Figuring out how to move to Italy from the US can feel a bit like playing 3D chess – all in Italian.
It’s tough, but it’s not impossible.
With our practical guide, we’ll help you sidestep the pitfalls, conquer the bureaucracy, and even reveal where to find the best gelato off the tourist trail.
Let’s make your Italian move a smooth and savvy one.
Why Move to Italy?
Italy appeals to Americans for various reasons, some of them rooted in reality while others not.
For starters, Italy’s historical significance and unique culture are major draws.
Ancient Roman ruins dot the city of Rome, while Florence boasts Renaissance art treasures. In Milan, you’ll find La Scala, a world-renowned opera house.
The Italian lifestyle, known as ‘la dolce vita,’ is also a significant allure. The focus on enjoying life can be seen in long family meals, the prominence of outdoor cafes, and the tradition of evening strolls.
But this relaxed attitude can extend to matters of timekeeping, which may frustrate you if you’re used to American punctuality.
When moving to Italy, you’ve got plenty of exciting locations to choose from. Rome, the capital, offers a vibrant urban life enriched by its historical landmarks.
Florence, in Tuscany, is steeped in artistic heritage, featuring iconic sites like the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio.
Meanwhile, those with a penchant for picturesque landscapes might find their heart anchored along the Amalfi Coast. But, watch out for the unexpected – navigating those precipitous cliffside roads is a white-knuckle experience!
In contrast, Puglia in the South offers an experience rich in history and local culture. But it lacks some of the infrastructure and economic opportunities present in the North.
Milan, as Italy’s financial and fashion hub, offers work opportunities and an active nightlife. However, its global city feel may not appeal to you if you’re seeking that quintessential Italian lifestyle.
One surprising aspect of living in Italy is the regional diversity, ranging from dialects to food and customs. On the other hand, dealing with Italy’s complex bureaucracy and language barriers can be SUPER frustrating!
Italy presents a unique mix of history, culture, and lifestyle that many find captivating. But potential challenges include navigating bureaucratic systems and handling language differences. Making Italy your home involves embracing both its appeals and its challenges.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Italy from the US
The Pros of Italian Life
- Rich cultural experience: Italy offers a deep historical heritage, a thriving arts scene, and diverse regional cultures (but you probably already knew that part).
- Scenic beauty: From the beaches of the Amalfi Coast to the rolling hills of Tuscany and the mountain ranges of the Alps, Italy offers diverse and stunning landscapes.
- Climate: Italy offers hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters, which is a major plus if you enjoy sunshine and outdoor activities.
- Relaxed lifestyle: Italians prioritize balance and enjoyment in life, known as ‘la dolce vita’. This translates into longer meals, more family time, and a slower pace of life overall.
- Great food and wine: Italian cuisine is world-renowned, and living in Italy offers the chance to enjoy authentic local food and excellent wines.
- Healthcare: Italy’s healthcare system is good quality, plus generally affordable and accessible.
- Public transport: Italy has an extensive public transportation network, which includes trains, buses, trams, and ferries. It’s often possible to live comfortably without owning a car, even in many rural areas.
- Proximity to other European countries: Italy’s location makes it a great base for exploring other parts of Europe. Travel between European countries is relatively easy and often quite affordable.
- Italian design and craftsmanship: Whether it’s fashion, furniture, or automobiles, Italian design and craftsmanship are revered globally. Living in Italy provides direct access to these products.
The Cons of Italian Life
- Bureaucracy: Italy is well-known for its slow and complicated bureaucratic system, which gets frustrating when dealing with tasks like setting up utilities, buying a car, or dealing with residency paperwork.
- Taxes: Italy has high tax rates compared to the US, which may be a disadvantage, especially if you’re on a fixed income.
- Language barrier: While English is spoken in many tourist areas and by younger Italians, not knowing Italian will be a challenge in many aspects of daily life, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas (on the bright side, you’ll get fluent faster without people always replying in English, as they tend to do in the Netherlands or Germany!)
- Limited convenience services: 24-hour stores and next-day home deliveries are less common in Italy, which can require some adjustment if you’re used to round-the-clock convenience of the US.
- Old infrastructure: Italy’s old-world charm is attractive, but it often comes with older infrastructure, including plumbing and electrical systems, which you may find tough to deal with.
