Some time ago I’ve moved to Italy, again. I used to study in Florence a few years ago and now I reside in Verona. While moving to Italy might be a great adventure, it also requires a lot of patience and bureaucratic issues to solve. Italians might joke that their system is slow and inefficient, but it’s really no different from other European countries in my experience.
Even though I’m originally from Europe I had never really lived in continental Europe as an adult until I moved to the Netherlands. In my experience getting settled in the Netherlands was much more complicated than in Italy.
Here are my tips on moving to Italy. Make sure to click on other linked articles within the text if you want to learn more.
Why Did I Move to Italy (Again)?
Simply because why not. As digital nomads we can live and work anywhere we want and we both have EU passports. My husband and I wanted a change for a bit and we opted for a spot somewhere in Europe.
We were done with doing visa runs in Asia pretending we live there, and shipping issues in Latin America didn’t help our businesses before.
The quality of life in Europe is higher than in the US, but living is more minimalistic. Healthcare is semi-free (more on this later), the Internet could be fast, and things are generally more affordable. Italy is also a very pet and baby-friendly. You can bring your pet everywhere including restaurants and daycare is 1/3 of the US prices.
We chose Italy because we couldn’t agree on any other spot – that’s the truth. As my husband wants nicely looking mountains nearby and I can’t live in a small mountain town, we chose Verona as it’s the closest city to mountains that has an airport and good train connections to other spots.
We definitely haven’t left the US forever. Our businesses are there, half of the family is there, and we’ll be back at some point. But, we also never wanted to be those digital nomads that life everywhere on a tourist visa.
Practical Tips for Moving to Italy (2020)
- Visas and Residence Permits for Italy
- Importing Your Things and Pets
- Renting an Apartment in Italy
- How to Open a Bank Account in Italy
- How to Get a Health Insurance in Italy
- Setting Up Internet in Italy
- Getting a New Driver’s License
- How to Improve Your Italian
- Mistakes Not To Make When Moving To Italy
Visas and Residence Permits for Italy
Matt and I were both lucky to have EU passports, so in our case, things were way easier. Within 90 days of arrival, we’re required to register our residency in Italy, but more importantly, we had to get a Codice Fiscale straight away.
The first process was very easy, we just stepped into Agenzia de Ingresso, asked for Codice Fiscale and within 15 minutes we got one. You’ll need it to conduct almost any personal business in Italy, including renting a home, opening a bank account, getting a phone, etc.
After you register your house contract make an appointment at the anagrafe. For these large cities, you can make an appointment online at tupassi.it . You need to bring your passport, completed Dichiarazione di Residenza, your marriage certificate plus an Italian translation (if applying together), a registered housing contract, and a work contract or proof of income if you are self-employed. Bring photocopies of each document.
Our Issues: This is where it got tricky for us. The anagrafe in Verona refused to give us residency since our companies are US-based and we don’t possess Italian VAT number (partita IVA). We were given a choice of either moving our business to Italy which makes no logistical sense for me or registering at the chamber of commerce as freelancers and then having to prove our income from the EU from that, which also makes no sense because this isn’t what we do. That said, we ended up not being official residents, which isn’t actually a big deal if you’re healthy, don’t want to buy a car, or can fly home if issue arise – we just have to pay a bit more for house bills.
Friends Issues: Our friends also encountered issues with registration. They were both American, but one of them was also an Italian citizen. The problem in their case was that various US marriage certificates don’t indicate a new last name on it – it just states your maiden name and then you go to the SS office to change your name. The Italian registry required a document with an official name change that the US wouldn’t issue because it doesn’t exist. Therefore, they weren’t able to register. They had to go through the commune in Sicily (where his family from and where his passport was issued) to register and reissue a marriage certificate and exchange her American passport to indicate an old name. It took months to straighten out and during that time she had to travel back and forth to the US and Italy because her Shengen visa was expiring.
