Revealed: The best (and worst) Italian cities to live in for women

A new 2021 quality of life index has ranked Italian provinces based on their liveability for women. Find out how your favourite part of Italy scored.

What are the best places to live in Italy as a woman?
What are the best places to live in Italy as a woman? Miguel MEDINA / AFP

As with so many things in Italy, provinces, cities and regions show substantial variation when it comes to quality of life.

Job opportunities, quality of public transport networks, climate, and leisure activity options are some of the key factors usually taken into account by surveys examining the pros and cons of living in different parts of Italy.

But when it comes to the best and worst places to live in Italy, one survey has taken into account factors that may improve the standard of living for female residents.

On Monday, the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore released the 2021 edition of its annual quality of life survey; and for the first time this year, the survey looks specifically at quality of life indicators for women in different parts of the country.


Metrics include life expectancy at birth, employment rates, the gender wage gap, rates of sexual violence, Olympic medals won by women and their overall performance in sports events, and percentages of female-run businesses and women in management roles across the public and private sectors.

Italy scores poorly in global rankings for equal opportunities at work and in politics, education and health, with high (and rising) rates of female unemployment and a persistently low percentage of women in top management roles.

The picture is not always the same across the country however, as the findings of Il Sole 24 Ore’s survey appear to illustrate.

Topping the list of best towns and cities for woman is the northeastern city of Treviso. It scores highest overall and for female infant life expectancy, and ranks among the top five Italian towns for female youth employment rates.

In second place is Prato in Tuscany, which has the lowest gender wage gap of any province in the country. Nearby Siena, which comes in third overall, is fifth for life expectancy and seventh for the percentage of company directorships held by women.

The top ten positions are predominantly occupied by provinces in the centre-north, with the regional capitals of Florence and Bologna coming in fifth and tenth place respectively.

Bigger cities like Milan and Rome did not make the top ten in this ranking – nor did any part of southern Italy.

The top ten Italian cities to live in as a woman.

The top ten Italian cities to live in as a woman. Source: Il Sole 24 Ore.

Here are the top five towns and cities to live in for women based on specific criteria:

Best female infant life expectancy rates at birth

  1. Treviso
  2. Perugia
  3. Prato
  4. Cagliari
  5. Siena

Lowest rates of (reported) sexual violence

  1. Treviso
  2. Perugia
  3. Prato
  4. Cagliari
  5. Siena

Highest female employment rates

  1. Bologna
  2. Trieste
  3. Bolzano
  4. Milan
  5. Aosta

Milan performs well when it comes to female employment rates.

Milan performs well when it comes to female employment rates. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Highest female youth employment rates

  1. Bolzano
  2. Biella
  3. Ferrara
  4. Sondrio
  5. Cuneo

Smallest gender employment gap

  1. Aosta
  2. Cagliari
  3. Trieste
  4. Milan
  5. Nuoro

Smallest gender wage gap

  1. Prato
  2. Oristano
  3. Enna
  4. Rome
  5. Imperia


Highest percentage of women directors in companies

  1. Savona
  2. Imperia
  3. South Sardinia
  4. Aosta
  5. Terni

Highest percentage of woman city managers

  1. Ravenna
  2. Cagliari
  3. Prato
  4. Bologna
  5. Modena

The bottom thirty spots are all occupied by central-southern towns and regions, with Caltanissetta in Sicily in last place.

Overall, regional capitals tend to perform relatively poorly compared to smaller cities and towns. Turin, Rome and Milan come in 24th, 27th, and 33rd out of 107. Palermo ranks 86th, and Naples comes a dismal 105th place.  

Given that the centre-north does best overall, it’s perhaps surprising that it’s northern cities that score the worst in areas like percentages of female-run companies and women directorships.

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

Milan ranks at the very bottom in the first of those two categories, with only 17.2 percent of its companies run by women; while Bolzano comes 106th and Trento 105th. When it comes to the female directorships of companies, these positions are slightly shuffled: Bolzano comes last place, Trento 105th, and Milan 103rd.

