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MILAN

What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

Whether you're moving to Milan for the first time or are looking for a new neighbourhood to live in, here are the five best 'quartieri' for foreign nationals.

Tram running across central Milan
Milan is the second-most popular Italian destination for English-speaking expats. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

With its extraordinary international appeal and wealth of job opportunities, Milan is one of the most popular Italian cities among foreigners.

Suffice to say that the northern economic powerhouse is home to as many as 280,800 foreign nationals, who make up around 20.3 percent of the city’s total population.

Also, Milan is the second-most popular Italian destination for native English speakers, with plenty of UK and US immigrants living in the city. 

But, like most other European metropolises, Milan has a very diverse urban area and some of its neighbourhoods are more suited to foreign nationals than others.

READ ALSO: Five things you’ll only know if you live in Milan

So, in no particular order, here are the city’s top five quartieri for foreign residents.

Porta Romana

Located in the south-eastern corner of Milan’s urban area, Porta Romana is one of the most liveable areas in the city. 

In particular, the area is known for its very laid-back vibe, which makes it perfect for young professionals looking to bask in some blissful tranquillity after a long day at work.

But, the neighbourhood is also suited to university students as it is relatively close to some of Milan’s most prestigious colleges and rents are not as expensive as they might be closer to the city centre.

While being very residential, Porta Romana still has a good share of leisure and entertainment venues – the Fondazione Prada exhibition centre and the iconic Plastic Club are located in the area – and several bars and restaurants line the sides of most streets. 

Finally, the neighbourhood is also very well connected to central Milan, with no shortage of buses, trams and metro lines servicing local residents.

Città Studi

Located in north-east Milan, Città Studi is by far the best neighbourhood for foreign students. 

Once a fairly run-of-the-mill rural area, Città Studi was converted into a state-of-the-art hub of medical centres, university campuses and residential lofts over the second half of the 1900s. 

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Today, the neighbourhood is home to plenty of both local and foreign students, especially those attending courses at the Polytechnic University of Milan. 

Granted, the area is not as close to the city centre as others but public transport will still get you to central Milan in a fairly reasonable amount of time.

Finally, due to the young age of its residents, the area offers several dining spots and nightlife venues.

Porta Venezia

Porta Venezia, which sits just a couple of miles north-east of Piazza Duomo, is the most multi-ethnic quartiere in Milan, thus naturally lending itself to foreign nationals.

Indro Montanelli garden in Milan

The Indro Montanelli garden is one of the most enchanting places in the Porta Venezia area, especially so during the cold months. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

People of all races and cultural backgrounds populate the area, making it one of the most eccentric (and fun) places to live in. 

With its wealth of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, Porta Venezia keeps its residents busy on weekends as well as most weekdays.

However, this also means that the area might not be the right fit for those looking for a more quiet and relaxed environment.

Finally, Porta Venezia is also a very LGBTQ-friendly neighbourhood as it is home to lots of gay bars and alternative nightlife venues. 

Brera

Nested at the heart of the city, Brera is one of the most glamorous areas in Milan.

From high-end fashion boutiques to art galleries, to quirky dining spots, Brera’s swanky atmosphere is unmatched anywhere else in the city.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome

Unsurprisingly, the neighbourhood is also one of the best locations for celebrity-spotting, should you ever be interested in that sort of thing. 

That said, all the glitter and gold come at a cost and Brera has some of the most expensive rents in the whole city. 

As a result, it is mostly populated by successful businessmen or high-profile figures working in the art or fashion industry. 

Porta Genova and Navigli

The Porta Genova area sprawls around the Navigli canals, a few miles south of the city centre. 

This is by far the most bohemian neighbourhood in Milan, with cobblestone streets, tram tracks and antique stores giving the surroundings an oddly wistful (but very pleasant) atmosphere. 

Porta Genova area in Milan

With its canal-side bars and cafès, Porta Genova is one of Milan’s most fascinating areas. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

While being relatively quiet during the day, the area collectively switches on in the evening, with plenty of residents heading down to the numerous cafès and bars peppering the banks of the local canals. 

This might be ideal for those looking to get in on south Milan’s nightlife, but would hardly be a good fit for those who love an early night as the streets can be pretty noisy until late. 

That said, Porta Genova is still home to many people – from students to young families – and local rents are not as expensive as in more central areas.

