8 Best Places to Retire in Italy, According to Local Experts

From gorgeous islands to the idyllic countryside, here are some of the best places to retire in Italy.

<p>Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images</p>

Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images

Retiring in Italy is a dream for many and a reality for quite a few, too. From major cities to small towns, the sea to the mountains, and the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, Italy offers a variety of lifestyle and cost of living options. In preparing this list, Travel + Leisure spoke to residents of Italy as well as travelers who visit multiple times a year. We also joined a Faceboook group called Retired Expats in Italy, in which members from around the world share experiences, answer questions, and discuss taxes, housing, driving, and more.

According to Expatica, approximately five million foreigners were living in Italy in 2023, about 8.8 percent of the population. European Union citizens don't need a visa to retire in Italy, and they're able to access the country's public health care system. Others, however, need an Italian residence visa and a stable minimum income in order to stay longer than 90 days. High-quality health care is available for retirees who establish residency, and in the meantime, a private policy is recommended. Pension income is taxable, and in some regions, residents may qualify for a flat seven percent tax.

When it comes to choosing where to retire, other factors like climate, housing costs, lifestyle, health care, and activities might come into play. Then, there's the decision of whether to rent, buy, or invest in a building to renovate. While every retiree has different needs and preferences, we're here to help you get started. Here are some of the best places to retire in Italy, according to experts.


<p>Laura La Monaca/Travel + Leisure</p>

Laura La Monaca/Travel + Leisure

An island off mainland Italy’s toe, Sicily offers a low cost of living and a variety of landscapes, from beaches and mountains to deserts and historic cities. On Sicily’s eastern coast, the popular tourist area of Taormina has restaurants, resorts, beach clubs, and an ancient amphitheater where concerts and events are held. Catania, home to the international airport, is located at the base of Mount Etna, and Siracusa is known for its Baroque architecture and archaeological sites.

The capital of Sicily, Palermo, is a dynamic city on the northern coast with an international airport, and nearby Cefalù is a beautiful seaside town. The island is also home to well-preserved archaeological sites in Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte, and Siracusa. Sicily's interior consists of wheat fields, olive groves, farms, and villages, including many of the places where houses are selling for one euro to those who are willing to refurbish and live there.

During my many trips to Sicily, I experienced several of its mountain towns where my grandparents emigrated from, as well as the more popular coastal tourist destinations. The Sicilian people are welcoming, the food is delicious, the wines are superb, and the scenery is stunning. English is commonly spoken in the cities most visited by tourists, and in the small towns, most residents speak Italian or the Sicilian dialect. Retirees in Sicily enjoy a laid-back lifestyle, fresh produce, affordable rent and home prices, and a strong sense of community.


<p>Michela Sieman/Travel + Leisure</p>

Michela Sieman/Travel + Leisure

Located along the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia features coastlines on both the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Warm weather, small towns, olive groves, beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere make the towns here lovely places to visit and live. The main airport is in Bari, the region’s capital and a major seaport. One of the lower cost areas for retirement in Italy, Puglia is also home to historic cities, beautiful architecture, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, like the hilltop Castel del Monte. Using Bari for comparison, the overall cost of living is about 47 percent lower than New York, and rents are about 84 percent lower.

Last September, I traveled to Puglia, landing in Bari and driving south to Lecce, where there’s a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, the Baroque Basilica di Santa Croce, and the beautiful Old Town. In Otranto, we toured the 15th-century Aragonese Castle and shopped at the many boutiques in town selling everything from handmade ceramics to clothing. In Alberobello, we walked among the trulli, the white buildings set on curved hilly lanes, recognizable by their conical stone roofs. Many are occupied by full-time residents, and several are available through Airbnb or rental agencies.

Retirees living in Puglia can choose to live near the coast or inland in an agricultural area. According to Italy Property Guides, “In Puglia, you can have a quiet rural location and be near a town with all the facilities you might need. Road links are good, some towns are on bus and train routes, and fares are cheap. Big towns such as Bari, Brindisi, Lecce, Ostuni, and others have hospitals and industrial zones with large supermarkets.”


