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LIVING IN ITALY

Why are Trento and Bolzano rated the best places to live in Italy?

The northern cities of Trento and Bolzano consistently rank among the top places to live in Italy. What makes them stand out?

What makes Bolzano and Trento such good places to live?
Bolzano and Trento are consistently ranked as among the best places to live in Italy. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Where’s the best place to live in Italy? If you believe the results of a recent quality of life survey published by ItaliaOggi and Rome’s La Sapienza University, it’s the twin northeastern cities of Trento and Bolzano.

Now in its 24th year, this is one of the most respected annual quality of life surveys conducted in Italy.

This year, Trento and Bolzano came first and second in the list of the 107 best (and worst) places to live in the country.

Of the nine indicators analysed – business, work, environment, education, training, income, wealth, social security, and leisure – Trento was ranked top in the country for eight.

“Being number one in Italy for quality of life is a source of great pride, but at the same time it gives us a great responsibility,” Maurizio Fugatti, president of Autonomous Province of Trento, told reporters.

READ ALSO: The best (and worst) places to live in Italy in 2022

But this kind of recognition isn’t new to Trento; along with Bolzano, it’s been ranked among the top 10 Italian cities for residents’ wellbeing for a number of years.

So what exactly is it about these two Alpine cities that continually wins them such high quality of life ratings?

Here are some of the reasons.

Low unemployment rate

Trento and Bolzano have two of the lowest rates of unemployment in Italy.

In the second quarter of 2022, unemployment was at 2.1 percent in the autonomous province of Bolzano and 4.7 percent in the autonomous province of Trento, according to data from Italy’s National Statistics Office (ISTAT).

That’s compared to a national average of 8.1 percent. Over the same period, the southern regions of Sicily, Campania and Calabria had unemployment rates of 17.3 percent, 15.9 percent, and 15.6 percent respectively.

High per capita wealth and income

In 2021, Eurostat published data showing that the autonomous province of Bolzano had the highest per capita wealth in Italy in 2019; 155 percent above the European average of €31,200.

The GDP per capita for the autonomous province of Trento was 125 percent higher than Europe’s average.

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

In 2020, data published by ISTAT relating to 2018 showed that inhabitants of the province of Bolzano had the highest average disposable income in Italy, at €26,000, and the highest GDP per capita, at €47,000 (Trentino ranked fourth, at €38,000).

By contrast, the national average at the time was €29,000, with Calabria reporting GDP per capita of just €17,000.

‘Green’ cities

Both Bolzano and Trento are environmentally friendly cities, leading the country when it comes to green living.

A recent survey conducted by the Italian environmental organisations Legambiente and Ambiente Italia found that Bolzano was the cleanest city in Italy, with Trento coming a close second.

The survey takes into account factors such as air quality, recycling efforts, waste production levels, reliance on renewable energy, public transport services, and metres of bike lanes per 100 inhabitants.

A view of the Dolomite mountains near Bolzano.

A view of the Dolomite mountains near Bolzano. Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP.

Above-average government spending

Trento and Bolzano invest more in their inhabitants than other regions – in Bolzano’s case, around double the national average.

Regionalised local government expenditure in Bolzano was €10,148 per capita in 2020, while the national average was €4,595, according to data released by Italy’s State General Accounting Office in 2022. Trento’s spending was €7,960 per capita.

READ ALSO: ‘If you want quality of life, choose Italy’s sunny south over the efficient north’

It helps that both Trento and Bolzano are the capitals of autonomous provinces. Italy’s autonomous provinces and regions have a greater decree of control over how funds are spent than other parts of the country, getting to keep 60 – as opposed to 20 – percent of local taxes.

Wellbeing across demographics

A 2022 quality of life survey conducted by the financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore found that Trento was the only city in Italy that ranked among the top ten for children, young people and the elderly.

Trento scored highly on factors including life expectancy and use of medications for chronic illnesses; the number of municipal civil servants under 40 and university graduates; and the birth rate and places in nursery schools.

But it’s not all perfect…

As a counterpoint to the positive factors listed above, it’s worth noting that Bolzano and Trento are among the most expensive cities in Italy, with a cost of living to match their residents’ high incomes.

They also have relatively high rates of alcoholism and suicide compared to the rest of Italy; in 2020, Trentino had the highest suicide rate in the country.

Anecdotally, people who live or have lived in Trento and Bolzano say these cities are peaceful, clean, friendly, and surrounded by a wealth of natural beauty.

If nightlife is a priority, though, you may find them wanting; while they’re both university towns, they’re said to lack the buzz of bigger Italian cities.

If you’re considering where to move to Italy, it’s important to take into account only the factors that are most important to you; sun and sea may be more important than employment opportunities and public transport.

While the south of Italy tends to perform poorly in these surveys, some of our readers – and writers – consider it the best part of the country to live in.

As they say in Italian, a ognuno il suo – to each their own.

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LIVING IN ITALY

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.

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