Help! How Do I Live and Work in Italy?

I would say the most common email I get from the website is from people asking me, “I want to move to Italy/I’m moving to Italy. I need help!” While everyone has an individual story, and I love hearing them, I find that I am responding with some common information each time.

Update: I responded to some of your letters on the site! After reading this post, check the series “Dear Ms. Adventures in Italy” and “Dear Ms. Adventures in Italy v.2” for more advice.

You may have read a bit about my own move and how I did very little planning, but I don’t recommend that to anyone! There is so much information on the Internet that you’re bound to get some information that makes things a bit smoother!

My fellow Expats, or other people that have made the move, feel free to leave your comments and suggestions to help our friends get trained up!

Training for the Race in Venice

Where to Start? I created a Italy & Milan links page a while back with some general links, and I’ll talk about several of those links here.

How Can I move To Italy?

I suggest you immediately visit the Italian embassy/consulate (website if you can’t go in person) where you are a resident for more information on how to obtain the necessary paperwork. Each embassy/consulate may have a different procedure to follow.

If you’re American/Canadian/Australian, you’ll notice immediately that there are no agreements between the U.S. and Italy for work. To get a Work Visa, you have to do one of two things: apply for one from your home country and wait to receive one, or find a company willing to hire you and initiate the paperwork for you. This is a bit of a catch-22 because most companies will not hire you without a work permit and it’s almost impossible to get a work permit without a job! If you’re familiar with the green-card process in the U.S., it’s not much different, nor less difficult to obtain a work permit.

Some are able to work part-time jobs if they are in possession of a Study Visa (and therefore permit) but note that only a few educational programs entitle you to the student visa and they are time-consuming programs. You can also only work part-time with a student visa, not full-time, unless the company is willing to modify the permit into a full work visa (and do the paperwork for you).

The third most common option is becoming an Elective Resident, ideally for a pensioner with income to support themselves so they are not living off the Italian government. Many people coming here to retire will get this visa. Note two important things – you cannot work on this visa, and it takes a considerable amount of money (there is no set number, I’ve heard as much as 1 million in assets) to be qualified for this visa.

This is not to discourage you from your goal – if there is a will, there is a way. But, there is a legal way and a non-legal way, and the legal way is quite clear.

Quick Italian embassy links for English-speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Great Britain, United States. Here is a more complete list of the Italian embassies in in the world.

I also suggest reading “Living, Studying, and Working in Italy: Everything You Need to Know to Live La Dolce Vita” by Monica Larner, Travis Neighbor Ward – It’s still the most comprehensive book available on this subject. I had both editions heavily earmarked before I moved!!

Note: There are visa types listed that I did not discuss. A visa is only used for entry into Italy – upon entering Italy, you will have to convert your visa into a permit of stay (permesso di soggiorno) for your particular reason for being in Italy.

Get on living in Italy Forums

I really suggest you get onto www.ExpatsInItaly.com (or to the forum directly, www.expattalk.com) immediately because there are a ton of people on there who have made the move to Italy. Your question is sure to have been asked and answered from many different angles.

I suggest browsing the particular categories that interest you but REALLY use the “Find” function at the top of the forum page and do a search for your keywords “work visa” “living in Milan” etc. There is a lot of information on the site. Italy Magazine (UK) also has an extensive forum.

Where Should I Live in Italy?

This is the $1 million question. The best way to answer this question is to ask yourself a lot of other questions:

  • Why am I moving to Italy?
  • Am I a city person? Country?
  • Where are there the most jobs in my industry?
  • What do I need for my family?

Did you fall in love with Under the Tuscan Sun, but deep down being far away from a mini-mall freaks you out? This may not go away. Luckily Italy has a type of city for every person. If you’re a city person, you may want to look at the big cities – Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Florence. If you like wide-open, maybe more rural-minded answer is for you.

If you have the opportunity, I would come and travel around to a few different contenders while you’re deciding. Obviously, a few days will not be a perfect indicator, but it’s better than doing a cold-turkey move. I chose larger cities because to me diversity is an essential element of living as well as availability!

If you want to work in banking or software development or fashion, you’ll need to move where you can find a job. You’ll either have to choose your profession and see where you could work in Italy, or choose your preferred city and see how you can work there by investigating companies that have branches there.

If you are a complete novice to Italy, I suggest you start by reading as much as you can about it! The Eyewitness Italy guide has tons of pictures and historical information for the main towns, or read a memoir or fiction based in Italy, get a guide to Italy, or watch a movie based in Italy.

