Milan and Rome have it all: beautiful architecture, history, vibrant nightlife, and delicious food, so it’s no wonder that they’re two of the best expat cities in Italy. Whether it’s the historical Rome or the luxurious Milan, every city has its own traditions and glamour that make picking one a real challenge. If you’re eyeing Italy as your new home but still can’t decide between the top two best cities in Italy, you’re at the right place!
In this article, we’ll walk you through the main similarities and differences that make Rome and Milan unique. Which city will be triumphant? Read on to find out and make your final choice!
Rome is the capital and the biggest city in Italy, with almost 4.2 million inhabitants. Italians call Rome “la città Eterna”, which means “the eternal city”, due to its more than 3000-year history and breathtaking beauty. Rome is also the home of the catholic church, with the Vatican being in the heart of the city.
With almost 3 million inhabitants, Milan is popular as “the economic engine of Italy”. This is due to the fact that Milan is not only the fashion capital of Italy, but also its business centre. It’s common for Italians and internationals alike to move here in search of good employment opportunities. As a result you can expect to come across people from diverse backgrounds. You can trust that the majority of the younger generation speaks English, but don’t count on hearing the elders speak in a language other than Italian.
There is no ultimate answer to the question of which city is more expensive to live in when it comes to Rome and Milan. It all depends on your lifestyle and which part of the cities you live in. Citta Studi is the most affordable out of the neighbourhoods in Milan, while Testaccio has the most affordable rents among Rome’s neighbourhoods. With a bit more digging you’ll also be able to find affordable accommodation across the other neighbourhoods across Rome and Milan.
Everyone knows that the quality of life in Milan is high and the cost of living is proportional to that standard. As a result, living in Milan is expensive for locals and internationals alike.
When it comes to the rental expenses in Milan in 2022, as per HousingAnywhere’s rent Index the following table should give you an impression as to what to expect:
|Type of accommodation||Amount (p/m)|
The table below shows the estimated monthly cost of living in Milan for one person as of the end of 2021:
|Type of expense||Amount (p/m)|
|Other (local taxes, shopping, etc)||Approx. €500|
|Total||€850 + rent|
Living in Rome is 6% cheaper than living in Milan, and this is also related to the lower salaries available in the capital.
When it comes to the rental expenses in Rome, the data from HousingAnywhere's Rent Index is as follows:
|Type of accommodation||Amount (p/m)|
Here is the estimated monthly cost of living in Rome for one person as of the end of 2021:
|Type of expense||Amount (p/m)|
|Other (local taxes, shopping, etc)||€400|
|Total||€635 + rent|
There are countless things to do in both cities, but here are some secret gems that only locals know!
If you like going to the park for a run or just for a break from the city noises, you can head towards Baggio. Just to the south of Milan, Baggio is easy to reach via metro or bus and is home to the beautiful Parco Delle Cave park. This is where you’ll find woodlands, agricultural fields, and ponds for fishing.
You should visit Parco Delle Cave during the summer, when conglomerations of fireflies fill the nightscape with intermittent lights.”
Another hidden local favourite is the view from Villa Invernizzi, which is a mansion with an expansive garden that is home to picturesque pink flamingos. The villa is right between the corso Venezia and via Palestro steets.
You can also go around Quartiere Isola, the hipster district of Milan. This is where you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful graffiti, some of the best taverns in Milan. The secondary streets of Via Della Spiga are highlight of the area since this is where you’ll find restaurants serving the traditional ossobuco alla Milanese with risotto allo zafferano. If you’re a pasta lover, you won't be disappointed since the Bottega Farina in via Buenos Aires has only fresh pasta on its menu.
If you're a fan of street art, then Rome has the best place for you. If you head to Museo condominiale di Tor Marancia you'll find a series of unique murals, that were done by 22 international artists, on the surrounding buildings.
A place hidden from tourists is definitely the Museo Della Mente, a museum located in one area of the Santa Maria Della Pietà hospital. The museum documents the history of the asylum, presenting visitors with a reflection on the theme of diversity and social exclusion.
If you want to enjoy a breathtaking view, admire the sunset at Giardino Degli Aranci, a park with a terrace where you can admire a spectacular panorama over the eternal city. The Mamma Mia tavern is here as well, and offers some of the best local food at an affordable price.
Museums are free on the first Sunday of every month in both Rome and Milan, so this is your chance to explore them without breaking the bank.”
Thousands of students from all over the world and Italy choose to start their studies in Milan every year. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Milan is popular with some of the best universities in Italy and Europe. Milan offers new fun things to do every day, from art and culture to nightclubs and festivals in summer, which are perfect for students and expats that want to have fun and meet new people. The city is also well-connected by a vast public transport network, which makes getting around easy and quick.
Even though Rome is the biggest city in Italy, and is home to several popular universities, it lacks the sense of diversity and internationality that can be found in Milan. Another downside of Rome is that the public transport system is less efficient than in Milan due to it’s dated infrastructure. However, Rome is more affordable than Milan and has better weather year-round, making it a good destination for students.
There’s no clear winner between Rome and Milan when it comes to which city is better for students, since both cities offer great education options and entertaining leisure activities.”
If you like going out early in the evening and coming back early in the morning, then Milan is the city for you. Some of the most popular areas where you can enjoy the ”Milanese nightlife” are Arco Della Pace, Navigli, Colonne di San Lorenzo, and Marghera where people start to go out at 18:00 for an aperitivo, a social moment when Italians meet up and have a drink before dinner. Once they’re done with the aperitivo, the locals then go drinking in bars until 23:00, when it’s finally time to go dancing until 4 am. But the night doesn’t end here! Locals like to stop at bakeries after clubs, where they can eat pizza or croissants before going home.
You’ll find that bakeries are open all night on weekends and turn into social venues filled with cheerful locals.”
However, if you don’t like clubbing, you can always enjoy a drink at Nottingham forest cocktail in Viale Piave, one of the 50 best bars in the world, where you can drink cocktails from the most aesthetic and absurd glasses.
Rome’s nightlife starts later, at around 22:00, when people go out to enjoy a drink at Piazza Navona, Via Della Pace or Campo De Fiori. As the night unfolds, people go to the Testaccio area, where you can find every genre of clubs, from electric music to salsa and LGBTQI+ clubs, with music running until early in the morning. In the centre of Rome, you can find Monti, the hipster area, where most restaurants and bars stay open throughout the whole night.
Both Rome and Milan are generally safe cities, with police being present on the streets at night. However, it’s always a good idea to stick to the general rules of caution that are applicable to all big cities.
All in all, Milan is the right pick for you if you’re eager to live in an innovative city. However, if you prefer an affordable city that is rich in history, Rome is the city for you. Now that you’ve got all the information, it's time to make your final decision and start working on your checklist for relocating to Italy.
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