Rome and Milan ranked among ‘worst cities in the world’ by foreign residents

Italy’s two biggest cities once again get poor marks from international residents for career prospects, income, work-life balance and public transport.

Rome and Milan ranked among 'worst cities in the world' by foreign residents
Jogging in Rome: how bad is living in the city really? Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Rome and Milan are among the five worst cities in the world for foreigners to move to, according to the latest Expat City Ranking by InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas.

READ ALSO: Is Italy really one of the worst countries to move to?

The site asked members to rate more than 25 aspects of urban life abroad, resulting in Milan coming 63rd out of 66 cities and Rome a dismal 65th. The only city that performed worse was Salmiya in Kuwait.

The other end of the ranking was dominated by Italy’s neighbours in southern Europe, with Valencia and Alicante in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal taking the top three spots.

Graphic: Internations

Rome came at the very bottom for urban work life, with nearly three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) rating career opportunities in the Italian capital poorly.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) expressed concern about the local economy, compared to an average of 18 percent across all other cities combined.

“I do not like the work-life balance and may have to consider moving away from Italy for work,” one Canadian in Rome told InterNations. “On top of this, the weak economy makes career advancements difficult.”


In Milan, Italy’s economic capital, the picture was only slightly brighter: 67 percent of foreign residents rated job opportunities negatively, while most (54 percent) were dissatisfied with their financial situation.

And the northern powerhouse was judged a more expensive place to live than Rome, especially when it came to housing: 62 percent said accommodation was hard to afford in Milan, compared to 41 percent globally.

“It is difficult to find an apartment as an expat – a nightmare,” said one Milan resident from Ukraine.

Graphic: Internations

But in other respects Milan performed better than Rome when it came to settling in as a foreigner, with 30 percent of respondents in the capital saying that local residents were ‘generally unfriendly’ compared to 19 percent in Milan.

One Croatian resident in Milan said the city had “an exciting international community, mixed with joyful Italian people”, while a Brit living in Rome found that “integrating here can be hard. It’s surprisingly closed for a capital city and a lot of expats don’t stay long”.

Rome also scored especially badly for transportation, with 64 percent of expats reporting that the capital’s infamously creaky public transport wasn’t up to scratch (compared to 24 percent worldwide).

Both Italian cities scored higher when it came to factors like climate and leisure activities, the only areas where they made it into the top third of the ranking.


Overall foreign residents in Rome and Milan, the only two Italian cities included in the ranking, were less satisfied with urban life than foreigners living elsewhere: while the average global ‘happiness level’ was 76 percent, in Milan it was 73 percent and in Rome 69 percent.

In Rome, locals share the same view: one recent survey of 2,000 Romans found that most believe their quality of life today to be worse than it was five years ago. 

A separate study in January found Rome to be one of the unhealthiest capitals in Europe, going by air quality, life expectancy, cost of fresh produce and other factors.

While Italy’s biggest cities, especially the capital, often come out poorly in quality of life indexes, smaller towns generally score much better.

Bolzano and Trento in Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol are regularly named by Italian rankings as the best places to live in Italy, with Florence and Bologna usually featuring near the top too.

When The Local asked its readers their favourite places to move, most suggested cities with a population of around 100,000 or less, including Mantua in Lombardy, Ascoli Piceno in Marche and Arezzo in Tuscany.

More than 15,000 people took part in InterNations’ 2020 survey, with at least 50 respondents per city. 

Do you agree with the findings? Let us know.

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13 essential articles you’ll need when moving to Italy

Whether you've just moved or are still in the planning stages, here are some of The Local's most popular and useful articles for members navigating a new life in Italy.

13 essential articles you'll need when moving to Italy
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Finding your Italian home

If you’re planning to buy, you might want to start by reading this guide to the red flags to watch out for when viewing old Italian properties, or our hard-won tips on how not to buy a house in Italy.

Looking for a rental instead? As with so many other things in Italy, the property rental market may not be what you expect. We’ve listed some of the quirks and pitfalls to look out for when apartment-hunting.

Planning a renovation? No doubt you’ve heard of Italy’s 110 percent ‘superbonus’ scheme – see all the latest news and information about claiming it in our property section.

Dealing with bureaucracy

Italian bureaucracy may be notoriously tricky to deal with, but a little planning goes a long way in reducing paperwork-related stress. So where should you start? See our guide to the five most essential documents you’ll need to get.

If you’re planning to move to Italy long-term, residency is a must. You may also be looking at gaining Italian citizenship via one of several pathways. Here’s a look at the difference between residency and citizenship, plus the resources you’ll need to apply for either.

From visas to driving licences, tax codes and health cards, we have guides to navigating all aspects of Italy’s famous bureaucracy

And if your bureaucratic woes are Brexit-related, see our latest guides to the paperwork you’ll need in our ‘Dealing with Brexit’ section.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Work and self-employment

If you’d love to relocate to Italy but are concerned about employment prospects, here are the 25 jobs and skills the country has a shortage of right now.

Looking for a job but don’t speak Italian (yet)? Here’s a quick look at some of the opportunities readers have found that don’t require a high level of language proficiency.

Find more news and practical guides on jobs and self-employment in Italy here.

Learning the Italian language

This is no doubt one of your top priorities if you’re moving to Italy, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle.

Give your conversational Italian a quick boost with our list of 12 incredibly useful Italian words to know, and some amusing idioms that people actually use.

Our Word of the Day series explains some of our favourite expressions, as well as the slang and curious phrases that you probably won’t find in your Italian class textbook.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

Everyday life in Italy

Whatever daily obstacles you might come up against on your Italian adventure, we’ve got you covered.

Find out why you’ll be a frequent visitor to the local tabaccheria whether you smoke or not – plus here’s a guide to the most common mistakes foreigners make when they first move to Italy.

Life abroad has been even trickier to navigate during the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ll continue to keep you informed of any rule changes here.

Don’t forget you can also submit a reader’s question if there’s any aspect of life in Italy you’d like The Local’s writers to explain. Find out how here.

Italian food and travel

Of course, the lifestyle is one of the biggest reasons people choose to relocate to Italy, and this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Italy’s famed cuisine.

Here’s a look at how your eating and drinking habits change when you move to Italy, plus avoid any embarrassing faux pas at the bar with our guide to drinking coffee like an Italian.

And no doubt exploring the country will be a priority once you’ve moved to Italy. See our travel section for inspiration and guides to our favourite weekend destinations, and keep an eye on Italian travel news here.

Which aspect of Italian life would you like to hear more about on The Local? Get in touch and let us know at [email protected]