- Unpredictable politics: Italy’s political landscape is complex and often volatile, with frequent changes in leadership and policy direction. Plus, if you’re looking to escape the current situation in the US, Italy probably isn’t the best choice…
- Inefficient postal system: People often criticize the Italian postal service in Italy for being slow and unreliable.
- Driving and parking: Italian driving style and limited parking, especially in cities, can be a stress point for newcomers. Even worse, Italy doesn’t exchange US drivers’ licences (unlike other EU countries). If you want to drive in Italy long-term, you’ll have to go through the Italian drivers’ test.
Insider Tips on Life in Italy
We’ve rounded up some top insider tips from Americans living in Italy.
Gigi Chow is a digital nomad from San Francisco and the creator of Wet Nose Escapades, a dog-friendly travel website.
Gigi’s top tip is about cultural differences around clothes dryers. She says, “unless you go to a laundromat, don’t expect to have a dryer for your clothes in Italy. While there’s usually a washer inside an apartment, Italians hang their washed clothes on a drying rack (either indoors or outdoors).”
She continued, “Americans are generally perceived as wasteful by Italians, so make sure you don’t leave the electricity on or water running unnecessarily. Before signing a rental agreement, review the utility section carefully. One of my landlords tried to charge me a ridiculous amount for electricity even though it was supposed to be included.”
And of course, if you have a dog, don’t forget that Italy is one of Europe’s most dog-friendly countries. You can take your dog with you almost everywhere, including restaurants, shops, pharmacies, and even some markets.
According to Natalie Snider, founder of Coulture Trips, you should avoid moving to Italy in the month of August. As Natalie points out, “nothing is open and you can’t easily get anything like internet or other services set up easily until everyone comes back from holiday.”
Natalie lived in Genoa for three years. She tells us there’s a pretty good expat community in that city. What’s more, public transport is very good in the cities, so you don’t really need a car.
But, do beware of the Italian bureaucracy. As Natalie points out, “the government system is very slow. You have to do everything in person so always make sure to start early and never leave anything until the last minute.”
American travel writer Douglas Weissman has lived in Italy in two separate stints, once in Florence and another time in Rome. Again, he cautions us to expect “a long, meandering, and confusing route through the bureaucracy.”
Douglas added: “At times, you may get conflicting advice, or advice that makes no sense, only to follow an obscure tip found through a friend of a friend. The bureaucracy is infuriating and the pace at which things get done can feel glacial to nonexistent.
But when you step out of your apartment for aperitivo or look up on a walk and realize you’ve happened upon the Colosseum, it makes the entire experience worth it.”
How to Move to Italy From the US in 2023
Visa and Immigration Requirements
Getting a residency visa to live in Italy is a notoriously tricky process for Americans.
But don’t give up hope, it’s not impossible!
In this section, I’ll go over the various different visa options for US citizens looking to move to Italy, along with their basic requirements, and point you in the right direction if you want to start the process.
#1. The 90 Day Visa-Free Tourist Stay
For starters, US citizens can spend up to 90 days in Italy as tourists without any visa. All you need to do is hop on your flight to Italy, and you’ll automatically get the 90 days stamped into your US passport when you arrive at immigration.
At the end of your 90 days, you’ll need to leave not only Italy, but the entire Schengen area. Also, you’ll need to stay outside this zone for another 90 days before you can come back in again (whether that’s to Italy or any other Schengen country). For example, you could spend the other 90 days in a non-Schengen country like the UK, Albania or Turkey.
Despite the restrictions, the 90 day stay is a useful opportunity to try Italy out, explore different parts of the country, and generally get a feel for whether or not you’d like to live there long-term.
#2. The Elective Residency Visa (residenza elettiva)
If you’re reading this guide, you probably want to move to Italy for the long-term – beyond just a 90-day visit. If so, the elective residency visa could be the right fit for you.
This visa is right for you if you already have passive income from outside of Italy, hence won’t need to work to support yourself while living in Italy.
