One of Europe’s most beautiful and most historic countries, Italy has a lot going for it from one of the world’s best cuisines to a host of enchanting towns and cities. It’s no wonder that it remains one of the most popular expat destinations and a strong option for digital nomads. We’re going to take a look at some of the cheapest places to live in Italy and best cities for those working remotely or those simply looking to keep living costs to a minimum.
While it’s true that there are some enticing schemes that claim to offer free places to live in Italy for digital nomads such as the chance to live rent-free in a Sardinian village, the reality is that much of the country is actually quite expensive. Such schemes do not extend to the most popular towns and cities, and for the most part, Italy is one of the more expensive European countries for nomads, although there is significant regional variation in terms of living costs with a clear north-south divide.
Table of Contents
- 5 of the Best Cities to Live in Italy & Work Remotely
- Moving to Italy – Useful Resources
- What are the Cheapest Cities to Live in Italy?
5 of the Best Cities to Live in Italy & Work Remotely
Living in Palermo, the capital city of the island of Sicily, offers a nice blend of history, culture and natural beauty. It’s a major cultural hub for all kinds of Sicilian traditions and contemporary art and the city’s music festivals, such as the Teatro Massimo Opera Season, attract performers from around the world.
Sicilian cuisine is another major positive and Palermo is a food lover’s dream with street food offerings such as arancini and panelle and a range of fantastic seafood dishes. Exploring the local markets also offers residents a great chance to find fresh produce and develop their own culinary skills.
It’s true that living in Palermo has its downsides. It’s a big city and can be a crowded and in parts dirty place, but the surrounding coastline is spectacular and Sicily’s southerly location ensures it boasts the warmest climate in the country, another major draw for digital nomads in Italy.
Another big plus is Palermo’s affordability. It ranks among the cheapest cities to live in Italy and is certainly the cheapest of the six major cities that have a population of half a million or more (Rome, Naples, Milan, Turin and Genoa are the others).
Estimated living costs in Palermo (explanation at the bottom) – 950-1450 Euros/month
As far as the cost of living in Italy goes, a general rule of thumb is that the South is cheaper and the North is more expensive. There are exceptions of course, but Brindisi certainly is another excellent southerly option with a warmer climate and cheaper living costs than you find further north.
Moving to Puglia, a picturesque region which forms the heel of Italy’s famous “boot” has gained popularity with foreigners in recent years and it ranks amongst the cheapest places to live in Italy for retirees or anyone who will essentially make the same amount of money, no matter where they are located.
Brindisi is known for its stunning coastline which stretches along the Adriatic Sea. With crystal clear waters and sandy beaches like Torre Guaceto and Punta Penna Grossa, it serves up a range of opportunities for chilling out on the beach or getting involved in water activities.
It also boasts a picture-perfect harbour, full of colourful fishing boats and a distinctive waterfront promenade where you can indulge in the delights of Apulian cuisine and enjoy everything from raw oysters and grilled octopus to fine pasta dishes in a city that is famous for its olive oil production.
Estimated living costs in Brindisi – 950-1450 Euros/month
Ranking as the joint cheapest of the 26 Italian cities we looked at (see the table below for a full comparison), Perugia is a fantastic option for anyone wanting to live in Italy on a tight budget with potential savings of 400+ Euros per month when compared with more expensive cities such as Rome or Milan.
The capital of the Umbria region, located 170 km north of Rome, Perugia may not have a climate to rival that of Brindisi or Palermo, but has plenty of charm with a well-preserved medieval center and ancient Etruscan roots. At every turn in the old city, you’ll discover hidden corners, ancient arches, and quaint squares that may just serve up a slice of the real Italy.
The city is still a real melting pot though which attracts a large international student community at the renowned University for Foreigners. That can make life easier for people from overseas looking to move here for a short time as there’s more assistance in English than you might find in some Italian cities.
Perugia may not boast a coastal location, but the surrounding Umbrian countryside is full of beautiful trails and pretty villages and it’s a good spot for hiking with the nearby Lake Trasimeno providing opportunities for a range of outdoor activities. Wine lovers will also feel at home here given the region’s many popular vineyards.
