Italy is a large country with 60 million people. There are big cities like Rome, Milan, and Naples, but there are also tiny little hamlets desperate to attract new residents. (In some of these towns, you can even buy a home for 1 euro.) If you want to live in a city, you can—and likewise if you want to live isolated, there is plenty of space to live in the mountains or the countryside. Therefore, it’s difficult to answer the question “what’s the cost of living in Italy?” in one fell swoop.
With this in mind, you can expect that life in the historic center of Rome will be much more costly than, say, life in a small town in Liguria. Similarly, you can expect that a lavish lifestyle will cost a lot in Italy—but this is true with all other place in Europe, too. Therefore, you can also live very frugally in Italy, just like you can anywhere else.
In this post, we’ll try to provide a rundown of the general cost of living in Italy. Use this guide as a starting point from which to base your research about moving to and living in Italy.
Common Misconceptions about the Cost of Living in Italy
Suffice it to say, the cost of living isn’t the main reason people want to move to Italy (although for some people it can be quite attractive). Rather, it’s all about living la dolce vita—the sweet life. People feel an emotional pull to Italy because of its laid back lifestyle, excellent food, beautiful architecture, and the small pleasures which make every day in Italy a special one.
And you don’t need a lot of money to enjoy the simple pleasures! These little pleasures are often the most inexpensive ones. You don’t need overpriced wine or cheese to enjoy life in Italy. Believe me when I say that in Italy, even the cheap stuff is the good stuff.
Most visitors spend time in the tourist areas and assume that all of Italy is just as expensive. However, things are not always as they seem.
Calculating the Actual Cost of Living in Italy
It’s not easy to calculate the true cost of living in Italy because everyone’s lifestyle is different. However, if you can lead a life without luxuries all the time, life can be very affordable especially compared with large American cities or Northern European cities. Choose to live in a small town and the cost of living plummets even more. And the best part is that even though everything costs less, the cheese, meats, and wine still taste just as good!
Bottom line: if you step out of the tourist areas and live in the real Italy, the prices are significantly lower.
Ultimately, the cost of living in Italy will depend on your preferences which begin with where you choose to live and what type of accommodations you select.
Living in Italy Can Actually Be Affordable (But it Depends on Where You Live)
In terms of economics, Italy is a diverse country. There is a large disparity between the south and north and central Italy. Some places are far more affordable than the others. As you can expect, housing is generally more expensive in cities. It goes without saying that the decision of where to live will have the largest impact on your day to day expenses.
What about purchasing a house?
That, too, depends. In Italy, you can find everything from a $20,000 village home to a multi-million dollar villa outside Florence. Medium-size apartments tend to cost anywhere from $80,000-$150,000 in the average town. In larger cities, you can expect to pay upwards of $225,000.
If you decide to rent, these same apartments can be had anywhere from $500-$1,200 per month, while a village home can be as little as $350 a month.
Food, Entertainment and Other Costs
Restaurant fare can be expensive, but groceries are extremely reasonable. While a lunchtime meal can set you back $15-$20 and a fancy restaurant as much as $100 for two, one liter of milk is $1.45, a loaf of bread is $1.15, and a bottle of supermarket wine just $8.
Entertainment is also surprisingly affordable but here again it depends on what you like to do. A night out in the big city can be costly, but movie tickets can be had in independent theaters for as little as $5. A cappuccino in a quiet neighborhood is less than $2.00 and the cost of cell phone and internet service is also quite low.
Here’s the bad news. Car prices are expensive in Italy, as is gas. For this reason, many Europeans forego owning a car and take the train or bus. But here’s the upside—public transportation is very affordable in Italy! It’s good for the environment and your wallet.
Utilities in Italy can vary. I pay anywhere from $30-$40 a month for gas, and about the same for electric. With my new energy efficient induction stove, my electric bills are low. I pay under $30 a month for internet service which is important for me due to my work. Cold water is free, as it also was in New York before I moved to Italy!
Clothing can be had at all price points in Italy. In Turin where I live, the Porta Palazzo market is the place to get affordable clothes to last you a few seasons. It’s also where I get really affordable and fresh produce. But there are also high end boutiques that will dazzle you! Ultimately, when it comes to clothing, the cost of living in Italy can vary as much as you want it to. You can buy market clothes or you can buy Gucci… it’s up to you.
Italy is an excellent springboard from which to visit other European countries! With new budget airlines, travel can be done super cheaply. Search at the right times, and you can buy a ticket to London or Paris for under $30. Can you say weekend trip?
It goes without saying that healthcare in Italy is extremely affordable. Put simply, you will never ever go bankrupt over healthcare costs in Italy. It just doesn’t happen.
Eight Facts About the Cost of Living in Italy
- It costs about $445 to buy a 40” flat screen TV in Italy. Depending on the brand, that’s higher than the cost of a 40” flat screen TV in the U.S.
- Big Macs cost about $9.40 in Italy. That’s just about $4 more than the cost in the U.S.
- Just like in the U.S., the cost of living in Italy greatly depends on where you live. An apartment in the center of Milan can cost double that an apartment in Naples.
- In U.S. dollars, on average, the monthly rent for a 900-square foot apartment in Italy is $1,079. A 480-square foot apartment in a cheaper area is about $732 per month.
- It’s cheaper to buy locally in Italy! This isn’t only good for your wallet, it also supports local businesses.
- One medicine that’s more expensive in Italy is ibuprofen (so stock up when you come from the U.S.). One pill costs around $1.18, meaning that it costs around $28.32 to get a 24-count bottle. In the U.S., name brand 24-count ibuprofen sells for as low as just $3.48.
- Healthcare is free to people living in Italy. Citizens can pay extra for private healthcare, but it’s not required.
- When it comes to traveling, remember that there are tolls to pay when traveling by vehicle. This, combined with the cost of fuel, makes for expensive automobile trips.