Imagine working at a job surrounded by beautiful architecture, delicious culinary delights, the sounds of Monteverdi and lovely weather? Well, you don’t have to imagine anymore, because you can witness this by moving to Italy and finding employment in the land of Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Alighieri and Chef Boyardee.
While working in Toronto, New York City or Los Angeles does have its advantages, the drab and dreary conditions of the asphalt jungle can suffocate you. The only desire you have is to flee from it all. Though it would be a major transformation in your life, and require a lot of work to complete, living in Italy can be a fantasy that comes to life.
So, are you interested in moving and working abroad? From obtaining a visa to applying for a work permit, there is a lot you need to know before you can hop on a plane to Rome, Venice or Milan and find a job to earn enough euros to pay for your scooter, wine and 80-year-old apartment.
1. General Information
Becoming a nation-state in 1861, Italy’s history dates back centuries before then, giving Western civilisation the fruits of arts, culture, politics, philosophy and so much more. Home to more than 62 million people in 301,000km2 of land and water, the country is situated in Southern Europe and extends into the Mediterranean Sea.
On the one hand, Italy is one of the most enviable places on Earth because of its scenery, culture, people and everything that adds to its charm. On the other, it has suffered from persistent problems since the end of the Second World War:
- high youth and female unemployment
- an economic gap between the north and south
- organised crime that has impacted the entire nation.
Overall, this is what the economy looks like:
- gross domestic product hovers around 1%
- the jobless rate is more than 11%
- population below the poverty line is 30%
- debt is 131% of the GDP
- taxes represent half of the GDP.
This is what Italians need to contend with every single day.
As previously noted, the Italian economy is not exactly the economic engine of Europe. While the political and financial turmoil unfolding in Rome does further threaten the eurozone’s stability, the country still does provide the opportunity to earn a decent living, especially if you can find common jobs in these popular sectors:
And you could make an even better income if you get a chance of working at one of Italy’s biggest companies:
- Eni (oil and gas)
- Enel (electricity)
- Intesa Sanpaolo (financial)
- Luxottica (personal goods)
- Assicurazioni Generali (insurance)
- Tenaris (industrial metals)
- Atlantia (industrial transportation)
- Telecom Italia (telecommunications).
Like every other country, average salaries do vary by industry. In Italy’s case, salaries can range not only by industry but also by region. For example, the highest paid region is Lombardy, with nominal wages averaging €27.30 per hour (about $30.80 / £23.94). However, if you travel to Sardinia for work, then you can expect to see wages reaching €3.40 per hour ($3.83 / £2.98).
So, what are some of the best paid jobs in Italy? Here are the top five based on monthly earnings:
- airline pilot – €3,806 ($4,294 / £3,338)
- dentist – €2,904 ($3,276 / £2,547)
- physician – €2,904 ($3,276 / £2,547)
- engineer – €2,518 ($2,841 / £2,208)
- accountant – €2,456 ($2,771 / £2,154).
Cost of Living
Unfortunately, no matter where you live in Italy, your cost of living will be quite high. So, give up those romantic illusions of living on miracles to spend your days at cafés on your typewriter. Living standards may not be like what they are in the US or the UK, yet your daily costs are through the roof.
If it is just you, then here is what you can expect to spend for a single-person lifestyle:
- accommodation (one-bedroom flat in Rome) – €2,000 per month ($2,256 / £1,754)
- utilities (hydro, heating and gas) – €150 per month ($169 / £131)
- food (basic lunchtime meal) – €13 per day ($14.66 / £11.40)
- internet (eight Mbps for one month) – €30 ($33.85 / £26,31)
- public transportation (weekly pass) – €24 ($27.08 / £21,04).
Ultimately, you should calculate your living expenses back home, and then multiply it by two – it is better to be safe than sorry, especially since you’re quite a distance from your hometown.
One of the reasons why the Italian economy has been falling behind some of its European partners is because of its leniency pertaining to working conditions. For decades, the country has maintained a lackadaisical attitude to work, but that is gradually changing as businesses attempt to compete on the world stage. Simply put, you can expect working conditions to be similar to what you have been accustomed to, but there are some minor variances.
The average working day starts between 8am and 9am and ends as late as 7pm, but extended lunch breaks of roughly two hours are commonplace. You can anticipate clocking an average of 40.6 hours each week, and overtime cannot legally exceed 48 hours.
Italy has been celebrated for establishing a strong welfare state, as well as instituting employee-friendly workplace benefits. Whether you work in Rome or in Sicily, these are some perks you can receive:
- sickness allowance (two-thirds of your gross income)
- pregnant employees can take five months off (you are required to stop working two weeks before the due date and you are forbidden from returning to your job until the child is four months old)
- retirement benefits will be paid into your place of origin’s social security system
- statutory employee entitlements (severance pay and holiday pay)
It should be noted that if you are self-employed, then you are generally exempted from these benefits.
2. Finding a Job
It is widely considered that the best way to obtain employment is Italy is networking through friends and family. This is not feasible if you’re a foreigner, particularly in the summer when more people are looking for work to sustain the busy tourism season. That said, there are still many routes you can travel to gain an employment opportunity.
First, you need to compose a CV and cover letter that is tailored to the requirements of Italy. Then, of course, you will be required to complete an application form, which should be submitted in Italian, unless otherwise stated by the employer. Local experts further recommend preparing your academic transcripts and certificates, which should also be translated into Italian. It does not matter if you’re only an English speaker; Italian is the language of the land.
In Italy, it is rare to partake in a short interview, even if the hiring manager is certain right away that you’re not fit for the job. So, be ready for long interviews (the plural was on purpose because you will participate in a series of interviews and psychometric testing).
Interested in getting a head start on your job search? Try these websites:
3. Visas and Work Permits
Here is what you need to know about the visa and work permit process.
First, if you’re not a European Union national, then you will be required to apply for a work permit to work in Italy; if you are a citizen of an EU member, then living and working Italy does not require a visa.
Second, your local embassy will provide you with an entry visa, which is estimated to take a maximum of 30 days. After that, you will have six months to visit an Italian embassy and collect your visa.
Third, before you can apply for a work visa, you need to have secured a job with an Italian employer who will submit an application.
Finally, your work permit will last for nine months, whether seasonal or full-time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Do what the Romans do. Death in Venice… oh, wait.
There are a lot of Italian expressions that can fit your transition from life in North America or Great Britain to Italy: it will take more than a day to acclimate, but you should always do what the Romans are doing.
That’s the only way to survive this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Whether you’re bringing your engineering talents to Pisa or you’re looking to start your own business in Florence, it takes planning, dedication, resources and energy to change your scenery, even if it’s for six months or six years.
Remember: nothing worth doing is easy. As the Italians say: ‘Piove sul bagnato’ (it rains on wet ground).
Are you considering moving to Italy? Perhaps you’ve already made the move and want to share your experiences with us? Join the conversation down below and let us know!
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 12 February 2019.