The Best Places to Live in Italy in 2021

Bas Teunissen

Updated on Apr 16 • 9 minute read

Italy has it all: a beautiful climate, amazing cultural and historical heritage and booming economic hubs that draw talent and technology from all over the world. But, with so many bustling and beautiful cities available, what are the best places to live in Italy for expats?

The best places to live in Italy are:

  1. Milan
  2. Florence
  3. Turin
  4. Rome

Why wait until retirement to enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle? Every city on this list has a lot to offer for expats looking to migrate to Italy but they also shine due to a distinct set of qualities that propel them into the top 5. Looking to settle down in a bustling economic motor and fashion capital like Milan or find your home close to the birthplace of the Italian automotive industry and the Alps in Turin.

Alongside each of these unique properties, there are also a number of shared criteria we’ve used to evaluate each of the cities on the list:

  • Internationality: Is the city popular among expats? Are there enough international job opportunities?
  • Quality of life: Is the city affordable? Is it a beautiful city? What is unique about the city?
  • Safety: Which Italian city is the safest to live in?

Now that we have our criteria in a row, it’s important to know that this list is for enterprising expats and students looking for a new adventure abroad, and not for those looking for a quiet retirement or the best place to spend their vacation. Allora, let’s get started!

1. Milan: the best place to live in Italy

It’s not very difficult to imagine why Milan has the #1 position on this list. It’s one of those cities that has it all: a great international scene, excellent economic opportunities, world class educational institutions and even all the culture and fashionable high society you can handle.

Milan is a true metropolis: strong and fearless but welcoming, too. Little by little, I came to realize that I could become someone here. (Giorgio Armani)

With around 1.4 million inhabitants, Milan is the second-largest city in Italy. If you include the greater Milan metropolitan area included, over 8 million people call it home. It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Milan is known as one of the 4 motors of the European economy.

Internationality in Milan

Milan is a city of international business. In fact, as of 2019, the city had around 277.000 foreign inhabitants, almost 20% of the city’s total population (Municipality of Milan, 2019). This also means that there’s a large English speaking community in Milan, including thousands of British and American expatriates living in the city.

You’ll also find a number of English language (news) publications as well as international schools that offer education in English. All in all, even if you don’t speak fluent Italian, you’ll have no issues finding yourself in new social circles soon after settling down in Milan.

Quality of life in Milan

Milan is known for having some of the highest quality of life in the world. We know it wasn’t really a contest, but this is confirmed by Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore’s 2020 Quality of Living survey. It earns its stars in terms of economy, adoption of a greener lifestyle and ever-growing cultural and demographic diversity.

In Milan, everything is regulated by money. They say 'cappuccio' in bars instead of 'cappuccino' to save a syllable. (Enzo Biagi)

The quality of life in Milan is very high, but so is its cost of living. Life in Milan is infamously expensive, but that shouldn’t be a surprise for a city known as a luxurious fashion capital and economic powerhouse. These high prices are balanced by equally high wages, making Milan an excellent place if you can get the salary to match.

Renting in Milan is also very expensive! In fact, the HousingAnywhere Rent index has Milan at #10 most expensive city in the world, with an average rental price of €1145. Thankfully, Milan has a large metropolitan area that is well connected to the city proper, making commuting easy, convenient and a more affordable option if you don’t feel the need to live in the city centre.

Average rental price in Milan

CategoryAverage Price
Apartments€1145
Studios€871
Rooms€561

Safety in Milan

Milan is a major metropolis, and of course, that comes with its dangers. That means you need to be on guard for pickpockets and scammers, though that can easily be done by avoiding large tourist attractions and being careful if you’re in crowded areas where people could bump into you.

Overall, Milan has a safety index of 66 (travelsafe), Milan has a lot of tourists, so those are the scammers and pickpockets’ favourite targets. Like in most large cities, you shouldn’t leave any valuables behind in your car and make sure you keep your property locked if you’re away from home. Public transport is safe, clean and punctual and women generally have no trouble travelling alone.

2. Florence

At the heart of sunny Tuscany you’ll find its capital Firenze, which we call Florence. Florence has been an important city for centuries, with its Roman roots and glory days as the wealthiest city of medieval Europe and birthplace of the Renaissance. Even today it’s a major tourist hotspot as well as an economic centre.

Through these old streets I wander dreamily; Around me Florence sweeps her busy tide of life. (William Leighton)

Internationality in Florence

If you’re looking for art, culture and history, Florence is the place to be. In fact, Forbes has ranked Florence as one of the most beautiful cities in the world! The city is home to roughly 380.000 people, with around 14% of the population made up of expats and other foreign inhabitants.

Quality of life in Florence

The city’s economy is driven by tourism, heavy industry & manufacturing and traditional and local products, like the famous Chianti wines. Florence is not a cheap city for renters, but it’s certainly a lot more affordable than Milan. But if you ask writers like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, you can't put a price on living in the most beautiful cities in the world and to enjoy its culture, architecture and bustle to your heart's content.

