Living in Italy as an American: What To Expect?

Colorful houses on an island in Italy

Many Americans, especially art and romance lovers, want to live in Italy’s creative metropolis. If you’re considering living in Italy as an American, discover the allure of this cultural and artistic haven

Living in Italy as an American is a huge change. You should expect that there will be differences in culture, lifestyle, weather, infrastructure, food, processes, language, and more. You might experience a culture shock at first, and learning Italian is a must.

Your life changes when you move overseas. Do not worry. Normal changes—who knows? Possibly for the better!

You’re in the perfect place if you wish to plan ahead and live in Italy as an American! Here’s what to expect when moving from the US to Italy.

Is it hard for an American to move to Italy?

A city in Italy at night filled with steetlights and lamps

As with any country, Americans have the right to move to Italy, but there are a few caveats to be aware of. For example, you must obtain a residence permit to live in Italy long-term.

It is possible to get an Italian passport if your parents or grandparents were born in Italy and immigrated to the United States, allowing you to live in Italy without obtaining a visa or permanent residency.

As part of Europe’s Schengen Zone, Italy allows seamless travel between member countries, so if you have a French or German passport, you can also live there without any hassles.

On the other hand, non-EU passport holders who plan to spend more than 90 days in Italy must apply for a visa and a residence permit.

However, it is well known that Italy is not easy to obtain visas for Americans. And getting a visa for them to move to Italy will take a lot of effort and paperwork.

But don’t worry! With dedication and the right support and information, you can totally get one in no time! Here are some visa routes that you may try:

1. The short-term Schengen Visa

A close-up of Schengen Visa in Italy

US and Canadian citizens are among those who don’t need a visa to enter Italy. However, if you come from other non-EU/EEA countries, you most likely will need a Schengen visa.

The Schengen visa is required for 107 other countries’ citizens; you may see the list here. With this visa, every 180 days, you’ll get 90 days to live in 26 European countries that are part of the Schengen area.

If you don’t want to apply for a residence permit in Italy, you can live outside Italy for 90 days every 180 days to regain your Schengen limit. The place you travel to must be outside the Schengen zone.

Long-term Italian visas for Italy

Some of the most accessible Italian visas for US citizens fall into business and self-employment categories, namely:

  • Self-employment visa
  • Italian Startup Visa
  • Startup Hub Program – launched in 2012
  • Italian Investor Program – launched in 2018

1. Self-Employment Visa (Lavoro Autonomo)

A close-up of Lavoro Autonomo Visa in Italy

There are several self-employment visas, each of which is suitable to the particular situation:

  1. Startup Visa – a tricky one and will be issued if you plan to open an innovative company in Italy or want to join an existing Italian company as a top manager.
  2. Freelancer Visa – hence the name – this visa is intended for independent freelancers.
  3. Entrepreneur Visa – has higher requirements – you must invest at least €500,000.

Visa for self-employed and freelancers is one of the simplest ways to relocate to Italy. However, you will need to obtain a related work permit to be self-employed in the country.

For example, if you want to apply for a visa as a freelancer, you can not use a company as a sponsor. Freelancers must prove that they have Italian customers.

Besides that, Italy limits the number of self-employment visas issued every year. You can’t apply for it anytime, but only during a specific time window.

2. Startup Visa

People millig around an Italian square with the flag of italy

Italian Startup Visa is a type of self-employment visa created by the state to attract foreign business owners and founders.

You must possess at least €50,000 in a bank account to qualify. This money must be used to establish and maintain an innovative startup in Italy.

The key word is innovative – your future company, but bring something new into the country.

The visa is valid for one year, renewable. Two 2-year renewals are available after one year. Thus, Startup Visas are valid for five years. However, after five years, you can apply for an indefinite permanent residency permit.

3. Visa for investors

If you have some money, you can become an investor and get an Italian visa that way.

