Please sign in to post.

Retiring in Italy?

Recently returned from a fabulous trip to Italy (Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Naples). Both myy wife and I are approaching retirement age (a few years away). Yes, we are basking in the glow of our wonderful trip but we are also giving serious thought to going back on a long term basis. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows anything about the logisitcs of retiring in Italy. Does it make sense to live there full time> Are there laws in place that would be more sensible to live there (renting) 9 months per year? Any information (even covering questions I havent alluded to here would be greatly appreciated). Thank you.

Posted by
8169 posts

Lots of posts here have addressed living in Italy as retirees. You might search for those and also search the Internet for advice. International Living also has some info on Europe, although they focus more on Central and South America.

We retired in Italy and spent 18 months there. (We were there for work for 3 years prior.) I can tell you a few big things to know.

  1. You need an Elective Residence Visa from the Italian government to stay more than 90 days. We applied through San Francisco, the Consulate for our region. Be sure to consult the site for whatever region you live in. There is an enormous list of requirements from proof of sufficient funds and a rental contract to health insurance and a criminal bakcground check.
  2. Once you have the Visa, you have to apply immediately for a Permesso di soggiorno when you are back in Italy.
  3. You do have to have a lease on an apartment or house before you even apply for the VIsa. You can go through a real estate agency or you might try (as we did) Sabbatical Homes. This is something best done as a traveller before you apply for a Visa. Take a trip, get an apartment lease signed, then go home and apply for your Visa.

FYI, outside of Sabbatical Homes or some vacation rental, standard leases are 4+4, meaning an initial lease of 4 years renewable with a set increase in rent for a second 4 year period. You can do a "contratto transitorio" (a short term contract) for up to 18 months. Note that many things in a rental are your responsibility: appliances are not always provided, malfunctions may be your responsibility to fix or replace, so you want to be clear on the contract you are signing.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Speaking Italian is highly recommended as you will encounter many situations where a service provider (landlord, bank teller, police officer) does not speak English.

You will owe taxes in Italy if you stay 6 months or more. You will still owe taxes in the U.S., although you will not have to pay in both countries as there is reciprocity. See articles here and here.

We had a wonderful time and would not trade it for anything, but living there was not the bed of roses many envision. We put a LOT of effort into becoming legal residents, learning the language, and accepting that things don't work like they do in the U.S. On the other hand, wine is cheap, the coffee is excellent, the food is without equal, the trains are amazing, the climate exceptional, and the people are kind.

Posted by
8169 posts

There is an excellent Facebook group you may want to join: Americans Living in Italy. They accept people planning to live there, too.

Also, you might look at posts on the website/blog "Rick's Rome" by Rick Zullo.

Posted by
11264 posts

I see little advantage for a US citizen who is not a EU citizen to retire in Italy.
As a non citizen on an elective residency visa you don't qualify for coverage by the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale ( Natl health service) and Medicare does not cover overseas.
There are no tax advantages. The US is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens on global income even when residing overseas. Italy is not a low tax country either. although there are reciprocity agreements and foreign tax credits to prevent double taxation however you are not going to save taxes by moving to Italy. Italy is not a tax haven.
There are substantial bureaucratic obstacles to obtain an elective residency visa. In addition the US FATCA law puts a lot of reporting burdens on Americans holding foreign bank accounts or assets (I am affected by that so I know).
Cost of living in Italy is not radically different from the US. Depending on where you live in America and where you move in Italy, it may even be substantially higher.
Believe it or not but there are more Italian retirees moving overseas to save on taxes and cost of living than the opposite. Lots of retired Italians are moving to cheaper countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America at least for portions of the year.
I understand that Italy is a beautiful place with plenty of opportunities to enjoy life. But I think you can still enjoy the benefits of it by moving there every year for 90 days or less over a rolling 180 day period (max allowed by Schengen rules). Then for the remaining 6 months or more when you must stay out of the Schengen zone, find yourself a permanent home in a not too chilly part of the US (like Florida, Southern Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, etc.). No visa obstacles required for up to 90 days over a rolling 180 days.

Posted by
584 posts

Friends moved from the UK to Venice five years ago. Phil wrote about his experiences in his book The Venice Project, by Phillip Jones. There might be good info there.

He's just published his first novel, The Venetian Game, set in Venice.

Posted by
490 posts

Explore, if it makes you happy... but as a duel citizen of USA and Italy, I won't be living there for more than a few months a year in my retirement.

Just read the newspapers for a few months and you will see why. It is a disaster, and always on the brink of financial collapse, who knows what will happen with the EU in the next few years.

All the poinst made about double and high taxes, medical care ( which is very important in retirement years) and have you not heard of the RED TAPE in Italy???

Enjoy it as a visitor for a few months per year would be my best advice.

Posted by
996 posts

Roberto, it may work also the other way round: I know several US citizens that, having spent several years working in Italy and so qualifying for a permanent visa and health service, simply do not go back to US for retirement as the health service is so much better in Italy. Probably there is no Paradise on earth for retired people but only places that may work or not, according to your personal circumstances and conditions.

I would add another consideration: before considering retiring in a place, try going there out of season. Some places are very different in winter.

JJ, you are right: Italy is always on the brink of disaster. The future of USA looks much brighter now, under Trump's rule.

Posted by
11264 posts

Actually for dual citizens there are advantages. Italian citizens qualify to be covered by the National Health Service.

Having worked in health care all my life (Medicare, Hospital administration, etc.), I can tell you that healthcare costs in America can make you bankrupt very quickly. If you are in need of long term health care in old age, the cost of elderly care in America is stratospheric. lachera you are right. The healthcare service in America is not up to par with Italy's. The costs are absurd, so I'm not surprised if some Americans prefer to live abroad just because of that. America is not a country for old people. However your American acquaintances may qualify for retirement and health care coverage by the Italian SSN, which is probably not the case for the poster here.

For example Assisted living in California costs from $5000 to 10000 a month depending on level of care required. A 24 hr live in caregiver, in California costs from $20/hr and up (that makes it a few hundreds a day). A 24hr live in caregiver in Italy costs under 1000 euro a month, with the NHS providing financial assistance. Assisted living facilities (Residenza Sanitaria Assistita in Italian) cost approximately 3000 euro a month on average, with the national health service covering approximately half.

If you are not a citizen however, you don't qualify for any financial assistance. The full price is still cheaper than in America, but consider that Medicare will cover none of your hospital (part A) or professional (part B) costs overseas.

Regarding red tape in Italy, there is a lot of stereotyping and urban legends floating around. I have to deal with red tape in Italy for my mother (Social security or INPS, SSN or National Health service, Revenue service or Agenzia delle Entrate, and much more), so I'm very abreast with current bureaucratic requirements. In some instances I can tell you that Italy is even more efficient and technological advanced than many services in the US. Many services provided to the elderly or disabled at home free of charge in Italy (family doctor's visits, blood tests, photo ID renewals, etc.) cannot even be dreamed of in America. Social Security Administration does not provide the level of informatics services that INPS, its Italian equivalent, does.

So let's stop spreading stale stereotypes based on 1950's Italian neorealism movies directed by DeSica or Fellini. Both have died a long time ago and Italy has progressed since 60 years ago. If had a dime for every time I heard an American tell me that Italy and Europe is going to collapse any day now, I'd be richer than Trump. All I need now is some American singing the praises of Amtrak versus Trenitalia.