15 Best Places to Live in Italy for Expats

a watercolor skyline of Italy.

If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving your current life behind and living in Italy, you’re in luck. Italy is relatively friendly for foreign residents, and it’s full of towns and cities that are perfect for various lifestyles.

Of course, moving abroad is a major decision requiring careful planning and meticulous research. There are numerous factors to consider, including climate, cost of living, language, and whether there are others around that speak your language.

Luckily, we have compiled a list of the best places to live in Italy for expats to save you some time. Read through this list to begin making your own plans to become an expat.

15. Bolzano, South Tyrol

If you want access to other European countries, then Bolzano is ideal. Situated in northern Italy near the country’s Swiss and Austrian borders, it has the distinct feel of an Alpine city. It also has close ties to nearby Germany since the region changed hands many times over the past several centuries.

This medium-sized city consistently ranks among the best in Italy, not just for expats but for anyone. However, the city’s cosmopolitan feel is heavily influenced by its Austrian and German heritage. You can see it in the food, architecture, lifestyle, and languages spoken.

The seasons are a bit extreme, though. Bolzano gets hot in the summer, and because it’s so close to the Alps, it’s snowy and chilly in the winter. That said, if you or your family members enjoy skiing, Bolzano is one of the best cities for you in all of Italy. 

Central Bolzano is very bike and pedestrian-friendly. Many residents near the heart of the city don’t even have cars. You’ll find everything you need, from restaurants, cafes, outdoor markets, and shops to doctors and pharmacies.

14. Cagliari or Oristano, Sardinia

While it’s true that you’ll be more isolated on an island than on the mainland, Sardinia’s natural beauty and quiet pace of life more than make up for it. Pristine beaches and the clear water of the Mediterranean Sea surround the area. 

The climate on Sardinia is ideal for retirees, as it is mild and warm all year round. The island also gets very little rain (the least in all of Italy), so there’s no unpredictability to your slow-paced island days.

South Sardinia is abundantly affordable, but the entire island tends to be less expensive than urban or coastal destinations on the mainland. Still, tons of restaurants and shops provide everything you need and excellent health care services. Getting to the mainland is also inexpensive and easy.

If you want the best land life while still in Italy, you need to check out Sardinia.  

13. Trento, South Tyrol

Next, we have Trento, located in northern Italy, close to the Swiss and Austrian borders. The region is largely autonomous from Italy’s sometimes disorganized central government. It offers superior education and healthcare.

Trento is definitely a city, but it has a more relaxed pace and lifestyle than Italy’s other cities. Despite being a university town, there are tons of fantastic restaurants and shops, but not much for such a small island nightlife.

Trento is best for expats who like to explore locally, as it isn’t very close to a major airport. That said, it is on Italy’s train system, which is efficient and easy to use. If you want the amenities of a large city with the feel of a smaller community, then Trento is perfect.

12. Genoa or Portofino, Liguria

The Italian state of Liguria sits on Italy’s northwestern coastline close to Monaco, and it boasts stunning beaches, waters, and gorgeous weather. Liguria enjoys a microclimate thanks to the mountains in the north and the gulf stream in the south. It’s sunny and warm all year, but you can easily access both the Alps and the Apennine Mountains ranges. 

Portofino is the most popular tourist destination in Liguria, and it’s easy to see why. However, that glamor and beauty come at a price. It’s costly to live there, though it’s well worth it if you have the cash. You’ll never tire of the delicious food and drink and ample shopping and entertainment.

Nearby Genoa (Genova to Italians) is more budget-friendly but still enjoys the beauty of the Mediterranean coastline and the mild weather. An aquarium in the city is perfect for families, and Italian touches everywhere, like statues and frescoes and quaint family-owned restaurants and cafes.

11. Positano, Campagna

Positano has a glamorous reputation. This incredible place is known as a vertical city, meaning the colorful buildings and homes are built on a steep incline, seemingly sticking out of the hillsides overlooking the legendary Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples. 

Of course, that means a lot of hills and stairs, so if you’re not as mobile as you used to be, that might be an issue.

Because it caters to the wealthy and tourists, Positano has tons of upscale shopping and delicious dining options. It also has a vibrant nightlife with several popular, packed bars and nightclubs. 

Nearby Sorrento has excellent access to the rest of the peninsula and Europe, with rail, bus, and ferry connections. The closest major airport is Naples International Airport, just over 60 kilometers to the north. 

