Written by Julia in Puglia,
25th January 2022

Italy is one country where all of it, from the Alps in the north to Sicily in the south, is beautiful and welcoming. So, for a holiday home or permanent move, where should you buy? You could let the data guide you. One of Italy’s most respected newspapers has crunched the numbers and worked out where in Italy offers the best quality of life. See what they said.

Trieste, Milan and Trento have been rated as the top three provinces for quality of life in Italy. Once again, the northern provinces have rated high on the table, largely because that is where the wealth and work opportunities are.

The annual survey carried out by Il sole 24 Ore is based on 90 indicators divided into six categories to closely study the well-being of residents. It gives an indication of where people live well and highlights where investment is needed. New sections have been added this year, reflecting the current trends, such as the number of pharmacies per thousand inhabitants, noise pollution, climate, and electricity produced from renewable sources.

Find homes in Italy via our property portal.

The Quality of Life Categories:

Wealth and consumption

This is where the greatest economic resources and the highest spending capacity is concentrated. Unsurprisingly, Milan tops this list, mainly due to high city salaries. However, it is the alpine provinces of Aosta and Belluno that rank second and third for wealth and consumption. At the lower end of the list, provinces in Calabria don’t do so well. But then those living in the sunny south may measure their wealth in sunshine hours rather than money in the bank.

Those living in the sunny south may measure their wealth in sunshine hours rather than money in the bank.

In Aosta tourism services account for 70% of the region’s economic input. A quarter comes from the production of electricity. The dairy, textile and wood industries also play a big part in the region’s economy. The Gran Paradiso National Park is a major attraction for nature lovers and hikers and the mountaineering and skiing sectors are both very profitable. Where people can make a good living in a beautiful environment you are going to get a good quality of life.

Quality of life in Italy

Gran Paradiso National Park, Aosta

Business and work

This is where there are the greatest opportunities in terms of business and employment. Milan also tops this category, scoring well for companies doing e-commerce, home and corporate banking, and innovative start-ups. However, while pay can be high in Milan, you should also be aware that the cost of living is higher than in other smaller towns. As with other major cities in the world, if you are earning good money you can achieve a good quality of life there.

Where there is work and wealth it can have a knock-on effect in the surrounding area. As well as Milan, the Lombardy region has two other provinces in the business and work top 10; Brescia seventh and Varese eighth. The other regions represented in the top 10 have one province each: Friuli Venezia Giulia (Trieste), Tuscany (Prato), Emilia Romagna (Bologna), Trentino Alto Adige (Trento), Piedmont (Turin), Veneto (Padova) and Lazio (Rome).

Other provinces worth a mention are Crotone, for its high rate of youth entrepreneurship, Bolzano for its high employment rate and Arezzo for its best share of exports on GDP. Interestingly, Arezzo is famous for its goldsmiths, who process approximately 230 tons of gold a year!

Click here for some stunning homes in Arezzo

Demography, society and health

This is where the living conditions, health of the population and levels of education are accounted for. Bologna distinguishes itself in this section, due to the high levels of education. The University of Bologna is also popular with International students, with courses ranging from Culture and the Arts to a Global MBA in Supercars, Superbikes and Motorsports.

On the health front Cagliari on the island of Sardinia has the highest share of specialist doctors. It is the people of the laid-back region of Puglia that use the least antidepressants, while Tuscany consumes the most. The longest life expectancy can be found in Siena, which in 2020 was 83.7 years.

You could enjoy a longer life in Siena! ( M. Rohana / Shutterstock.com)

Overall, the provinces rated close behind Bologna are Trento, Rome, Milan, Pescara, Cagliari, Padova, Pisa, Como and Florence. It tends to be the northern cities that lead the way when it comes to hospitals and Universities.

Environment and services

Climate and environmental protection can increase the liveability of an area, while the quality of services will always make life feel better for citizens. The Island of Sardinia does well in this section, with a small province on the west coast called Oristano topping of the rankings. It scored well for both the number of pharmacies and the quality of life for children.

It was another Sardinian province, Cagliari that came top for children’s quality of life, especially when it comes to schooling for the younger age groups. It also came top for the number of paediatricians. Other provinces that ranked high for quality of life for children were Udine, Aosta, Gorizia, Ferrara, Cremona, Ravenna and Trento.

Check out properties in Sardinia

With regard to environmental sustainability, Milan excels for public transport, and Ferrara in separate waste collection, Agrigento in air quality and Reggio Emilia for cycle paths. However, the big cities don’t do so well on electricity produced by photovoltaic systems. It is the small province of Viterbo in Lazio, that does best in this regard.

Florence precedes three other major centres (Milan, Bologna and Rome) for digital services to residents. It is mainly in the South and countryside locations that the greatest delays are encountered. However, with the extra sunshine hours in the south there is more use of solar energy.

