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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For members


The Italian holiday calendar for 2023

Italy gets a good number of public holidays, but they sometimes fall on a weekend. Here are the dates to plan for next year.

The Italian holiday calendar for 2023

Italy has long been known for being fairly generous with its public holidays, with Austria being the only EU country with more holidays (13). 

In total, Italian residents enjoy 11 national public holidays plus a local holiday for the patron saint of their cities (for instance St Ambrose in Milan, St Mark in Venice, St John in Florence, etc.).

READ ALSO: Why do Milan residents get a day off on December 7th?

But, as some Italian speakers might say, ‘non è tutto oro quel che luccica’ (all that glitters is not gold). In fact, all national holidays in Italy are taken on the day they fall on that year rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as is the case in other countries, including the UK.

This means that if a certain holiday is on a Saturday or a Sunday, there is no extra day off for residents.

It also means that there are ‘good’ holiday years and ‘bad’ ones, and, while 2022 wasn’t a particularly good one – as many as four public holidays fell on a weekend day – 2023 only has one such holiday: New Year’s Day, which will fall on Sunday, January 1st.

Deck chair on Italian seaside

Italian residents will get five three-day weekends in 2023 thanks to public national holidays. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

2023 holiday calendar

  • January 1, 2023 (New Year’s Day): Sunday
  • January 6, 2023 (Epiphany): Friday
  • April 10, 2023 (Easter Monday): Monday
  • April 25, 2023 (Liberation Day): Tuesday
  • May 1, 2023 (Labour Day): Monday
  • June 2, 2023 (Italian Republic Day): Friday
  • August 15, 2023 (Ferragosto): Tuesday
  • November 1, 2023 (All Saints’ Day): Wednesday
  • December 8, 2023 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception): Friday
  • December 25, 2023 (Christmas Day): Monday
  • December 26, 2023 (St Stephen’s Day): Tuesday

As shown by the above list, Christmas Eve (December 24th) and New Year’s Eve (December 31st) are not official public holidays in Italy, but many local companies do give their staff both days off as a gesture of goodwill. 

That said, in 2023 Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve will both fall on a Sunday, so residents will already be home from work. 

Like both ‘Eves’, Easter Sunday is also not considered a public holiday, but, once again, residents are already home from work on the day given that it falls on a Sunday every year.  

2023 ‘bridges’ and long weekends

Whether or not a certain year is a good one for holidays also depends on the number of ‘bridges’ available.

For the uninitiated, ‘fare il ponte (‘to do the bridge’) is the noble art of taking an extra day off when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday – the most audacious might do this with a Wednesday holiday too.

Sadly, 2023 doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities to do this. There are only two possible bridges: one for Liberation Day, falling on Tuesday, April 25th and one for Ferragosto, on Tuesday, August 15th.

But, on a more positive note, six of next year’s public holidays will fall either on a Monday or a Friday, giving residents five three-day weekends and a four-day one – Christmas Day (falling on Monday) is immediately followed by St Stephen’s Day on Tuesday.

Italian non-holiday holidays

There are seven dates in Italy’s calendar that are considered official but not public holidays, meaning you don’t get a day off. 

These are known as ‘solennità civili’ (civil feasts) and include National Unity Day on the first Sunday of November, the day of Italy’s patron saints Francesco and Caterina on October 4th, and the anniversary of the unification of Italy on March 17th.

Display from Italian Air Force for Italy's Unity Day

National Unity Day, which is celebrated every year on the first Sunday of November, is one of Italy’s ‘civil feasts’. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

That’s in addition to nearly 30 national and international days of commemoration or celebration that Italy recognises, including Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27th), Europe Day (May 9th) and Christopher Columbus Day (October 12th). 

Much like the previously mentioned solennità civili, none of the above will get you a day off.

Other holidays

If you’re an employee in Italy, you’re entitled to paid holiday time, and the very minimum allowance is four weeks (or 20 days) a year – that’s 18 days less than in Austria, which leads the EU pack in minimum paid leave.

That said, many Italian contracts, particularly those for state employees, allow for five weeks (or 25 days) of paid leave per year. 

It’s also worth noting that, by law, employees must take at least two weeks of paid leave consecutively (i.e. two in a row) and all paid leave accumulated over the course of a year must be taken within 18 months from the end of that year.