So what is classed as “passive income”? Anything where you don’t have to actively work to generate it. For visa purposes, that typically includes the following sources:
- Rental income
- Dividends from a company
- Interest from investments
Other requirements for the Elective Residency Visa:
- Proof of passive income of at least the equivalent of €31,000 annually (shown on bank statements)
- 20% more in passive income if you’re bringing a dependent spouse, and 5% more for each child
- A year’s worth of accommodation in Italy (e.g. a lease)
- Suitable health insurance that covers you across the entire Schengen zone
Because of the “passive” requirement for the income source, the elective residency visa is typically better suited to retirees, rather than digital nomads (it MAY be possible to qualify using dividend income from a limited company, but this is very much a grey area).
Fortunately, Italy offers several other types of visa which are better suited to the needs of digital nomads.
#3. The Self Employment Visa
The self-employment visa is best suited to those who wish to freelance for overseas companies while living in Italy.
Reports are that it can be rather tricky to get. But here’s an overview of the main requirements so you can decide for yourself.
For starters, the self-employment visa is subject to annual quotas. That’s right, the government dishes out a set number of these every year, so there is a certain amount of luck involved in securing one.
Second, once you arrive in Italy, you’ll need to get clearance from both the local police and the labor department before you can receive your official residence permit. This clearance is known as Nulla Osta (and you can only get it from within Italy).
Other requirements for the self-employment visa include:
- Documents proving your self-employment status (such as client contracts or invoices)
- Proof of having at least €8,500 in savings
- A year’s worth of accommodation in Italy (e.g. a lease)
- Suitable health insurance that covers you across the entire Schengen zone
Bear in mind that Italian bureaucracy can be unpredictable. This list is simply a basic overview of the typical requirements. Immigration officials may request other forms of documentation, which is difficult to predict here.
#4. The Golden Visa / Italy Investor Visa
This one’s for you if you’ve got plenty of cash to spare.
For example, if you’ve just sold your home or business in the US, then you could be in a good position to apply for the Italian Golden Visa.
Several different types of investment are eligible for the Golden Visa. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Government bonds: €2 million
- Donation: €1 million
- Purchase of shares in an Italian company: €500,000
- Investing in an Italian startup: €250,000
You’ll also need to provide proof of a clean criminal record, open a bank account in Italy and undergo rigorous anti-money laundering checks before making your investment. Unlike other investor residency programs in Europe, Italy doesn’t offer a direct real estate investment pathway.
#5. The Startup Visa
Feeling entrepreneurial? Got a cool new start-up idea in mind? If so, then the Italian Startup Visa might your perfect way of moving to Italy from the US.
Bear in mind though, the Italian authorities will have to consider your idea sufficiently “innovative” to grant you the visa. You’ll also need to stump up a small pile of cash (€50,000 to be precise) alongside your application.
Other requirements for the Startup Visa include:
- A sufficiently innovative business idea to pursue in Italy
- €50,000 lump sum to fund the new company
- Incorporation of the new company in Italy, with yourself as sole director
#6. Family Reunification Residency
Another option for long-term residency in Italy could be through your EU citizen spouse or partner (if you’re lucky enough to have one!)
According to European law, all EU citizens have the right to “reunify” their family in any EU/EEA member state of their choice. That’s great news for you as a US citizen. You can move freely to Italy alongside your spouse or partner, then apply for residency through them.
To claim Italian residency via the family reunification route, you’ll typically need proof of your marriage or partnership. This could be a marriage certificate or, if you’re not married, proof of having lived together for at least two years, such as a shared lease or utility bills from your previous country of residency).
#7. The Digital Nomad Visa
In March 2022, the Italian government announced its intention to create a special digital nomad visa for remote workers who wanted to relocate to Italy.
So far, this visa is still in the planning stages, but please keep an eye on our Italy Digital Nomad Visa article for the latest news and requirements.
The exact requirements of the Italian digital nomad visa are yet to be announced. But, based on my knowledge of similar visas (both in Italy and elsewhere in Europe) here’s what you can expect to find:
- Be a non-EU, non-EEA and non-Swiss citizen
- Be employed or self-employed by a company based outside Italy
- Meet the minimum income requirements (still to be confirmed)
- Have a clean criminal record
- Have proof of suitable accommodation in Italy
- Hold comprehensive health insurance covering not only Italy but also the whole Schengen Zone
Getting Italian Citizenship
If you’re moving to Italy for the long term, then you may be interested in eventually applying for Italian citizenship. Having this will be a huge benefit, as it will give you the right to live, work, study, retire, freely across any EU country.