<p>Alexander Spatari/Getty Images</p>

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Located in central Italy on the west coast bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea, this region includes mountains, valleys, and coastal plains. The main city is Rome, home to one of Europe’s busiest international airports and the port of Civitavecchia. Retirees can choose Rome, with its museums, restaurants, ancient sites, and sophisticated atmosphere, or a nearby small town.

Laura Itzkowitz, a resident of Rome for several years, says, “The Castelli Romani would be a good place to retire since they offer small-town life, beautiful rural surroundings, and easy access to Rome." Historically, many noble Roman families built villas in the area to escape the hectic pace of the city. Frascati, for example, is surrounded by vineyards and has a charming town center with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops. There are also other idyllic towns like Grottaferrata, Castel Gandolfo, Ariccia, and Nemi.

The cost of living varies among the cities in Lazio, with Rome being the priciest, but even at that, the overall cost of living is about 44 percent lower than New York, while rent is about 73 percent lower. In the pedestrian-friendly city, residents don’t need a car, and access to the international airport provides another advantage of living in the area.


<p>Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Getty Images</p>

Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Getty Images

This area in central Italy lives up to its romantic reputation with rolling hills, vineyards, rivers, forests, castles, and charming towns. The region also offers 250 miles of Mediterranean coast and beachfront towns like Viareggio, Livorno, Massa, and Carrara. The culturally rich destination includes Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo, San Gimignano, and more.  According to International Living, the area is one of the most popular with expats, and there’s an English-speaking presence in most towns.

On a visit to Tuscany, I spent a few days in Lucca, a walled city and one of my favorite places in Italy. “The people in Lucca stick to their traditions, so it’s the perfect location to immerse yourself in the culture and get lost in the food, drink, and people,” chef Luca Moriconi, who grew up there, told T+L.

I've also visited popular tourist destinations like Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano, as well as quieter small towns that are still conveniently located near these destinations and ideal for retirement. In Viareggio, on the coast, my husband and I enjoyed lunch and browsed the shops where we saw many versions of Pinocchio and a beach club named for the story’s puppet. For retirees who love Tuscany and wish to live near the sea, the Viareggio area is the perfect location.


<p>LucaLorenzelli/Getty Images</p>

LucaLorenzelli/Getty Images

Located in the center of Italy, about 30 miles east of Rome, the Abruzzo region is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the east, offering coastline, lakes, hills, mountains, vineyards, and three national parks. According to a 2023 article in International Living, “Abruzzo is a region for bargain hunters because it has managed to stay off the expat and trendy radar, despite its allures. You’ll find everything from rock-bottom priced village homes to country villas, at prices that will appeal to all budgets. Of course, the lowest prices are in small villages, but even many of those have castles and monuments, everyday services, and access to larger towns.

Livingcost.org compared the cost of living in Abruzzo with the other regions in Italy, and only Umbria showed a slightly lower figure. The website also detailed other expenses, and estimated rent for a three-bedroom apartment in a city center to be $753 a month and a cappuccino to be $1.48. International Living pointed out that the area’s rural farms provide excellent seasonal produce and local fishermen bring fresh catches to the region’s markets. Their estimate for a typical Italian breakfast, including a cappuccino and a cornetto, costs just $2.50.

Places to consider for retirement include coastal Pescara, historic and culturally rich L’Aquila, Teramo on the Adriatic (home to Roman ruins and medieval churches), and tranquil Schiavi di Abruzzo. With three national parks, there’s hiking, skiing, and mountain biking, as well as water sports and golf. Universities in Teramo, Chieti, Pescara, and L’Aquila offer cultural opportunities, too.