How Do I Find a Job in Italy?

By far the most important part of living in Italy – how to support yourself here!

Of course, I shouldn’t have to emphasize the importance of networking – I wrote How to Network for Life (And Why You Should), and remember that true networking is based on relationships and not a generic email with your cv attached. Take the time to meet people and help them get to know you without sounding like a salesman.

Once you’ve decided where to move, find international networking groups and/or special interest groups to join and meet people. I have listed several networking groups in Italy on my Italy-Milan links page. Facebook is starting to get really popular in Italy and there are micronetworks for everything. Find blogs in your desired country/city – expat-blog.com blogs in Italy or Expats in Italy’s blog and story list, as well as all the Expat blogs listed on my sidebar.

Most Italian newspapers have a good job section – Corriere della Sera’s LavoroMioJob from La Repubblica and Monster Italy also has job listings. For temporary work, Manpower has a presence in Italy as well as Kelly ServicesAdeccoMetis – and many other temporary work agencies, but most deal in just that: temporary work.

If you are a native speaker of English, don’t discount teaching English in Italy! These jobs are usually the most widely-available jobs for a madrelingua inglese and can be a flexible solution to get to know the city you live in, provide you with opportunities to network and get to know the companies in the area! Email the schools of your interest, but I recommend visiting these schools in person with cv in hand when you arrive – often they will not encourage/enter into an agreement with you until they know you’re in the country, for good! Tefl.com is a good starting point.

Here’s a list of Italian companies from Wikipedia and a slideshow from Forbes about the biggest companies in Italy – this is not including international companies with seats in Italy. For EU citizens, there is European Job Mobility Portal with a job database that covers all of Europe. You can also read this article from Emma at How To Italy about Networking for Jobs in Italy.

Note that many companies, even if they are internationally-owned, will speak Italian and use Italian on internal communications. You will need to speak Italian well!

How Do I Learn/Improve my Italian?

Maybe you never studied Italian, and now you want to move. Should you let your lack of language stop you?

My advice is to get a tiny dictionary and carry it with you everywhere (and I mean everywhere!) I carried this mini LaRousse Italian-English dictionary everywhere in my pocket (even when I went out!) for the first six months in Italy. Prego was my university textbook that I still use today – it made the move over to Italy with me, and I still use it as a reference from time to time. I would advise speaking as much as possible, even if you are making a ton of mistakes.

Something I learned through teaching – train your brain to speak/think quickly in Italian (even bad Italian) by speaking as much as possible and then you can correct your mistakes as time goes on. Use the most basic vocabulary you know to quickly communicate, then build up your vocabulary. If you try to prepare the perfect sentence using complex vocabulary before you open your mouth, you’ll find that you’ll be left behind in the conversation every time. Speak!!

Ask people to speak with you in Italian. And to correct you. If Italians will see you struggling with Italian and they may decide to speak with you in English so you can express yourself better, and they can practice English. Insist on speaking Italian, and ask for corrections! Consider finding a language exchange to practice your Italian with someone willing to speak with you and give back some conversation in English!

There are private language schools in every town. Check with the big names first – Berlitz, Inlingua, Scuola Leonardo or ILM for programs available. You may be able to join an intensive group course and save money! Note that many Comune (city governments) offer courses of “italiano per straniere” – Italian for foreigners classes through the city government and can often be economical or free. For example, this is the italiano per straniere course list for the Comune di Milano.

When Should I Move to Italy?

There are two times of year I don’t advise moving to Italy. The worst is end-of-July/August. Italian cities will be empty unless they are on the sea, but even then many things will be closed. Your chances to build a network/find work/set up house will be greatly reduced. Come in September.

The other period of time is Christmastime. Though Christmas in Italy is beautiful, it’s not a very good time to look for work – many companies are already thinking of the holiday closure and are probably not hiring-interviewing much, or won’t have time to follow up until after the holidays. If you can, come in November so you can make progress and enjoy the holiday, or come directly in January.

Don’t try to organize the perfect situation. Things will go wrong, no matter what. At a certain point, just say, “I’ve done 80%, the 20% I am willing to wing it!”

Don’t gather every bit of information about living in Italy before your move. Sometimes other people’s reality is too honest, too depressing, and not at all how your experience will be!

Don’t try to learn all you can about Italy before moving. This is the best part about living here…discovering things for yourself and experiencing Italy for you.