10. Pescara, Abruzzo

If you’re looking for a pedestrian-friendly city, then Pescara might be right for you. It’s home to the Sea Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in all of Italy (466 meters). This seaside city located on the Adriatic is as walkable or bike-able as they get.

Pescara has everything you need, no matter what stage of life you’re experiencing. It has tons of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. It also has beautiful beaches, making it a popular destination for tourists from Italy and Europe.

If you’re into history, Pescara is ancient. Archeologists discovered a Neolithic village buried underneath it called Orlando Hill, which is approximately 6,000 years old. Explore multiple museums, parks, and architectural marvels, both new and old. 

Pescara is located almost directly east of Rome across the peninsula. The direct drive (about two to three hours, depending on traffic) makes it easy to jet-set worldwide. But Pescara also has an airport of its own, which is ideal for getting around the country and to local destinations.

An aerial photo of a beach town. Water on the left, street and buildings on the right. In the middle are beach chairs carefully lined up in rows

9. Parma, Emilia-Romagna

If you’re a foodie, then Parma might be the right place for you, and not just because it lends its name to Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. There are museums and festivals dedicated to local cuisine. 

UNESCO also recognized Parma as a Creative City for Gastronomy. You might think that’s common in Italy, but Parma was the first in the country to receive that award and remains one of only three cities in the nation with that honor (Alba and Bergamo are the others).

In addition to incredible food at innovative and traditional restaurants, cafes, bars, and eateries, Parma also offers a lot of history. The city predates Rome, as the Celts first settled it. Plus, it was one of the few in the country to resist Mussolini and fascism. There’s a sense of fierce local pride, but it’s still open to outsiders.

Parma is relatively quiet with a slower pace of life. There is a major university, which gives it a lot of youth. It doesn’t get as many tourists as the more major cities, but it’s relatively close to Bologna and Milan for ease of travel. 

8. Lake Como, Lombardy

Famous as a destination for Hollywood elites and featured in many iconic films, Lake Como is more than just a glamorous place. It’s quiet and well-situated outside of vibrant, buzzing Milan. It provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Several towns surround Lake Como, including Bellagio, Colico, Como, Lecco, Menaggio, and Varenna. Each is beautiful and easily accessible to one another.

These towns tend to be very quiet. Restaurants, cafes, and bars cater to residents (many of whom are older) and tourists, but there isn’t too much entertainment, and nightlife tends to be very tame, if existent at all. However, it’s easy to get all of that in Milan.

Lake Como provides the perfect balance of urban and pastoral life since Milan is close by, with its world-renowned fashion houses and enormous international airport. In addition, Switzerland sits only a few kilometers away.

7. Pisa, Tuscany

You may have heard of the famous Leaning Tower, but there’s so much more to Pisa than that. This beautiful Tuscan town is very close to Florence (about 90 kilometers) but costs dramatically less to live, which can be fantastic if you’re on a fixed income especially.

While it’s a small city, it has a good nightlife scene and is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s also very close to Massaciuccoli Nature Park.  

It’s walkable and safe, with several museums and wineries as well as dozens of shops and restaurants. You won’t necessarily need a vehicle if you live in the city center. It’s also perfect if you want to see more of Italy or Europe because it’s home to Tuscany’s largest airport (Galileo Galilei). 

6. Milan, Lombardy

Milan, or Milano to Italians, is known worldwide as a fashion destination, and that designation gives it a distinctly cosmopolitan feel. If you’re looking for a sophisticated and modern Italian city, look no further than Milan.

Milan is a proper city, with a large business district. For some people, it’s too crowded and overdeveloped, but for lovers of urban life, the bustle and even grittiness are perfect.

Milan has all the amenities of a major European city, including a vibrant nightlife scene, innovative restaurants and bars, and entertainment and culture of all kinds. More than a dozen must-see museums and historical sites, including Sforzesco Castle and the Leonardo Da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology.

Don’t underestimate the shopping! There are hundreds of boutiques and shops with uniquely curated collections, apart from the major fashion houses and designers. Plan to dress your best every day in Milan.

5. Brescia, Lombardy

Brescia should be at the top of your list if you’re a young professional. It’s a famous expat city with a large foreign population of all ages.

