Five surprisingly great places to live in Italy

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Nuoro, the Sardinian village with the best public order in Italy. Photo: fabulousfabs/Flickr
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In Monday's report on quality of life across Italy, there were a few surprises. The Local looks at the cities where you never knew life could be so sweet.

When Il Sole 24 Ore's annual quality of life survey came out on Monday, much of it didn't come as a surprise. The long-standing divide between the north and south of the country was confirmed, and two locations in the prosperous South Tyrol region were placed in the top three.

READ MORE: This city is the 'best place to live in Italy'

But some of the locations included on the list were unexpected. The Local looks at the parts of Italy where the quality of life might surprise you.

Olbia, Sardinia

Photo: Luca Boldrini/Flickr

Olbia was ranked as the sixth best place to live in Italy - interesting news for those who think of Sardinia as a sleepy island best-suited for beach holidays or retirement. Olbia is close both to Sardinia's economic centre and tourism haven Costa Smeralda, and is also the main connection to the mainland linked by roads, railways, boats and air travel.

Milan, Lombardy

Photo: Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot/Flickr

Milan is a huge economic centre in Italy, and its high employment rate, good pensions and healthy GDP, plus the Milan Expo this year, helped it secure second place on the list. But big cities are usually hampered by low scores in security, recreation and free time, and environmental and health services - Rome, for example, was placed a lowly 16th.

But Milan has shot up from eighth place in 2014, partly due to high scores in public services and leisure opportunities, and it sticks out in a list dominated by much smaller towns and cities. It also ranked first in the category of 'standard of living'.

Nuoro, Sardinia

Photo: fabulousfabs/Flickr

As well as putting together an overall top ten of places to live, Il Sole 24 Ore also crowned winners in each of six categories, and Nuoro was rated the best region for safety and low crime rates. This is a huge achievement for a city in Sardinia, which has less public funding and resources than mainland Italy. The province boasts beautiful natural scenery and is one of Europe's least densely populated areas, which may have contributed to its excellent result.

Prato, Tuscany

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Photo: Bryn Pinzgauer/Flickr

Prato was rated top for business and labour - beating out competition from larger cities such as Milan, Rome, Turin and nearby Florence. In recent years, Prato has had problems with illegal labour, but it has since cleaned up its act and the unemployment rate is well below the national average, while economic growth in the region is healthy.

Cuneo, Piedmont

Photo: Sara/Flickr

Yes, it's in the north and one of five mountain cities featured in the top ten, but Cuneo has made huge progress; it jumped up ten places to secure seventh position in the rankings. City-wide restoration projects and a boom in its food industry could be part of the reason.

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