If you’re dreaming of a new life in Italy, there’s no reason to wait until retirement. With a bit of creativity, a move is the perfect chance to ditch the 9-5 to be your own boss, or to make a sideways career step – so many buyers successfully open holiday businesses, work as English teachers, writers, estate agents, sport coaches and more. And so can you!
What about after Brexit?
The populations of member states of the EU are entitled to free movement of labour across the union. If the UK is no longer a member it could make it harder for UK citizens to secure a job in any of the 27 countries of the EU. The UK government’s guidance on working in Italy after Brexit says that, if there is a deal, there will likely be an implementation period of around two years. After that, or before if there is no deal, then the likely scenario will just be that you’ll need a work visa. It all depends what agreements are made.
Will my qualifications be recognised in Italy?
Professional or trade qualifications are necessary to work in many fields in Italy. When you come from another EU country, in general, qualifications that have an Italian equivalent will be recognised. You can obtain information about comparing qualifications and which are recognised in Italy from the Italian branch of the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) or from the CIMEA. After Brexit things may change so if you need to get your qualifications recognised, do it now. You can also contact the British Embassy in Rome or the British Consulate General in Milan if you have any concerns.
Speak to an Independent Financial Advisor for impartial advice on moving to Italy.
Invest in Italy
The Italian Trade and Investment Agency has a dedicated unit to attract foreign investors wanting to establish or develop foreign companies in Italy. They promote business opportunities, help investors establish or expand their operations, and offer support and tutoring services. Italy is one of the 3 key economies within the Eurozone with a GDP worth 1.72 billion euros (EU, 2017), accounting for 16% of the Eurozone market. It is also in a great location for easy access to consumers across the European Union and beyond. If you want to do business in Italy, you can also get information from Impresa in un Giorno, by the government.
Income tax in Italy
If you become an Italian resident and live here for at least 183 consecutive days over a 12-month period, you must pay tax on your worldwide income in Italy. To support the economic, scientific and cultural development of Italy, the Italian tax system provides for numerous benefits for people who move their residence to Italy to work or live. For example, the Italian tax system grants tax incentives for the income generated in Italy by professors and researchers who move to Italy. They may be entitled to tax exemption on 90% of their income generated in Italy for a period of 4 years. A tax incentive is also in place for so-called “impatriate” workers. University graduates, managers or workers with high qualifications and specializations could find themselves paying tax on only 50% of their Italian income for 5 years. High earners who move their residence to Italy can apply for a 15-year substitute tax of €100,000 per year on their worldwide income (€ 25,000 for each family member). For more information, get in touch with our tax and legal experts.
University graduates, managers or workers with high qualifications and specializations could find themselves paying tax on only 50% of their Italian income for 5 years.
That said, it has been reported in financial publications that, starting from 2020, an individual such as an employee, a self/employed professional or an individual entrepreneur could be subject to Italian personal income tax (IRPEF) only on 30 percent of their income (getting a 70 percent exemption) from their activity performed in Italy. This is subject to them a) becoming an Italian tax resident, b) having not been tax resident in Italy for the previous two years before transferring their tax residence to Italy; c) endeavouring to remain in Italy as a tax resident for the following two years; and d) mainly working or performing their activity in Italy. There are also plans to increase incentives to those moving to southern regions, families with children and sports people transferring to Italian clubs. I’d recommend seeking good tax advice in Italy to make sure you get the most up-to-date information that best suits your position.
Popular expat occupations
Many expats make a living in Italy by setting up their own business or being self-employed. I’ve come across British expats that have set up estate agencies, holiday rentals, B&Bs, English-speaking tours, cooking schools or teach English. In the cities such as Milan and Rome, some individuals have been able to transfer through their current employer. Here are eight work options that are popular with British expats in Italy.
They might not all realise it yet, but it can be very beneficial for an Italian estate agent to have an English-speaking employee, who can answer enquiries that arrive in English. As well as potential British, American and Australian buyers, clients from Holland, Belgium, Germany, China and Russia may also find it easier to correspond in English, rather than Italian.
The websites of many an Italian agent could do with its English translations sorting out and there are quite a few that would really benefit from some better photography or short films. Strangely photos of laundry, stairways and close ups of furniture don’t sell houses. So, you could try doing the rounds of the local agents and suggesting they give you a job. If you have previous experience of selling property you may decide to start up your own estate agency business. I have met a few British expats that have done just that and due to their professional approach, have been very successful.
Work in the tourism industry can be very seasonal. Being an English speaker can be a bonus on your CV when applying for jobs in hotels, ski resorts and with tour operators in locations that attract a lot of foreign tourists. However, a good level of Italian will also be required for the best paid positions. Companies like Club Med and Alpitour Italia employ people as holiday representatives and hotels can be contacted directly for all kinds of jobs. But, you may also have your own ideas for services you could provide to tourists, such as tours, airport transfers, or cooking classes which you could run from your own home.