One thing Brescia is well-known for is being a financial hub. The city is home to many banks and other financial institutions, both national and international. If you work in finance, look to Brescia for employment first.

As such, Brescia caters to people who want an active lifestyle. They have expansive bike and walking paths, as well as a gorgeous outdoor promenade with restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, nightclubs, and much more. 

You’ll experience all four seasons in Brescia, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. In the summer, many local lakes provide ample opportunities to cool off. You’re close to skiing, tubing, and other winter sports in the winter. 

Brescia is also excellent for the jet-setting expat. In terms of driving, it’s one hour to Verona or Milan, three hours to Venice and Padua, four hours to Florence, and six hours to Rome or Munich. There is a regional airport in the city, but you’ll find better fares at the nearby Milan international airport for getting virtually anywhere in the world.

A photo of a town of dense buildings. nearly all made of red brick. There is a hill in the distance

4. Bologna, Emilia-Romagna

If you fancy the life of an intellectual, then Bologna might be the perfect Italian city for you. Home to the University of Bologna and several other prestigious institutions, residents of this central-northern city value education very highly.

Because of the university and other schools, the city has a diverse population, including many foreign residents of all ages there to study, work, and live. Bologna is also an important cultural hub in Italy. For example, UNESCO labeled this area as a City of Music, and it’s rich in other arts as well. 

It has a central location in the country, technically in the north, so it’s relatively close to Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Monaco. You can also easily access Florence, Venice, and Milan, so it’s perfect for jet-setting around Italy and Europe. 

3. Padua, Veneto

Like several other cities and towns on this list, Padua is nearby a more well-known Italian city. This time, it’s Venice, located only 40 kilometers away. Padua is just as beautiful but without the hordes of tourists and flood risk. 

Padua is very pedestrian-friendly. Since it’s affordable, expats can live near the city center and walk almost everywhere they need to go, including restaurants and shops. It also has a reputation for being friendly and welcoming, which can be a considerable comfort to someone trying to start a new life abroad.

Italy may be known for wine, but Padua is most famous for its craft beer. You don’t have to go all the way to Germany to get a delicious pint; Padua has you covered.

Padua is quickly accessible to Venice and the gorgeous beaches near Venice on the Adriatic Sea. Just because you’re a bit further inland doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy beachy summers, and you can easily take public transportation to get there. 

2. Rome, Lazio

It’s hard to list places in Italy to live and not mention Rome. One of the largest and most vibrant cities in Europe, Rome has plenty to offer everyone, from ancient ruins to modern food. 

Despite being crowded, expensive, and very touristy, there’s something magical about Rome. In many ways, it blends the best of what the entire amalgamated nation of Italy has to offer. With people and elements of culture from every corner of the country, it’s like you can explore all of Italy without ever leaving the city.

While it’s better than some other places on this list, the public transportation in Rome isn’t wonderful. It is a very pedestrian-friendly city, and you can easily get by without owning a car. It is home to an enormous international airport and is centrally located in Italy, meaning it’s easy to get anywhere in the country or the world.

Of course, the arts, culture, history, food, shopping, and entertainment in Rome are unrivaled in the entire country and one of the best in Europe. You’ll never run out of things to do in Rome.

If you have Italian migrants in your family tree, the chances are good that they came from this small Mediterranean island. Long the object of territorial wars and notoriously abused by its ruling powers, Sicily has experienced a renaissance over the last several years.

1. Sicily

The cost of living is very low, making it appealing to expats. The island already has a large foreign population. The pace of life in Sicily is slow, with long afternoon breaks and cafes where patrons are encouraged to languish over a carafe of local wine.

For such a small island, Sicily has a lot to offer. Mountains, deserts, beaches, and more all make this island stunning. No matter where you choose to live in Sicily, you’ll have easy access to everything, including the large international airport in Palermo.

A photo of a town built into the side of a steep hill. Water at the bottom at the hill

Where Will You Go?

Italy has an incredibly rich culture, entertainment, food, and history. Whether you want a bustling city atmosphere or a quiet town nestled near the mountains, Italy has a location for everyone. 

The 15 places above are some of the most popular expat locations. The communities have welcomed Americans and other nationals, and some of your peers have had fabulous experiences in these areas.

So, where will you go? Take some time to further research each place, the cost of living, and the general lifestyle in each location. Then, start packing for your new adventure abroad!

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