Having Italian ancestry will help you in the quest for citizenship. But if you don’t have any Italians in your family tree, then getting citizenship by naturalization will be your best bet.
The journey to citizenship begins when you secure your temporary residency in Italy, for example using one of the options we discussed in the previous section.
The next step is to apply for permanent residency after five years, followed by Italian citizenship after an additional five years.
Applicants for Italian citizenship by naturalization need to spend at least 183 days per year in Italy, keep it as a permanent home, receive income in Italy, pass a language exam in Italian, and have an unbroken record of paying taxes in Italy.
As you can see, getting Italian citizenship isn’t an easy mission, but the end result is well worth it.
How Much Does it Cost to Move to Italy From the US?
All this talk of savings, income, and investments has probably got you thinking about the costs involved in moving to Italy from the US.
Moving internationally doesn’t have to be a super costly endeavor (I’ve done it eight times to eight different countries, so I know!), but it depends upon your exact needs and expectations. For example, you’ll save a lot of money (and hassle) by selling or donating most of your belongings before leaving the US.
The alternatives are paying for costly international shipping, or for a storage solution to keep your items in storage back home. I don’t recommend either route. But if you absolutely must ship personal items over to Italy, then I highly recommend hiring an experienced international moving company to handle all the customs paperwork for you.
Typical costs to budget for when moving to Italy from the US
- Immigration costs: Everything associated with getting a residency visa, including the visa fee itself, other government fees, translation fees.
- Health insurance: You’ll need to have this in place when you apply for your initial Italian residency visa. SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance is our favorite (and you can start a new policy any time, even if your trip has already begun)
- Travel costs: Your flight to Italy along with any luggage or excess baggage fees involved.
- Accommodation costs: includes agent fees, security deposits, first 1-2 months of rent (usually paid upfront), property taxes and notary fees (if you’re buying).
- Utilities costs: Getting set up with Internet, water, and electricity at your new accommodation.
- Shipping costs: For bringing your belongings from the US to Italy, you’ll need to factor in shipping fees, customs charges, any taxes, and fees for transporting pets.
- Translation costs: you’ll probably need an Italian speaker to help you navigate all the bureaucracy. Trust me, it can significantly reduce your stress levels! Plus, some documents will need to be officially translated into Italian.
- Driving costs: If you plan to drive in Italy, you’ll need an international driver’s permit to begin with. After becoming resident, you’ll likely need to undergo an Italian driving test, as Italy doesn’t directly exchange US licenses. Also costs of buying or renting a car, fuel, road tax, and insurance.
If you sell most of your belonging and travel light (like I do), don’t have any pets, and are ready to rent in one of Italy’s smaller towns, rather than Rome, Florence or Milan, then I’d wager you could move to Italy for less than 10,000 US dollars.
Don’t forget, some visa options will want you to have proof of savings in the bank too. In general, it’s always worth having a comfy cushion rather than trying to cut corners on such a major life change.
Italy can be very challenging in terms of bureaucracy, so it’s always good to know you can use money to smooth over some of the difficult bits (such as hiring a translator, not bribery!)
I like using Numbeo for checking the latest living costs in different countries, You can also use it to run comparisons between costs in various Italian cities and your hometown in the US.
5 Great Places in Italy For Americans to Live
Rome, the Italian capital, strikes a balance between modernity and heritage that many US expats find engaging. In Rome, world-class restaurants and sleek co-working spaces sit alongside ancient ruins, creating a unique urban fabric.
Rome also has a robust international community, offering lots of opportunities for networking and camaraderie. You’ll find that English is quite commonly spoken, which eases the initial transition for new arrivals.
Perhaps less expected is Rome’s green side, with large parks such as Villa Borghese and Villa Ada, providing pleasant outdoor leisure spaces within the city. What’s more, despite its size, Rome has preserved its neighborhood (“rione“) spirit, allowing residents to enjoy a small-town vibe in the heart of a major city.
With its compact city center, Florence gives expats a chance to embrace a walkable lifestyle, something less common in sprawling US cities.
What’s more, Florence’s rich arts scene extends beyond world-famous museums to contemporary galleries, craft studios, and design boutiques.
An interesting tidbit is Florence’s thriving “aperitivo” culture, where many bars provide a buffet of appetizers free with a purchased drink in the early evening, in a uniquely Italian twist on Happy Hour.
