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10 reasons why I moved to Italy

Aug. 21, 2022
11 min read
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I fell in love with Italy on my first visit 14 years ago. I know it’s a bit cliche, but it’s true.

I remember staying in a tiny apartment behind Piazza Navona in Rome. It was summertime, and the Romans looked impossibly glamorous in their white linen attire and high heels. Wandering around the cobblestone streets, looking up at the weathered ochre buildings covered in ivy and listening to what sounded like little operas all around me, I had a revelation: I had to learn Italian and come back here to live.

Long story short: I did learn Italian and moved to Rome not once, but twice within a 10-year period. And last summer, after dating a Roman for five years, I married him, so now I’m here to stay.

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Maybe you’re considering moving to Italy, too. While everyone has their reasons, here are some of mine.

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It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world

It probably goes without saying, but Italy is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous countries in the world — and I’ve been to my fair share of countries. Cities like Rome, Florence and Venice are like open-air museums full of Renaissance and Baroque treasures.

Not to mention, the landscapes in the countryside and along the coast are picture-perfect. The rolling hills of Tuscany and the dramatic cliffs of the Amalfi Coast come to mind, but there are so many others, including Umbria, Puglia and Sicily. There truly is no shortage of stunning places to see in Italy.

It offers a bit of everything

Bustling cities? Check. Charming little villages? Yes, plenty. Beaches? You bet — 4,723 miles of coastline, to be exact. Mountains? It offers some of the most beautiful in all of Europe.

Ever since my first visit, I’ve tried to travel around Italy as much as possible. I have been constantly amazed by the wide range of experiences you can have here.

I’ve gone museum-hopping in Florence, explored the canals of Venice, wined and dined on the Amalfi Coast and sunbathed on Sicilian beaches. I've sledded down the side of a mountain in the Dolomites, hunted for truffles in Piedmont, visited vineyards in Emilia-Romagna, stayed in ancient trullo homes in Puglia and wandered around countless little towns.

Yet despite all of these incredible adventures, there are still many places I want to visit. You could easily spend a lifetime traveling around Italy without ever getting bored.

Related: Northern vs. southern Italy: How to pick your ideal Italian vacation destination

The food is incredible

Speaking of diverse experiences, let me tell you about the food. Every region has its own culinary traditions, and one of the best things about traveling around Italy is tasting them all.

Aside from famous dishes like cacio e pepe and carbonara (try them in Rome), risotto alla Milanese and true Neapolitan pizza, there are so many lesser-known dishes to try. On the Amalfi Coast, order a bowl of spaghetti alla Nerano made with zucchini and provolone cheese. In Sicily, seek out panelle (fritters made with chickpea flour) and sarde a beccafico (sardines with pine nuts, raisins and breadcrumbs). And in Puglia, where the best burrata is made, be sure to do a cheese tasting of fresh mozzarella and burrata prepared right before your eyes.

Don’t even get me started on the sweets. It’s always a good idea to visit a bakery because every region has its own pastry.

Rome has the maritozzo (a cream-filled bun), Naples and the Amalfi Coast offer sfogliatella (a shell-shaped pastry with orange-scented ricotta stuffed between layers of flaky dough) and Puglia has the pasticciotto (oval pastries filled with creamy custard or ricotta). You can even get a fantastic apple strudel up north in the Dolomites, a mountain range by Italy's border with Austria.

It's usually easy to get around

Traveling between Italy’s major cities is incredibly easy thanks to the high-speed trains known as the Frecciarossa and Frecciargento. Run by Italy’s national train operator, Trenitalia, these trains go up to 190 miles per hour and connect cities such as Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Turin and Bologna. Meanwhile, smaller cities can be reached by intercity trains and small towns are accessible via regional commuter trains.

I love taking the Frecciarossa to cities like Florence and Venice because it’s faster than driving. (It'll take you 1 1/2 hours to get from Rome to Florence and three hours from Rome to Venice.) Plus, I don’t have to worry about finding a place to park when I arrive.

That said, I also love road-tripping in Italy. There’s something freeing about not having a strict departure time and being able to make as many stops as you want.

My husband and I road-tripped around Sicily for our honeymoon last summer and loved having a car. It allowed us to easily explore lots of small towns without worrying about train timetables. Additionally, it's generally easier (and sometimes necessary) to drive when you want to visit small towns, beaches and remote parts of the countryside.

Related: 9 under-the-radar destinations in Italy you need to visit

It’s a great base for exploring Europe

Aside from the ease of getting around Italy, you'll also find it very easy to travel around Europe. Rome has two airports — Rome Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport (FCO) and Rome Ciampino Airport (CIA) — with plenty of flights on both legacy and budget carriers that go all over Europe.