The top 50 Italian towns and cities to live in for women overall, according to the 2021 Il Sole 24 Ore survey:

  1. Treviso
  2. Prato
  3. Siena
  4. Savona
  5. Firenze
  6. Varese
  7. Pisa
  8. Ferrara
  9. Aosta
  10. Bologna
  11. Macerata
  12. Perugia
  13. Ravenna
  14. Trieste
  15. Cagliari
  16. Monza and Brianza
  17. Udine
  18. Arezzo
  19. Livorno
  20. Modena
  21. Nuoro
  22. Forlì-Cesena
  23. Biella
  24. Turin
  25. Lecco
  26. Ancona
  27. Rome
  28. Fermo
  29. Cremona
  30. Grosseto
  31. Verbano-Cusio-Ossola
  32. Padua
  33. Milan
  34. Pordenone
  35. Cuneo
  36. Reggio Emilia
  37. Novara
  38. Venice
  39. Lucca
  40. Pistoia
  41. Verona
  42. Terni
  43. Bolzano
  44. Vicenza
  45. Asti
  46. Trento
  47. Rieti
  48. Isernia
  49. Pavia
  50. Pesaro and Urbino

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The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

While summer holidays are important everywhere, Italy takes the tradition of le vacanze estive particularly seriously. Here's what to expect now that August has arrived.

The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

1. Cities are largely deserted

If you’re in a city or town, prepare for it to feel strangely empty away from the obvious tourist destinations.

In Rome, car journeys that once involved a half-hour battle through wild traffic become surprisingly quick and stress-free. And where are the crowds at your usual after-work drinks spot in Milan? Even the smallest towns will be noticeably quieter than usual.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

This is because all sensible Italian residents have packed up and gone to the beach or the mountains for a month. Next year, you’ll know to do the same.

2. But beaches are packed

Italy was a nation of staycationers even before the pandemic, and in August it’s tutti al mare: everyone flees to the beach, or maybe the mountains, at the same time.

Expect resorts to be packed and hotels, Airbnbs and campsites to be fully booked, especially as international tourists return after two years of travel restrictions.

3. Shops have cheery ‘closed for holidays’ signs

Shop workers and owners take time off like everyone else and it’s very common for small independent businesses like bakeries, pharmacies and florists to close for up to a month.

Some will tell you when they expect to reopen, others just put a sign in the window saying ‘chiuso per ferie’ – closed for holidays.

4. The summer sales are (still) on

Those shops that do remain open – mainly large chain stores and supermarkets –  offer discounts throughout August to those dedicated shoppers who aren’t at the beach. Italy only allows two retail sales a year, and one of those runs through July and August.

5. Everyone you email is out of the office

Need to contact anyone urgently at work this month? If they’re in Italy, then too bad.

Office workers are also usually on holiday, and a great many offices close altogether for three or four weeks.

Forget about out-of-office email replies suggesting an alternative contact or that the person will be checking their email sporadically – they will be on the beach and whatever you want can wait until they are back.

This applies to banks and to any kind of government bureaucracy, and you may also have trouble getting medical appointments at this time of year.

There’s only one place to be in Italy in August, as far as many Italians are concerned. Photo by Giovanni ISOLINO / AFP

6. There are ‘red alert’ heat warnings in place

This summer has been an unusually hot one and Italy has already experienced several extreme heatwaves. But as we get into August temperatures will no doubt be high across the board, meaning the country’s health authorities put heat warnings in place on the hottest days and strongly advise people to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

7. Every major road has a traffic warning

Italy’s state police make good use of the red pen when putting together the official traffic forecast for August. All weekends feature ‘red dot’ traffic warnings as people head off on holiday, or return home.

The final weekend of August, when people head home in time for il rientro (the return to school and work in September) is also best avoided.