Florence’s central location also makes it an ideal launchpad for exploring other Italian cities and the countryside. The city also has an active expat community, providing an immediate social network for newcomers to slot into and find their feet.
If you’re seeking a dynamic urban environment, you’ll find it in Milan. It’s a global hub for finance, fashion, and design, which translates into a vibrant job market for international professionals.
But Milan isn’t all business. It’s also home to Italy’s largest urban green space, Parco Sempione, ideal for city dwellers craving nature. The avant-garde Milan arts scene is thriving, with cutting-edge galleries and events.
Milan’s multicultural ambiance, a result of its international allure, adds another layer of appeal, providing diverse culinary and cultural experiences within the city itself.
It’s also a convenient place to live for excursions in the north of Italy, such as hiking or skiing in the Dolomites.
Genoa, a maritime gem tucked away in Italy’s Liguria region, offers an engaging mix of seaside charm and urban amenities.
The city’s distinctive layout, with its old town (“centro storico“) nestled between the hills and the sea, offers expats a unique living experience. Genoa’s ancient port, now revitalized, hosts a buzzing waterfront filled with restaurants, shops, and the famed Aquarium.
But the city still flies under the tourist radar, maintaining a local, unspoiled feel. One standout feature is Genoa’s “Rolli Palaces”, a network of Renaissance and Baroque residences, illustrating the city’s rich maritime past.
The wider Tuscany region isn’t just about idyllic landscapes; it’s also steeped in a storied past, with cities like Florence and Siena at its heart. Smaller towns, such as Lucca and Arezzo, offer a serene pace of life without skimping on amenities.
Tuscany surprises with its robust wine industry, hosting world-class vineyards not just in Chianti, but also in lesser-known areas like Bolgheri and Montepulciano.
What’s more, Tuscany has an active expat community, particularly in the countryside – providing a supportive network for newcomers.
My 5 Top Tips On Moving to Italy From the US
To close, here are my five top tips on moving to Italy from the US, based on almost two decades of travel experience, including emigrating to eight different countries.
#1. Define your goals
It’s important to start with an idea of your long-term plans in Italy.
Do you want to stay a short time, just a couple of years? Or do you want to go all the way to citizenship (at least 10 years)? Or are you open to being flexible and letting things flow?
Whatever path you take, it’s always a good idea to use your 90 day tourist allowance to explore Italy as a tourist before committing to a long-term move.
#2. Clarify your tax situation
You can’t escape from taxes, especially as an American.
Many people assume Italy is a high tax country, but it actually offers several special tax advantages for new foreign residents. Whether or not these apply to you, it’s always important to seek professional advice on your tax situation, before planning an international move.
Don’t forget, as a US citizen, you’ll still need to file your annual tax return, even if you become resident in Italy.
#3. Get suitable health insurance
You’ll probably need it for your residency visa anyway, so it’s important to have proper health insurance before embarking on your move.
SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance is my favorite (and you can start a new policy any time, even if your trip has already begun!)
Once you get your residency permit, you’ll be entitled to Italian state health care. But in the meantime, it’s important to have the peace of mind that proper health insurance brings you.
#4. Build up your savings
Having a firm foundation of savings is extremely reassuring when planning to move abroad. That’s why I always recommend that anyone planning an overseas move should build up at least six months of living expenses in savings before kicking off the process.
Moving abroad comes with many unexpected costs. Often, you’ll feel like paying more money just to make certain things easier, and reduce your stress levels.
To transfer money between the US and Italy, my top pick for daily use would be the Wise account. The free borderless account is extremely convenient and offers great rates – it’s an essential accessory for travel and life in Europe.
But for larger sums, such as buying a property or getting the Golden Visa, I’d recommend using an international money transfer service instead, such as Currencies Direct.
#5. Invest in language classes
Many European countries have a high level of spoken English, but Italy isn’t one of them.
While you might get away with speaking only English in some of the larger cities, like Rome or Milan, venturing beyond that will require at least a basic level of Italian.
My favorite way to study online is with a one-to-one tutor using the iTalki service. That way, you’re forced out of your comfort zone earlier on, and you’re compelled to start actually using the language for speaking and listening.
You can use Pimsleur, Duolingo or other apps too, but nothing beats the experience of having to actually speak!