Retirement in Italy tops the charts for overall quality of life. It's a land of historic significance, architectural marvels, beautiful cities, never-ending feasts of culture and amazing food. Rome and Florence aren't budget choices, but elsewhere Italy boasts some of best lifestyle bargains to be found anywhere in Europe. If you're looking to indulge in quintessential European living on a budget, you should be looking at Italy.
Eating and Drinking in Italy
No discussion of living in Italy would be complete without a focus on the country's cuisine. You may think you know Italian food, but it's more nuanced and complex than you might imagine.
Discovering different dishes, including the lesser-known regional delicacies, is a big part of the fun of living in Italy. Sampling the local wine could be an idyllic way to spend your retirement years, and each of the country's 20 regions produces its own.
Outside of the main cities, you won't find chain restaurants or fast-food franchises. Eating isn't something to be rushed in Italy. A full Italian meal includes five courses, each savored leisurely. And no meal would be complete without a coffee at the end.
In Italy, there's always time for a coffee. Before any meeting or interaction, you'll be offered one, and you should always accept. You should reciprocate as well, offering any visitor or guest in your home or business a cup.
Housing in Italy
Unless you're interested in taking advantage of Italy's currently depressed property market to buy a home, you'll need to find a place to rent. Italians, especially outside the country's biggest cities, aren't typically renters. Most of the population owns their home, meaning inventory for long-term rentals is limited. Finding a place to rent on an annual contract can take time and requires an on-the-ground, word-of-mouth hunt.
However, when you find a place to rent, the cost is likely to be a bargain. In the Abruzzo region, you can rent an apartment for as little as 200 or 300 euros a month.
Italy's Best Bargain Lifestyle: Abruzzo
Abruzzo is one of the best values in Europe. Like Tuscany, Abruzzo has history, art, delicious cuisine and beautiful scenery that changes with the seasons. However, unlike Tuscany, this region remains undiscovered, meaning the cost for everything from dinner out to a rustic farmhouse is much lower than in other parts of Italy and the European Union.
Abruzzo has 82 miles of white, sandy beaches, ancient towns and the high peaks of the Apennines. Located on Italy's eastern coast overlooking the Adriatic, Abruzzo is also the greenest region in Italy. This is one of the few places on earth where you could ski in the morning and then relax on a beautiful beach by the sea that afternoon.
Pescara, L'Aquila, Chieti and Teramo are Abruzzo's main cities. Pescara, the largest, is the most modern. It has good connections with the rest of the country and ferries to Croatia. You're just an hour from Rome, yet you could buy a home for less than 50,000 euro.
Living in Italy
You must begin the process of applying for residency in Italy from your home country. Don't show up in Italy intending to become a full-time resident until you've first acquired the requisite stamp in your passport from the Italian consulate in your home country. This stamp acts as a temporary residency permit, and it is renewable for up to five years. At the end of those five years, you can apply for permanent residency.
Most retirees opt for the elective residence visa, which allows you to live, but not to work, in the country. You can't be employed in Italy under this visa, but you can do remote work or be self-employed. To qualify, you must show you have the means to support yourself without taking anything from the Italian economy. The Italian government will want to see reliable income of at least 31,000 euros per year for an individual and at least 38,000 euros annually for a couple. In addition, you'll be required to provide an Italian residential address and proof of health insurance to cover at least 30,000 euros' worth of medical care
Health Care in Italy
Italy's health care system, known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, offers affordable and often free, high-quality care. As a non-EU citizen, you can gain access to the public system, which covers tests, medications, surgeries and hospitalizations, by paying a small yearly fee. The amount varies according to income, but the minimum cost per person is 338 euros per year.
The SSN is regionally based, and the standard of care available varies by region. You can also opt for private health coverage, which allows you to choose your doctor and to be treated in private hospitals.
Shopping in Italy
Living in the Italian countryside, you might not see the inside of a supermarket very often. Outside the big cities, Italians shop at small local shops and markets and even grow some of their own produce.
Shopping locally has its benefits. You will be able to access Italy's world-famous foodstuffs from the source and at a discount. Plus, visiting local businesses gives you a chance to get to know your neighbors.
Taxes in Italy
Italy taxes worldwide income but has double-taxation treaties in place with several countries, including the United States and Canada, meaning you shouldn't pay tax twice on your income.
Bringing Your Pets to Italy
Italy is very dog-friendly. It's not uncommon to see dogs seated at dining tables in restaurants alongside their owners. You'll need to have your pet microchipped and up to date on vaccines. A veterinary certificate must be completed by a federally accredited vet within 10 days of arrival, and the certificate also needs to be endorsed by the USDA. One certificate can be used for up to five animals.
If you intend to settle in small town Italy, you may find making friends and connections in the local community difficult. The stereotype about close-knit Italian families comes from a kernel of truth, and penetrating the barrier against outsiders, especially in rural regions, can be an uphill battle, especially if you don't speak Italian. Having a grasp of the language, including the local dialect, will go a long way toward helping you fit in.
Religion in Italy
They majority of Italians identify themselves as Catholic. Joining your local parish can be a good way to get to know other people. Consider participating in saint's days celebrations, processions and festivals. Your new neighbors will appreciate and reciprocate the effort.