What Retiring In Italy Is Really Like For Americans

Everybody loves the idea of La Dolce Vita and dreams of one day settling down in Italy to make it happen. Unfortunately, for most Americans, living in Italy is not possible as the job market is not very good. Retirees, however, are free to come and stay as long as they like.

They are lured by the weather, the food, and the joy of doing nothing. Is it as wonderful as people think? It certainly can be but there are challenges. The culture shocks, the difficulty of learning the language, and the bureaucracy can make it less than ideal for some people.

In this article, we will go over the things you should know before you start planning your retirement in Italy.

You need insurance

Taly has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Both in terms of the outcome when you’re sick and in terms of access. It is essentially a Medicare for all system in which people pay their insurance through taxes.

There is nothing to pay usually when you get services with a few exceptions. It is affordable and the quality of care is exceptional. However, the system is out of reach for the American retiree. That is because they haven’t been paying into the system over the course of a lifetime.

You will have access to great doctors and modern hospitals but you will need to get your own health insurance for US expatriates. With private insurance, you have a few benefits over those on the public system. Namely, there is less of a wait for certain services.

In any case, you will need to budget your insurance costs to your cost of living there.

The bureaucracy is bad

Italy has a reputation for having one of the worst bureaucratic systems in the world. And it is well deserved. There are endless offices that need to be visited to get stamps for routine documents. Add in some inept clerks and it is a recipe for frustration.

If you are used to the smoother American system then this is going to prove to be difficult. And there is likely not going to be anybody who speaks English. In the beginning, there will be a lot of delays and running around when it comes to getting your situation sorted out.

The language is difficult

Italy ranks very low on the list of countries in Europe with English speakers. You will really need to learn Italian to get by. This can be difficult for many Americans who only speak English. Italian is a beautiful language but it has a lot of grammar rules that are hard to follow.

Not only that, but in many areas, people speak their local dialect which is often a language separate from Italian. If you listen to people speaking around you it can be very confusing.

People will appreciate any effort that is put in to speak the language even if it is butchered, so learn as much as you can without getting stressed about it.

In some areas, there are going to be very few foreigners so it can be isolating if you don’t speak the language. The neighbors will be very friendly and extremely helpful but you will have trouble making friendships if you can’t speak the language well.

Great food, but no diversity

Italian cuisine is the most popular food in the world. It is extremely varied from region to region with a lot of care put into the preparation. And eating with the seasons ensures that everything tastes as good as it can.

There is one downside to this, however. There is very little diversity in the cuisines you can eat while living there. You may be lucky enough to have some mediocre sushi available but that is likely to be as ethnic as it gets.

Sometimes you just want some good tacos or a big bowl of Vietnamese soup. Yet, these will not be available. And if you want to make them yourself, be prepared to be disappointed when trying to get the ingredients.

Crazy drivers

Italians are not in a big rush for anything. That is until they get behind the wheel of a car. Then it is a no holds barred experience as they fly through red lights and overtake other cars on a curve.

It is a hair-raising experience to drive in Italy so you have to be ready for anything. If you are a nervous driver or not very confident behind the wheel then it will likely be a trying experience to drive in Italy.


The quality of life in Italy is hard to beat. The weather and food are fantastic. There is culture and beauty everywhere you look. And, the friendliness of Italians is heartwarming. It is still worth it to retire there but it pays to know what you are getting into, warts and all.