In the end, what do you really have to lose? It’s so much harder for us to leave something that is known for the unknown – but the best part about it is, if you don’t like where you are, you can always go back. This motivated me to go to university in Texas where I didn’t know a single soul, move back to California after most of my ties were broken there, and then move to Italy alone.

You can always go back. It’s important that you go in the first place.

Looking for more information on Italy? Check out my guide How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy and 10 Mistakes Tourists Make when Visiting Italy.

Police in Italy - at Attention!

Please note: I am not an immigration lawyer or official – this information is not intended to be legal advice nor supplant/contradict any official government communication. Please consult the rules/regulations that pertain to you and your particular situation. I am not encouraging or advising your participation in illegal activity.

Comments

  1. says

    My best advice: do research, then listen only to yourself!! Many people who will give you advice don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve never made the move, they’ve just “heard” that it’s one way or another, but they’ve never moved to or lived in Italy.

    And above all, follow your heart. Things have a way of working themselves out, so count heavily on faith and luck.

  2. says

    Eh? You were in Sicily too? Acch, that’s the one downside of taking off…not being able to keep up with what’s going on with everybody else…only because I refuse to have anything to do with the internet on precious holiday time. Oh well, not that we had much spare hours to ourselves…y’know with the dinner invite “musts” in Sicily. Next time I’m not tellin’ anyone.

  3. says

    Fabulously written article!

    People can get a study visa if they apply to Universita per Stranieri di Perugia or Siena, for one of the language programs… that was a very easy process for me.

    Nice picture of the hot carabinieri!

  4. says

    Great advice Sara.

    Also, people interested in learning Italian should check to see if there is an Italian Cultural Institute in their city. There is one here in Toronto (I can’t take classes because of my schedule) and I went to the one in Los Angeles. They are affiliated with the govt. and the classes were more structured than Berlitz. I held onto my Prego book as well. I have to practice speaking more though.

  5. Tiffany says

    Very good advice. I think it’s good; general enough to be understood but specific enough to really assist people.

    I may even check out a few of the links myself!

    PS – I loved the disclaimer at the end :o)

  6. says

    Hi Sara

    We work with several new clients every month and your overview of the employment situation would be what I would stress to them at the beginning of the consult. Italin business culture, as you know, is nothing like it is in theUS or the UK. Promotions aren’t dont happen often and according to research published by the sociologist Ivano Bisson at the beginning of last year most graduates stay in the same entry-level position throughout their career.

    Generally speaking, people should also be prepared for a drop in salary as wages are much lower here.

    As for language, mastering ‘tu’ and ‘lei’ is a must if you’re aiming for a job in an Italian company and not just with foreigners.

    Ciao
    Emma

  7. Ipek says

    hey there sara:) thx for the advice

    im senior in high school. last summer i ve been to italy, and OMG, it was absolutely, totally fab!!!!!!!!

    I actually want to study there. Im turkish. and I m into languages and fashion and food:P

    Sara, how can I study in italy? are college fees high? please write me.

  8. says

    I’m almost ready to take the plunge and move to Rome from the States to be with my Fiance…exciting but scary too. All or your advice makes me feel much more confident and realizing that I am definitely NOT alone in doing this.
    Grazie mille!

  9. Katy Nicol says

    hi there…

    I’m an 18 year old female student living and working in South Africa and I really would love to move to italy but have little information.

    I am almost financially independent but my mom pays for my studies. I work here as a bartender at Fashion TV cafe so i have 9 months work experience doing that. My course that i am studying is a correspondance so i am able to continue with it if i choose.

    i have a South African passport so will need a working visa. if any knows any information that will help me out (accomodation, hostels, job oppurtunities etc.) please will you email me.

    grazie :)

  10. Joana says

    HI
    i´m a portuguese girl, and i want to move to Italy in october, i’ m go to start to do a italian course, to know people and to feel the city …after that i dont no…
    i would like to find work in my area- interior design, therefore I chose Rome, for the begining.

  11. Judy says

    If the company who hires you and applies for your Work Visa decides not to keep you after a spell, do you lose the work visa?

  12. Shante` says

    I’m an american signle mother of a 2yr old girl. My daughter’s father is from albania and his father is from italy. I want my daughter to know her culture and I want to move there by next year. Is it safe for me to move there? Is it easy to find childcare?

