Milan vs Florence: Which city is more expat-friendly?


Updated on Jul 04 • 4 minute read

When it comes to deciding which city is better in the case of Florence and Milan, it really depends on what you are looking for. Florence is known for its art and history, while Milan is Italy’s business hub.

Both Florence and Milan are among the best cities in Italy and living in each comes with its pros and cons. Keep reading to find out which city is the right choice for you as we tell you about the quality of life, cost of living, demographics, and leisure activities in Milan and Florence.

Overview of Milan and Florence

What is Milan like?

Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region and is located in North Italy. The city is home to some of the biggest European companies and has the title of “The Economic Engine of Italy”. Based on that the city is a great destination for doing business.

The city has nine districts that are spread across a territory of more than 1,500 square kilometers. Each area offers its unique take on the Italian lifestyle and the city has been increasingly international over the past years thanks to the constant tourist flow and the expats that are moving here to pursue a career in fashion or the more standard lines of work.

Given the high number of businesses in Milan, the city’s job market is flourishing and more and more English-speaking positions are opening up for expats.

What is Florence like?

Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region and is located in central Italy. It is one of the most beautiful and well-known cities in the world. Florence is home to many historical landmarks dating back to the Renaissance.

Florence’s vibrant social scene and affordable cost of living contribute to a good quality of life in the city. One drawback that has to be mentioned is the lack of an elaborate public transport network, but this is outweighed by Florence’s small footprint.

There are many English-speaking job opportunities in the tourism sector, while the rest of the jobs in the city require a good level of Italian.

Where is the cost of living higher? - Milan vs Florence

There is no one definite answer to this question as the cost of living can vary greatly depending on individual preferences and circumstances. However, some general comparisons can be made.

In terms of the overall cost of living, Milan is generally more expensive than Florence, mostly driven up by accommodation prices. For example, an apartment in Milan costs around €1,200 while the price you’ll have to pay in Florence can be as low as €950.

Additionally, your food and transportation costs will be higher in Milan, while Florence is where you’ll pay more for your utilities. To be exact, your monthly expenses excluding rent will be no less than €1,000 in Milan and €800 in Florence.

As per the HousingAnywhere Rent Index, the exact rental expenses in Florence and Milan are the following:

Type of AccommodationAverage cost in MilanAverage cost in Florence

Things to do in Milan and Florence

Considering that both Florence and Milan are popular tourist destinations, neither of the cities lacks entertainment options. However, both cities have their pros and cons in that regard.

Milan has an abundance of parks, museums, restaurants, and clubs spread throughout the city. However, the large footprint of the city can mean that you’ll need to spend more time commuting to your destination and back home.

Florence, on the other hand, has a more limited variety when it comes to the leisure activities that are available. However, the size of the city makes getting where you need to be a breeze.

All in all, Milan would suit you if you don’t mind spending time commuting for the sake of a wider range of options, while Florence would be the place for you if you prefer to have everything within arms reach.

Is Milan better for students than Florence?

Considering the positives of living in Milan and Florence, the decision of which city to study in isn’t an easy one. When comparing the two cities based on their suitability for students, the most important elements to focus on are:

  • The cost of living in the city
  • The number of universities in and how they place in the world rankings
  • The availability of affordable accommodation
  • The entertainment options in
  • The ease of getting around

When it comes to the cost of living, there is a clear winner- Florence. This means that students can stretch their budget more than in Milan.

Regarding the number of universities in the two cities, there are 8 universities in Milan and only 4 in Florence. All of the universities in Milan rank in the top 200 universities worldwide, while those in Florence are only listed in the national rankings. Based on that, it’s safe to say that you can expect a greater degree of internationality in the Milanese universities than in those in Florence.

Florence takes the win when it comes to the ease of getting around the city. This may come as a surprise considering the limited public transport network in Florence, the city is so small that you can practically walk everywhere. Getting around in Milan , on the other hand, may require you to changes modes of transport several times, depending on where you live.

Florence’s small size also makes it easier to meet new people due to the greater sense of intimacy it creates, while the dominant chaos in Milan may hinder your ability to make friends. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the fact that the internationality of Florence is a lot lower than that in Milan, where you’ll have an easier time finding other international students.

Exploring houses for rent in Milan you'll generally find higher prices and there're substantially more available accommodation options than in Florence. The availability of rentals means that the chances of finding houses for rent in Florence which a

Which city is safer - Milan or Florence?

When it comes to the safety in Milan and Florence, both cities are considered to be safe. However, you should keep in mind that Milan’s popularity with tourists means that there is a higher theft risk than in Florence.

All in all, the final choice between moving to Milan or Florence is up to you. Florence would be the perfect spot for you if you're looking for a cosy city and know good Italian. Milan is the place for you to be if you thrive in the hustle and bustle of big cities.

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