Entrepreneurs can apply for a visa for foreign businessmen as part of the Investor program if they intend to invest at least €500,000 as part of an investment plan of interest to the Italian economy.

Applicants must submit a business plan with a minimum investment of €500,000.

Furthermore, the applicant must also submit a certification issued by the Chamber of Commerce in the country where the business will be established.

The consulate may require other documents, such as proof of additional funds, a tax return, proof of accommodation in Italy, health insurance, etc.

When an application is filed, it could take up to 120 days for the consulate to approve/reject the visa.

After receiving the visa, the applicant can travel to Italy, where the residence permit application must be filed within eight days.

Therefore, a visa through the Investor program is the most expensive way of gaining residency in Italy.

4. Elective Residency Italy Visa (Residenza Elettiva)

A photo of an Elective Residency Italy Visa on top of table.

An Italian elective residency visa is a long-stay visa, also known as a Retirement visa allows you to stay in Italy for longer than 90 days. You will need to provide for yourself since you can not take any jobs in Italy.

Moreover, applicants need to show proof of funds.

Your funds should come from savings, investments, or pensions. Hence, this visa is perfect for retirees with a guaranteed income and can provide for themselves in Italy.

Applicants need €31,000/year passive income. Couples pay €38,000. Fortunately, this visa doesn’t have an age limit, therefore non-retirees can apply.

However, you should have some passive income rolling in regularly. It can be funded from rental units, pensions, 401ks, and other investments.

What’s it like living in Italy as an American?

Laundry hanging in between Italian apartments

Living in Italy as an American can be different for anyone, depending on their choice. Generally, living in Italy is associated with:

Eating mostly Italian food

The range of food choices is pretty slim in Italy. In every city, the Italian food scene dominates, and it’s hard to find another cuisine.

Therefore, you must either cook yourself or learn to enjoy Italian dishes. And believe us, it is worth it!

Traveling around

While living in Italy, you can not miss out on traveling to different Italian and non-Italian cities. There is so much to see in this part of the world! Make sure you have enough free time to explore new places every weekend.

Enjoying Mediterranean weather

A large part of the Italian climate is Mediterranean. If you love to soak in the sun – this is a place to be.

Experiencing a culture shock

Moving to Europe means changing the entire life you used to live in the US. Moving to Italy is a different ball game.

The Italian culture is extremely different from the American. For example, personal space boundaries are almost nonexistent for Italians.

People have different habits, ways of communication, social norms, and customs. Besides that, Italy is a different world, somewhat chaotic, unorganized, and loud.

Living with friendly people

You will barely meet more friendly and welcoming people than Italians. They are fantastic hosts and will welcome you any time of the day.

Despite the language barrier, they will communicate with you through food, emotions, and smiles.

Is Italy a good place for an American to live?

According to statistics, 20% of all expats living in Italy are from the US. They also take up the largest proportion of expats by nationality.

Italy was one of the favorite countries among Americans for a long time. Affordable cost of living, culture, heritage, food, nature, and travel opportunities – all these reasons are why people move to Italy from the US.

Consequently, Italy is a fantastic place to live as an American, but like anywhere else, there are some pros and cons. The biggest cons are, by far, the complex process of getting a long-term visa and the low proficiency in English among locals.

Pros and Cons of living in Italy as an American

An old man biking around an alleway in Italy

For many people, living in Italy is a dream come true. There are many reasons why Italy is so appealing, such as its stunning scenery, fabulous weather, and fantastic food. 

Nevertheless, before you book your flight, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of living in Italy. This will help you decide if moving to Italy is right for you.

So, without further ado, let’s examine a few key aspects to consider when making such a life-changing decision!

Pros of Living in Italy

People spending a quiet afternoon at Italian restaurants

1. The La Dolce Vita lifestyle

Many features of Italian living are appealing to all. Italy is a terrific place to live for more than its food. Italians take leisure seriously. They like sports and opera intellectually and recreationally.

Traveling beyond cities will reveal some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. You can explore kilometers of vineyards, undulating slopes, and blue beach towns.