Estimated living costs in Perugia – 900-1400 Euros/month
Pisa is one of Italy’s best known cities, largely because of its iconic leaning tower which attracts droves of tourists on a daily basis, but it’s actually a relatively affordable place to live and a good option for anyone looking at basing themselves in Tuscany.
This riverside city is small but has some lively little squares which come alive at night as popular places for locals and foreigners alike to gather, chat, eat and drink. If you want something a bit bigger and busier, Florence is only an hour away by train, while there are several seaside resorts that are only a short drive or bus ride away.
Those looking to spend a full year or more in Pisa will also get to appreciate the city’s varied cultural calendar which is impressive given the limited size of the place.
This includes everything from art exhibitions, music festivals, and theatre performances while the true highlight is the Luminara di San Ranieri, a spectacular festival where the city is illuminated by thousands of candles, creating a truly special atmosphere.
Estimated living costs in Pisa – 1050-1550 Euros/month
Finally we head to Abruzzo, a picturesque region to the east of Rome home to an Adriatic coastline and the Apennine Mountains. L’Aquila is the capital of Abruzzo but suffered extensive damage in a 2009 earthquake but the port city of Pescara is the largest in the region and a good base for both coastal and mountain adventures.
In the summer, Pescara is a fantastic place to be. It’s known for its long sandy beaches and blue waters and you’ll have good access to a nice beach wherever you live in Pescara. Its beach promenade (Lungomare) is also one of the jewels of the city with a line of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Nature lovers will also want to get out to the Majella National Park and the Gran Sasso d’Italia mountain range nearby. Hiking and mountain biking are popular activities in the summer months while skiing is possible in the winter months, giving Pescara year-round appeal as a city base for adventure seekers.
Estimated living costs in Pescara – 1100-1700 Euros/month
Moving to Italy – Useful Resources
- Consider doing an online Italian course with Rosetta Stone before moving to Italy, as the level of English is not particularly high by European standards.
- If you’re heading for a smaller town or village, for example one of those involved in Italy’s “free house” or “free rent schemes”, you may need a vehicle to get around given the limited transport links in more rural areas. Discover Cars are a good option for renting a car on arrival in Italy.
- Idealista is one of the best online sites to search for longer term accommodation.
- Surf online securely and access all your favourite apps like you’re at home in Italy with NordVPN.
What are the Cheapest Cities to Live in Italy?
|City||Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in Euros)|
Of the 26 cities featured in the table above, the cheapest places to live in Italy are Perugia and Lecce. The former is detailed above while Lecce is located in the southern Apulia region, only 40 km from Brindisi and 150 km from Bari, another of Italy’s more affordable larger cities.
Apulia and Sicily are some of the cheapest places to live by the sea in Italy and both have a number of smaller towns that may offer even better value for money.
Much will depend on what you are after though. If big city living is your thing, then Rome or Milan rank as the best places to live in Italy, although you’ll have to pay a bit more for the privilege. That’s particularly true in the northern city of Milan which is Italy’s most expensive.
The north is home to a number of Italy’s largest cities and is the powerhouse of its economy. Those places are almost always more expensive than their southerly counterparts but you can find reasonable value in the North too with Turin relatively affordable for example.
Italy Estimated Living Costs Calculation:
To help calculate the cost of living in Italy in the table and the cities featured above, we used Numbeo’s data to help. The estimated living costs are only designed to be a guide though and may not accurately represent what you would spend should you move to Italy.
For each city, a lower and upper figure is given. The lower one may be a realistic budget for total living costs (including rented accommodation) for students in Italy or remote workers who are happy to share a flat and are looking to live on a tighter budget.
The upper figure in each case would offer a lot more freedom in terms of finding a flat of your own and enjoying more trips and evenings out. It may also be more realistic for digital nomads who are only looking to spend a few weeks or months in a city, as opposed to a year or more which would make it easier to rent a property like a local and pay less as a result.