Probably the most popular way for expats to make an income is by providing some form of holiday accommodation. This can vary in size from renting out your spare room on Airbnb to opening a hotel or B&B. There are plenty of large farm houses and town palazzi that lend themselves well for conversion to holiday accommodation. An option popular with foreign tourists is self-catering accommodation and those that offer an authentic Italian experience. International tourist arrivals to Italy are more than 52 million annually, placing Italy among the world’s top destinations and a great place to invest in a tourist-related business.
Sport is very popular in Italy, from football to tennis. If you have the qualifications and experience in a particular sport you may be able to either find related employment or start up your own business in this field. Sports that appeal to tourists, such as skiing, horse riding, cycling, hiking and water sports can also tie in well with a holiday accommodation business. You could offer private coaching, cycling tours, or supply a related service, such as bicycle hire and repairs.
With many people buying second homes in Italy there is a big demand for people to look after these properties in the absence of their owner. This might include general maintenance, decorating and gardening. If the owner lets the property to tourists, the property management duties may also include meeting and greeting guests, dealing with any problems that may come up, checking that cleaning and bed changes are done to standard and overseeing deliveries, such as pool water top-ups. Just put the word around the local expat community. British holiday home owners particularly tend to prefer to have an English-speaking person they can easily communicate with.
“English mother tongue” teachers are well sought after in Italy, so if your English is good this is a great way to earn some money. You will be in even greater demand if you go to live in a town that currently has few British residence. Although English is taught in schools, the teachers are often Italian, so parents become concerned that their child’s spoken English isn’t with the correct pronunciation. You could approach local schools, language schools, clubs etc. but if the idea of teaching a big group seems daunting, don’t worry, many Italians prefer one-to-one tutoring in their own home.
Parents that have themselves been to university and whose professions bring them into contact with English, such as pharmacists, doctors, lawyers and police, understand the importance of acquiring a good level in the language, so mentioning your availability to these people may lead to a chain reaction of enquiries. The great thing about close Italian communities is that word spreads fast. You may begin tutoring one child, and then get phone calls from the parents of his cousins and school friends. Some may need help with homework or preparing for exams, others you will be free to do your own lesson plans focusing mostly on their spoken English.
Working from home
If your skills lie in a job that can be done from home, then why not an Italian home? Writing, art, graphic design and website design are just some of the jobs you could do freelance from your Italian home. If your work relies on a good internet connection make sure this is possible at your chosen location, before buying a property. That peaceful rural location may be perfect for writing, but not so good when it comes to trying to send off your work.
Whether you want to just grow a few veg and keep chickens or run a large vineyard or olive grove, Italy has plenty of land to go around, and land prices compare well with the UK. A small farm isn’t going to make you a fortune, but it is very satisfying to have produce you have grown and picked yourself. When combined with cooking and holiday accommodation, it adds to the overall package you can offer your guests.
Don’t miss your copy of the free Healthcare Guide to find out how to access medical care while in Italy.
Where are Italian jobs advertised?
Job hunting can be difficult enough in the UK, but in Italy you will have the added challenge of needing to speak Italian and competing against local applicants. There is high unemployment in Italy, especially among the young, so there will be a lot of competition for any job you apply for. But, if you have the necessary skills and qualifications and can speak Italian, give it a go. In this modern day and age many city jobs are advertised on internet sites such as LinkedIn. Other names you will recognise from the UK are Indeed and Monster. You may find that your English skills are very useful for tech jobs and positions with young start-up businesses. These jobs can be found on websites such as AngelList and there are various jobs that require English advertised on Glassdoor. The more globalised the company, the more likely they are to consider employing an English speaker and it may be worth seeking them out and approaching them directly.
When applying for jobs, address your letter to the personnel director (capo del personale). Include your CV in Italian, and copies of references and qualifications. Letters should be tailored to individual companies and professionally translated if your Italian isn’t perfect. Some Italian companies also require hand-written letters from job applicants. For some occupations, employers may also ask for a UK criminal records check.
Around small towns, the local newspaper might advertise jobs and have a website, and you can look for cards in windows and ask the locals. Just putting the word around that you are available for work and showing off the work you have done can lead to opportunities. This is particularly true when it comes to work done on your own house and land or arts and crafts. Some expat forums and Facebook pages may also allow you to show off your work. In Italy it’s still who you know, more than what you know, that gets you the job.
The biggest benefit of being your own boss in Italy is having the freedom to work when you want to work, and being able to set aside time to spend with family and enjoy a more laid-back lifestyle. Italians put family, food and friends above work, and often even their businesses are family run. When they see someone working hard to start-up their own business, they can be very supportive.