Retiring to Italy
If one region epitomises the Italian dream for many foreigners – and has done since the English upper classes made it an essential part of their life-enriching Grand Tour in the nineteenth century – it is Tuscany.
You may have marvelled at the ancient monuments at every turn in Rome, been hypnotised by the romance of life on water in Venice or struck by the majesty of the duomo in Milan, but when it comes to choosing somewhere to live, Tuscany sits immutably at the top of the list. There are 66,000 British residents in Italy – and although there is no official breakdown of where they live, it’s a reasonable guess the majority are in Tuscany.
It’s an image of Italian paradise perpetuated in books – and the ensuing films – from E M Forster’s A Room With A View to Francis Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. Rose-tinted as these visions of Tuscany may be of golden fields in perennial soft focus, they are grounded in a reality you will readily find in this region bursting with mesmerising landscapes of gently rolling hills dotted with olive trees or lined with vines, of ancient hilltop towns such as Montepulciano and San Gimignano and of cities whose streets overflow with history such as Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Lucca.
It is the fundamentals that have always drawn foreign visitors to Italy: the art and architecture, the joyful appreciation of food and wine, the landscapes, language and the welcoming, heartily-embracing, wildly gesticulating conviviality of the Italians.
When the area of central Tuscany – nicknamed ‘Chiantishire’ because of its appeal among wealthy Britons – became too expensive for many British property-hunters and Russian buyers began to snap up its trophy estates, the neighbouring region of Umbria rose to the fore.
Umbria remains one of the most popular areas for expatriate settlers in Italy, offering a similar way of life and exquisite charm as Tuscany and – although the gap is rapidly closing – cheaper property prices. The Niconi valley, Perugia and, to the south, Orvieto and Todi are the most requested Umbrian locations among overseas buyers, according to Knight Frank estate agency.
A love of the countryside, culture and cuisine dominate British buyers’ talk of Italy. But beaches, or lakes, also play a big part – and there is no shortage of exceptional waterfront, given several thousand kilometres of coastline that straddles two seas – the Mediterranean and Adriatic – and the world famous lakes of Como, Maggiore and Garda and slightly lesser known Trasimeno.
Some ten or 20 years ago, you could confidently move to Mediterranean Europe and live in comfort with a far lower budget than was required in the UK, but that is no longer the case. Property was cheap, you could eat out for a few euros and run a home for relatively little.
But the cost of housing, utilities, electrical goods and basic food items has risen dramatically in Italy in recent years, to be one of the most expensive countries in the EU. There is still a big disparity between the cost of living in the relatively prosperous north and central Italy and far poorer south. The standard of services from public transport to medical care in the south is also likely to be poorer.
EU citizens can move to Italy with no need for a visa.
Nationals of other countries can check precisely what documentation is needed on the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website (vistoperitalia.esteri.it). For example, a UAE citizen choosing Italy as their ‘elective residence’ would need: an entry visa application form, passport photograph, valid travel document, documented and extensive financial resources ‘which have to be one’s own, stable and regular and which, it can be reasonably assumed, will continue over time from sources other than paid employment’, and available accommodation to be chosen as residence, owned or rented, with a signed contract.
You can obtain a visa at the Italian Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
See our ‘Brexit Update’ pages for how your retirement to Italy may be affected as the UK leaves the EU.
‘Retiring to Europe‘ provides you with the key information you need to consider when planning your retirement to any of the most popular countries in Europe. The following subjects are comprehensively covered for each destination:
Cost of Living
Retiring to Europe
Europe remains a popular retirement destination for Britons. But where best to retire in Europe? The full-colour, 264-page book ‘Retiring to Europe’ considers the pros and cons of the popular options. It examines in detail climate, lifestyle, language, travel connections, the affordability of property, access to healthcare and the tax and other financial implications of residency in ten European countries.
It focuses on the areas of Mediterranean Europe that Britons prefer to retire to: France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. It also looks at the UK as a retirement option.