So, you’re seeking out the cheapest places to live in Italy? Great choice. A new life filled with cushiony Neapolitan pizzas and luscious Romana pastas awaits, complete with ski trips in the Dolomites and lazy summer days on the beaches of the Rimini riviera. And don’t worry, because if the budget’s tight, then there are still some wonderful spots in the offing…
Yep, this list of seven enticing destinations is all about offering a slice of La Dolce Vita without the price tag to match. Granted, you won’t be able to kick it like Mr Ripley down on the Amalfi Coast, but you can still enjoy some seriously fantastic locations…
From the jagged mountain ranges of Abruzzo to the shimmering lakes of Lombardy, the villages of Sicily to the winelands of Apulia in the south, oodles of amazing places have made it onto our shortlist of the cheapest places to live in Italy. We’re so tempted by some of them that we might just be joining you!
Abruzzo is a huge cut out of central-eastern Italy. On the one side, it spills into the glistening Adriatic Sea. On the other, it rises to the peaks of the snow-doused Apennines in the spine of Italy. It’s close to Rome but hardly anywhere near as well-known as neighboring Lazio or nearby Umbria. The upshot? Prices aren’t as bloated precisely because the area isn’t on the tourist radar.
But it should be! Seriously, Abruzzo is a stunner. The western half of the region is a symphony of jagged mountains that soar to some of central Italy’s wildest peaks and parks – one glimpse at the cathedral like spire of the Gran Sasso and you’d think you’re deep in the Alps! In the east, meanwhile, there are long, uninterrupted stretches of golden sand at Roseto degli Abruzzi, Foggetta, and others.
The priciest parts of the Abruzzo region are in the towns, but you still won’t pay the premium that you do in Rome or Florence. Pescara is the main urban center, with 350,000 inhabitants. City slickers should go there, where affordable property sits on the side of an old town that dates back to the Roman era but is now packed with Art Nouveau mansions and pre-war palaces.
Marche is a fine alternative to Tuscany and Umbria for vacationers and expats that might not have the budget for the farmhouse villas and vineyard stays of those uber-famous Italian regions. It’s over on the eastern side of the Apennine chain, spilling down from the heights of Monte Cucco to the Adriatic Sea. As it goes, it offers all the rolling hills and wooded valleys and hill towns you could hope for.
Eventually, Marche also opens onto salt-washed beaches. They are some of the best in eastern Italy, and regularly draw crowds from nearby Bologna and Venice with the promise of low-key and wallet friendly camping sites by the waves – check out places like Torrette, Marotta, and Cesano if that sounds like your sort of thing.
Don’t miss a visit to the handsome towns that await here, either. Many have their roots in the Etruscan era, but others are famed for their great medieval relics. Top of the list is surely Urbino, a walled city that’s capped by imposing church domes colored a distinct terracotta. There are paintings there by the great Raphael, along with palaces once inhabited by popes.
Puglia is the heel of the Italian boot. It’s long been popular with visitors who come for the elaborate Baroque churches and piazzas of Lecce and the enthralling old town of Gallipoli. However, there’s way more on offer than that. Take the whole swathe of olive plantations and vineyards (some of the most productive in the country, no less) that awaits to the north. Or check the coast, where dramatic nature parks drop from high cliffs into a shimmering corner of the Med.
We’d actually say that the highlights of Puglia, or Apulia as the region is sometimes called, are in the more rustic, off-radar areas. You could cruise through the hinterland to see the UNESCO-tagged town of Alberobello, complete with its intriguing Trulli dome houses. You could venture north to the Gargano, where marble-white rock arches enclose eucalyptus groves by the Adriatic.
Overarching all of this is a price tag that should be a lot less than most other regions in Italy. Bari – the regional capital and one of the main ports – is rated as the second cheapest city to live in in Italy by Nomad List and is widely considered to be one of the cheapest places to live in Italy overall. On top of that, rates for villas and property are less than up north, especially if you leave behind the historic streets of Lecce province.
If you’re on a tight budget but are craving a taste of that jet-setter lifestyle offered by the Italian lakes, then look no further than Lago d’Iseo. An S-bend of water that drifts through the Bergamo Prealps, it’s got the same crystal-clear mountain waters and skyline of limestone mountains as Garda, Como, and Maggiore. Only it’s a much more local option that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to live in or visit.
