The cost of living in Italy can fluctuate greatly depending on whether expats live in the north or south. The northern part of the country tends to be much wealthier than its southern counterpart. Prices in big cities such as Milan and Rome are considerably higher than those in rural areas, and this is largely due to tourism.
When budgeting, expats should bear in mind that Italy consistently ranks near the higher end of the cost-of-living indexes for Europe. Reflecting this, in the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Milan, Italy's most expensive city, ranked 49th, while Rome ranked 59th out of 227 cities.
Cost of accommodation in Italy
Accommodation is a large expense, usually consisting of a quarter of an expat's monthly budget. Property prices and rentals will vary considerably depending on where one lives in Italy. Renting an apartment in Milan might cost double what the same apartment would in Naples. Even more shockingly, a small apartment in Rome can cost up to three times what one would pay in a rural area for an apartment of the same size.
Increasingly, there has been a demand for retirement and second homes from both Italians and expats, as there are still many rural properties offering excellent value for money. The cost of living in these more remote parts is much lower than it is in the city centres. It's possible to live quite frugally there compared to other parts of Europe.
Cost of transport in Italy
The cost of private transport can be incredibly high. Italy has one of the world's highest prices per litre of fuel. Buying a car is expensive, as is insurance, which is also notoriously slow in paying out claims.
Public transport, on the other hand, is much more affordable. Buses and subways are reasonably priced. For regional travel, expats who can spare a little extra time should definitely avoid Eurostar trains, as they can be double or even triple the price of the slower above-ground trains.
Cost of groceries and clothing in Italy
Buying local and in-season produce is a reliable way to save money on groceries while purchasing imported products from home will be expensive.
While Italy is famous for its stylish designer clothing, it's unnecessary to spend a lot of money to be well-dressed. Locally made clothing from chain outlets will be much cheaper than the designer goods that Italy is famous for.
However, factory outlets, which are plentiful in Florence in particular, sell designer clothing at slightly discounted prices, and the end-of-season sales in January and July are a good time to do a bit of bargain hunting.
Cost of eating out and entertainment in Italy
The cost of eating out largely depends on the kind of restaurant and its location. Restaurants in touristy areas or close to tourist attractions will invariably be pricier than other, less conveniently located restaurants.
Tickets to the theatre are not usually cheap, and entry to anything considered a tourist attraction (for example, famous museums and galleries) is sure to be expensive.
Cost of education in Italy
If parents choose to send their children to public schools in Italy, costs will be low. Like local children, expat children can attend public school for free up until the end of primary school. Thereafter, a small fee is paid at the start of each year. Extras such as textbooks will also need to be purchased.
That said, if expats will be sending their children to a private or international school, they should expect above-average costs – particularly at international schools. If possible, expats should try to negotiate an education allowance as part of their relocation package to cover these costs.
Cost of healthcare in Italy
The cost of healthcare in Italy varies depending on whether expats opt to use public or private healthcare. Public healthcare in the country is free or highly subsidised, but the quality of care will depend on where expats are in the country. Italy's northern and central regions are known for having higher quality care than the southern regions.
While expats using private healthcare will avoid long queues and have access to excellent medical practitioners, this will cost them dearly without health insurance. The cost of health insurance will vary depending on expats' age, health status and lifestyle habits.
Cost of living in Italy chart
Note that prices may vary depending on the location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices in Milan for October 2023.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
What do expats think about the cost of living in Italy?
"Thirty EUR a head for dinner may seem pricey but considering how much food you eat for that, it makes it seem like a great deal!" Anna shares her perspective of the cost of living in a small town in Italy.
"Italy as a whole is more expensive when it comes to petrol, electricity, gas, rent, insurance, but my husband insists groceries and clothes are cheaper over here than in Australia." Get some insights from Elisa, an Australian expat living in Tuscany here.
►For more on managing your finances while living in Italy, read Banking, Money and Taxes in Italy
►Read Working in Italy for an overview of the job market in the country
Are you an expat living in Italy?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Italy. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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