La dolce vita means “the sweet life” and life gets no sweeter than in sunny Italy
Italy has a staggering amount to offer travelers...and residents. Romantic cities, timeless hill towns, snowy mountains, idyllic islands, vineyard-covered countryside, and a rivetingly beautiful coastline. Plus, outside the major cities, homes start at a mere $50,000—or less.
Expats in Italy say they love not only the art, culture, impressive architecture, world-renowned food, and easy access to the rest of Europe, but also the slower pace of life and the culture that prioritizes family and friends over work and to-do lists.
This is the very definition of the sweet life. It’s about surrounding yourself with people you love, taking the time to enjoy even the simplest things—a delicate zucchini blossom, a well-made cup of coffee, the feeling of sand between your toes—and prioritizing the important things in life.
A Slower, Simpler Italian Way of Life
Retirees report that this cultural attitude means the pace of life is slower in Italy, especially outside the main cities. They talk about long coffee breaks with Italian friends and passeggiata (strolls) through the town in the evening. One couple says that they no longer have alarm clocks in their home. Another couple adds that happiness just seems more important to the Italians.
A Surprisingly Affordable Lifestyle
These same expats report that their simpler lives in Italy come with a lower price tag than they would have expected.
In lesser-known, beautiful countryside Le Marche, one couple says their expenses are 80% cheaper than their previous life in New York. In sunny southern Calabria, another expat says a cup of coffee costs just 90 cents, a multi-course meal runs about $34 per person, and health insurance for the entire year is covered by about $230. And in Umbria—Tuscany’s pretty neighbor—one of our correspondents spent less than $2,000 in living expenses per month.
The Italian Visas That Make a Move to Italy Possible
Life in Italy sounds pretty nice…so the next question most people have is: can I do it? Is it legally and logistically possible to make the move?
And the answer is yes.
Italy offers a variety of visas for non-Italians who would like to live in the country. The one most retirees apply for is the elective residence visa, which is designed for retirees and other people who do not need to take a job in Italy. For this, you’ll need proof of financial means, a rental agreement or deed in Italy, and proof of medical insurance that covers you there. They key to this visa is proving that you don’t need to work.
And if you have Italian ancestry, you may be in even better shape. If you have a parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent born in Italy, you may be eligible for dual citizenship.
In other words, if you’re been dreaming about a move to Italy, your dream just might be more possible than you ever imagined.
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- Population: 61,482,297
- Capital City: Rome
- Climate: Predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south
- Time Zone: GMT+1
- Language: Italian
- Country Code: 39
- Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea
As an American expat, I like having a home in Berlin…but I also like being able to leave it when the desire strikes. Cold weather is not my friend. I’d prefer to spend my winters someplace warm, so I escape the chill Germany experiences from November through March. Since my work lets me be almost anywhere I want—as long as there’s a good internet connection—this is when I head south.
I am a full-time travel videographer, which means I get paid to travel the world and shoot videos for travel companies. I’ve been doing it for the past 10 years and I’m now making about $80,000 a year at it. Being a travel videographer is a dream job. I had always dreamt of going on safari in Africa and capturing the wildlife with my camera.
All around the world, people like to welcome the New Year in style. Take the city of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Every January sees the return of the Junkanoo Parade—one of the oldest street festivals in the Caribbean. With drums and horns blasting through the air, the party atmosphere is palpable.
Retiring abroad is easier and more affordable than ever before. These days it really is possible to spend your days relaxing beneath palm fronds on a Caribbean beach, enjoying farm-fresh produce in a mountain haven with year-round spring weather, or wandering the storied streets of a historic and cultured European city…or all of the above. But with so many choices available, finding the right one can seem daunting.
A warm, clear blue-green sea lapping long, sandy beaches… Families eating and laughing together over slow, relaxed dinners with lashings of good food and even better wine… If you’ve ever watched a movie set in the Mediterranean, you might believe the region is solely a playground for the rich—the romping ground of Hollywood starlets like Brigitte Bardot. Scratch the surface and you’ll discover that is definitely not the case—an adventure in the Mediterranean could be yours for less than you might think.