The best part of the lake is its northern side. Luckily, that’s also the cheapest because it dodges the famous Franciacorta DOCG winelands on the southern shores, where towns like Iseo and Clusane boast better transport links to Milan and Verona. We especially love the charming villages of Lovere and Pisogne. The first is even an official I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia – one of the prettiest towns in all of Italy.
Summers in Iseo are all about swimming in the lake from the lidos of Castro and Pisogne. Spring and fall are peak hiking seasons – there are oodles of amazing trails to discover in the Sebino park to the north. When the snow falls, you’re only a short drive from the Dolomites, but there are also more affordable ski fields on the doorstep, at Montecampione, for example.
Keen viewers of HBO’s hit series The Sopranos will already have clocked that this one is the fictional ancestral home of the titular family of mobsters. Thankfully, it’s less about American gangsters than it is about rustic Campanian markets that burst with San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. Oh, and it’s rated as the top of all the cheapest places in Italy to live for digital nomads by destination collator Nomad List.
Avellino itself is a mid-sized town of just over 54,000 people. It sits over 300 meters up in the depths of the Partenio Mountains, far in the south of Italy. The center has a couple of cool POIs: The gilded Romanesque Avellino Cathedral, the elaborate Fountain of Bellerophon, a couple of quaint piazzas ringed by espresso-scented cafes.
It’s also the capital of its own province, and that’s where we’d say the real joys lie. A short drive and you could be hiking in the Parco Regionale Monti Picentini, a hardly visited land of crashing waterfalls and beech woods. Go in the other direction and you could hit the epic Amalfi Coast, where lemon groves meet pastel-painted towns in what’s surely one of the most romantic places on the whole planet!
Crashing down to cap off the northern part of Tuscany in a blinding display of dagger-like mountains, the Apuan Alps are every bit as dramatic as their namesake compadres to the north. However, they are WAY less visited and basically unknown to fly-in travelers. That’s had a knock-on effect on the cost of living here, especially when it comes to property – we were very tempted upon our last visit when we saw a four-bed country house for under $60,000 on offer in the Apuan Alps!
The point here is that this mountainous northern part of the very famous (and generally pricy) region of Tuscany isn’t at all like what you find south of Pisa. Gone are the rolling hills and the high rates. Instead, you can bag homes for a fraction of the price as Chianti could muster and you’ll gaze at shark-fin peaks like the Pania della Croce out of the window.
Apua, as the region is sometimes called, is really about escaping the crowds but still being close to some of north Tuscany’s top draws. For example, the walled city of Lucca is just down the road and Pisa is less than an hour’s drive. On top of that, you’ll have access to some of the least-trodden hiking paths in the whole of Italy. Not bad, eh?
Ah, Sicily – no list of the cheapest places to live in Italy could possibly skip this stunning island. It’s widely considered to be among the most affordable parts of The Boot. Where else could you bag a house for €1? Mhmm…Sicily is ground zero for the urban regeneration project that sees local municipalities offer derelict houses for just a single coin.
Sadly, there’s a flip side to that because Sicily also has some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Oh yea, and it is home to the infamous Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, with reports of them hampering businesses and day-to-day still pretty common.
The upsides of relocating to Sicily are many, though. The island is bathed in sun for more than 300 days of the year. There are glorious beaches all up the east coast, from Ortigia to the Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari Reserve. You’ve got smoke-belching Mount Etna to climb, along with cities like Palermo and Catania that positively buzz with grittiness and life.
The cheapest places to live in Italy – a conclusion
The home of pizza and pasta isn’t the most affordable country in Europe. However, this guide to the cheapest places to live in Italy does have some great suggestions for those looking to relocate on a tighter budget.
It ranges from the sun-kissed southern areas of Apulia and Campania all the way to the glistening lakes on the edge of the Dolomites to offer a series of very different places that shouldn’t break the bank. Basically, it’s about dodging the uber-famous vacationer regions of Tuscany and Umbria, along with the chic cities of Rome, Florence, and Milan, all in favor of something a little more off the beaten path.