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What are the ten ‘best’ places to live in Italy in 2021?

Parma has come top of the poll for a 2021 quality of life in Italy survey.
Parma was ranked the city in Italy with the best quality of life this year. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
A new study has revealed the best places to live in Italy, rating all provincial capitals from the best to worst. And for 2021, the pandemic has shuffled the usual list.

This year, the inhabitants of Parma can say they live in the best province in Italy for quality of life, according to a report compiled by ItaliaOggi and Rome’s La Sapienza University.

Now in its 23rd year, this study is one of several quality of life surveys in Italy. The rankings are based on work opportunities, standards in health and education, crime levels, leisure facilities and environmental factors across the country.

This year, as well as last, the study also took into account how different areas have handled the Covid-19 health emergency.

The pandemic didn’t affect all parts of the country equally, and the study found areas of vulnerability in the north of the country as well as the south. On the other hand, it highlighted the resilience of other areas.

READ ALSO: Twelve statistics that show how the pandemic has hit Italy’s quality of life

For 2021, quality of life was deemed “good” or “acceptable” in 63 out of Italy’s 107 provincial capitals, and things had improved overall.

Some 22 million residents (around 37 percent of the Italian population) live in areas with a “poor” or “insufficient” quality of life, compared to the almost 26 million residents last year, or 42.5 percent of the population, the survey said.

Here are the best places to live in Italy according to the survey and a look at why they rank so highly.

Parma has been named the best place to live in Italy. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino/Unsplash

1. Parma

Parma has shot to the top of the list, up from 39th position last year. After years of Bolzano, Pordenone and Trento claiming the top spot, Parma has claimed it based on liveability as well as how it has managed the pandemic.

This city belongs to a grouping of urban areas in the centre-north that showed an excellent ability to react to the pandemic, according to the report. This substantially affected this year’s quality of life ranking

Located in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, Parma has fared well in other quality of life surveys too. It came fifth in a 2018 study which claimed to reveal the ‘real’ quality of life, based on less “materialistic” metrics such as health, business opportunities, level of environmental protection, life satisfaction levels and how welcoming a place is.

Renaissance buildings, famed cuisine, abundant green spaces and good transport links are all part of its long-standing popularity as a place to live.

With some 190,000 residents, Parma is large enough to provide all required services without being chaotic.

Trento consistently ranks highly in Italian quality of life surveys. Photo: Marco BERTORELL /AFP

2. Trento

This city in the north of Italy has always ranked highly in quality of life indexes and has come second place again, just as it has done for several years.

Located in Trentino Alto-Adige, Trento has long been a favourite due to its high performance in business and jobs. It is also considered highly for its education and training, according to the findings.

Trento has also historically been a frontrunner in environmental services, scoring highly on Italy’s classification of urban ecosystems, which includes factors such as reducing emissions.

Despite its success, some reports have also revealed negative findings for Trento, such as higher-than-average rates of alcoholism, mental illness and suicide.

Another firm favourite among Italy’s top ten for quality of life: Bolzano. Photo: Gian Luca Pilia on Unsplash

3. Bolzano

The northern Italian city of Bolzano in South Tyrol has often placed among the best places to live in Italy – and regularly the best, in fact.

Set in a valley at the gateway of the Italian alps, it has long scored highly for employment, tourism infrastructure, high average wealth, low crime levels and lack of urban crowds.

Taking third place for 2021 confirms the city’s continuing success in terms of liveability, and also for this year, how it’s reacted to the pandemic too.

Like Trento, Bolzano has also been recognised for its ecological achievements in various quality of life scores.

READ MORE: What makes life in Bolzano so good?

Bologna has shot up the quality of life rankings. Photo by Bianca Ackermann on Unsplash

4. Bologna

Results indicate a massive improvement for the north-eastern city in Emilia Romagna, jumping from 27th to fourth place this year.

Swaying its new position is its excellent performance in the area of business and how it managed the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bologna, which has a population of just over 800,000, was among the Italian cities which were most “penalised in 2020” by the pandemic, according to ItaliaOggi, but “able to recover more quickly, demonstrating a more pronounced resilience than that of smaller towns”.

Bologna, famed for its university and history, has previously been rated highly in other quality of life scores for its wealth, environmental services and also its cultural and leisure offering.

READ ALSO: Italy receives UNESCO site record as Bologna’s porticoes are added to World Heritage list

Milan ranks fifth in the survey, partially due to a change in methodology that has favoured bigger cities. Photo by Daryan Shamkhali on Unsplash

5. Milan

Another city bouncing into the top ten after previously ranking much lower is Lombardy’s capital, going from 45th to 5th position.

The north-western city took the first place for the second year running in terms of income and wealth, even though overall it previously scored much lower in terms of overall quality of life.

Milan, Italy’s economic capital with a population of 1.3 million, was also among the cities suffering higher rates of alcoholism, mental health problems and suicide.

READ ALSO:

Aside from Milan being recorded as one of the cities to have recovered better from the pandemic, its marked improvement could also be down to methodology.

