Rome and Milan ranked ‘worst’ cities to live in by foreign residents – again

Italy’s two biggest cities got bottom marks this year in a survey of international residents, who complained of poor career prospects, work-life balance and public transport.

Cycling in Rome: how bad is life in Italy’s capital city really?
How bad is life in Italy’s capital city really? Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Rome and Milan are the two 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.

The site asked members to rate more than 25 aspects of urban life abroad, resulting in Milan coming 56th out of 57 cities and Rome coming an embarrassing last place.

At the other end of the rankings were Kuala Lumpa, taking the top spot for overall satisfaction, followed by the Spanish port city of Málaga and Dubai.

The best and worst cities for expats in 2021. Graphic: InterNations

Rome came at the very bottom for the second year running for urban work life and placed last in the Jobs and Career subcategory.

60 percent of residents are unhappy with the career opportunities available to them in the Italian capital, compared to a global average of 33 percent across the other cities surveyed.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know before moving to Italy

Just under half (45 percent) are worried about job security, compared to a global average of 20 percent, and almost a third (27 percent) dislike the working hours, compared to 16 percent of residents across all the other cities combined.

Milan and Rome's expat ratings. Graphic: Internations.

Milan and Rome’s expat ratings. Graphic: InterNations.

“The economy is terrible, and salaries are low,” one Brit in Rome told InterNations.

Despite its status as Italy’s economic capital, Milan fares little better than Rome in the jobs arena, with almost half (47 percent) of residents rating job opportunities in the city negatively, compared to a global average of 33 percent.

Milan is also viewed as a particularly expensive place to live, with housing considered unaffordable by 68 percent of the Milanese residents surveyed, versus 47 percent of Rome’s residents and 39 percent globally.

TELL US: What is living in Milan really like?

The overall cost of living is considered particularly high in Milan, which comes in 46th place in the category. Rome, by contrast, comes in at a respectable 20th place; though fewer than half (43 percent) of residents rate the local cost of living positively, versus 48 percent globally.

The one area where Milan does comparatively well is in its local leisure options, where it places slightly above the average, with 76 percent of residents awarding a positive rating (versus 72 percent globally).

People roller skate along the Navigli canals in Milan on May 8, 2020

People roller skate along the Navigli canals in Milan on May 8, 2020. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

And in Rome, residents like the warm climate, with 86 percent rating its weather highly, compared to just two thirds (66 percent) of respondents worldwide.

But neither cities do well when it comes to overall happiness rankings, with 55 percent of Milan-based respondents and 67 percent of those in the Italian capital saying they are generally happy, compared to a global average of 75 percent.


As in previous years, Rome gets especially low scores for its public transportation system: half (47 percent) of the city’s foreign residents are unhappy with the public transport network, versus 20 percent of those living elsewhere.

Overall, Rome outperforms Milan when it comes to the ease of getting settled, housing, finances, and the local cost of living – but Milan scores higher on quality of life.

A man cycles past the Duomo Cathedral as the sun rises over Milan on July 16, 2021.

A man cycles past the Duomo Cathedral as the sun rises over Milan on July 16, 2021. Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Where should foreign nationals in Italy go for the best possible living conditions?

According to a report compiled recently by ItaliaOggi and Rome’s La Sapienza University, the answer is Parma, which was named the best province in Italy for its liveability and excellent handling of the pandemic.


Following close behind Parma in the top ten were Trento, Bolzano, Bologna, Florence, Trieste, Verona, Pordenone, and Monza and Brianza.

Milan – perhaps surprisingly considering its poor showing in the InterNations survey – came in fifth place.

The report’s authors noted that the city recovered well from the pandemic and that it scores high on wealth and income; though caveated that it’s among the Italian cities suffering higher rates of alcoholism, mental health problems and suicide.

What do you think of these findings? Leave a comment below or take part in our survey on life in Milan here to let us know your thoughts.

Member comments

  1. Try living in the province of Siena and using so called professionals.
    I would rather live in the true South, where they ask you directly for money and hold a gun to your head if you don’t.
    Here, they quietly evicerate you covertly, year by year, ruining your life.
    Never, ever put a penney of investment into this corrupt country.
    The corruption is run through the masons -every one of the professionals, lawyers, accountants and architects are involved directly of tangentially.

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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]