Justice and security

This is where offenses are less widespread. If you want a quiet life in a safe area, in general you should look towards the smaller towns and villages. However, there are exceptions such as Foggia, which ranks right at the bottom. When viewing properties always ask whether they get many burglaries in that area.

For the best legal advice, and safe property payments in Italy, meet your Golden Three: great estate agent, effective lawyer, property payments specialist. 

At the top of the ranking is the province of Pordenone in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It has a varied landscape with rocky mountains in the north, gentle hills and deep, narrow valleys in the centre and plains in the south. Full of charming villages, stunning parks, rivers with clear blue water, national parks, caves and ravines this province is famous for its natural beauty.

Second is Treviso, which is located in the Veneto plain, 20 kilometres north of Venice. The town is often called “Little Venice” due to it’s canals with houses rising straight out of the waterways. You won’t find any police chases down these canals, like the movies show in Venice. It has a quiet charm with old narrow streets, protected by the surrounding 15th century walls. A bonus is that it has an airport with flights from the UK.

Culture and free time

This is where there are more cultural offerings, places and services for free time. You may have expected one of the famous tourist cities to come top in this section, but it is actually Trieste that is leading the way. Trieste, spends a lot of money on freetime activities for its residence. There are many gyms, swimming pools, shows, museums, and opportunities for adult education and sport. It is top for newspaper circulation and in the top three for providing fiber internet to homes.

Neighbouring Gorizia is 4th due to the great shows it puts on. In the northwest Genoa came 7th but neighbouring Savona came an impressive 2nd with it’s good selection of restaurants and bars. The famous cities do also appear in the top 10, Rome 3rd, Florence 5th and Milan 6th. Their high ranking is mainly due to their impressive museums and heritage.

The Quality of Life rankings

From the Quality of Life rankings list  you can select your chosen province and see how it scored in each category. Out of 107 provinces these are the top 20: 1. Trieste, 2. Milan, 3. Trento, 4. Aosta, 5. Bolzano, 6. Bologna, 7. Pordenone, 8. Verona, 9. Udine, 10. Treviso, 11. Florence, 12. Parma, 13. Rome, 14. Monza-Brianza, 15. Siena, 16. Venice, 17. Como, 18. Belluno, 19. Reggio Emilia, 20. Cagliari.


Ranked number one for Quality of Life, Trieste is located in the far north-eastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, near the Slovenian border. Its port used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now the main Italian trading port for coffee beans. Its wonderful waterfront is lined with neoclassical architecture with views across a dazzling blue bay. It boasts a marina full of sleek yachts, a city lido, and sandy beaches.


The museums are mainly science themed, and there are two castles and a roman theatre to see. As the city is nestled into limestone rock, there are many caves in the area, including the Grotta Gigante, which is one of the largest caves in the world. Trieste has its own airport with flights from London.


Coming third in the rankings, you will find Trento in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy. It is the educational, scientific, financial and political centre of the area. Set in the alps, the city developed in Roman times. Today, Trento has a good selection of museums from the Museum of Alpine troops to an impressive Science museum.

Fountain of Neptune, Trento

In Piazza Duomo you can see the Trento Cathedral, which features a rose window and a baroque chapel. Also in the piazza is Casa Cazuffi-Rella, a Renaissance building with a frescoed facade. In winter Trento becomes a winter wonderland thanks to its wonderful Christmas market. Every season has something to offer among the Alpine woods, valleys, rivers and lakes. The area is also famous for growing apples. The nearest airport is at Verona.

Search for homes in the Trento area

Oh no, my province is ranked low

Don’t worry too much if your dream location is in a province that ranks low overall for quality of life. The criteria it scored low on may not be important to you anyway. I’m not bothered about the low number of libraries in my province, but am pleased it ranks 2nd for renewable energy production and has long sunshine hours. Southern regions that tend to be ranked low for job opportunities for the young, might have a better quality of life for retirees. The cost of living is usually cheaper and property prices lower in the south.

While the survey appears to be aimed at Italians living and working in the big towns and cities. It does make you think about what is most important to you when choosing a place to live. Particularly if you plan to live there all year round. It’s easy to be drawn to a pretty villa with a nice view, but local facilities, weather, income opportunities, healthcare, safety and things to do in your freetime should also be considered. Even if you choose a countryside or village location it’s reassuring to know that there is a big town nearby, where you can get everything you need.


Download the Italy Buying Guide today

The process of buying property in Italy is significantly different from here in the UK. This is why we’ve created our completely free Italy Buying Guide, to provide those dreaming of a new life in Italy with all of the practical, legal, and financial information needed to help them realise that dream.

  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying in Italy

Share This