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How expensive is life in Italy really?

Slightly cheaper than the UK but more expensive than Germany: here's what you need to know about the cost of living in Italy.

How expensive is life in Italy really?
Shoppers at an Italian supermarket. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Many people imagine living in Italy is cheap and cheerful – at least compared to living in many other countries. But how true is that?  Here we take a closer look at the cost of living in Italy.

According to a study by CEO World magazine published on Monday, Italy is 28th on the list of the most expensive countries to live in.

Number one on the list was Switzerland, followed by Norway, Iceland and Japan.

Australia was 16th, the US came 19th, Canada ranked 24th, and the UK was found to be very slightly more expensive than Italy, ranking 27th.

The rankings are based on five major metrics: cost of living, rent, groceries, eating out and purchasing power, and were created based on data on a range of living costs, such as accommodation, clothing, taxi fares, utility, internet, the price of groceries, transport, and eating out.

The data were then compiled into an index, using the notoriously expensive city of New York City  as a benchmark. New York was given an index score of 100. So a country with a score higher than 100 is more expensive than New York, while below signals that it is cheaper.

Italy scored 67.28 overall. It was found to be four percentage points more expensive than the UK for groceries, but almost eight points cheaper when it came to rent.

Compared to Germany, Italian groceries were six points more expensive, but rent was found to be cheaper overall.

Photo: AFP

However, restaurant bills are up to eleven percent cheaper in Germany than in Italy, with eating out in Italy costing just slightly less than it does in the UK and US, according to the study.

This echoes the findings of previous European studies, which have shown the cost of groceries, eating out, internet and communications to be relatively high in Italy.

Of course, these are overall figures by country and don't take into account regional variations, or the cost of living from one city to another.

The north of Italy tends to be more expensive than the south, and cities like Milan are notorious for high rents while it can be cheap to rent in small towns and villages. But even between cities and regions, the costs can vary greatly.

READ ALSO: These are the Italian cities where rent prices are rising fastest

According to data from Internations, the average rent price for an 85 square meter apartment in Italy is €800 (880 USD) a month.
The highest monthly rents were found to be in the northern Val D'Aosta region (€1,555 per month on avergae) and the cheapest in southern Calabria (€490 per month).
As for average utility costs, a bill of between €100-€150 (110 to 165 USD) for electricity, gas, and water for an 85 square meter apartment, according to Internations data.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica found that the average Italian family spends €2,564 on living costs monthly.
Of that, €457 went on groceries and €207 on transport.
However, overall expenses were markedly different from one part of the country to another; as high as €2,874 in the north west and falling to 2,071 euros in some parts of the south.

Member comments

  1. Where’s the link for this? Italian newspaper La Repubblica found that the average Italian family spends €2,564 on living costs monthly. It would be nice if you linked to the sources you are quoting.

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How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”


The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.