  13. Dahlia Sturlesi says

    I have 2 grown children living in Italy at the moment. In Milano. I’ve been studying Italian and would love to perfect it. Everytime I visit my kids, I want to stay, work, and live there. I’ve been racking my brain about this…perhaps thinking too much how to make this work for me. Any suggestions? Would appreciate any. Thanks. Dahlia

  14. joana says

    Hi
    Do you know somebody in Rome that rents rooms?
    If you know ,please leave here the contacts or you can send for my e-mail:

    Thanks!

  15. Kim says

    Hi!

    I am also thinking about making the move sometime in the future. I would like to finish college in the states first. I’m looking into Tuscany as I am an Art History major with a concentration in that region. Plus, I just fell in love with it on my first visit there!

    If there is anyone else living or thinking of going to that region and would like to network, chat, and swap ideas and info. Contact me via email. with Moving to Italy as the subject or find me on Facebook.

    :) Kim

  16. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    Please don’t write your email plainly in the comments. I don’t think it’s safe and I don’t want (you or I) to become targets for site scrapers, so I will delete them.

    Please check one of the sites/forums I listed in the article for these kinds of questions. Otherwise, you can send me your question directly via email. I won’t answer questions left here in the comments.

  17. toni says

    Hi there,

    I’m a Canadian planning a move to Italy early next year and just came upon your site. Looks like there’s loads of info – i’m excited to look around! I just wanted to clarify one of the first points you made about work visas above. Canada does have an agreement with Italy – Canadians age 18 – 35 inclusive can apply for a working holiday visa for Italy. It unfortunately only allows you to work for 6 months, but at least it’s a starting point! I just wanted to add this info for any Canadians who might be reading this site. They can find info at http://www.international.gc.ca/iyp-pij/description.aspx?lang=eng&menu_id=2&menu=R. Hope this helps, and thanks for putting together this great site!

  18. linda says

    If my grandparents were born in Italy and lived in the US am I able to get a dual citizenship? If so, would that help me in getting a job or renting or buying? Thanks.

  19. Roseann Christie says

    The information is very good but an important bit of information was omitted from the introductory. I am Australian and if you are over 30 you cannot move to Italy unless: you are a Dr/lawyer/dentist etc or you have Italian Parents, or you are going to marry an Italian – if you do not fit into those catagories you have 0% chance of living there – I know as I have exhausted all avenues and I dont intend to get married to move there. The funny thing is, this does not apply to Italians moving to Australia. Does anyone have anything to add or another way to move there.
    Regards Roseann

  20. Brooke says

    If you are Australian, you could apply for a Working Holiday Visa if you are between 18-30 with no dependents…it allows you to work 6 months out of a 12 month period stay in Italy.

  21. says

    Hi,

    I am an 20 year old financial independent belgian guy.
    My lifetime dream is to move to italy. But to define where i would life i would like to do a big tour across italy for estimated 1 year. Only problem will be to have temporary jobs here and there in return of food and accommodation (no cash needed). Is this a situation i would find in italy? I would stay like about 2 – 4 weeks at the same place before going on to the next place. At least that is the plan. I have no idea if this is possible in italy.

    Best regards
    Giuly

  22. Brian Lucas says

    Hi,
    Both my wife and I are British subjects and also Canadian citizens and we are thinking of retiring in Italy , what do we have to know about immiration into Italy. We do live in Canada at the moment but would like to get closer to family in the UK .
    Thanks for your time Brian & Vivienne Lucas

  23. Miche lle says

    Hi,
    I’m looking to work and stay in Amalfi Coast for 1 month. I’m not sure who would offer me a job for just 1 month though. Do you have any suggestions as to where I could work? Just something casual eg: bar work or waitressing.
    Also, do you have any contacts of living with families in Italy?
    thanks!

  24. Tina says

    Hi

    I have been wanting to move to Italy for years now, but have not yet had the courage to do so.

    Job wise I am primarily an administrator but also with qualifications in book-keeping/accounts, and almost finished a TEFL qualification. I also have experience in tutoring adults in various subjects, but not english. I don’t speak Italian, but learn pretty quickly. What would job prospects be like for me…..would I be likely to find work? My husband is an archaeologist.

    Also, my hubby is a British citizen, but I am a Canadian citizen and British permanent residency…….would I require a work VISA to work in Italy?

    Next question, being realistic what kind of savings should I be sure to have before making a move to Italy (preferably semi-rural) in the event that finding a job takes some time?

    Lastly, is it reasonably easy to find rented accomodation (either semi-rural or smallish village/town) and what kind of cost would we be looking at?

    Would appreciate any info!

    Thanks!

  25. says

    Roseann Christie.

