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QUALITY OF LIFE

Cost of living: How does Italy compare to the rest of the world in 2022?

Italy has recorded lower costs of living than the UK and US so far for 2022 after outstripping both last year. Here's a closer look at how everyday outgoings compare.

How Italy stacks up for cost of living compared to the rest of the world.
How Italy stacks up for cost of living compared to the rest of the world. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

It’s a common belief that the cost of living in Italy is generally cheap and cheerful, and this is often thought to explain the nation’s comparatively low wages.

However, Italy in fact outpaced both the UK and the US for living expenses last year, ranking as the 26th most expensive country in the world.

Good news for those living in or travelling to Italy this year, though – the latest figures for 2022 show that Italy has now slid down the scale, behind the UK and US, coming 32nd in the global ranking, according to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index for 2022.

It is classified as being cheaper than France (19th), the UK (26th), the US (27th), and the famously expensive Switzerland – which was ranked second most expensive in the world for the second year running. And once again, Bermuda placed first.

The survey was compiled using the notoriously expensive city of New York City as a benchmark. New York was given an index score of 100. So a country with a score higher than 100 is more expensive than New York, while below signals that it is cheaper.

READ ALSO: The parts of Italy where house prices keep rising despite the pandemic

Italy scored 66.47 overall. It has got cheaper for groceries, dropping four places in the global scale and is now around 12 percentage points cheaper than the US, but is still more expensive than the UK.

While people in Italy have seen energy prices surge in January, with a knock-on effect on food prices and other costs, the same has also happened in many other countries.

Italy ranks 34th for a food shop compared to 36th place for the Brits. But it is cheaper than the US (19th), Canada (20th) and Australia (9th).

Compared to its European neighbours, you’ll pay more at the till for your weekly groceries in France (16th), Denmark (22nd) and Austria (26th). On the other hand, Italy is more expensive than Germany (41st) and Spain (54th) for supplies to stock your fridge.

In a separate recent survey specifically focussed on this aspect of living costs, Italy was in fact much higher up the scale for the cost and affordability of a grocery shop.

The findings from Net Credit are based on not just supermarket prices, but they also consider income. Researchers calculated the affordability of a basket of goods in each country as a percentage of the average daily wage.

Italy’s groceries can be expensive when you factor in the average salary. Photo by Axel Heimken / AFP

The shopping basket they surveyed focused on ten staples including breakfast cereal, eggs, cheese, milk and bread.

Factoring this in, Italy ranked 15th most expensive worldwide for the cost of groceries, calculated as being 33 percent of a daily salary.

Common expenditure prices in Italy

  • Milk – €1,15
  • Loaf of fresh white bread – €1,56
  • Local cheese (1kg) – €12,24
  • Beef (1kg) – €14,68
  • Bottle of wine (mid-range) – €5,00
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught) – €4,50
  • Meal per person at low-cost restaurant – €15,00
  • Three-course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant – €55,00
  • Monthly pass on public transport – €35,00
  • Petrol (per litre) – €1,62
  • Basic utilities (Electricity, gas, water, rubbish) for 85m2 Apartment – €162,79
  • Apartment rent (1 bedroom) in city centre – €588,95
  • Apartment rent (1 bedroom) outside of centre – €449,53
  • Price per square metre to buy an apartment in city centre – €3,092.74

Numbeo’s Cost of Living index, weighs up average estimates for expenses for a four-person family, ranging from clothing, groceries and dining out to transportation, recreational activities and utilities.

And its rent index is based on the costs of renting one- and three-bedroom apartments in and outside of city centres.

For this category, Italy ranked 44th out of 139 entries in total worldwide, compared to 37th last year. It again comes behind Spain, the UK, the US and Canada.

READ ALSO: The ten positives you’ll notice after moving to Italy from the US

Italy was found to be eleven points cheaper than the UK on average compared to eight points last year, and over 20 points cheaper than the US when it comes to rental accommodation.

Photo: Jürgen Scheeff on Unsplash

Restaurant bills – which were found to be higher on average in Italy than France, Germany, the US and the UK last year – have become relatively cheaper in 2022. Italy recorded around six percentage points lower than the UK for dining out, whereas it’s now about the same compared to the US.

It is still much more expensive than Spain, coming in at around 17 points more costly for eating out.

According to Numbeo’s country profile, the average Italian monthly salary after tax is €1,443.39 compared to $3,596.78 (€3,176.10) in the United States and £2,011.40 (€2,400) in the UK.

While salaries are lower in Italy and many living costs don’t differ greatly between Italy, the UK and the US, you can at least bank on a cheaper cappuccino in Italy.

On average, it will set you back €1.40 in Italy, compared to €3.87 in the US and €3.34 in the UK.

These three countries don’t differ that much for a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, costing between €53 and €59.

Certain produce is more expensive in Italy such as local cheese and meat, but it costs less to use public transport overall.

Monthly utility bills were recorded as being higher in Italy than the US, but not the UK.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

Meanwhile, average private monthly childcare costs in Italy are cheaper compared to the UK and US, based on one child attending full-time.

In its Cost of Living City index for 2022, Milan has ranked the highest for Italian cities coming in at 117th place out of 578 cities worldwide. It’s followed by Parma (148th) and Genoa (149th). Rome came 177th.

Parma recently came first in the country in a survey on the best and worst places to live in Italy. It took the title for its healthcare, work and business opportunities, level of environmental protection, life satisfaction levels and how it managed the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: The very best Italian towns to move to – according to people who live in them

Previous European studies have shown the cost of groceries, eating out, internet and communications to be relatively high in Italy.

Within Italy itself, there can be huge regional differences. Broadly speaking, the north of Italy tends to be more expensive than the south, and cities pricier than rural areas.

Milan is notorious for high rents, as are tourist hotspots including central Florence and Venice – and generally speaking people living in these areas will face higher costs for most goods and services.

But average recorded prices are brought down by the fact that it is relatively cheap to rent in small towns and villages, while the cost of services can also be markedly lower outside the major Italian cities.

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MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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