It’s been 11 years since I moved to Italy, and while reflecting on my time here, I thought I would answer a question that gets asked quite a bit: Is living in Italy worth it?
This blog is a little different than my normal ones. I prefer to give you guys straight information, with a dash of my personal experience, but I feel this one is really personal to each individual, so it’s only right I can share my own answer. So bear with me, this blog might be a bit all over the place, but I hope it brings you a little insight when you are considering making Italy home.
Why I Moved to Italy:
First I should preface with my own story of why I chose to hop across the ocean and make Italy home. I did so originally for University, I was 18 and came to study archaeology in Rome. The easy answer was always to say that it made more sense to study archaeology in Rome, where there was more ancient history to discover. And well, in theory, there should be more jobs, right?
That definitely was part of it but it didn’t really factor into why I stayed. Another level of it was that I was tired of things back in my hometown. I’d lived in the same small town my whole life and it was just too much. I needed a big change, a big escape from everything there holding me back. Where most people might head to New York or California to find that change, I wanted something more. I wanted to experience a totally different style of life, so for me, Italy seemed the right place.
Plus, I instantly found myself in love with the country the second I visited. I think that is the case with many, but it’s sometimes hard to hold on to that love through the years.
Seeing Italy through La Dolce Vita
Many who move to Italy think it will be an extended vacation. They fall in love with the endless aperitivi and extensive meals, the travel, and the excitement of it all. They think moving to Italy would be a bit of a break from their life. But the reality is very different.
Sure we have our fair amount of fun, but it isn’t sustainable to live the Dolce Vita forever. If this was a primary reason for moving to Italy, some might see that in fact living in Italy isn’t worth it. But there are many other ways in which it is.
So let’s get to it: the many aspects of answering Is living in Italy worth it?
Is living in Italy worth it – for a career?
Another reason someone might move abroad is to make a change in their career. I somewhat thought it would be the right move for me to look for jobs in arts and culture. However, from a general glance, I would have to say: no it might not be worth it.
Italy doesn’t have excellent employment opportunities, much of their youth is leaving for just that reason. Where there are available jobs, you might find that the stipend and benefits aren’t what you are used to in the US/Canada.
However, this obviously is subject to what your ideal career is. You might love working with students, and find an amazing opportunity to organize study abroad programs. You might love giving tours and find your way into the travel and tourism aspect of Italy.
In fact, to search for a little hope: I asked many of you on Instagram if any of you felt that Italy was right for your career, and I was super happy to hear that for many of you, Italy was perfect for you. Some of you taught in international schools or English and fell in love with the schools that employed you. Others managed to actually get through a concorso and find their calling. And many also mentioned that Italy inspired a more entrepreneurial spirit and got you to start your own business, something you might not have done without living in Italy.
So, If you are considering work in Italy know there is hope. Just be prepared it might be a challenge – you’ll need patience and determination to make your way in Italy. But if you can wiggle your way in and find something right for you – I can imagine it would be the perfect location.
Is living in Italy worth it for the cost of living?
This depends on the job you and your partner might have. Italy’s got a great cost of living – you’ll hear us complain about taxes, but truthfully, once you get out of the main city life isn’t very expensive. If you are working average-paid Italian jobs and trying to raise a family – you might struggle at times, not to obtain things you need, but maybe in splurging on extra things you want.
Instead, if one or both of you are working jobs remotely for another country, you might find you can live quite well in Italy, enjoying the best the country has to offer in terms of eating out, spacious apartments, trips around the boot, and so on.
How about moving here to raise a family?
This was another aspect I turned to followers to share their insight. Basically it came down to your individual values when raising a family. One thing I noticed, many of you coming from the States said Italy was well worth it and great for raising a family: it offered free schooling and healthcare, less threat of gun violence, and the opportunity to grow up in another culture.
However, individuals who had another European country as an option, or who had a home country that provided healthcare and schooling, seemed to believe Italy was not a great place to raise a family.
I believe there are a few things you might want to keep in mind: healthcare is for sure one of them, but also schooling and checking if you agree with the Italian school style, the social attitudes towards family and young people, the support financially you’ll have and also the future opportunities for your kids.
Italy loves little kids, but doesn’t give much support to older children, and doesn’t have much in terms of work opportunities. Schooling is largely based on memorization and in many areas of the country the schools can be quite packed due to lack of staff.
In my opinion there is the huge plus of healthcare and free school, but I don’t love the education system in Italy, and I don’t trust my daughter will have great opportunities when she is older, so for me I would eye some other areas to raise a family. (Again this is entirely my thought and I encourage you to consider what is important to you and look to see if Italy matches those needs and values!)
Is it worth it with the bureaucracy?
That depends on your why. I always encourage my clients to really sit down and map out their why. Why do you really want to live in Italy?
When it comes down to it, wanting to move to Italy because you like the language because you like the food, or because “it’s beautiful” aren’t really good reasons. These reasons of course might have made you fall in love with Italy. But when you are in line for 5 hours, the police say you have the wrong paperwork, but no you can’t come back, you have to call, and no one will answer the phone: do you still love the language that much? Couldn’t you enjoy an aperitivo anywhere else? These are the moments that will test you.
But if your why is strong enough, you’ll be ready to confront the bureaucracy and put your problem solving skills to work, making sure you can stay in Italy.
So, overall – Is living in Italy worth it?
As you can see it is a very personal question, with different aspects important to each individual. At first glance it might not make sense financially, career-wise, for a family; but maybe it makes a lot of sense for learning the language, for healthcare, or for family reasons.
I can’t give you a yes or no pertaining to your situation, but I can say mine: which is yes.
To me, living in Italy is worth the stress of the taxes and the bureaucracy, it’s worth the honking in traffic and the messy non-existent lines, it is worth the hour-long wait at the doctor’s office, and even the watching out where I walk to avoid dog poo. To me, it is worth all these little aspects.
Why? Because in Italy, all these things that might seem stressful are just more evidence of what I love about living here: how relaxed it is. How slow things are, how I can flow through, taking one step at a time, I don’t feel pressure to be or buy certain things. I don’t feel busy, I feel like I can actually enjoy things. Sure it takes patience: but in those hours of waiting I have time to look around, have a coffee, and breathe.
When I complain about paying insane taxes, there still is a part of me that is happy to do so: in theory, these taxes help cover my healthcare, they allowed me to have a child essentially at no additional cost, and they support others to do the same.
When I think forward about raising my daughter here, I do consider going to other parts of the world, at least for a bit. Because I do admit I have some hesitation when it comes to education and socially how girls are treated here. So maybe for her life, living in Italy won’t be worth it for her potential.
But for me, my own situation, my own life, making Italy home has been the best decision, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.