SURVEY: Foreign residents rank Italy one of ‘worst countries in world’ for finances and working abroad

Foreigners who move to Italy are less satisfied with their financial situation than in any other country, a new survey of international residents has found.

SURVEY: Foreign residents rank Italy one of 'worst countries in world' for finances and working abroad
Some 30 percent of Italy's foreign residents say they're unhappy with their financial situation, against a 19 percent global average among expats. Photo: Tim Gouw/Unsplash

A third of foreign residents in Italy say their disposable household income is not enough to cover their expenses, according to the 2021 edition of the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas.

Italy fared poorly in the annual survey yet again, coming 58th out of 59 countries overall for living and working abroad. Only Kuwait placed lower. (Note: We have our own survey at the bottom of the page if you disagree.)

Its performance was especially dismal in the categories of work and personal finance, in which it placed second to last and last respectively.

READ ALSO: ‘You might not want to stay here, it’s crazy’: What to expect when you work for an Italian company

Some 42 percent of respondents reported making less than $25,000 per year, compared to the global average of 30 percent. And 30 percent of those surveyed in Italy said they were unhappy with their financial situation, versus just 19 percent worldwide.

“I notice financial corruption and do not like the low salaries,” wrote one respondent from the United States.

Italy also came bottom for “career prospects and satisfaction”, with more than half of foreign residents (56 percent) rating their work opportunities negatively and nearly a third (31 percent) saying they were dissatisfied with their current job.

Among the complaints were lack of job security, a weak local economy, inflexible working hours and poor work-life balance.

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

“Finding a job is not easy for foreigners, not even for the well-educated ones,” said an Iranian respondent.

Unsurprisingly Italy got its highest marks for quality of life, and especially weather, travel and leisure options. But even in this area, lack of high-speed internet and the difficulty of doing admin online dragged down its score.

More surprisingly, given the complaints about personal finances, Italy also did well on cost of living, placing 32nd out of 59. Foreign residents were particularly impressed by the price of healthcare, with more than two-thirds (67 percent) saying it was affordable.

About the same proportion (66 percent) said they were happy with their life in Italy in general – which, though a majority, is noticeably less than the 75 percent who report being satisfied worldwide.

Italy repeatedly scores poorly in the annual InterNations survey, with work and earnings reliably one of the biggest sources of foreign residents’ complaints.

Image: InterNations Expat Insider 2021 Survey

It slipped a few more places between the 2020 and 2021 rankings, though InterNations cautions that this year’s results have been exceptionally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The top three countries chosen by international residents were Taiwan (1st), Mexico (2nd) and Costa Rica (3rd), while Italy (58th) was joined at the bottom by Kuwait (59th) and South Africa (57th).

For its 2021 survey, InterNations asked more than 12,000 people living abroad to rate up to 37 different aspects of life in their new country. Each country included was rated by at least 50 respondents.

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Reader question: How can I find an apartment to rent in Rome?

The Eternal City is a popular destination for foreigners wanting to stay for a few months or even years, but finding a place to rent can be complicated. Here's where to start.

Reader question: How can I find an apartment to rent in Rome?

Question: I’m moving to Rome in the spring with friends and we’re looking to rent an apartment in a central area. Do you have any suggestions for good sources of rentals in Rome?

For those staying in Rome for just a few weeks, it’s often simplest to go with a short-term booking site like Airbnb.

If you’re planning on staying for longer than this, however, it’s probably more cost-effective to go the official route and sign a rental agreement – though be prepared to deal with a certain amount of hassle (more on this below).

Some of the most popular websites in Italy for rentals are,, and, where you’ll find a wide range of apartments for rent.

All the listings on these sites are in Italian, so it’s helpful to familiarise yourself with some key vocabulary.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

In affitto is ‘for rent’ (in vendita, ‘for sale’). For a short-term let, you’ll want a place that’s furnished (arredato). A  locale is a room (note: not a bedroom), so a bilocale is a one-bedroom with one other room and a monolocale is a studio. 

It’s worth reviewing all the photos available and if possible the floor plan (planimetria) so you know exactly what kind of set up the house has; for example a trilocale doesn’t necessarily have two bedrooms, but might just be a one-bed with a separate living room and kitchen. 

For people beginning their search without any Italian, the English-language real estate listings aggregator Nestpick is a good option – though bear in mind you’re unlikely to find the same range of options as on the Italian-language sites.

If you’re coming with a university, they should be your first port of call; some will have a roster of trusted landlords, or can at least direct you to online forums where you can seek recommendations from current and former students.

READ ALSO: Do renters in Italy have the right to keep pets?

Facebook is also a good place to look: Rent in Rome and Rome Expats have two of the largest groups dedicated to searching for an apartment in the eternal city. If you know you want somewhere for at least a year, Long Term Rentals Italy is also an option.

As a guidepost, InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas, lists the average monthly rent in Rome as €1,220.

Italy’s rental contracts tend to favour tenants: common contracts are the 3+2 or 4+4, which means the rent is locked in for at least three/four years, at the end of which the renter can choose to renew at the same rate for another two/four years.

Facebook groups can be a good place to start when apartment-hunting in Rome.
Facebook groups can be a good place to start when apartment-hunting in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The contratto transitorio (temporary or short-term lease), by contrast, is for anywhere between one and eighteen months. Bear in mind it’s the landlord, not the tenant, that’s locked into these minimum time periods – just make sure there’s a clause that allows you to move out after a specified notice period.

Landlords often prefer to rent our their apartments with contratti transitori so they have more freedom to sell or raise the rent, so you may be at an advantage if you’re looking for a place to stay for just a few months.

Even with just a short-term lease, a landlord can request up to three months’ rent (!) in advance as a security deposit, and it’s common to ask for two. To stand the best chance of getting your deposit back, it’s worth taking detailed photos of the property before you move in so you have a record of its state.

READ ALSO: ‘Why I used to hate living in Rome as a foreigner – and why I changed my mind’

If you’re going through an agency, it’s also common for tenants to pay a finder’s fee of one month’s rent – all of which can make initial costs rise very fast. The silver lining is that in Rome you can (and should) negotiate on the rent, deposit, and other contract terms, and not just take what you’re offered.

Some landlords will suggest you bypass an agency and deal directly with them. While avoiding the agency fees is tempting, this can leave you in a very vulnerable situation as you have no legal standing if it turns out you don’t have an official rental contract – so it’s not advised.

It’s also important not to hand over any money until you’ve viewed the apartment in person (or had a trusted representative do so on your behalf) and confirmed the listing is legitimate. Scams are not unheard of in Rome, and foreigners are ideal targets.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

When browsing listings, consider what’s important to you in terms of the neighbourhood and type of property – and if there’s anything you’re unsure of, it’s worth seeking out advice in online groups from people already living in the city.

A ground floor apartment on a cobbled side street near the centre, for example, may sound ideal, but if it’s in a touristy neighbourhood you may find you’re quickly driven mad by the sound of rolling luggage bouncing past your window all hours of the day and night.

Finding an apartment to rent in Rome can be a challenge, but if you put in the effort, you’re sure to find your ideal base – and move on to making the most of your time in one of Europe’s most picturesque and historically rich capitals.