is said to be one of the most accessible visas to obtain. Your application needs to be supported by proof of suitable accommodation for a year, whether rented or purchased.
With the paperwork sorted, where will you move to in Italy? Based on prices, quality of living, ex-pat communities, and much more, our top five regions are here. The relaxed lifestyle, Mediterranean climate, diet and comparatively lower living costs than most UK cities make it challenging to choose.
With beautiful coastlines, fresh food, and warmer weather than more northern areas of the country, Sicily seems like an excellent choice for a leisurely retirement. What’s more, living costs are lower than on the mainland. On average, rent is over 60% cheaper than in Rome. The island is also home to some fascinating archaeological sites, such as the Greek theatre of Syracuse and the Greek temples of Agrigento. There are many incredible geological sights to visit, such as the Aeolian volcanic islands and Mount Etna.
Loved for its extensive vineyards, chianti wine, cosy towns, and milder summers than the South, Tuscany has already become home to a thriving ex-pat community, especially in and around Florence. Tuscany might be a great choice if you’re less confident in Italian, if the heat of the South seems overwhelming, or simply if you enjoy fine art and wine, and it’s still considerably cheaper than living in or around London. If sipping wine, taking in luscious landscapes and immersing yourself in Renaissance art and architecture is your idea of retirement, Tuscany could be your new home.
Home to the University of Bologna, the oldest university globally, Emilia-Romagna is a beautiful region for those looking for an intellectual escape during their retirement. The city of Bologna is also ranked very highly in terms of wealth and quality of life in Italy. Modena is also a famous city in the area for its rich operatic culture and has an excellent ex-pat community. For those looking for an active retirement, there are 16 ski resorts in Emilia-Romagna.
Home to the Amalfi coast, Campania is an astonishingly beautiful region of Italy with an incredible culinary culture. It’s also the best place for limoncello. This region is perfect for a peaceful, warm retirement full of good food and gorgeous views. Like Sicily, Campania has much lower living costs than elsewhere in Italy. Like Emilia-Romagna, there is plenty of opportunity for an active lifestyle: coastal towns like Amalfi and Sorrento are perfect for many water sports. Perhaps most importantly, it’s home to Naples, the birthplace of the pizza, and the incredible remains of Pompeii.
Lazio is the region wherein Rome is situated and is incredibly popular among expats for its high standards of healthcare and widespread Anglophone community. Property is more expensive here, which is both a positive and a negative point; while you may not get as much space for your money, the eventual return on your investment should you wish to move will be higher and likely more stable. Rome and its surrounding areas are well-loved for the city’s lively atmosphere and rich culture. It’s also well-connected, making visits from your loved ones that much easier.
Removals to Italy from the UK
Now that you’ve planned out your dream future in Italy, it’s time to start thinking about the move. Trying to work out the logistics of putting all your belongings in a suitcase can be a nightmare. From packing to moving to storing your belongings, we at Matthew James Removals have decades of experience helping British expats realise their dreams hassle-free. Get in touch for a free quote today.