If you manage to successfully register though, you’ll have to wait 45 days. An official will come to visit the address to confirm that you do reside there. If you do not answer the door when they arrive unannounced, they will leave a card with a date and time to come in person to certify that your address is correct.
As long as this is done within 45 days of your application, you can now return to the anagrafe to pick up your residency certificate.
If we didn’t have EU passports, we’d have to go through a process of getting a visa first, then apply for permesso di soggiorno. All American expats living in Italy have to get it. It takes more than 3 months to receive it and requires slightly more paperwork, but it’s surely manageable. Here’s more information about getting your first permesso.
In order to register our residency, we had to have a contract for long-term housing. AirBnB won’t cut it, so you need to find an apartment first before even thinking of a registration. However, there’s no rush.
For citizens coming from outside the EU:
Italy introduced a points-based system for new residents. Once you receive your permesso you gain or lose points and if don’t have enough points at the end your residency will be taken from you. To start with, you need to attend a 2 all-day courses on adapting. Then you need to pass Italian language certificate, you can get points for going to university, etc. You may lose points for getting a speeding ticket or other things.
Basically, it’s not a “once you get it it’s yours” kind of residence permit.
Importing Your Things and Pets to Italy
Italian customs will grant you duty-free entry of your household effects, as long as they are imported within six months of you moving to Italy and registering as a resident. We brought a few suitcases and shipped some boxes. The latter required filing a lot of custom forms, but we ended up paying nothing in taxes as EU citizens.
After researching a lot we decided not to import the car. The car would have had to get inspected and adjusted to European standards, and then upon arrival registered in Italy. You can read some horror story of people not being able to register the car at all, so we just sold ours.
Importing our fluffy cat was actually the easiest, and you can read more about it here. However, you can only get a European passport for your pet once you become a resident or receive your permesso di sogiorno (unless you have an Italian passport because apparently your pet’s passport must match yours). Since we had the documents from the US, we were able to fly him with us to Poland for Christmas and then get him a pet passport in Poland.
Renting an Apartment in Italy
Expect to pay at least €850 for a small apartment in a bigger city. You can rent a 140m2 apartment right in the city center, with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a giant living room for less than 2000 a month though, all furnished.
For us, it’s a deal since it’s surely lower than California prices, but don’t be fooled – bills would arrive and they’re not small. We had to pay about 550 EUR for 3 months for gas & electricity, and 120 EUR quarterly for trash “collection” (because you still have to drag it yourself to the nearest dumpster).
If you’re thinking of moving to Italy to have a baby, keep in mind that baby things are not only more expensive in Italy than in the US, but also lacking in choices.
While getting an Italian villa in Tuscany or Positano might sound tempting, especially since towns where houses are being offered for €1, think twice before doing so. If you need to work there are no work opportunities there and working online might be tough since the internet connection isn’t best in the countryside.
We searched for our apartment directly on Immobiliare when we were still in the US. We knew more or less which areas we’d consider and saw what’s available. Generally speaking, if you’re looking for an apartment that’s over 1200 per month it won’t get taken straight away. We saw our 3 potential apartment listed a month before moving and went to rental agencies upon arrival in Verona.
It turned out that out of 3 places we considered one was rented out already, second was way smaller in person than in pictures, and we liked the third one and ended up getting it.
In Verona, we went with Technocasa agency. Everyone there was very friendly and helpful with setting up the Internet, registration, and other bills. In Italy, the renter has many rights. It’s illegal to put in the contract that no pets or babies are allowed in the apartment (charging a pet rent is illegal).
If you’re renting through an agency both you and the landlord need to pay an agency fee. I don’t know much about the landlord’s side, but from a renter’s side the fee is either a 1-month rent or 10% of your yearly rent (which is about 1,5-month rent). I won’t lie, it’s a lot of money that you need to pay upfront, especially considering that most places require a deposit worth 3-months of your rent.