Want to go to Paris for a weekend? You can find nonstop flights, which take a little more than two hours, starting at around 55 euros (about $56). Eager to fly to Barcelona? You can do so in a little less than two hours. In fact, almost anywhere in Europe is reachable by plane within three hours.

The same goes for other major cities like Milan and Venice, so no matter where in Italy you're based, you'll find it easy to travel to other parts of Europe.

Related: The best destinations to visit from Milan

It’s affordable

Take this with a grain of salt because terms like "affordable," "cheap" and "expensive" are relative, but I find that Rome (and most places in Italy) are budget-friendly when compared to New York City and other major U.S. destinations — especially now that the euro and the dollar are equal.

Of course, cities like Rome and famously glamorous destinations like Lake Como and the Amalfi Coast offer an abundance of five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants catering to people with deep pockets, but the average cost of living is generally lower. You can expect to pay 16.10% less to live in Italy than you'd spend living in the U.S., with rent in Italy being about 54% lower than it is in the U.S., according to data from Numbeo, a cost-of-living database.

Numbeo also cites the cost of a three-course meal for two people at a midrange restaurant as being between 40 and 85 euros (roughly $41 to $87), which I find is pretty accurate and more affordable than a similar meal in the U.S. While recently dining at Da Enzo al 29, one of the best classic trattorias in Rome, my friend and I each paid 25 euros (less than $26) for two fried starters, two pastas, one dessert that we split and some house wine.

Related: How to have a budget vacation in Italy

Health care is available to everyone — and it won’t bankrupt you

As is the case in much of Europe, health care is socialized in Italy, meaning citizens and legal residents are entitled to free health care. While you can choose to go to a private clinic or doctor, in which case you’ll have to pay, you don’t have to worry about insurance premiums and deductibles. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about going bankrupt if you get in an accident or need expensive treatment for a serious illness.

Giving birth in Italy also costs considerably less than giving birth in the U.S. To have a child in a U.S. hospital, you can expect to pay an average of $18,865, with out-of-pocket payments totaling $2,854, according to Bloomberg. However, giving birth at a public hospital in Italy is free.

It's no wonder Italians find the cost of medical bills and hospital stays in the U.S. truly baffling.

The climate is typically quite pleasant

OK, so we dealt with an extremely uncomfortable heat wave this summer, but the climate in the Mediterranean is usually pleasant much of the year. In central and southern Italy, there’s generally a lot of sunshine.

Winters tend to be short and mild, too. From December through February, I wear a winter coat, but I rarely need to zip it up. Rome and points south rarely get snow, but if you like snow and winter sports, there’s plenty of that in the Dolomites.

Despite the heat parts of Italy occasionally experience, there is something magical about an Italian summer. The days are longer, and people are out and about until late at night. Plus, there’s nothing better than a long, lazy day at the beach.

Related: What you need to know about European beach etiquette

Its culture is incredibly rich

Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Botticelli are just a few of the world's greatest artists who once called Italy home. A number of contemporary artists, including Michelangelo Pistoletto, Maurizio Cattelan and Francesco Clemente, have also lived in Italy, making the country a true mecca for art lovers.

You can find incredible art all over Italy. In addition to being featured in world-class museums, you'll also discover stunning works in churches and galleries, as well as at events like the Venice Biennale, which attracts people from all across the globe.

Italy's highly regarded art extends beyond traditional mediums, too. Italians have made their mark in everything from literature to film to design. You'd be remiss if you didn't immerse yourself in Italian culture by watching films by trailblazing directors like Federico Fellini and Paolo Sorrentino.

Its people are warm and welcoming

This is obviously a generalization, but in my experience, Italians — and Romans in particular — are typically very warm and welcoming people.

Despite being a foreigner, I've found that my husband’s family and friends easily accepted me and drew me into their circle. The Italians I know who work in the travel industry are also some of the best, most enthusiastic guides I've ever encountered. They are always proud to share their knowledge and eager to show you a good time.

Bottom line

Italy offers a great quality of life for many reasons, but it’s not the easiest place to relocate to mainly because Italian bureaucracy is notoriously inefficient. American citizens can stay in Italy for up to 90 days, but if you want to live here longer, know that you’ll need to get a visa.

While some visas are easier to obtain than others, a new "digital nomad visa" that was signed into law in March may make the process a little easier. However, it’s not yet clear what the requirements or application process will be like. Hopefully, it will help remote workers wishing to move to Italy and enjoy all that the country has to offer.

If you’re willing and able to jump through the bureaucratic hurdles, you will no doubt reap the rewards of living in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases