When you think of Italy, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Pizza? Espresso? The Coliseum? Maybe it’s fashion, sports cars, wine, or Renaissance art…
Perhaps you’ve heard that you can retire for under $2,000 a month there.
Yes, there are dozens of reasons why anybody would want to live in Italy. But a little planning is necessary. So, if you want to make moving to Italy a reality, here are 10 things to consider and prepare for:
1. Visas and Paperwork
As an American, you’ll need to get a Work Visa, either by applying for one from the USA or by finding a company in Italy to hire you and initiate the paperwork on your behalf.
Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more detailed information and a good Q&A.
2. Customs – bringing over household items and pets
Italian customs allow duty-free entry of household effects, as long as they are imported within six months of you moving to Italy and registering as a resident. If you hold resident status, you can also import a motor vehicle duty free, providing you’ve owned it for at least a year. More detailed information about registration and licensing can obtained from the vehicle registration office, Pubblico Registro Automobilistico (PRA).
You can bring your pets from the USA if they have a valid Veterinary Certificate; a valid rabies vaccine; and a tattoo or a microchip. Once in Italy, an Italian vet can issue an EU Pet Passport.
3. Opening a bank account
Italy’s banks are modern and fairly easy to navigate. You should check each of the three types of banks to make sure your personal financial needs (i.e. investments, pension, salary payment and foreign exchange) can be met:
- Credit banks
- Co-operative banks
- Co-operative Credit banks
To open checking (assegno) and current (conto corrente) accounts you will have to apply in person with the following documents:
- your passport
- proof of address (a copy of your rental or purchase agreement)
- a residence card or proof of employment
- your tax identification number (codice fiscale) with you. (This can be applied for at an Italian embassy or at the Revenue Service – Agenzia delle Entrate – in Italy.)
4. Getting a cell phone:
Abbonamenti/Abbonamento, is a standard long-term contract but may require you to sign up for a minimum period of time. The tariffe or rate will change depending on the package. Look for any “hidden costs” (such as VAT or sales tax). In Italy, Tassa di concessione governativa is a €5.16 special communications tax, while costo di attivazione is an activation cost.
5. Finding a job
If you’re not being relocated by your employer, then it’s probably best to find a job before making the move to Italy. It can be pretty tough to find work once you get there. Italy’s unemployment rate is around 12%. Certain large agencies, like Manpower, have offices there, so finding temporary or short-term contracts is easier through them.
Teaching English is a good option. There are a number of openings for madrelingua inglese in schools and colleges. Email the schools of interest, but it’s probably better to visit them personally, with your CV in-hand.
Network with other expats on Facebook and LinkedIn and through blogs, and learn from their experiences. Depending on your field, there are many major international companies in Italy which need to employ English-speakers. Try them as well.
6. Finding Somewhere to Live
Fortunately, Italy has a city to match every person. If you’re a city dweller, you may want to look at Rome, Milan, Naples, or Florence. If you like the countryside, then maybe more rural towns might be the answer. If you have the opportunity, then travel around to a few different places to help you decide. The best advice is find a house before you move.
7. Education and Schools
State education in Italy is considered excellent and is free for everyone, including the children of expats. The education style is a little different, with more emphasis on oral tests than written ones. Pre-school is optional, but primary school is compulsory from the age of six. There are a number of private foreign and international schools that teach in English.
As in most countries, the standard of healthcare in Italy varies tremendously. Expats will find that the standards are generally quite high. However, there could be discrepancies in the quality of care in different regions. The benefits of Italy’s National Health Service, the SSN (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) are available to any Italian resident or citizen of the EU. Private healthcare is highly regarded, but can be prohibitively expensive without the proper insurance. Many expats prefer to opt for private health insurance, the cost of which will vary.
9. Use forums to ask questions
This is where you will get the best, down-to-earth advice from expats who’ve ‘been there, done that’. A good one to check out is www.expatsinitaly.com. There are dozens of people who have made the move to Italy. Your important questions are certain to have been asked and answered many times before.
10. Learn the Language
This is perhaps the most important thing you could do and will probably hold the key to your future happiness in Italy. Even if you only have a smattering of the language, try to speak it as much as possible. Listen to people in the streets, the markets, stores and on the bus or train. Then write down words and look them up in a dictionary or online.
Even if Italians decide to speak in English out of compassion, insist on speaking Italian, and ask for corrections!
There are private language schools in nearly every town. You may be able to join an intensive group course and save money! Many Comune (city governments) offer “italiano per straniere” – ‘Italian for foreigners’ courses. These can often be cheap or even free.
These few basic tips should at least get you started on your journey in Italy.