I love Italy. It’s the country that brought us Michelangelo, pizza, and the concept of la dolce vita (literally translated as “the sweet life”). It’s where you’ll find history-steeped Rome with its special winter artichoke dishes and its well-kept ancient monuments…Venice with its air of mystery and its famous masquerade balls…and Florence with its art and culture and vineyard-covered surroundings.
The Italian city of Monza isn’t usually on any tourist or expat must-see list…but it should be. It has all the charm of Italy, beautiful architecture, and great food. When I moved to Italy from the Midwest of the United States, I wanted a place that was charming, but that also had the amenities I’d need and wouldn’t put a strain on my finances. Luckily for me, Monza ticked all the boxes.
When I chose to drop out of school at 14, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life other than to fulfill my lifelong dream to travel the world. Back then, I didn’t know how I would do so, I just knew I would make it happen. I grew up next door to an Italian family, the Picos, who had migrated to Australia with their sons, Giovanni and Pietro.
Rich in sunshine, vineyards, culture and cobblestones, Umbria in central Italy is where I chose to base myself a couple of winters ago. Umbria borders the tourist’s favorite, Tuscany, but it’s just as laidback and soaked in that ”wine-with-lunch” Italian culture. It’s the perfect place for long walks down cobbled lanes and through mist-shrouded parks, shopping for stylish Italian clothes, sipping hot cappuccinos while people-watching from cafe windows, and getting to know the diverse, international group of people living and studying in the area.
When 007’s speedboat cut through the waters of Phang Nga Bay in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, he was zipping past some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world. Today you can tour this southern Thailand gem yourself. But with dramatic rock formations, turquoise lagoons, ﬂoating villages, and a vast array of exotic wildlife to view, you’ll need the whole day to fully appreciate it and a speedboat to see it all.
European real estate is on sale…at least in a few select locales. You know the story by now. In the early and mid-2000s, Europe’s real estate markets embarked on a massive tear. It became a gold rush. A mad frenzy. Values rose and rose…until everything stopped. Credit dried up. The market imploded and real estate owners found themselves deeply underwater.
The Romans’ influence stretches down the millennia into architecture, literature, theater, warfare, politics… They are a pillar upon which Western civilization is built. At its height, the Roman Empire held sway over much of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. Its borders expanded over the centuries as the Romans took new lands… or shrunk in the face of barbarian hordes that invaded as the empire declined.
Teleworking, telecommuting, remote working…call it whatever you like, it’s catching on. And the bottom line is, with the technology available today you could move overseas and take your job with you. If most of your daily work is conducted via email and telephone, then you may be in the perfect position to approach your employer about working remotely.
Home to 4.4 million people, New Zealand and its awesome landscapes are admittedly a long way from North America. But as our winter is their summer, you could consider retiring here part-time. In a pollution-free environment, it’s much easier to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Being neighbors, the Dutch and the Germans have a natural rivalry—especially when it comes to beer. Each nation claims to brew the better pint. So while Germany’s Oktoberfest is better known, Amsterdam also celebrates its impressive beer heritage this October with the Bokbier Festival, a month-long celebration. Over 12,000 visitors will descend upon the Dutch city to sample more than 50 types of beer on tap.
For any intrepid traveler, finding great deals on airfares is one of the best ways to save money as you travel. And fortunately, there’s an app on the market that can help you do just that. Hopper is a smartphone app (available in the Apple app store) that can tell you the cheapest time to fly to locations all around the world and find you the cheapest deals on airfare. Knowing the right time to book can save you up to 40% on airfare alone.
Cheerful songbirds greet you as you enjoy a rich Italian coffee on your terrace. The sun rises from the direction of the Adriatic Sea—a mere half-hour drive away.
Judith Greenwood has been dreaming about Italy for as long as she can remember. She studied Italian in college, traveled to Italy during her studies, and many years later—still enthralled with the language, culture, food, and lifestyle—moved to vineyard-rich Umbria, where she has been fully immersed in Italy’s legendary food culture ever since.
And so I nearly always find myself choosing to explore Europe by train, even if it sometimes takes a couple more hours and a few more dollars. I’ve traveled this way for years, both when I lived in the States and visited Europe between jobs, and now that I live here in the Swiss Alps. And I’ve discovered that, even though I love nearly every train ride I’ve taken, a few routes stand a little taller than the rest… they unfold more beautifully and leave attentive passengers more breathless than the average ride through the countryside.