    Thanks for the info. I spent a year or so in Italy a couple of decades back. Where do I find the info you mentioned about over 30’s lawyers etc. being allowed to move there.

    Great site. Nice job thanks S!

  26. PJ O'Reily says

    “If you’re American/Canadian/Australian, you’ll notice immediately that there are no agreements between the U.S. and Italy for work.”

    This is not correct i am Canadian and There are three bilateral cultural agreements between Canada and Italy and i got a work visa very quickly because i am canadian.

  27. says

    Good advice in there!

    I’ve also posted my story in 2 parts on my blog – just the bureaucratic stuff about getting my work visa, permesso di soggiorno, ID card, residency and bank account!

  28. Kay Mint says

    Hi, great info provided. Are there opportunities for business without having a bundle? How are the price of houses to say buy and rent?

    Thanks a lot

  29. Brandi says

    Hello, I have lived and worked in Italy for the last 3 summers on a student visa…I worked at one of Europes best and even in the world..(REstaurant) as I am a Pastry Chef. I was invited back to work but dont know how to do it. I am soooo sad when I come back here to the USA and really have such wonderful friends in Italy, I just want to go where Im happy.What do I need to do first, I also have 2 kids agges 11 and 7, what do I do about them as for taking them with me…Im in desperate need of help as I am stressing myself out day and night about this..PLEASE HELP guide me in the right direction..

    Thanks
    Brandi

  30. Rosalinda says

    hi im Rosalinda,,please can help me by sponsor to have a working visa in italy i am now in philippines and i am 42 yrs old i graduated 6 months SOS,,,or badante..please help me.i need also salary deduction i am living alone and i am single…i want to work in italy please email me..thanks

  31. Jon says

    Hi, I am a 31 year old man and I work for a family business in computer software development. I work from my home and I can work anywhere in the world where I have access to high speed internet. I really have been dreaming of seeing Italy and would like to try to live there for a year or so to see what it is like. I have been to some crazy places in the world, so I am a bit travel saavy. I was in Africa for 5 months. I think ITaly woudl be a beautiful and interesting place to live. With my job, I can live anywhere. However, my legal salary right now is around $40,000 and I get bit more in gifts (non-taxed), since it is family biz. Our business itself is fairly successful and small. I was wondering what is the best way I can get a residence or long term permit in Italy, besides marrying a woman? I know it would probably be hard to find a wife anyway in the 90 days they allow an American to stay. Is there anyway to extend my stay, such as leaving the country and re-entering from another Euroepan country?

  32. Jon says

    Sorry, I forgot to say I am a citizen of the USA. That I think would also be a factor in being able to stay in Italy extended time.

  33. Iba says

    hey I am 30 years old.finished my studies now as a professor of English language I can’t find a job here in Macedonia.I am engaged and me and my boyfriend want to move to
    Italy but we don’t have much information about how to find a job there….and we are totally on our own.we adore Italy :)

  34. says

    Only just found this list (some two years after it was written). Wish I’d discovered it earlier. All sound advice, although I would say learning as much as you can about Italian culture before you arrive is a must – gives you a reference point (on politics, food, architecture etc) with which to start… a few topics of conversation with the Italians themselves.

  35. says

    Great, thorough article. I think you hit the nail on the head with not trying to organize the perfect situation. People can become overwhelmed quite quickly and often it is a good idea to go with your gut and make the move!

  36. zina says

    hi all:
    i am from libya , we are my husband and me looking for chance to work and live in italy we would like to open arab resturant there but we need someone help bec. we have not any idea about procedures there and we need someone can support us

  37. says

    Hi my Name is Andrew ,
    Sara Congratulation for this wonderful blog,
    i am italian , i live in genoa is a big city of liguria , a little region of north-west italy.

    my english isn’t good but
    I try to clarify some curiosity about Italy :)

    Q what is the best city for find a job?
    A sure is milan , the principal economic city of the country there are infinite sectors for find a job , so milan is the capital city of lombardia
    i suggest the lombardia for find a job.
    other choices are the Piemonte and the Veneto.

    if you go to the Venetian, you go to Venice.
    I am Italian, I saw Venice the first time a month ago, and seems to be a fairy tale.

    there is many job in north italy.

    Q principal cities for art and past ?

    the better cities are venice , florence , and ROME the capital.

    Q Resources for learning Italian?
    here are some resources

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/lj/

    http://www.oggi-domani.com/site/tableofcontent.htm

    http://www.locuta.com/classroom.html