The cost of living in Italy might surprise you. Pleasantly! Living here, whether for work, retirement or just long holidays, is about the quality of life, sunshine, culture, great food and great people. And if you can get some of that a little cheaper, that’s just a bonus. So how does the Italian cost of living compare to the UK?

Towards the end of every year we conduct the Cost of Living Index across 12 countries. It compares the prices of a basic supermarket shop and other everyday living costs, especially geared to expatriates. You might think that la dolce vita comes at a steep price, but, as our findings show, living in Italy is almost 20% cheaper than back in the UK – and that’s even before you account for the property prices!

Food shopping

Italians like to buy fresh local produce and to support local farmers. Weekly fruit and veg. markets are common and are well priced for seasonal produce. Often these markets will also have stalls selling fish, meat, cheese, nuts, olives and eggs. Six eggs in the supermarket cost €1.59, but we buy a tray of 30 eggs at the market or straight from the chicken farm for just €4. And even small-town supermarkets tend to have a counter selling good quality cheeses and cold meats. They aren’t cheap but offer good value and are always busy with Italian customers. There will often also be an in-store butcher and fishmonger. In general, at a supermarket, the fresh meat and produce is of excellent quality – Italians are discerning customers and expect the best.

If you’re living in Italy but receiving an income from abroad, prices are only have the story. Read how to prevent currency volatility wrecking your budget, with The Currency Guide to Emigration, free to download.

White fish, fresh from the fishmonger, costs €16.90 a kilo, but you can get that price down with a bit of savvy shopping. Frozen boneless cod, for instance, costs only €5.35 a kilo.

Italians rarely buy sliced bread. They prefer to buy delicious fresh bread daily from the local baker as rolls, round loaves or focaccia, that you can tear pieces from.

This nation of coffee drinkers doesn’t buy big boxes of teabags. You’ll be lucky to find a small box of Twinnings breakfast tea in amongst the fruit and herbal tea section. The best option is to bring teabags with you, then get friends and family to bring some over every time they come to visit. If you run out, online shops like British Corner Shop and Richmonds are an alternative, but expensive. Alternatively, embrace the local cultura del caffè! Bear in mind that supermarkets stock more UHT milk than fresh, as it keeps longer in our sunny climate (65c a carton).

As for ice-cream, you are spoilt for choice, with superb Italian gelato freshly made at a gelateria for low prices. As summer outdoor events are generally free, you can enjoy an inexpensive evening out in your town or village with pizza from €4.50 and gelato from €1.50. If you want to keep something in the freezer for a hot day, a tub of Haagen-Dazs will cost you a bit more than in the UK.

In the supermarket UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
Large, wholemeal sliced loaf of bread (800g) £1.10 1.19 £1.05  – 5%
Pack of butter (250g) £1.50 1.85 £1.63 + 9%
Milk (I litre) £0.80 1.19 £1.05 + 31%
6 eggs, large free range £1 1.59 £1.40 + 40%
Iceberg lettuce £0.70 0.79 £0.70  – 0.39%
Teabags (per 100) £2.50 6.42 £5.67 + 127%
Fresh pineapple (whole) £1 1.29 £1.14 + 14%
Fresh tomatoes (1 kilo) £2.50 1.99 £1.76  – 30%
Fresh chicken for roasting (regular) £3.40 4.6 £4.06 + 19%
Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream (500ml) £4.20 5.9 £5.21 + 24%
fresh white fish, cod type  (1 kilo) £13.50 16.9 £14.92 + 10%
Jar of mayonnaise (600g) £2.50 2.19 £1.93  – 23%
Heinz cream of tomato soup (400g) £0.95 2.5 £2.21 + 133%
Coca-cola zero (2 litre) £1.95 2.26 £1.99 + 2%
Bottle of whisky (blended) 70cl £15 11.9 £10.50  – 30%
Dark chocolate bar (Green & Black type, 90/100g) £2 1.19 £1.05  – 48%
Complete dog food, dry (5 kilo) £10 8.62 £7.61  – 24%
Laundry detergent (40 washes) £4.50 5.98 £5.28 + 17%
Kitchen roll, 4-pack £2.20 1.29 £1.14  – 48%

* Based on GBP/EUR rate of 1.133, the average for the year of 2019
* UK food costs were based on compared to Tesco on 07/10/2019

Italy - Living - After buyingYou will find that a full basket of grocery shopping will cost you less in Italy than for the same items in the UK.

Transport costs in Italy

Train cost was based on Anzio to Rome return, around 1 hour 6 minutes.

Electric vehicles are exempt from car tax for the first three to five years depending on the region.

Once you’ve made the move, you’ll probably want to start exploring your new home. The good news is that getting around Italy is generally much cheaper than in the UK. While fuel for the car is expensive (although diesel is cheaper than unleaded and prices vary greatly from place to place).

Many people, me included, use Italy’s fantastic train network, which is around two-thirds cheaper than in the UK. You might be surprised to know that Italy’s network is actually denser and longer than the UK’s, and is nearly 100% electrified, compared to 33% back home.

Flixbus coaches are also becoming popular as a cheap means of transport between cities, particularly with regular commuters and students. The cheapest coach ride from Florence to Rome can cost as little as €7.90; on the train, without reductions, it’s €21.65.

Internal flights can also be cheap. You can fly from Brindisi to Rome with Ryanair from €28.59 this October.

