Bassano Del Grappa

Living in Italy, the good, the bad and the ugly…

In 2015 I was offered a job as a buyer for a well known denim brand. The job was based in Northern Italy, in a town I had never heard of, about an hour and a bit outside of Venice. I had just come back from travelling and was itching to go away again, so the offer to move abroad couldn’t have come at a better time…

I packed up my life and off I went to a town I could barely remember the name of, where I knew nobody and didn’t even speak the language. Strangely none of this even phased me, it weirdly felt like a normal thing to do, the reason for this being that I hadn’t done the amount of research that I should have done for someone that was moving their life to another country. Basically I was pretty oblivious as to what was to come when I actually arrived to set up home in Italy… So for anyone considering living in Italy, I have put together a few pros and cons to consider before making the move to this beautiful, but difficult country…


The Good…

The Weather…

Venice, Burano

The best thing about living pretty much anywhere other than the UK is the weather, and Italy is no exception! I moved over in Summer and for the first 2 weeks it rained… torrentially, which made me wonder why I had even bothered moving… but luckily it didn’t take long for the weather to turn for the better!

Summers in Italy are amazing, bright blue skies and high temperatures… it does get quite humid which can bring on some awful storms, and when it rains it pours.

Winters in Italy are short, the weather usually start to get cooler around the end of October/November, then it starts to warm up again early March. Even though winters get fairly cold, the skies usually stay blue so it is much more bearable than being in rainy England.

Autumn and Spring are pretty perfect, you can expect warm days and chilly nights.

Quality of Life…

Imagine coming home from work and feeling like you are on holiday every day! That is the only way I can describe the quality of life in Italy. It’s relaxed, easy going, cheap and a lot of fun!

Cost of Living…

Bassano Del Grappa

With the exception of big cities, the cost of living in Italy is generally fairly cheap and you get a lot more for your money! I rented a huge 1 bedroom loft apartment, fully furnished, in the middle of a town center for €500 per month! Bills were cheap, eating out is cheap and drinks are cheap! Supermarkets, clothes and petrol you will find to be around the same price as the UK.

The Food…

An obvious attraction to Italy is the food, all you can eat pizza, pasta and gelato on your doorstep (quite literally in my case, as I lived above a gelateria). I am a big fan of Italian food, however the novelty does wear off as you come to realize that unless you are in a big city, options for eating anything but Italian food are fairly limited.

Travel Opportunities…

Florence, Italy

Living in Italy leaves you spoilt for choice with options of amazing places to go and explore. As well as the many beautiful towns there are to visit in Italy itself, you’re also in driving distance of neighboring countries such as France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. It definitely gives you a bit more flexibility not having to fly everywhere as you do living in the UK.

Scenery…

There are very few “ugly” towns in Italy. Being surrounded by the natural and architectural beauty of this country is one of the things I loved most about living there, everyday I would wake up to the view in the picture above and it never got old. Everywhere you go in Italy you are guaranteed to be surrounded by picture perfect views.

The Culture…

Villa Sandy, Italy

Italians are definitely very passionate about their culture and their country! There are a lot of small towns in Italy so generally everyone knows everyone, so there is a real sense of community. Each region of Italy is known for something different and the people from that region are usually very proud of that particular thing and like to make sure everyone knows about and tries out their “typical” traditions/foods. There are also plenty of bank holidays which a. means you get a day off work, and b. you can get involved the celebrations, as it usually means there will be some kind of event going on in the town.


The Bad…

Nothing is straightforward…

I just assumed that moving to Italy and sorting my life out when I got there would be as easy as it would be if I were doing things the other way round and moving to the UK. (Where pretty much everything is straight forward, can be done online, fairly quickly and efficiently.)

This is absolutely not the case in Italy… in terms of anything official, Italy is very behind the times, slow and unorganized! Very little life admin can be done online. For the majority of “official” things you will need to do, such as obtaining residency or getting your health card you have to be physically present at the local government office. This is obviously very inconvenient as the opening times will probably be the same time as your working hours and it will be even more of a problem if you don’t speak the language, so it would always be best to take someone that can speak Italian with you to help translate.

Health Care…

The good news is that there is a free health care option in Italy, the bad news is, it’s not great! Firstly it is quite hard to find a doctor that can actually speak English. Secondly the surgeries usually do not take appointments, so you could be waiting all day as it is on a first come first seen system. Thirdly if you are prescribed any medication the pharmacy’s are very expensive, a packet of paracetamol once cost me about s about €6. You will probably also find the opening times are inconvenient, my doctors only seemed to open 9am – 12pm, 4 days of the week, so if I needed to see her at any other time I was a bit stuck.

Thankfully I didn’t need to use the hospital whilst I was there, so I can not comment on that service. I do know a lot of Italians have private health care as if you do require any serious or urgent medical assistance, going private is a lot faster and more reliable.

Another thing I realized whenever I went to see the doctor in Italy is that they are very thorough with their examinations, but seem to give a lot of misdiagnoses. They also seem to sign people off sick for the smallest things, if you go in just with a cold you will probably get signed off for at least 3 days!

Something else to note for ladies on the pill is that unlike in the UK, contraception is not free, so it is always worth stocking up or keeping a doctor in the UK for the purpose of renewing prescriptions, they also did not seem to offer many other options than the pill.

To obtain free health care in Italy you can apply for a “Tessera Sanitaria” at the same time as filing for residency. You must have a permanent address to do this! You will be given a list of doctors in the area that you live and then whenever you go you must show your “Tessera Sanitaria” card during the appointment. I think the card is valid for a year, so you have to renew when they run out.