Update: both the agency and landlord decided to scam us in the end. They never returned our 3-month rent deposit and refused to talk to us. In fact, they even tried to get more money from us. Two of our friends had the same exact situation, so my advice: stop paying rent 2-3 months before you move out.
In Italy you usually can’t rent an apartment for just a year, it’s very rare. In most cases, contracts are either 3+2 or 4+4, which means that your contract is for 3 or 4 years and you can extend it for another 2 or 4 years without any issues. That also means that your landlord can’t raise the price for the duration of the contract. Normally you have a 6 months notice, but you can talk it down to 3 or 4 months sometimes.
Once you sign a proper contract the landlord or agency has 30 days to register the contract with the tax authorities, and they should provide you with a copy of the registration once completed.
Locate Your Nearest Post Office
In Italy, many things are done at the post office. You pay bills at the post office, you can buy bank cards at the post office, you get a permesso di soggiorno kit there, and you apply for health system there too. Naturally, the post office is always packed. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go, but make sure you go before 2 pm because that is when the post offices in Italy close.
How to Open a Bank Account in Italy
To open a bank account you need a residency first. But, some things require you to have a working card, such as setting up Internet connection. In our case one of our US credit cards worked to set Vodafone internet, so that wasn’t an issue.
If your foreign card doesn’t work you can go to the post office and buy a pre-paid Italian debit card to use before you set your bank account.
How to Get a Health Insurance in Italy
Healthcare in Italy is technically free. I’m saying technically because there are some hoops you have to jump through to get it and you still have to pay for it – whether it’s your employer or yourself when self-employed. It’s a common misconception that health insurance is free in Europe. It’s not.
While you often have to wait a while to get an appointment with a specialist, you can always go private.
For instance, to see a good obstetrician including a full-on ultrasound I only paid 150 Euros and even got a second appointment for free, because the doctor wanted to check on something the following week. Any remaining appointments with the same doctor was only 85 euros.
In the US for the same thing, I was quoted about $340 per appointment alone an extra $150 for an ultrasound.
However, not everything can be done privately in Italy – for instance – giving birth or complicated surgeries. Also, certain medicines cannot be prescribed in Italy – privately or publicly, even if you’re already on it and have an existing prescription.
Also, I ended up visiting a private pediatrician once and would not recommend it. The pediatrician straight up told me that she can only look at the baby because she’s not actually equipped with anything, so for anything serious I would need to go to a regular pediatrician at the hospital and that cannot be done privately again.
Our Issues: Before moving here we’ve been told that in Italy everyone is entitled to free emergency care regardless of their status. Well, this has proven to be iffy depending on the situation and hospitals.
As EU citizens we should be getting free emergency care, but that’s only with a EU Health Card from another country. Again, my friend in the same situation (without an EU health card) received emergency care for her and her kids for free on multiple occasions, so I guess it must depend on your luck.
We were also told that unlike what multiple doctors informed us before, we would be charged for labor and delivery of the baby even in case of emergency.
Once you’re a resident, after paying the fee, you can register with their health system for other health appointments. Here’s how to register for the SSN – Italian Health system.
Setting Up Internet in Italy
I must admit that I was dreading setting up Internet in Italy and prepared for the worst. If you go online you can read about those people waiting to get a router set-up for a month or longer. This was definitely not my experience.
We stepped into Vodafone office, got our SIM cards without any issues. We ended up getting a prepaid option, as they had a better offer – 10 Euros per months for 8 GB of Internet.
Then I arranged the Internet contract. Using our Codice Fiscale, passport and US credit card that somehow worked, we got a 35 Euros a month contract with 1 Gigabit Internet. It would have been 30 EUR if we didn’t ask for the super-fast connection. The next day I received a text message with terms and conditions and information that someone will call me to schedule a technician’s visit.
We also received 15 GB per day on our SIM cards to tether our laptops while we wait for everything to get installed, which worked great.