Travel UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
1 litre petrol (unleaded) £1.30 1.58 £1.39 + 7%
Car hire, small car, 1 week £124 70 £61.78  – 50%
Return train fare, London to Brighton equivalent (about one hour) £26 7.2 £6.35  – 76%
Car tax, electric/hybrid, 1 year £140 0 £0  – 100%

In the home

Here’s the point where you might find things are a little more expensive in Italy! While a domestic cleaner costs, on average, half the price per hour than in the UK, actually furnishing your home can cost a bit more if you go to the big-box stores. It’s worth taking some things down from Britain when you move, and spending a few pleasurable afternoons browsing local second-hand shops and markets for some bargains. Internet, however, is a little cheaper, and tech like televisions are, likewise, not as pricey as back home.

In the home UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
Paying a domestic cleaner – per hour £12.50 6.9 £6.09  – 51%
White Dulux emulsion, or equivalent (2.5 litre) £14 19.9 £17.56 + 25%
Ikea “Billy” bookcase (80x28x202 cm) £35 49 £43.25 + 24%
Samsung TV, 55” £549 497 £438.66  – 20%
Alexa echo dot £35 60 £52.96 + 51%
Electricity (per kilowatt hour) £0.13 0.088 £0.08  – 40%
Home broadband, no data limit (per month) £23 24.9 £21.98  – 4%

Leisure

Not only does Italy have the sunny, warm weather to enjoy life, but it’s also generally cheaper to do so! From your morning cappuccino in a local café to a three-course meal, you can expect to pay a good bit less than in the UK.

And, while a bottle of wine in a restaurant is much cheaper than in the UK, you will also find drinks are cheaper still in bars and cafés. If you’re looking for the best prices for food and drink, I’ve learnt to head away from the main streets and piazzas and look for the restaurants that are full of locals – it is here that you’ll find the best food, without tourist prices. Look out for a trattoria or osteria for a simple, reasonably priced meal.

Leisure UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
Cappuccino in local café £2.80 1.1 £0.97  – 65%
Bottle of Coke Zero from local shop (500ml) £1.50 1 £0.88  – 41%
Pain au chocolat in café £1.90 1 £0.88  – 54%
Big Mac/quarter pounder cheeseburger £3.09 4.1 £3.62  + 17%
Bottle of house wine in local mid-range restaurant £17.95 14 £12.36  – 31%
Draft beer in bar (500ml) £2.20 3 £2.65  + 20%
3 course meal in mid-range restaurant (ex drinks) £27 28 £24.71  – 8%
Tip for meal (above) £3 3 £2.65  – 12%
Cinema ticket (one) £11 7.1 £6.27  – 43%
Spotify Premium subscription, per month £10 10 £8.83  – 12%
Amazon Prime, per month £8 3.99 £3.52  – 56%
Daily Newspaper (equivalent to Times) £1.80 1.2 £1.06  – 41%
Women’s Running shoes, mid-range, Nike £105 69.95 £61.74  – 41%
Paperback fiction book £9 15.3 £13.50  + 50%
SuperMario Kart for Nintendo Switch £43 60.98 £53.82  + 25%

Healthcare

I’ve always had positive experiences with healthcare in Italy, and, once you are registered with the SSN, you will get the same treatment as an Italian citizen. Generally speaking most services are free, with some, like ultrasounds, being charged for. Prescriptions are, like in Scotland, completely free! Dentistry is run on a private basis, and costs around €50 for a check-up.

It’s hard to find calpol or a similar syrup in Italy – parents tend to give their children tachipirina bambini, Paracetamol tablets, likewise, are much more expensive, but only because Italians tend to go for the liquid form, given in small droplets.

Healthcare UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
Dentist – basic check up, no other work £22.70 50 £44.13  + 94%
16 paracetamol tablets (generic) £0.68 2.34 £2.07  + 204%
Prescription charge (working person) £9 0 £0.00  – 100.00%

Children

Italians have a very child-oriented culture, and you won’t often find ‘children’s menus’ or the like when eating out. The sunshine and lack of rain encourage a healthy, outdoors lifestyle. A swim might be a few pennies dearer than back home, but the beach is free!

Children UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
Nappies, medium-sized, Pampers-type (each) £0.10 0.29 £0.26  + 156%
Calpol (or equivalent), age 6 plus £3.50 3 £2.65  – 24%
Children’s swim at local pool £3 4 £3.53  + 18%

Other costs

In general, Italy is less a country of big chains and big-box stores. Shopping, especially in small towns, is more about small, family-run businesses and boutiques. This does mean some items are more costly, but it feels worth it to support smaller businesses.

Clothes in general are a bit more than in the UK, including in chain stores like Zara. Shoes in particular are much cheaper in Italy, however, and are generally better quality. In many ways, the thing to remember in Italy is that you get what you pay for.

Other UK Prices (£) Italy in € Italy in £ More or less expensive in Italy?
Women’s jeans – mid- range, Zara-type £26 39.95 £35.26  + 36%
Hotel: mid-range, one midweek night for  2 £72 100 £88.26  + 23%
Bank account £6 6 £5.30  – 12%
Men’s haircut, old-fashioned type barber £12 14 £12.36  + 3%

In general, you’ll find the cost of living cheaper in Italy’s southern regions and in rural areas. There is also a huge saving in living here full time, as there is no council tax on your main home and electric is cheaper when you become a resident.

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