This train ride weaves its way along the coastline of Italy and then France, offering striking views of the ocean, the seaside cliffs and candy-colored towns of the Cinque Terre, tiny harbors, and hillside vineyards and olive groves. Towns seem to tumble down cliffsides into the Ligurian Sea where boats bob at anchor. En route watch out for the chiming towers of Riomaggiore and picture the sleek Genoan war galleys that plied this coast 500 years ago.
For the last 15 years I’ve used my laptop to earn a small fortune from books and e-books. They’ve provided the income to send me to some of the most incredible destinations in the world…like the gorgeous Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, Italy. Built on the spot that Roman Emperor August had his villa, it’s perched atop a breathtaking Mediterranean cliff with beautiful gardens and a tree that grows both lemons and oranges.
I don’t own any animals and, for the most part, I tend not to get close to them. So what am I doing sitting 10 feet off the ground on the back of an African bush elephant in remote Zambia? The short answer is: “experiencing one of my lifelong dreams to go on safari.” And what a safari it was, exceeding my wildest imagination and giving me close-up encounters with lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, and a long list of other wildlife.
Italy’s Le Marche is a hidden region, its patchwork of rolling hills dotted with stone farmhouses surrounded by sunflowers, olives groves, and grapevines. Here you’ll find the classic Italian lifestyle of good food, great wine, and cultural attractions, all for around $2,000 a month for a couple, including rent. The cuisine is varied and delectable, whether you’re in the hills or on the sea. Here are some of the specialties you should try…
I stumbled upon the Italian town of Biassa quite by accident while looking for rooms to rent in the famed cinque Terre— five pastel-colored towns built along the cliffs of Liguria—and I knew right away that the town would be perfect. While I love Italy in the summertime, full of laughter, sunshine, and gelato, I also crave peace and quiet, to get away from the crowds and experience something authentic, something all my own.
Europe offers rich culture, history, sophistication and—with today’s strong dollar—affordable living as well. The InternationalLiving.com report points to the five best-value countries for a European retirement today.
The glittering, cerulean Mediterranean. Not a bad view every morning as you enjoy coffee and croissants from your terrace. Life is good. Sunny days. Freshcaught seafood. Crashing waves your lullaby every night…or for those drowsy, afternoon, after-lunch siestas. And salt-scented breezes keeping things cool.
Rome…3,000 years of culture, good food, and an appreciation of the finer things in life packed into one city… Today’s Rome still bursts with excitement, romance, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it a great choice for retirees who appreciate convenience along with good food, great wine, and history.
One of the things I love most about traveling is that it can be a metaphor for other parts of our life. Outside of familiar surroundings, we are apt to be more alert, more conscious. In such situations we frequently gain new skills—like learning how we respond to unexpected delays and distractions. It was a discovery I made after spending 10 days with my siblings in Lucca, Italy. I planned to take a train to Venice, spend a bonus afternoon in my favorite city, and fly home the next day.
Not surprisingly, Europe delivers strongly on healthcare; in each of our five picks, you’ll find healthcare professionals and facilities of a world-class standard. But perhaps more surprisingly, the care on offer in these countries won’t leave you counting pennies. Many of these nations benefit from universal coverage and strong public healthcare systems, and even their private healthcare can be accessed for a sliver of the cost in the U.S. Doctors’ visits, for instance, can run well under $100, and other services are similarly reasonable.
The Lord of the Rings’ soaring mountains… Roman Holiday’s famous monuments and historic sites… and the tropical locales of Pirates of the Caribbean…it’s doubtful these blockbuster films would have had such an impact without those dramatic backdrops to the action. Even as CGI and green screens become more widespread, there is something about a real, physical landscape that can’t be replicated by bits and bytes.
If you thought Italy was beyond your means, this part of the sun-drenched south will prove you wrong. Whether it’s a cone-shaped trullo house in the olive groves or a city apartment, there are properties for every budget: $120,000 delivers a lot of options.