2. Affordable but high-quality healthcare

The Italian government provides national health insurance, like many others in Europe. According to the WHO, its healthcare system is among the top 10.To get free healthcare, donate to the insurance fund.

Insurance covers most medical bills, so you don’t pay anything. Public hospital overpopulation and long wait times aside, Italian healthcare is efficient and economical.

Additionally, Italy has a much lower cost of living than the US. Living in Italy is 30% cheaper than in a large US metropolis.

3. Incredible food

Italian cuisine is famous worldwide for a reason. There are dozens of dishes from each Italian area. Italian food is diverse, from spaghetti and meatballs to rabbit ragu, which is wonderful but rare.

Italy treats food like religion and eats like the process is a ritual. The Italians are known for eating both lunch and dinner with their families.

Therefore, lunch breaks typically last two to three hours, and your colleagues will arrive home just in time for dinner.

4. Exciting Nightlife

Italians enjoy partying until dawn. Italy’s cities have vibrant club and eating scenes, but the Passagiata, or promenade, is a pleasant tradition.

This is the time of year when people dress up and walk down the main strip on a nice summer day, eating gelato, to see everything.

After finishing your passagiata, grab an espresso or drink and observe people walking with friends and family.

5. It’s a historical goldmine

Italy has so many ancient places that choosing where to visit is difficult! Rome, with its ancient ruins, may be an excellent starting point.

Renaissance architecture characterizes Florence. You can’t miss Naples and Venice, two of the world’s most famous classical art cities!

Italy has many more historical wonders. If you like weekend getaways, Italy is the place to go.

Cons of Living in Italy

Narrow streets in Palermo, Italy

1. Language barrier

The first problem an American will face in Italy is that people rarely speak English here. Therefore, you must learn Italian to live without constant limitations.

Yes, some city residents might be fluent in English, but it pretty much ends in Rome, Venice, and Milan.

Besides, people who speak English mostly work in tourism, while other locals are less proficient. Thus, brush up on some Italian before you make a move.

2. Fluctuating weather

Italy has highly distinct climates due to its size, from north to south. In winter, the hilly north is cold and rainy.

The Mediterranean south is cooler in winter but scorching and arid in summer. Anywhere in Italy, the weather may change throughout the year.

Additionally, choosing a suitable climate year-round is difficult. However, Italy provides something for everyone, whether you prefer to live on a scorching beach in the south, in chilly mountains in the north, or in the middle!

3. Dangerous drivers

Drive carefully in Italy because it’s dangerous.

Italy’s traffic and aggressive driving make driving unsafe. Speeding, not obeying red lights or other traffic signs, driving drunk, driving tired, and driving without a license are Italy’s top five accident causes.

Additionally, Italian drivers are unfamiliar with cyclists and pedestrians. This typically causes danger.

You must cross roadways carefully as a pedestrian. Cyclists should also wear protective gear to avoid accidents.

4. Bureaucratic public services

A large amount of bureaucracy plagues the Italian public services. Of all European countries, Italy has some of the most extensive paperwork required by the government. You will first face it when preparing documents for your Italian visa.

There is no better example of this than Italy’s infamous “ius sibillinum” or “Sibylline law”, a code of laws made up almost entirely of extremely obscure decrees. 

According to the legend, one can only interpret the code if guided by divine guidance because the code can’t be deciphered without Apollo’s oracle intervening.

Similarly, bureaucracy is still a problem in Italy today. It can lead to many difficulties when doing business or following through with certain legal procedures related to doing business.

There is a great deal of ambiguity in the formal requirements, which frequently change. It is advisable to triple-check all the requirements before proceeding with a legal matter to avoid this issue in the future.

While this may seem like an easy task, it can often be challenging because it isn’t always clear what is expected or where to find the necessary information.

Additionally, it is often the case that government offices are unhelpful and slow to respond to inquiries made by citizens.

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