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VISAS

Five expert tips for getting your Italian elective residency visa approved

Here are the main things you should know if you want to succeed first time round when applying for Italy's popular - but elusive - elective residency visa.

Five expert tips for getting your Italian elective residency visa approved

The elective residency visa (ERV) is a popular route to permanently relocating to Italy, but the application process can be hard to navigate and the rejection rate high.

To help readers who are considering taking the plunge maximise their chance of success first time round, The Local spoke to three experts about how to put together the best application possible.

Based on what they told us, we put together a detailed guide to the process, as well as specific advice for UK applicants.

Here are five key takeaways on how to make a successful elective residency visa application.

Write a convincing cover letter

Most consulates require a letter of motivation along with your application explaining why you want to move to Italy.

Applicants often put minimal effort into this, simply saying they love the Italian food and weather, says Elze Obrikyte from Giambrone & Partners – and that’s a mistake.

She says ‘pre-rejection’ decisions are often issued on the basis of this letter alone, even if all the other requirements are met. 

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

That’s because consular officials want to see you have a strong interest in moving to Italy permanently, not just coming for short stints on holiday.

Because of this, you want to make sure you underscore your ties to Italy, your familiarity with the town you plan to move to, and any other supporting information.

While language skills aren’t a requirement, “if you mention that you are studying Italian or you know Italian, which helps you to integrate better, this is also an advantage for your application,” says Obrikyte.

You should provide as much evidence as you can for a successful ERV application. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.
Showing you have a strong connection to Italy will help your application. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Get your finances in order

Because you’re not allowed to work or receive an ‘active’ income when you come to Italy on an ERV, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have a ‘passive income’ of at least €31,000 per year (€38,000 joint income for married couples).

Nick Metta of Studio Legale Metta says applicants sometimes think that having a large amount of money invested in bonds or the stock market is sufficient, but this won’t satisfy the officials reviewing your application.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Whether it’s in the form of a pension, annuity, rent, or some other mechanism, you need to prove that you receive a regular income stream in perpetuity and won’t become a burden on the Italian state.

If you don’t currently have passive income of at least €31,000 you may want to speak to a consultant about restructuring your finances, as you won’t be granted an ERV unless the consulate can check this box.

More is more

Consulates can differ in their exact requirements for the ERV, with some saying you don’t necessarily have to provide a letter of motivation or travel tickets to Italy.

But our experts were all agreed: it’s always best to include as much documentation as possible with your application to be on the safe side.

Even though not all consulates require travel tickets, “it’s always better just to enclose them,” says Obrikyte; “I always advise our clients to close as many documents as possible, just to reduce the risk of rejection”.

READ ALSO: How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

“The cover letter for some consulates is not a requirement, for some consulates it is a requirement,” says Metta. “We always recommend that you prepare and file a cover letter with every single elective residency visa application.”

The experts also recommend providing a separate cover page with a contents summary for all the documentation submitted, to make things easy for the consular official reviewing your application.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order.

You should provide as much evidence as you can for a successful ERV application. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Be polite and deferential

The Italian consulate in charge of reviewing your ERV application has total power over whether or not it’s accepted – including the ability to raise the income threshold above the official minimum.

That means you want to be as deferential as possible all your interactions with staff, and avoid coming across as entitled or demanding.

READ ALSO: ‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

“You don’t want to go there and say ‘oh, here is the printing of the law’ and this and that – absolutely not,” says Metta.

You’ll also want to make sure you book your travel tickets for at least 90 days after your appointment date – the full period allotted for the consulate to review the application – so it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to rush their decision.

There’s room to negotiate

Finally, our experts stressed that if your application is rejected, that decision isn’t necessarily final.

Obrikyte says it’s typical for consulates to issue a ‘pre-rejection’ notice before delivering their final answer that specifies what the sticking point is, giving you a chance to fix the issue.

“In that occasion it is possible to try to negotiate and change their mind, and this happens very very often,” she says.

When a client of his was told he needed income of at least €100,000, “we contacted the person in charge, exchanged correspondence, provided some extra legal support in terms of evidence and official sources, and we got another appointment and the person finally got their visa,” Metta says.

While you can appeal a rejection in court, Metta says he advises his clients just to reapply, as it’s “so much faster, easier.”

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For further information on the ERV and how to apply, visit the Italian foreign ministry’s visa website.

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