Right now the U.S. dollar buys more in Europe than it has in over a decade. It means that this is a smart time to buy property in certain markets—including Ireland, Portugal, and Italy—according to the live-overseas experts at InternationalLiving.com. A €100,000 property that would have cost $139,000 last March costs just $106,310 right now, a discount rendered by the currency-exchange rate alone. “In good-value markets that made sense at ‘full’ price, this favorable exchange rate is effectively putting properties on sale, and the bargains can be unbelievable. The timing is right for Europe today,” says InternationalLiving.com’s real estate expert Ronan McMahon.
When I imagine the perfect beach, I picture sunny Italy. There are plenty of options to choose from. Besides the multitude of sandy Mediterranean coves and the glorious sweep of Adriatic beaches you’ll see in glossy brochures, there are numerous white and golden beaches along Italy’s Ionian coast.
Property markets in Europe are moving again—and right now you can find some great bargains in stunning settings. At time of writing, the U.S. dollar is strong which means you get more bang for your buck. In fact, your U.S. dollar buys you 24% more euros than it did this time last year. And, right now your dollar goes further in Europe than it has in over a decade. If you’re looking to buy real estate on the continent, now is the time to buy. A €100,000 property that would have cost you $139,000 last March costs $106,310 today, a discount rendered by the currency-exchange rate alone.
With its glorious sun-drenched beaches, abundant historical sites, quaint mountain villages and cosmopolitan cities, Italy has a huge variety of lifestyles to offer retirees. But many aspiring expats are unaware of how stunningly affordable this country can be; if you know where to look, you can rent here for under $450, while a filling meal (with wine) will set you back just $13. And it’s not just in Italy where you can find affordable European living. In this month’s cover story, we explore five low-cost countries in Europe where you can enjoy the retirement of your dreams. All of these destinations boast a great climate, terrific healthcare, a wealth of cultural treasures for you to explore and costs low enough to live a comfortable life for less. In some of these places, you can live for under $2,000 a month all told.
Imagine the smell of freshly-baked croissants wafting through the air, or the satisfying swallow of wine made from grapes grown just down the road. Perhaps you muse about living on a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach or tucked down a cobbled lane savoring the cosmopolitan delights of a history-rich city… A retirement in Europe is a dream for many folks. And it can easily be a reality. If it’s culture, history, and variety you’re after, Europe has it all, and at a cost much lower than you may think… Over the next few pages we explore the five best low-cost options for enjoying your perfect European retirement.
Here’s a novel idea: What if parents, guidance counselors, and college career advisors had focused less on what you wanted to be when you grew up and spent more time helping you decide how you wanted to feel when you grow up? I call it the Life First – Work Second approach to career planning. It’s why I begin every business idea generation session with the same simple question: What do you want your life to look like?
There’s a statue in Rome whose history is of feuding artists. The fountain—called The Fountain of Four Rivers—is located in the famous Piazza Navona. When it was commissioned by the pope in 1651, the story goes that the project was first given to an artist named Borromini and then stolen away by his arch nemesis, a man named Bernini.
There aren’t many places that can hold a candle to the romance of Italian life. Each time I go back to Italy, there’s somewhere new to fall in love with. But my most recent visit rekindled an old love—the region of Puglia, in the country’s deep south. I first came to Puglia in the early 1980s, before anybody outside of Italy, bar a lucky few, had even heard of it. With much lower costs than northern and central Italy, prices in Puglia will astound you. I found bars with coffee for 50 cents…pizzerias where you can sit down and tuck into a full-size pizza for $5. And if you thought that a fabulous fish dinner with wine for $20 was the stuff of imagination, think again.
It was a lovely fall day as we strolled through Radda in Chianti, a beautiful walled medieval town in Tuscany. Seeing an ATM across the road, I decided to top up my supply of euros. Now, millions of people every day who are living or traveling abroad use a debit card from their native country to withdraw cash. But my card is truly international.
Doug and Diane Jones’ retirement dream had been a small organic farm in the Oregon wilderness… So it came as a surprise when, nearing retirement, they realized that they were tired of working sun-up to sundown on the farm and a new and unexpected retirement dream—of living in sunny, rural, authentic southern Italy—had taken its place. “We worked most of our lives because we didn’t come from money and we had to work for it. We always spent our vacations visiting family—you know, the guilt-trip thing. We never took trips abroad. We were too poor in both vacation time and money.