This is the fairest picture on our planet, the most enchanting to look upon, the most satisfying to the eye and the spirit. To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature, and make a sympathetic one drunk with ecstasy. (Mark Twain)

The average rental price for Florence is €936, which is 22% cheaper than Milan.

Average Rental Price Florence

CategoryAverage price
Apartments€936
Studios€650
Rooms€431

Safety in Florence

With a safety index of 70, Florence is a little safer than Milan. Because tourism is one of the most important avenues of income for the city, most of its crime is also related to it. Purse snatchers, pickpockets and scam artists are all out for the tourist’s money. So, try to blend in as a local and keep an eye out for your valuables in busy places. There are very few reports of serious crime and women can travel alone freely. That said, Florence is still a major city, so you should still apply common sense if you need to pass through a shady area at night.

3. Turin

Turin, the first capital Italy (back when it was a kingdom) ever had. faNow the capital of the northern province of Piedmont. The city finds itself on the western bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Western Alps. Much of its political significance has been lost over the years, but Turin remains the third city of Italy in terms of economic power.

Internationality in Turin

Instead of a political hub, Turin became a European focalpoint of international industry commerce and trade, which resulted in a broad international mentality and a thriving expat community. The city has around 850.000 inhabitants, with around 14% of them from non-Italian backgrounds. If you count the greater Turin urban area, this number increases tot close to 2 million inhabitants.

As the third strongest economy in Italy, it is part of the economic triangle between Turin, Milan and Genoa. The Turin economy is home to the Italian automotive industry, housing factories and offices for companies like Fiat, Maserati, Alfa Romeo. The city also sees the fruits of its aerospace industry. To give you an example, at least 3 of the modules for the International Space Station were produced in Turin. The tech and innovation industry is booming for Turin, which opens up a host of opportunities for enterprising expats.

Quality of life in Turin

If you're wondering about the quality of life in Turin, the city has a relatively high number of pensioners. You'll find the city characterised by its intricate baroque architecture, many palaces, piazzos, opera houses and galeries. The city is also home to world class universities, famous sports teams like Juventus. All in all, lovers of culture and history will not soon be bored in Turin!

Turin is a beautiful city. Its space goes beyond anything that has ever been imagined before. (Mark Twain)

Out of the larger Italian cities, Turin is also among the cheapest in cost of living. The average rental price for an apartment in Turin is €790 euros, which is 32% lower than in Milan!

Average Rental Price Turin

CategoryAverage price
Apartments€790
Studios€637
Rooms€386

4. Rome

All roads lead to Rome, and it certainly feels that way once you've lived in the city. The nation's political capital and one of the most populous cities in Europe. Rome has something special to offer for expats looking for a Mediterranean lifestyle brimming with milennia-spanning history, boundless culture as well as promising economic opportunities.

Yes, I have finally arrived to this Capital of the World! I now see all the dreams of my youth coming to life… Only in Rome is it possible to understand Rome. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Internationality in Rome

If you're looking for the bustle of a modern metropolis but also crave a connection to one of the most interesting periods of human history, then Rome should be your new home. With close to 3 million inhabitants, Rome is the third largest city of Europe. It's also home to 300.000 fellow expats, as around 10% of the city's population is non-italian. I probably don't have to tell you exactly why Rome is a cultural gem in the crown of Italy. From Roman to medieval and neoclassicism, layers of history can be found, seen and visited around the city.

Quality of life in Rome

Rome has a massive service industry to cater to its tourism, as well as finance, high-technology and construction are major pillars of the city's economy and a boon to skilled expats looking to bring their expertise to the Italian job market.

Rome is a bustling metropolis, and that also means dealing with the downsides along with its perks. Traffic jams, endless amounts of tourists and semi-regular strikes can be a thorn in your side. Then again, most expats who move there wouldn't trade it for the world. As Rome is the nation's capital, rental prices in the city centre won't be cheap, but they are not as bad as in some other European capitals.

A fool is one who admires other cities without visiting Rome. (Francesco Petrarca)

Average Rental Price Rome

CategoryAverage price
Apartments€1060
Studios€772
Rooms€525

Safety in Rome

With a safety index of 64, Rome is still quite a safe city, but travelers and those unfamiliar with the city need to keep an eye on their surroundings in some situations. In the tourist peak season, the number of scams and thefts increases. There are a large number of scams and theft tricks that you need to look out for in Rome, so you would do well to inform yourself of the most common ones. For example, people distract you by asking you for directions while someone else pickpockets you. Public transport and tourist hotspots are considered crime hotspots.

While Rome is a haven for female solo travellers, one thing they do need to keep an eye on is their drinks. There have been increasing accounts of people falling victin to spiked drinks. The aim of this is to disorient and incapacitate the victim to steal their money, but instances of sexual assault have also occurred. That said, the number of reported sexual assaults towards foreign women have been low in the past few years.

In Short

So, if you're an expat eager to start your life anew in the Mediterranean, Italy is the place to be. Whether it's the grandeur of Milan or the history in Rome; the beauty of Florence or the alpine allure of Turin, there's a place in Italy that will match your hopes, dreams and ambitions.

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