Live and Work in Italy

Life in Italy - houses and washingIf you have been to Italy a few times and fallen in love with the country (as it is so easy to do), perhaps you have decided to move there, on a temporary or permanent basis. For us Brits, this is much easier to achieve than it is for the extracommunitari (non EU members): because both Italy and the UK are members of the European Union, we are allowed to go and settle in Italy without needing a visa. You will need to get a permesso di soggiorno (resident's permit) but - in theory, at least - this is straightforward, since EU members have the right to live anywhere in the Union.


Moving to Italy is not a project to be undertaken lightly. Depending on your situation, you need to consider jobs, housing, schools, language and potential culture clash. Living in Italy can be a joy, or it can be quite stressful if you are not prepared for the cultural differences and red tape.


If you are intending to stay in Italy only for a year or two, be aware that it can be quite hard to fit back into 'the system' when you return to the UK. When I was applying for jobs, I found my two years teaching English in Milan frequently dismissed as an extended holiday. Of course, it depends what sort of jobs you are applying for, what qualifications you've got and what you did before you went to Italy - all I'm saying is, don't rely on your Italian experience de facto looking good on the CV.


There is much to consider before you pack up your life and move it to Italy. However, the rewards can be enormous; I certainly look back on my time in Milan as one of the outstanding highlights of my life. If you go into it with your eyes - and your mind - open, spending a few years abroad is a tremendous experience and one I would highly recommend.



Finding a job in Italy

Although British people are free to work in Italy without permits or complications, in practice it is not always easy to find a job. Probably the easiest solution is to get yourself an Italian posting within the company that already employs you. If this is not possible or if you want to change your lifestyle, you can search online for jobs in Italy - for example, through Jobs Abroad, Euro Jobs or Xpat Jobs.


As a UK subject, you will not need a work permit but you will require a codice fiscale (equivalent to a National Insurance number) and, if you are planning to stay more than a year, a partita IVA (equivalent to VAT registration).


Another approach is to arrive in Italy and look for a job once you're there. Particularly if you speak the language, you will almost certainly find something, although not necessarily the type of job you had in mind. It is a bit of a risk to do this, of course, but in some ways it's easier, as with a house, to find a job once you're on the spot. Not only are you instantly available for interviews and so on, you can also find out more about what opportunities are on offer by talking to your friends and contacts there in Italy. Networking can be extremely fruitful.


A useful thing to do before you go to Italy is to contact the Chamber of Commerce in the city or town you are aiming to live in and ask them to send you a list of British companies operating in that region. In Milan, for example, this is a thick volume - and it includes the language schools that teach English as a foreign language. You can send/email your CV and a covering letter to any organisations that look hopeful and then ring them up when you arrive in Italy. People do find jobs this way (I did) but it is unpredictable and you would be wise, if you are going to do this, to make sure you have access to enough money to live on for a good three months, in case you can't find work immediately.


Teaching English in Italy

If you want to live and work in Italy, a good way to do this is to become an English language teacher. Comparatively few foreigners speak Italian - and English is, as we all know, the international language these days. The Italians are great entrepreneurs and there is huge demand to learn English. Teaching can be hard work but, if you take to it, it's extremely rewarding and it provides regular opportunities for meeting new people.


While it is not always necessary to have an internationally recognised qualification, you do need to know what you're doing - and a certificate is definitely a help. Also, while it is not actually necessary to speak Italian in order to teach English to Italians, you will find it much easier if you know where your students are coming from and why they make the mistakes they do.




Finding a place to live in Italy

Flats in ItalyFinding somewhere to live in Italy is not as easy as one might hope. In many Italian cities and towns, there is a shortage of accommodation and it is certainly much more difficult to find somewhere to rent quickly in Italy than it is in the UK. Unless you know people who can help you, a great deal of it is luck and, again, it is sensible to take enough money that you can stay in a cheap hotel until you find yourself a flat. In any case, it's a good idea to stay somewhere very temporary, such as a hotel or pensione, while you get to know the area you're proposing to settle in. Almost everywhere in Italy, public transport is plentiful and of a high standard but it's worth just finding out where your nearest metro station or bus stop is before you sign a contract.


When you're working out your budget, bear in mind that rents are often quotes without the charges you have to pay every month for the maintenance of the house/block in which your flat is. These spese are sometimes quite big so do remember to ask about them before you get excited about being able to afford somewhere.


Have a look at Secondamano (equivalent of Loot) to see what is on offer in terms of apartments to rent.


Rural idyll? House on an Italian hillsideFor the young, single and flexible, an economical solution can be to find a flat-share. I would never do this myself but it seems to work for a lot of (more laid-back) people. Check out the EasyStanza website or, once you're in Italy, have a look at the notices up on public boards, especially around the local university. If you're sharing with strangers, I do recommend you be careful but, if you're lucky, you can make some good friends this way.


Another angle on this is to become a paying guest in a host family. You'll probably get more privacy this way, though it's likely to be a bit more expensive. Either way, if you're planning to learn Italian, living with native speakers is a huge help.


If you're aiming to start a new, romantic life in rural Italy, I urge you to think very hard before you leave your current life. Once the novelty has worn off, living in a dilapidated farmhouse in the middle of nowhere can be tough and lonely. People do make it work (so why not you?) but I strongly recommend a lot of soul-searching in advance, to make sure it's really what you want.


If you're thinking of buying a property in Italy, make sure you get expert legal support from a local lawyer because there are many traps for the unwary.

Finding your children a school in Italy

There are several international (English-speaking) schools in Italy. You can find lists of them on the internet, for example at World Wide Schools or at


However, depending on your circumstances and how long you are planning to stay in Italy, going to an Italian school may be an excellent opportunity for your children to learn to speak Italian like natives.



Speaking Italian

Although, even in the smaller towns, a lot of Italians speak at least some English, it is definitely a good idea for you to learn Italian before you move to Italy. You will get immeasurably more out of your life there; it is very difficult to be really involved if you don't speak the language and it is, if we are honest, a bit rude to expect the natives to speak English to us all the time.


If you're sharing a flat with Italians, take advantage of this to chat to them in their language as much as you can - and ask them to correct your mistakes.

Potential culture clash

We may all be Europeans but Italians are different from British people. Some differences you may find charming and wonderful, others you may find intensely irritating. That is expatriate life. If you don't expect everybody to behave as people do in Britain and just go with the flow, you will find most Italians welcoming and friendly. Italy is a fantastic place to live but just remember that you are abroad and they do things differently there.


Resources to help you move to Italy

To find out more about settling in Italy, you may like to consult the following websites:


The Informer - a guide to living in Italy

Expat Focus - information and a forum for current and prospective expats

Shelter Offshore - articles about renting or buying property in Italy


Living and Working in Italy - book coverLiving and Working in Italy: A Survival Handbook
by Caroline Prosser


If you're planning to move to Italy, this book will furnish you with the cold, hard facts to make sure you know what you're doing. No idealism here - it provides a clear-eyed view of what you can expect in unglamorous areas of life such as paying taxes.


Read more about Living and Working in Italy.

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