Public Transport…

Public transport in Italy is OK, but can be long and expensive, which is probably the reason why Italians love to drive everywhere. There are trains and buses that connect most large towns, but the routes can be long winded and take a lot longer than driving.

There are two main train services in Italy: Frecce and Regionali, both you can book via TrenItalia, you will find the Regionali trains are cheaper, but the journey time may take a bit longer. Frecce trains are good for cross country travel, but can be pretty expensive, so book online in advance to get a better deal.

High Street Shopping…

Italy is home to some of the worlds most famous designer brands. If you are in to designer fashion you will have a field day shopping here, however, if like me you are more of a high street shopper you may struggle with the lack of options…

Expect to find your standard H&Ms, Zaras and Mangos in the larger out of city towns, but that’s about as adventurous as it gets unless you venture in to a large city where you may also find a Cos or & Other Stories.

For beauty lovers there is Sephora, but they are no where near as good as the American stores. There is also the Italian chain Kiko for a cheap make up haul. One of the shops I missed the most was boots, I couldn’t get even get my Aussie conditioner or Batiste dry shampoo that I use anywhere in Italy and had to always bring it back whenever I came home for the weekend.

Another random thing to bear in mind is that you can not return anything in Italy! You can exchange with the receipt for the time period stated, but after that you have no rights to return unless faulty.

Opening Times…

Something else that takes a bit of getting used to when first moving to Italy is the opening times. Most shops will open in the morning from 9am – 12pm, then close for a long lunch break and reopen at 4pm – 7pm.  This also applies to restaurants, they will usually shut their kitchens at 2pm for lunch, then reopen at 7pm for dinner. Really annoying if you find yourself hungry mid afternoon. Probably if you are in a city you will have more options that will stay open all day, but this will definitely be the case in smaller towns.

Italian Drivers…

Italians are renowned for not being the best drivers, and it is easy to see why. I witnessed more crashes in my time in Italy than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Some things to note about driving in Italy… Firstly, Italians love to drive in the middle of the road, so watch out for this. Secondly, If you are being flashed by the person behind you, you are going too slow and should move over so they can over take. Finally everybody speeds, so get used to feeling like you are in grand theft auto everyday.


The Ugly…

There’s not a lot of awful things about living in Italy, but there is ONE key thing that will affect all expats that make the move…

Tax…

Before I moved to Italy, the only thing I really knew about tax was that it comes out of my payslip every month, I could never have imagined the extent of the implications tax has now had on my life. Even now having been back in the UK for 7 months, I’m still having Italian tax issues and I probably will for at least the rest of this year.

For anyone that is considering moving or already has moved over to Italy, unless you have done some serious research , you will be as oblivious as I was to how annoying Italian tax is… I have written about my experience to hopefully try and help anyone that may go through the same situations…

First thing you need to be aware of is that tax in Italy is a lot higher than the UK, you also do not get the tax free allowance on your first 11.5k, you will be getting taxed from the first penny you earn… The base tax rate in Italy is 23% on anything up to €15k, 27% on €15k – €28k, 38% on €28 – €55k, 41% on €55 – €75k and 43% on anything over €75k. On top of these basic tax rates you also have to pay an additional regional tax and municipality tax (the amount of these will differ depending on where you live, but basically add on another 5-10%.) So after all of those deductions you are basically left with 50% of your original salary every month, so make sure you take that in to account when negotiating a salary!

Second thing you need to know before you move is that it is so important to move at the right time of year to avoid paying additional taxes. The tax year in Italy is January – December, but the UKs tax year is April – April. This means that if you live in either country for over 183 days in the 12 month tax year you will be classed as a tax resident for that country… If you live in both countries for 183 days of either tax year you will be classed as a tax resident in both countries and have to pay “worldwide tax”. With this is mind the best time of year to move to or back from Italy is either in December/January or after July 1st.

As an example, in my case I moved to Italy in June 2015 so I was in Italy for over 183 days and therefore classed as an Italian tax resident for 2015. Tax came out of my salary every month as usual for the time I spent working in Italy that year. As I had worked in the UK from Jan – June that year and paid tax at a lower rate than I had in Italy, at the end of the tax year I had to do a tax return and pay more tax to Italy which amounted to roughly an additional 18% on my total earnings for 2015 (UK and Italy earnings combined).

You should know that if you have property, investments or bank accounts in another country other than Italy you have to declare these at the end of the tax year and pay additional taxes/fees on these also.

If you are seriously considering the move to Italy, I would really recommend making sure you look in to this further so you are not surprised when you get a tax bill you can not pay. The PWC tax summary did help slightly, but it is really best to speak to a tax adviser if you are unsure.


Overall living in Italy is by far the best thing I have ever done and I will forever have a connection to the country, especially my little town Bassano Del Grappa. As with every country there are pros and cons to living in them, but I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons. I would however say that living in Italy requires a lot of patience, effort and positivity, so if you can manage all of that, you will settle in just fine!

Venice

4 Comments

  • Victor Reply

    It was interesting to read this post, but the last paragraph especially. You are right about Italy. That is why I started to learn Italian.

    • theineffabletravels Reply

      Thank you Victor! Yes learning Italian is a must, I am still learning now even though I’m living back in the UK!

  • Jeanene Donner Reply

    Hey there! I just want to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you’ve got right here on this post. I will be coming back to your site for more soon.

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