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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

REVEALED: Which are Italy’s cheapest supermarkets?

As the cost of living crisis hits household budgets in Italy as elsewhere, a new study says switching supermarkets could shave thousands of euros a year off your grocery shopping bill.

REVEALED: Which are Italy's cheapest supermarkets?

As the cost of living keeps rising amid soaring inflation – Italy’s inflation rate hit a 37-year high at the end of last month – many households across Italy, as elsewhere, are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

The government’s recent suggestion of lowering or even scrapping IVA (VAT, or sales tax) on basic food products hasn’t materialised. But consumers could still find ways to save on their grocery shopping.

Many shoppers are now switching supermarkets to save money, or considering it.

And doing so could pay off. A new study from Italian consumer group Altroconsumo showed a family of four can save up to 3,350 euros a year by shopping at discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Eurospin.

Altroconsumo, savings on grocery shopping

Maximum possible savings by type of shopping and household size. Graphic courtesy of Altroconsumo.

For context, the study found Italian families with two children spend an average of 8,550 euros a year on groceries. 

While discount supermarkets do allow for considerable savings however they also generally offer lower-quality products which not all consumers will be satisfied with.

Shoppers can also reduce costs by switching to supermarket own-brand items (i.e. items carrying the supermarket logo), available in stores such as Carrefour and Iper-Coop. 

In particular, shopping at Carrefour, which is the most affordable supermarket in Italy when it comes to own-brand goods, can allow a family of four to save as much as 3,250 euros per year (savings can amount to 2000 euros for individual consumers). 

Consumers who do not wish to part ways with branded products (prodotti di marca) can still save on their shopping, though in this case savings are comparatively lower.

Shopping at Esselunga – the most cost-effective Italian supermarket for branded goods – allows for savings up to 350 euros for single individuals and up to 570 euros for families with two children.

Finally, potential savings are considerably reduced for consumers choosing to stick with a spesa mista, meaning that they generally fill up their shopping cart with a combination of branded items, distributor-brand goods and low-cost goods.

Regional differences 

While switching supermarket can mean savings on food bills, exactly how much you’ll save varies greatly by region.

In particular, Altroconsumo’s latest report highlighted once again the stark divide separating the north of the country from the centre and south. 

READ ALSO: From coffee to haircuts: How the cost of living varies around Italy

 Of the 15 cheapest Italian supermarkets, only two are located in the central or southern regions of the boot (Sesto Fiorentino’s Coop-Fi and Spesa 365 in Bari).

More importantly, consumers living in the north and shopping at the cheapest supermarket or hypermarket available in their city can save as much as 18 percent on a branded-goods-only food bill.

In equal circumstances (i.e. buying only branded items at the cheapest local store), consumers living in most central or southern cities can only save between two and three percent. 

Convenience map by Altroconsumo

The “convenience map”, with the cheaper cities shown in green and the more expensive cities shown in red. Graphic courtesy of Altroconsumo.
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