With a highly flourishing culture pervading a laid back pace of life, there are few better places in the world to work than Italy. Not only is the boot-shaped peninsula the cradle of much of Western life and culture, but it is still a trendsetter in the world of food, fashion and the kind of relaxed, inspired lifestyle idealized in travelogues and recently divorced female-centric non-fiction. Italy attracts tens of millions of visitors annually but the only way to truly experience la dolce vita is by working in Italy. Shopping on the weekend, an aperitivo after work, and haunting the local UNESCO World Heritage Site are all on hand when you’re living in il bel paese.
We all have our idea of what Italy is. For some, the image of a gondolier gliding passengers down a Venetian canal springs to mind, for others it’s the idyllic and miniature seaside towns dotting the heel that is the Italian region of Puglia. We all have a favorite Italy, a personal Italy that might or might not adhere to the realities of finding a job in this sun-draped country.
Like any country, the majority of jobs abroad in Italy lie in the capital, Rome, as well as other major Italian cities like Milan and Genoa. Sure, you might get lucky and land something in picturesque Polignano a Mare, a Greek-style gem rising above the Adriatic, but a town of 16,000 obviously offers fewer job opportunities than a city of five million.
Rome, also called the Eternal City, has been the heart of the region ever since the earliest days of the Roman Empire. While working in Rome, you will find yourself in a modern flourishing city which has a backdrop of beautiful ancient architecture from all throughout history.
Florence, the heart of the Renaissance movement, remains today a central hub of art and fashion for creative individuals from all across the world. With some of the greatest museums in all of Europe and a history that breathes life into the streets, working in Florence provides expats with a highly stimulating and lively environment.
Milan, the country’s second largest city after Rome, is the industrial and financial capital of Italy and also the nation’s leading international hub of commerce. Also an aesthetically rich metropolis and leader in global fashion, expats will find no shortage of job opportunities in Milan and cultural richness to explore.
The Italian economy has only recently begun to pull out of the severe economic slump that swept across Southern Europe in 2007, so jobs in Italy can still be few and far between. Certain job opportunities in Italy will always be in need, however, so if you’re willing to teach English or lead tourists around on food tours, there’s plenty of work abroad in Italy.
While jobs abroad in Italy in the tourist industries will require at least a basic grasp of the Italian language, teaching English offers the possibility of working in Italy without knowing much Italian, though living in Italy will make picking up the musical and appetizing tongue of Dante and Boccaccio irresistible to even the most stubborn expat.
If you are seeking more permanent employment within the country then you may want to familiarize yourself with the specialized areas of Italy’s economy. The country is particularly known for its innovative business culture, agricultural exports (particularly wine), and expert design in fashion, cars, and other luxury items. Prospective employees who are interested in these sectors will find few better places than Italy to seek jobs abroad.
Italians are envied the world over for what outsiders consider a somewhat lazy work ethic; but in fact the typical afternoon break enjoyed by most Italians is contributive overall to a more enjoyable lifestyle, not to mention, having the afternoon off to wander through tiny, cobblestoned alleyways is highly addictive.
Salaries vary according to your job in Italy, and it goes without saying that an average English teacher’s salary of 1000 to 1500 euros is going to get you further in the countryside than it will in Rome or Milan. The latter cities, as well as other tourist hot spots like Venice and Florence, abound with shops and restaurants catering to tourists, not excluding their wallets. It is far better to eat and shop where the Italians do, and with a few tips from an Italian colleague or neighbor, you’ll find out when working in Italy that bargains are to be had even within sight of notoriously overpriced Piazza di Spagna. It’s just a question of knowing where to find them. Still, if you think you’re going to move to Rome and, on an English teacher’s salary, find an apartment overlooking the Coliseum, prepare to be disappointed.
Available accommodations will depend on where you obtain a job in Italy and for how long you plan on working in Italy. Many employers will help international workers organize housing in advance, or if working as an Au Pair in Italy you may be living directly with your employer. If you are planning on finding your own housing, living with roommates (either local or fellow expatriates) will significantly reduce the costs of a flat and also provide a good entry point into meeting people while you work in Italy.
Of course, one cannot discuss the possibility of working in Italy without bringing up the all-so-thorny issue of visas. This could very well be the catch, the one thing getting in the way of you and your blissful Italian existence, if you’re an American that is. Due to European Union regulations, workers can shuttle between E.U. countries and live and work with relatively little hassle and paperwork. This is not so for those born on the other side of the pond, however. Many Americans you’ll meet in Italy are there illegally, a product of a broken and increasingly convoluted bureaucracy, which marries Italian “laziness” (so charming and refreshing in other spheres) to an almost comically challenging procedural process. Add in the aforementioned ease with which Brits can come and work, yet an American has to either be: supernaturally qualified for the position or Berlusconi’s latest muse (i.e. extremely well-connected) in order to work in Italy.
Lest you despair, all is not lost. There are still plenty of jobs in Italy for Americans and employers who can accommodate American worker’s visa needs.
Life in any country comes at a cost, and your happiness ultimately depends on whether you end up on the better end of this international tit-for-tat. As in, yes, I will sacrifice a bit of organization and a higher salary for the opportunity to have a coffee outside the Pantheon each day (note: sitting at many of Italy’s more centrally located cafes can cost you up to four times more than simply standing at the bar… something to keep in mind).
If you’re looking for a higher salary or the opportunity to move up in an international company than odds are Italy isn’t your best bet. If you’re looking to enjoy a weekend away exploring Florence’s Uffizi gallery or simply to try the world’s best ice cream at the little shop down on Via Marmorata, you could do much, much worse.
Whether you are planning on securing a job in Italy as a temporary adventure or as a permanent career path, you will find the country to be a fun and stimulating cultural environment, as well as a historically rich and scenically stunning hub of the Mediterranean lifestyle. So start brushing up on your Italian language skills, watch The Godfather or La Dolce Vita, and apply today for a life changing journey in one of the world’s greatest countries!