Though events over the last year have put a hold on many international relocations, that should not stop expats and would-be expats from planning their next move. If you’ve been dreaming of relocating to Italy, you’ve probably researched Rome, Milan and Florence, and you may have looked into Naples, Amalfi or Positano too. However, there are lots of smaller cities in Italy that you might have overlooked which can also offer great opportunities and high quality of living for expats and their families.
Whether you’re looking for laid-back lifestyle or busier, more vibrant surroundings, there’s something on this list for you. Weighing up costs of living, existing expat communities and the local lifestyle, read on to get inspiration for when things go back to normal.
The mountain city of Trento is packed full of Renaissance art and architecture, boasting natural beauty and Italian heritage in abundance. Expat life in Trento revolves around landmarks like the Piazza Duomo, and the contemporary culture of the numerous cafes and bars, while the city is well-connected by road and rail to many major transport hubs.
With a population of around 115,000 people, expats working in Trento will get to know the locals before long. And while the tourism and food service industries have been hard-hit by COVID-19, there are still employment opportunities in TEFL/TESOL, childcare and even construction if you have a basic grasp on the Italian language.
Rent prices here are almost 70% lower, on average, than they are in Rome, and around 55% lower than Milan – while typical annual salaries are only around 10% lower, meaning more disposable income to spend on enjoying life in your new home.
The north-eastern province of Belluno was once rated as having the highest quality of life of anywhere in Italy, and though it’s tourism industry needs time to recover from the pandemic, the manufacturing sector still provides ample opportunity. For digital nomads who can work from anywhere, the town of Belluno within the region appeals for its low crime rate, picturesque views of the Dolomite mountains, and close proximity to the bustling city of Venice.
With a population of just 36,000 people, you will feel like a local in no time. Additionally, there is plenty of historic architecture to explore such as the cathedral and the Palazzo dei Rettori, as well lots of delicious local cuisine to enjoy. Another plus is that rents are around 55% lower than those in Rome, with the cost of basic groceries and utilities ranging between 33% and 63% less than the major cities of Italy.
Tucked among the hilly vineyards of South Tyrol, you’d be forgiven for thinking you needed to speak fluent Italian to live in Bolzano – but English-only jobs do crop up here regularly. Despite the town’s relatively small population of just over 100,000, Bolzano is an expat melting pot, home to a mixture of German and British expats as well as many others from across the globe. It’s easy to make new friends from all over the world in this city and you can get by without speaking fluent Italian – though of course, it’s polite to learn the basics.
Described as a gateway to the Dolomites, one of the best views of Bolzano is from Renon cable car, but the sights from Bolzano’s medieval castles are also hard to beat. You can enjoy them in summer sun or winter snow thanks to a humid and subtropical climate, with summer highs of up to 40C (104F) and winter lows of up to -4.5C (23.9F).
If you’re moving to Bolzano with children in tow, the high quality of schools and hospitals in this city may give you peace of mind, and the low cost of living means that healthy local salaries leave you with money to save or splurge at the end of each month.
Yes, the home of the world-famous ham. Between the Po Valley and the Apennine range sits Parma, Italian Capital of Culture for 2020-2021 and hub of museums and performing arts. You can get just about anywhere you need to be in Parma by bicycle, thanks to the bike tracks paved across the city’s cobbled streets, however walking is also easy due to the flat terrain. No need to splash out on running and maintaining a car while you’re living in Parma.
As a university city, Parma is livelier than some of the northern towns listed here, and it plays home to a combination of cultural styles: art-filled cathedrals and palazzos are ordinarily met by bustling bars and year-round concerts. However, it is Parma’s cuisine that brings tourists to the region. Even outside of busy tourist seasons, you can find work in the food industry if you fancy getting hands-on with Parmigiano and Prosciutto. Alternatively, look for TEFL and TESOL roles, or enjoy working remotely thanks to fast broadband speeds.
Italy’s national healthcare system is ranked second only to France by the WHO, spending a generous 8.8% of its GDP on healthcare. In Parma, you will find great private and public medical facilities, though it can be easier to access English-speaking care at private hospitals. Make sure you’ve got suitable health insurance in place if you’re keen to go private during your Italian experience.
Last, but by no means least, it’s worth considering Padua for your move. Subtropical weather: check. Low rents: check. Vibrant community, walkable layout, excellent food and wine? Check, check, check. Padua may be a small city, but it packs in plenty of expat appeal.
Though tourism was one of Padua’s main industries prior to the pandemic, this student city is still thriving and there are opportunities for expat workers in teaching, manufacturing and industrial distribution. Like other towns and cities mentioned here, you’ll find Renaissance art and architecture in abundance in Padua, along with botanical gardens, quaint shopping streets and a range of bars and eateries. Once travel and tourism gets back in full swing there’s no doubt that Padua will have additional job prospects in tourist-facing roles, but in the meantime it’s still a great area for digital nomads, TEFL teachers and those seeking industrial roles.
Wherever you decide to move to, Italy still offers plenty of potential for expats from all over the world. While events throughout 2020 might have turned many hopeful expats’ relocation plans on their head, career prospects are still out there – along with the scenery, cuisine and history that has always given Italy international appeal.