In reality, we were never able to get the 1 Gigabit Internet. Frankly, we weren’t even able to get 100 Mbps, because the building has old cables and the internet company cannot actually install it in our building.
Getting Your New Driver’s License
Unless you come from a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Italy, which is basically just the EU these days, after one year of being a resident in Italy you will need to take the Italian driving test. That means that if you got your license in the US you’ll need to retake the test again, the same way Europeans have to retake the test in the US despite having a license from Europe.
You can drive on your old license for one year (from when you request residency at the town hall), and after that, it’ll officially become invalid. Since we couldn’t get residency we can use our licenses and while this might work with a rental car, if you want or need to buy your own vehicle this won’t be an option.
The test is naturally only available in Italian, so you need to have a proper understanding of Italian to pass it. However, you can purchase a practice book with questions and learn them.
Important: Get yourself an international driver’s permit. They’ve started to charge fines to foreign non-EU tourists for using their license instead of an international one.
When you’re moving to Italy, but still waiting for your permesso di soggiorno, you’re still considered a tourist so you might get fined. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
How to Improve Your Italian
You can’t move to Italy and not speak Italian. You just can’t and shouldn’t, because fewer people speak English here than you think.
Navigating through bureaucracy might seem frustrating in English, then try doing it in a language you can’t understand. My husband quite often can’t even pick up a delivery from downstairs because they’re trying to explain to him to sign things or pay some taxes, and obviously it cannot be done in English.
If you think that you’ll learn by using Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, then think again. I don’t know a single person who actually learned a language from using apps (learned, not claimed online that they did).
Read More: How to Learn a Language Fast
Mistakes Not To Make When Moving To Italy
Moving In the Summer
Everyone and their mother goes to Italy in the summer, so naturally, all the AirBnBs and hotels are sold out way in advance. That said, don’t move in the summer when cities are full of tourists.
Not Learning Any Italian
Before you even think of moving to Italy you need to learn at least some Italian. Many people simply don’t speak English, especially in smaller towns, so don’t be surprised if you’ll be constantly frustrated that you don’t understand. You can’t demand people to adjust to you and speak English.
Needing to Receive Packages Regularly
As I do some product reviews I tend to order many things online, or at least I used to until I moved to Italy. After months of trying, I pretty much gave up on ordering anything, because it rarely arrives.
Italian postal services, DHL or other fast delivery options like GLS included, simply suck – delicately speaking. They’ll bring your packages sometimes if they feel like it, but it’s very common for a doorbell to ring and find a postman gone within a few seconds – basically pretending he attempted to deliver the package when in reality he never even brought it with him.
I had countless of packages returned, after I received ‘recipient not at home’ email when I was sitting by the door waiting for my things to arrive.
You could also chase after your packages by attempting to go to different post offices, but if it’s handled by the DHL or GLS then you need to make it to their warehouse within 48 hours and as it’s in the middle of nowhere the taxi to get there often exceeds the price of something you ordered. It’s extremely frustrating.
Making Only Expat Friends
If you move to a foreign country it’s easy to stick with what’s familiar – English speaking expat friends. I’ve seen this situation in the Netherlands and I see it in Italy, that quite often even after years of living in a country many expats have no local friends.
Making some Italian friends right away will really give you the inside track when it comes to living in Italy. Obviously, they know more about how things work than expats. Plus, you’ll improve your language skills.
Thinking You Can Use Your Bank Cards Everywhere
Italy legally needs to let you pay for things over 5 Euros by card, but it’s not always the case. Many businesses are still cash only and cash is preferred – for obvious reasons, owners lose a lot of money per year on card payments. In many instances, like setting up the Internet or paying for a toll you’ll need cash.
Demanding Italians to Adjust to Your Schedule
You’ll have to get used to shops being closed during lunchtime (around 1-3pm) and restaurants not being open until 7:30ish PM. Many restaurants operate a tourists’ dinner seating at 7 pm, and one for locals at 9 pm. From 6 pm to 8 pm you can only get an appertivo.