The most popular expat destinations in Italy range from ski-heavy mountain towns in the Alps to chic lake villages where you’ll rub shoulders with celebs to affordable countryside regions like Tuscany and Marche. AKA – there’s plenty to pick from…
This guide will run through a whole host of them. Seven, to be exact. It homes in on the areas that are hot property with movers to Italy for a mix of reasons. It could be that we think they have enticing cost-of-living and rental rates (Sicily, we’re looking at you). It could be that they are tried-and-tested Italian escapes for newcomers.
We’ve put a heavy focus on regions in Italy. That’s because the cost of property and the vibe tends to change from region to region here. Within each, you’re likely to have an array of individual cities, small villages, beach resorts, and towns to pick from.
Rome will always be up there with the most popular expat destinations in Italy. That’s largely down to the huge numbers of students, TEFL teachers, and young professionals that flock to the Eternal City in search of work and a new life each year. But there’s also an undeniable allure to it all…
One of the most ancient metropolises on the planet, Rome was once the epicenter of its eponymous empire. You can see the looming relics of that 2,000-years-past age of grandeur on the banks of the Tiber south of the Termini Station. It includes jaw-dropping monuments like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum – places you’ll simply never forget.
To the north of that is the medieval core of the city, known as the Centro Storico. This is a hustle and bustle, just as it has been since the 13th century. Markets gather on the Campo de Fiori, people munch deep-fried artichokes on the Piazza del Popolo, there are babbling fountains in Tridente, and world-class art galleries galore. It’s not going to be relaxing, but Rome will be fun!
If you’ve got the cash to splash, then it’s always worth considering making Lake Como the place that you settle in Italy. Wedged into a cleft in the central Italian Alps, this spider-shaped body of water is a true stunner. Up above, the snow-capped outline of the Piz Cengalo marks the border with Switzerland. On the banks, idyllic villages like Bellano and Bellagio burst with wine bars and cafes selling Spritz.
One thing’s for sure – you’ll be in good company if you decide to come here. Jet setters in the ilk of George Clooney have chosen Lake Como as their home away from home. You might not be in line to score one of the multi-million-dollar lakeside villas they enjoy, but there are actually some surprisingly well-priced properties up for grabs if you move a little away from the water.
There are alternative lakes to choose from in northern Italy, too. Garda – the largest of all the lakes – is better for adventure-loving expats. It sits near the Dolomites in the east and offers hiking and biking on the doorstep. Iseo is quieter and more local, with cheaper property prices to boot.
No list of the most popular expat destinations in Italy could possibly be complete without a nod to Tuscany. Many a mover to the boot dreams of owning a rustic vineyard with slender cypress trees fringing the driveway, a pool gazing at the Arezzo hills, and a garden that peers over the grape fields of Chianti. It’s so popular it’s close to cliché.
The thing about Tuscany is that it’s HUGE. The region covers a massive whack of central Italy, going from the Apennines all the way to the sea. Certain parts are perfect for those looking to escape the crowds and taste the quiet life – we can think of the Apuan Alps and the Val d’Orcia off the top of our heads.
The most popular – and therefore pricy – places to come here will be the art-brimming cities of Pisa and Florence. They are bucket-list spots and downright amazing towns, no doubt. They also enjoy excellent train links to Rome and Milan, so are good for working expats who need to travel lots, too.
The pull of Sicily is in its raw, down-to-earth, honest character, glowing seashores, and rugged countryside. The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, it’s the hottest place in Italy (temperature wise) and one of the cheapest to buy property – you can score a whole village townhouse here for a single, solitary euro! (Don’t believe us? Check this out!).
History lovers won’t be disappointed with the shift to these parts. The isle was once an ancient Greek colony, as evidenced by the mighty Temples of Agrigento. Later, the Romans came and raised theatres like the amazing one at Taormina, and then the Normans built fantastical cathedrals in Cefalu and beyond.
Sicily can offer long summer seasons with beach days possible as early as March and as late as November some years. It also has one of the tastiest cuisines in the country – think arancini balls and rice dishes infused with the zing and spices of North Africa.
The region of Marche is more and more being seen as an alternative to the uber-popular likes of Umbria and Tuscany. It looks just a little different to those, what with less rainfall and higher mountains, since it resides on the eastern side of the boot over the cloud-catching Apennine range.
But, if rusticity and charming hill towns are what you’re on the hunt for, then Marche won’t disappoint. It has hill villages that date back more than 800 years crowning almost every single ridge between the end of the peaks and the Adriatic Sea.
Talking of the Adriatic…this area also boasts a fantastic coastline. There are long, uninterrupted beaches with swimming spots, usually no more than 30 minutes’ drive from your front door. Perhaps the most glaring downside for would-be movers is that Marche is a high-risk earthquake zone and tremors do happen!
The region of Lazio is the slab of Italy that surrounds Rome to the north, south, east, and west. We’re not going to pretend that the presence of that dominating capital doesn’t make it a coveted place to be. It does. What’s more, the relatively high property prices here reflect that. On the flip side, you’re paying to be able to visit the Colosseum on the weekends, so it might just be worth the premium.
There are parts of Lazio that beckon expats on a tighter budget. Look east and north to the Sabina Hills for those. Up on the wheat-covered slopes there, you’ve got oodles of charming stone villages that have stood still in time since the 10th century. Check out Poggio Mirteto, Fara, little Stimigliano – gorgeous one and all.
If property prices don’t faze, then you could even look west to the Lazio coastline. North of the ancient port town of Ostia, you can find runs and runs of cinnamon-tinged beachfront that’s backed by elegant villas and fun promenades. And did we mention Rome is less than half an hour’s drive away?
Centered on the royal city of Turin, the region of Piedmont is the most northwesterly portion of Italy. It’s famed for a couple of things: Its UNESCO-tagged palazzos, its rich Barolo wines, and its proximity to France. For expats, there’s one ace up the sleeve that’s hard to ignore: The skiing!
Mhmm…winter sportsters looking to put themselves on the doorstep of some of the finest ski fields in the home of pizza and pasta could do a whole load worse than Piedmont. Within an hour’s drive you can be whizzing down the pistes of the Aosta Valley, crossing the border to conquer Chamonix, or even gawping up at the Matterhorn!
Go in the other direction and you’ll come to the Ligurian Sea. That’s not technically in Piemonte itself but it’s still not far and means those snowless summer days can be about splashing in the waters off glistening pebble coves along the Italian Riviera. Not bad, eh?
The most popular expat destinations in Italy – conclusion
From the sleepless streets of Rome to the winter resorts of the Aosta Valley, the glimmering shores of Sicily to the slow-paced towns of Tuscany, this guide to the most popular expat destinations in Italy showcases a true cross-section of the sought-after haunts on the boot. There are many, many more besides but we think our selection hints at just a little of what a new life in the home of risotto and ancient Rome is really all about.