Unlike Spain, France, Portugal and even Cyprus, Italy does not attract high volumes of retirees from the UK and indeed northern Europe generally. Yet there are around 1.5 million Britons living in Italy, according to 2017 estimates from the United Nations, the fifth highest volume amongst EU countries.
So why not more retirees? Retirement is generally about seeking an easier way of life, security, a good climate and somewhere that offers access to good healthcare. Italy, one can argue, ticks all of these boxes, although the north of the country lacks the winter sun, and the south the high-quality level of infrastructure that the north is known for. It even offers plenty of golf courses if this is how you wish to spend your retirement, but most people head to Italy for the art, architecture, landscapes and all wonderful food and wine.
Although the country does not offer the same level of support structure for overseas retirees that Brit-centric areas of Spain and France do, there are many areas where English is increasingly spoken - something you might not have found 20 years ago.
But beware there are still many websites designed to help retirees are only available in Italian or German. So why not take lessons before you go, if you plan a move?
But if, after a lifetime of holidaying or owning a home in Italy, and a certain level of language fluency, you want to make the move permanent why not do it? That Mediterranean diet and bella vita cannot be bad.
The simple things in life appeal to Italians - food, wine, friends and family. Italians have great respect for the older generation, who tend to be involved in family dinners or trips to the beach at the weekend, and frequently share homes with their children and grandchildren, and offer financial support each other.
Living close to a town or city is likely to provide better access to services. As with food, wine, cultural nuances and customs, there are huge regional differences so do your homework on where best to go. And as mentioned above, tourist areas like Central Tuscany or Lake Como are more likely to have a higher volume of people who speak English.
What about access to airports too? The northern half tends to be better connected - especially Liguria which is easily accessed via Nice, or the areas around Milan’s three airports. Choosing an area that is not reliant on just one airport can make travelling back to the UK much easier.
Rural life is slower and usually cheaper. One British couple who moved to La Marche to enjoy a farmhouse with plenty of land says that living there ‘is like going back in time, everything is laid back’. They report that they first moved there 13 years ago hardly anyone spoke English but that now several people do and especially the young people who learn it at school. There are also more supermarkets appealing to an International clientele.
If you navigate an Italian website you will find some great resources - www. istat.it is the Italian government statistics site where you can check out regions for doctors, healthcare, crime rate, standards of living, weather and more.
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Tax and residency
From a practical point of view, it can work well. You can have your UK state pension paid into your bank or post office account and ex-pats living in Italy are paid winter fuel allowance (the winters can get very cold). If you’ve worked in Italy, you should apply to the Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale (INPS) for both your UK and Italian pensions.
It is advisable to get the help of a commercilista (tax advisor) to help you sort out your Italian tax affairs. These can often work directly with the bank and fees can be quite reasonable. One resource to find a commercialista is through the website of the British Chamber of Commerce for Italy (britchamitaly.com).
Italy and the UK have a double taxation convention to prevent income being taxed in both countries. A commercilista can help you make deductions from your income (for tax assessment) if you buy things like energy-efficient white goods or cars, solar panels and earthquake protection (if applicable in your region).
You need a tax code (codice fiscale) to open a bank account - available from Agenzia delle Entrate or from the Italian Consulate before leaving the UK.
Residency is relatively easy to apply for - at time of writing. If you’re staying more than three months, you must apply to your nearest town hall (Comune – Ufficio Anagrafe) for residency (iscrizione anagrafica).
You will need to provide documentation proving (in the case of retirees) that you have sufficient economic resources as well as personal health insurance or a UK social security form, such as an S1 form for pensioners. You will also be required to show your passport. You must check with your town hall what further documentation you may need to apply for residency.
Non-EU citizens must apply for a “permit to stay” or Permesso di Soggiorno whilst EU citizens need a Certificato di Residenza. Find out more about both from the Italian State Police website, www.poliziadistato.it.
Once you have been officially resident for four years, you can apply for Italian citizenship. You may be eligible to claim some Italian social security benefits – see Italian social security benefits. Note that when you leave Italy, you’ll need to contact your local town hall (Comune) to cancel your Italian residency card - as well as moving your pension and informing the Agenzia delle Entrate (on tax).
If you are intending to drive in Italy, you need to convert your UK licence to an Italian one within two years. To convert a UK licence to an Italian licence, go to the nearest Office of Motor Vehicles (Ufficio Provinciale della Motorizzazione Civile). See Ministero dei Trasporti for the required documentation (note that this is in Italian).