6 things to know before relocating your family to Italy
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Known around the world as a culturally-rich destination boasting an abundance of delicious cuisine, art and history, Italy has recently been rated as one of the top two countries in the world for expat cultural experiences. Expats overwhelmingly agree that they and their families feel safe in Italy, and in other research have cited travel opportunities and affordable healthcare as just some of many reasons that this European destination is a great place to relocate.
There are some areas in which Italy don't come top of the tables, however. In the Expat Insider survey, some respondents said that their needs weren't quite being met in areas like education and childcare - with around half of expat parents feeling that the availability and standard of both these things is limited in some Italian locations.
Moving to another country is never a small task, and moving with family comes with its own trials and tribulations. So what are the essential things you need to know before you go?
1. Schooling and Education
State schooling is free for residents of Italy, and compulsory for children aged 6 to 16. Although education operates according to a centralised system, the quality of state education in northern Italy is generally of a higher standard than in the southern regions.
Choices, options and standards of schooling can be lower in rural areas, and the availability of private or international education is usually restricted to larger towns and cities. Bear in mind that while state and private schools do teach English as a second language, the core curriculum is taught in Italian - meaning your children won't be able to study at a state school unless they're already fluent.
International schools are the most popular choice for expat children, where lessons are taught in English or another alternative language and follow the same curriculum as your home country. American and British curriculums are offered by international schools in destinations like Rome, Milan, Florence and Palermo, and to help your children settle in to Italian culture with ease it may be a wise move to enrol them in a bilingual international school where their language skills can flourish.
2. Where to live: North or South?
Many countries around the world have an economic divide, where one area of the country is generally more affluent than another. The same is true for Italy, where northern regions tend to be the most prosperous and offer a higher quality of life.
Regardless of whether you're living in the north or the south of Italy, urban living tends to be bustling and busy. There are vehicle restrictions in many city centres to help reduce noise and air pollution, so research potential destinations to get a feel for which might offer a lively or laid-back everyday life.
It is more common to rent than it is to buy property in Italy, and unlike countries such as the UK and Ireland where six-month lets are common, average tenancy contracts in Italy are around 4 years long. The cost of your rent will vary greatly depending on whether you choose to live in the city or the countryside, the north or the south, but in general rent is cheaper across Italy than in other parts of Europe. Milan, Rome and Venice are some of the most expensive places to live, not far behind London and Paris, while Sicily's Palermo offers some of the lowest rents despite having an enviable beach location.
Situated just off Italy's southern coast, Sicily is also one of the most accessible destinations in Europe, making it a top choice if you have a family member with mobility issues or visual impairment.
Italy's national health service - Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN) - provides citizens and residents with low-cost and free healthcare. It includes access to family doctors, public hospitals, subsidised medications and certain types of specialist care, and is ranked by the World Health Organisation as being in the top 10 health services around the world.
As with many of the public services in Italy, regional governments are in charge of managing public healthcare and therefore discrepancies can occur depending on location. It is generally acknowledged that treatment and care is of a higher standard in the north of Italy, with public hospitals more likely to be overcrowded in southern regions where there is less funding available.
In bigger towns where there are private facilities on offer, many expats (as well as Italians) opt for these to guarantee a high standard of care. If you are relocating to Italy through work, you may find that your employer includes private healthcare as part of their benefit scheme. If not, it may be worth considering expat health insurance as private medical costs can be extremely high.
4. Family and Work-Life Balance
Family is an integral part of Italian culture and family life fills much of any Italian's leisure and spare time. Of all the Italy-based respondents to the InterNation's Expat Insider 2017 survey, over 75% of the expats surveyed were happy with the quality of their family life in Italy.
In part, this is due to the fact that the work-life balance in Italy is particularly good. Spare time, particularly during the summer holidays, is often spent taking advantage of the country's plentiful selection of lakes and beaches with family in tow. It is also normal in Italian culture to spend large parts of the day having meals with friends and family. Often this can be eating out, andare a cena fuori, or having communal parties where families gather, celebrate and eat together.
5. Job-seeking and Employment
Italy has the eight largest economy in the world, but it has not been immune to financial crisis and economic troubles. Since 2012, Italy has been hit by a recession which has impacted the domestic market and unemployment rates within the country. As a result, preference is given to Italian candidates when companies are looking to fill a role, which can make jobhunting more difficult for expats.
For expats seeking work in Italy, the safest way to secure employment is through a foreign assignment or relocation with their current employer. If this isn't possible, having a strong grasp of the Italian language will certainly boost your employability, along with having a skill that is not widely available within the domestic labour market. Without a fairly fluent level of Italian, it's likely that you'll struggle to find employment as an individual job-seeker.
6. Information on industries
With the north of Italy being the wealthier, more industrialised region, there tend to be more job opportunities - particularly in the service sector - located here. Southern Italy is more rural and relies more heavily on agriculture, though tourism is becoming a bigger and bigger industry throughout the country.
The country is well known for its influential and innovative business sector, and is the second largest manufacturer in Europe, behind Germany. With a booming market in luxury goods - such as famous Italian wines - and competitive agricultural sector, there are a range of industries that could offer opportunities for progression to eager expats.
The Italian capital, Rome, is a hub for international media companies, all things diplomatic and political and also has a strong service sector. It's a popular destination for expats, as the city has numerous international schools and is internationally connected via its airport. Elsewhere, Milan is the heart of the financial and business industries. This northern city is also synonymous with the fashion industry, and is a leading exporter of textiles and garments.
For expats moving to work in the tourism sector, Florence may be an ideal choice. Despite being a much smaller city than Rome or Milan, Florence receives millions of tourists each year thanks to its art, architecture and high-culture - a combination which means it is viewed by many as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.
Whether you're moving because your employer has a new opening or because your family are searching for la dolce vita, Italy offers the potential for a better family life and work-life balance than many other destinations. Although the Italian economy has had its struggles in recent years, it is still one of the strongest in the Eurozone and has plenty to give for expats seeking a change of scenery and lifestyle.
Article provided by: Sabrina Bucknole