The top three, all in the north east, are unchanged from last year’s rankings in the annual survey by Rome's La Sapienza University for ItaliaOggi Sette, which looks at work, health, education, leisure, crime and environmental factors across the country.
Bolzano scored highest overall, followed by Trento and Belluno.
The three were awarded high marks for factors like employment, tourism infrasstructure, high average wealth, low crime levels and lack of urban crowds.
The city of Belluno in Belluno province, Italy. Photo: giustina_ilyusha/Flickr
The popular Tuscan tourist town of Siena also scored very highly overall, ranking fourth.
Small towns fared far better than cities in the ranking, which also reveals that the north-south divide is no longer as clear cut when it comes to quality of life.
None of Italy’s bigger cities did well in the survey. The highest-ranked city was Florence, coming in at 54th on the list. Milan is at 55th, Turin at 78th, Palermo at 106th and Naples at 108th.
- Reggio Emilia
- Ascoli Piceno
Rome dropped a huge 18 places to 85th place this year, its cultural attractions failing to make up for high crime, lacklustre economic opportunities and the “decay and degeneration” leading to protests from residents recently.
Venice too dropped a long way down the table, from 41st to 62nd place.
The in-depth survey reveals that that the most liveable places in Italy are towns with an average of 100,000 inhabitants. Of all the top 40 rankings, only two towns (Verona and Padua) are bigger. This trend is also supported by the poor ranking of big cities, ItaliaOggi writes.
Northern and central-northern regions predictably scored higher on average on work and business metrics. This was the only sector with such a clear north-south divide.
Most northern regions scored lower marks for pollution. Sicily's scores varied dramatically, with some of the cleanest and most polluted areas in Italy.
Maps from ItaliaOggi showing the survey results for work and business and environment. Photos: The Local Italy
The north and central regions of Italy dominate the rankings, which goes all the way down to 42 without mentioning a southern province.
But with many southern towns scoring highly on individual metrics, the north-south gap is not as wide as it once was.
The highest scoring place in the south is the tourist hub of Matera in Basilicata.
Now a Unesco-listed treasure set to be 2019’s capital of culture, just 60 years ago the shocking levels of poverty and squalor in this ancient town were described as ‘the shame of Italy.’
Maps from ItaliaOggi showing the survey results for leisure time. Photos: The Local Italy
Southern regions like Puglia and Sicily scored very poorly on leisure and recreation because of a lack of facilities such as gyms, cinemas and libraries – though residents may argue that world-class beaches and unspoilt nature at least partly make up for that.
While twenty years ago the north and south had clear and striking socioeconomic differences, rankings show that it’s increasingly difficult to divide Italy so neatly in two.