ItaliaOggi said that previous years’ rankings ended up overweighting one indicator compared to all the others: population.

As a result, it was decided to scale this factor down, giving it equal or slightly greater weight than the other variables such as business and work, environment, safety, health, leisure and income.

Florence – another high flyer for Italian standard of living. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

6. Florence

Florence made a huge leap too, jumping from 31st to sixth place in this quality of life survey, reflecting the upswing of another bigger city after years at the back.

However, other studies have previously valued the Tuscan city highly for its liveability, highlighting its environment policies and services, and its famed cultural offerings too.

READ ALSO: Five surprisingly great places to live in Italy

The city’s mayor Dario Nardella told radio station Controradio: “The rankings last as long as they last. What counts is the direct relationship with the citizens, the concrete response of the community, but it is clear that these rankings are a thermometer.”

The results are “significant”, according to the mayor, pointing to the role of culture in Florence’s high ranking.

Cultural spending, quality of services, and nursery services are all pinpointed as reasons that the city offers a high quality of life, including “not only transport and mobility, but also education, childcare and cultural opportunities”.

Trieste ranks highly in other studies for quality of life – usually higher, in fact. Photo: Tom Wheatley/Unsplash

7. Trieste

Another regional capital made it into the top ten, with Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s Trieste rocketing up from 40th to seventh place.

Of particular note is the small city’s education and training provision, ranking the best in the country for this sector.

Trieste, with a population of 200,000, also came second for the average annual per capita income, average salary, average pensions and asset wealth. Only Milan was ahead, taking the top spot for the income parameters.

“This city is extraordinary and everyone who visits it is fascinated,” said the city’s mayor, Roberto Dipiazza.

He added he’s looking forward to other quality of life studies, such as the “Il Sole 24 Ore” classification, as Trieste is “always among the first places in almost all parameters”. In its 2020 publication, Il Sole 24 Ore ranked Trieste as fifth in the country for overall quality of life and rated it first for business and employment.

Verona slid down the rankings, but it’s still in the top ten. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

8. Verona

It’s a great achievement to make the top ten, but for this study, Verona has slid down the table from sixth place in 2020 to eighth this year.

One reason the north-eastern city in the region of Veneto has lost some points is due to its environmental safety scores.

READ ALSO: Why Verona should be the next Italian city you visit

While some indicators placed it out of the top ten league, Verona clawed back marks for work, business, and health services. Income and wealth also counted among the cities strengths.

Overall, Verona stands out for its high standard of living. The city ranked seventh for business and work, climbing from tenth last year, 38th for environment and 57th for crime and safety, improving in this area by three positions.

Once the highest quality of life in Italy, but Pordenone still placed strongly. Photo by Luk BENIES / AFP

9. Pordenone

Last year’s champion has slipped to ninth place, but is still regarded well overall, both in this survey and plenty of other quality of life in Italy reports.

The lower classification is despite improving its position in some key areas such as environment and safety. In fact, environment is still the main factor that keeps Pordenone in the top ten of the national quality of life ranking, placing second nationally.

Pordenone leads the way not only for environment and safety, but also for research, training and education and business and work. Where it doesn’t fare so well is for leisure and tourism.

Monza is famous for its racing circuit – and now its quality of life. Photo by jacopo marello on Unsplash

10. Monza and Brianza

Making the last spot of the top ten best places to live in Italy is the province of Monza and Brianza, in the Lombardy region. This marks a rise from 15th place in last year’s quality of life study.

Work and business helped push up the area, with the province moving from 39th to 31st position in this sector, despite the blows of the pandemic.

In particular, it has improved for employment rate, just as it has made progress in the number of innovative start-ups and SMEs, while the unemployment rate has plummeted.

The pandemic has negatively impacted the province, slipping down the charts from the number of businesses who ceased trading due to the economic strain of Covid measures.

And the worst places to live?

As in previous rankings, the bottom half of the table was dominated by southern Italian provinces. Crotone, Naples and then Foggia ranked at the bottom of the survey.

Rome slipped from 50th to 54th place in 2021.

What has emerged from this study is a divide between the provinces of central and northern Italy, where the quality of life was shown to be improving overall. Those of southern Italy, on the other hand, show that the level of quality of life is either stable or deteriorating.

However, researchers have indicated an increasing complexity when it comes to analysing quality of life, which means that the ways of coming to these conclusions in the past are now outdated.

This is particularly evident amid the pandemic, where health structures have been put under pressure, not all areas of the country have been affected in the same way.

Do you live in one of these cities? What do you think of the results of the survey? Let us know in the comment section below.


Member comments

  1. Sicily is the best kept secret in Italy and has been for decades. Surveys like this help protect this Island paradise from becoming overcrowded.

  2. A study of provincial capitals isn’t of much use to people who don’t like big cities. And more people like us seem to have been produced by the pandemic. We aren’t going to choose between Milan and Naples!

  3. I live in a small village in Calabria with the Med on one side and the Sila National Park on the other. The air quality is very good and the atmosphere is tranquil.The sea is sparkling clean and the beaches empty. What more could you want.

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