Just off the tip of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and the more rustic counterpart to its mother country of Italy. Colonized by Greeks, ruled by Romans, invaded by Arabs, jobs in Sicily expose expats to a staggeringly diverse history and a colorful lifestyle that has entranced people for centuries. Although technically an autonomous region of Italy, Sicily is often thought of by natives and Italians alike as its own nation—living and working in Sicily is for those not afraid of a little adventure and an expat experience far off the beaten path.
Jobs in Sicily
Much of Sicily’s production and employment lies in the agriculture industry, as the fertile soil produced by volcanic eruptions (Sicily is home to a number of volcanoes, including the infamous Mt. Etna) is excellent for the large amount of produce, wine, and olive oil that comes from the island.
Recently, Sicily has increased its investments in the hospitality and tourism industries, providing opportunities for travel companies and agencies to find a foothold in the ruins of what were once ancient Greek amphitheaters. Cities such as Taormina, Catania and Palermo—the preeminent economic and commercial city in Sicily—are all popular tourist destinations, with larger and more diverse populations than the surrounding countryside.
Additionally, the city of Catania has become well-known for its health industry, with a particular emphasis on the production of microelectronics and pharmaceutical businesses. Many English-speakers who come to work in Sicily find employment by teaching English or working as a live-in au pair. You may teach English to children or adult-learners; with the slight economic growth in Sicilian cities, the amount of business-owners who require proficiency in English is increasing. Most Italian employers will require English-teachers to have a CELTA or TEFL certification in order to teach in Italy.
Life in Sicily
The Sicilian lifestyle is much different than what you will find in your home country or even in more northern regions of Italy. There is less widespread tourism on the island in comparison to the rest of Italy, which provides expats with the opportunity to become fully immersed in daily Sicilian life.
Sicily moves at a slower pace; stores open late in the morning and everything shuts down from around one o’clock in the afternoon until about three or four. These are the hours of lunch and riposo (a rest). Stores will later reopen until late into the evening, and dinner is typically eaten around eight or nine at night—a meal after a long day at work can last for several hours, with multiple courses to help you unwind.
A huge benefit of living and working in Sicily is the ability to take the time to explore it. Sicily is home to some of the oldest Greek ruins in the world, but it also has a multitude of historical and natural landmarks that range from medieval palaces to rugged coastlines with turquoise waters to Roman villas to still-smoking volcanoes. You’ll also find that Sicily still holds its old traditions and customs in high regard, making the number of religious festivals and local dances an almost weekly occurrence. Perhaps some of the most important Sicilian traditions involve food: cannoli, arancini (fried balls of rice and cheese), ricotta, and granitas are just a few of the delicious and time-honored dishes of Sicily.
Like most of Italy, public transportation is widespread in Sicily. Trains reach almost every Sicilian city, in addition to the tracks that connect the island to Italy’s mainland. Most major urban centers have international airports that link Sicily to both Italy and the rest of Europe, making travel during your time off of work very easy.
Salary & Affordability
Your salary is entirely dependent on your job in Sicily and the field of employment in which you work. As a result of the recession, jobs in Sicily are harder to find, but once found jobs do pay a livable salary. Overall, salaries for work in Sicily tend to be lower due to the struggling economy, but this is balanced by the cost of living in Sicily, which is relatively affordable.
Careers in the hospitality and tourism fields typically earn you around €23,000 a year, while health professionals working in Sicily’s pharmaceutical industry can earn anywhere between €30,000 to 50,000 a year or more, depending on the type of work performed.
Au pairs typically work 30 to 40 hours a week, with the average salary range between €250 and 300 per month. However, if you are living with the Italian family you work for, food and accommodations are included, providing you with a decent remaining salary.
The monthly salary for an English teacher in Sicily ranges, depending on certification and level of experience, but the median salary is usually €900 to 1000.
Although the euro exchange rate may make living and working abroad in Sicily expensive for some, overall the cost of living in Sicily is extremely low in comparison to other parts of Italy and Europe. Learning to live as the locals do is essential, as the Sicilian lifestyle is much simpler, making even groceries found at local markets will be cost significantly less—and will be far more fresh—than anything you could find at your local organic supermarket.
Accommodations & Visas
The most common form of living arrangement in Sicilian cities is in an apartment. There are many online resources that help expats find roommates, as this is a much more affordable option than living alone. Sometimes, when working in Sicily as a live-in English teacher for a family or as an au pair, the family with which you work will provide your housing and food for you.
In order to work in Italy—and, by extension, Sicily—you must obtain a work permit. Your prospective employer must apply for preliminary clearance from the provincial employment office in the city in which you plan to live; if clearance is granted, your employer must then obtain a work permit with the approval of the regional and central authorities. This permit is then sent to you so that you may apply for the entry visa, which you must have in order to enter Sicily. Your closest Italian consulate is an invaluable resource during this process, which you can find in the GoAbroad Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
- Recent Recession: Unemployment has increased dramatically and Sicily has suffered the worst of Italy’s economic troubles as of late. Jobs in Sicily are difficult to find as a foreigner while most employers are concentrating on hiring from within the country. An excellent way to work in Sicily is to be transferred there by an international company with headquarters in Sicily.
- Language Barrier: Communicating in Sicily can be a challenge if you do not already have some knowledge of Italian. Sicilians tend to speak less English than Italians in major urban centers and an even greater number only speak the Sicilian dialect, which varies greatly from standard Italian. By living and working in Sicily, you will have the chance to learn a language that is closely tied to the lands and traditions of the island.