Best places for expats to raise a family in Italy

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Where to raise a family in Italy?
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11 October 2021, Luke Worthington

Italy has been one of the key pillars of the European Union since its inception, and a powerful economy within Europe longer still. Combine this with a pleasant climate, a rich cultural heritage stretching back to the Roman Republic and beyond, world famous gastronomy, and stunning natural beauty, and it is no surprise that the country is a popular destination for expats. Italy has something to offer practically everyone who moves there, including families. But in a country that includes sleepy country villages, mountain resorts in the Alps, lakeside towns, and beachfront properties in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, you need to know where you want to settle. So, where are the best places for expats to raise a family in Italy?

Milan

Rome might be the political capital of Italy, but if work prospects are a part of the reason for your family's move to the country, consider Milan: the financial and industrial heart of the country. The city is one of the economic hubs of the EU more generally, a popular destination for remote workers, and there is wide range of established companies and startups based in the city, making it the best choice for expats looking to work in Italy. And on top of work, Milan is known for its high quality of life; it is ranked as the best city in Italy to live in

Unsuprisingly given its economic clout, Milan is also an incredibly cosmopolitan city, with up to a fifth of its residents being non-nationals. It shouldn't be much of a problem to find other expats and integrate your family into the social life the city offers. And for the kids, Milan has a large selection of world class international schools as well as the excellent public education system. Your children could quite feasibly integrate into Italian culture faster than you! With all of these positives you might wonder why bother making a list, but of course the city does come with its own downside: Milan is infamously expensive. You can mitigate this by moving to the outskirts of the city, which are well connected with public transport links, and couldprovide your family with an option which is a lot more affordable.

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The Cathedral of Milan
Adrian leung on Unsplash

Palermo

All the way down to the opposite end of the country now. If Milan isn't to your tastes, it may well be that the Sicilian capital is. Maybe the climate just south of the Alps is too mild for you: the year-round sunny and warm weather on the Mediterranean island is sure to please. There is a good reason that Palermo is popular with expats from Europe's cold north, and if your family likes spending time in the sun and surrounded by nature, it is hard to do better than Sicily. A little under half the size of Milan, Palermo is obviously less of an financial and industrial centre, but is still a large city, and the economic hub of Sicily, with a growing community of remote workers, so if the sun, the sea, and the natural beauty are calling out to your family, Palermo is your best bet to find a job.

By choosing to live in Palermo, your family will enjoy an authentic Mediterranean lifestyle, as well as an unparalleled culinary and cultural heritage mixed with spectacular architecture and lively streets. Sicily as a whole has a cultural and historic heritage that is unmatched elsewhere in the country. From the Greeks, to the Romans, to the Goths, to the Saracens, to the Spanish, the French, and finally a unified Italy, the island has been through a lot of cultures, and it shows. Palermo is a unique city with a fantastic energy and lively southern Italian lifestyle that cannot be matched by other cities. The downside? Sicilians tend to speak very limited English, but if you want a truly immersive Italian experience for your family, Palermo could be the perfect destination.

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The rooftops of Palermo
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Trento

Yo-yoing a little, we're headed back north to the Alpine foothills for the third entry. The city lifestyle isn't for everyone, so if your family is looking for something a bit more low-key, we would suggest Trento as the destination of choice. Trento is a small, quiet city, surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape,  with the Alps to the north serving as a constant awe-inspiring backdrop to life here. Do you like skiing, or is it something your family would like to pick up? Arguably the best skii resorts in Europe are within driving distance, and residents get discounts during the winter! 

Trento takes pride in its reputation as a eco friendly city, which if you are moving their for the natural landscape is obviously important to keep in mind. And it is a friendly and welcoming place for families. Though the city has less private schooling choices for your children than the larger metropolises, it offers excellent public schools, and despite its size, employment opportunities shouldn't be an issue as the area is known for having a lively business sector, as well as being one of the major educational, scientific, financial and political hubs in Northern Italy. If you want a quiet life, with high standards of living for your family in Italy, it's hard to do better than Trento.

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Trento from above
Wikepedia

Bologna

Bologna is a safe option to suggest to expats moving to Italy, for a variety of reasons. The first reason to move to Bologna is, somewhat ironically, how easy it is to leave the city to explore elsewhere. Italy has so much to explore, with natural landscapes that vary from mountains to beaches, with art and architecture from all ages of history, spread across the country, from Turin, to Rome, to Sicily, to Venice. But unless you are planning on living some kind of nomadic life, you will have to choose one place to settle down and raise your family. If you want to explore everything that Italy has to offer, why not a centrally located city with excellent transport links to the rest of the country?

But don't take that to mean that Bologna itself has nothing to offer; it's an amazing city in its own right, and easily walkable so when you're not travelling, you can explore it at your own pace. The city is also incredibly safe, and is known for its exceptionally high educational standards, making it a popular destination for families. And, it is quite an international city: the university attracts foreign students to the city and the affordable cost of living attracts expats, so it should be an easy place to fit in for a young family relocating to Italy.

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Bologna's historic centre
Szs, CC BY-SA 3.0

Florence

If we are going to recommend a city largely for what's outside it, it seems fair that we also recommend one largely for what's inside. But Italy has so many architectural, cultural, and historical gems, from Turin, to Rome, to Venice, it can be hard to choose. But if you are looking for a city that is famed for it's beauty, history, and culure, as a place to raise your family, we have to suggest the birthplace of the Renaissance. Located in the heart Tuscany, the most popular region in the country for expats, Florence is both relatively cosmopolitan, with around 14% of its residents coming from abroad, and quintessentially Italian, while also having its own unique flavour. 

If your family likes to visit cultural sites together, in Florence you will take some time to run out of options; rom the Uffizi to the Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio. There is a reason that Florence is a tourist hotspot. It is also rated as the best place to live in Italy, with a high quality of life and lots of employment opportunities. However, as is the case with Milan, Florence is an expensive city, particularly if you are looking to raise a family there. But if the cost of living isn't enough to deter you, you would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place to raise your family than the City of Lilies.

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A sunset over the Florentine skyline
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