The Italy Years

Living in Italy FAQ: How Much Does it Cost?

Every Monday I’ll be adding a new post to our “Living in Italy FAQ” series. With a new baby in Casa Hash and very little time for personalized email responses, I’m answering the questions we get asked most often and archiving them on the site for future reference. Enjoy!

Last year we added a page to our blog to address the #1 question we get via email: how much does it cost to live in Italy? We were hesitant to even make the page because the fact is there is no real answer to this question. Why? Because no two people/couples/families live exactly the same way and there are endless variables that go into determining how much it costs for you to live abroad.

What type of apartment or villa do you want? How many rooms? What neighborhood? What type of diet do you eat? How often do you eat dinner out? Do you need to buy comfort items from home? Do you own a car? Will you join a gym? Do you need to buy medical insurance? Will you insist on American-style heating and air conditioning in your apartment? What do you do for fun? Do you need to enroll your kid(s) in private school? How often do you plan to travel home? Will you need to pay taxes? Do you have kids/pets?

These are just a handful of about 100 different questions you need to ask yourself (so, for the love of all that is holy please do not email me answers to these questions and ask for an estimate).

I’ve noticed an interesting/alarming trend in the emails we get asking about how much it costs to live abroad. It’s almost as though people want us to be their financial advisor…to give them permission or affirmation of some sort that, yes, you have enough money to live abroad. We’ve had people literally tell us how much they have in the bank. The funny thing? That number tells us nothing. Why? Because we have NO idea how you live your life. What’s a fortune for some isn’t enough for a year for others.

It is essential that you do extensive research for yourself and create your own budget. Even if a young couple with one baby and a dog emailed me about cost of living I’d still be hesitant to give advice. That’s because Rob and I are super frugal — almost to a fault.

All this being said, here are some palces to look for information about how much various things cost in Italy:

  • An easy-to-use site for finding apartments available for rent. If you’re looking for a fairly-priced apartment, avoid vacation rental sites or any site in English. The best places can be found on Italian sites.
    • Sometimes, you can ask about the average electric and gas bills for an apartment. If they are willing to give you this information is can be invaluable to creating a budget. Utilities are expensive here.
  • Vodafone, 3 and Wind are three of the most popular cell/internet service providers. Check out their prices online to see how much these utilities will cost you.
  • Expats in Italy: A fantastic, comprehensive site with articles collected over the years about living in Italy. Search the message boards to find answers on just about anything.

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  • Reply
    November 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    It is true that renting directly from Italians is more affordable for the "rent & bills" portion, but keep in mind that many many many Italian rental owners are irresponsible and not timely with maintenance issues. That is why the agencies do so well here because many provide an extra service for the problems that could come up with your rental. They also handle all the contracts and taxes, so those are the costs that you are paying higher than renting direct (often times illegally).

    The best case scenario is to find a rental agency that "owns" properties as well as manages for third parties. Then you are golden because you will get better service and lower rates than the tourist prices.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Hi, I agree about avoiding rental sites in english. However I also wanted to add that for me people myself who look to avoid throwing money "away" (at least for me it was and is an expense I can't afford) at a realty company, the best places to search for private listings are, and If someone isn't as familiar with the city, however, a realtor could be useful of course, but if you've lived in Florence for some time and are willing to do some foot work, those sites are pretty good. Also, if possible, bring an Italian with you. My boyfriend always came with me when I was looking for my last apartment and I was quoted a full 100 euros less a month for the same place a fellow American friend of mine saw just a few days later.

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