<p>Yasonya/Getty Images</p>

Yasonya/Getty Images

This area in northern Italy includes Venice — known for its canals, history, hotels, and restaurants — but it also serves up Roman ruins, medieval castles, beaches, mountains, beautiful small towns, and cities like Verona, Padua, and Vicenza. The hilltop town of Asolo has cobblestone streets and a medieval castle. Conegliano, a medieval walled town, is located in the heart of Italy’s Prosecco region. And Bardolino, on the shores of Lago di Garda, hosts several festivals each year.

While most retirees in Veneto have the opportunity to conveniently visit Venice, they will likely choose to live in one of the towns or cities nearby. For those who want to be near the canals, there’s the island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon, beloved for its colorful houses. Nearby, seaside Caorle features similar pastel dwellings as well as sandy beaches. In the medieval walled town of Cittadella, there's an annual historic event featuring a torch-lit parade, music, fireworks, and archery competitions.

I spent a few nights in the beautiful city of Verona where I saw (like every tourist) Juliet’s balcony and statue, attended an opera at the Arena di Verona, and strolled across the bridge over the Adige river. I loved the city, and would agree with Expatra that Verona is an excellent retirement destination. According to Numbeo, Verona is about 44 percent less expensive than New York, and rent is about 80 percent lower.


<p>Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Getty Images</p>

Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Getty Images

This region in northern Italy is known for fashionable Milan, glamorous Lake Como, and many of the towns around Lake Como, including Bellagio, Menaggio, and Como. The health care system is excellent, and retirees who enjoy city life or smaller towns will find both in Lombardy. According to Livingcost.org, the cost of living in Lombardy is 1.35 times more expensive than other regions of Italy. For Milan, Numbeo indicates that the cost of living is about 31 percent lower than New York, and rents are about 61 percent lower.

Giammario Villa, Italian wine and food historian, spends much of the year in Italy and describes the Franciacorta area of Lombardy as "offers a rare natural beauty and gorgeous landscape, made of pre-Alpine mountains, glacier lake views, gently rolling hills, and, of course, plenty of vineyards." He adds, “This charming northern Italian scenario is completed by perfectly preserved castles, historical villas, and millenarian monasteries, perfect for idyllic walks, glorious biking, and horseback riding. Besides that, Franciacorta offers advanced, high-quality services for senior citizens in both public and private facilities.”

Villa points out that the area’s proximity to Lake Iseo guarantees mild winters and a moderate climate. Franciacorta is one hour from Milan, a plus for retirees who enjoy the city’s shopping and cultural opportunities, as well as convenience to medieval destinations like Brescia and Bergamo. Orio al Serio Airport, the third-largest in Italy, is nearby. Wine lovers will appreciate living among the vineyards, and as Villa notes, “Franciacorta is known to be the very best area in Italy for elegant, classic sparkling wines, with sustainable agriculture at the core of winemaking.” He mentions the excellent local cuisine, too, with examples like saffron risotto, lake fish polenta, and ossobuco.


<p>Maremagnum/Getty Images</p>

Maremagnum/Getty Images

Located in northwestern Italy along the Ligurian Sea, this region is often called the Italian Riviera. Known for the five towns of Cinque Terre, the port of Genoa, olive oil, and cuisine that includes seafood, focaccia, pesto, and vermentino wine, Liguria offers mild weather and a beautiful coastline. The charming seaside town of Camogli features colorful homes, and Sanremo’s medieval old town features historic villas.

According to Expat Exchange, “There are several retirement communities in Liguria, offering a variety of amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and social activities.” The 2023 article adds, “The cost of a nice two-bedroom home in Liguria can range from $150,000 to $400,000 USD, while a nice three-bedroom home can range from $200,000 to $500,000 USD.” Retirees in the active expat community have cultural attractions to explore, including Cinque Terre, Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale, and the area’s cathedrals and churches.

Livingcost.org indicates the cost of living in Liguria is 1.08 times more expensive than other regions in Italy. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Genoa, Liguria’s capital, is about 39 percent lower than New York, and rents are about 81 percent lower.

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.