Is It Cheaper to Live in Italy or the USA?

Those living in the Americas and dreaming of Europe often think of the Italian Dolce Vita lifestyle, made of art cities, delicious cuisine, and fashionable people. 

Italy is a very different place from what US and Canadian citizens may be used to. From transport options to the layout of a typical Italian flat, life in Italy can be surprising and it is important to do your research before packing your bags.

Lake Water Holiday Italy Lake Como Basant Di Como
Lake Water Holiday Italy Lake Como Basant Di Como

One of the most important things for expats to consider is the cost of living. If, for example, salaries in North America are usually higher and working in Italy as a Canadian can be overall extremely affordable, you may have to get used to some everyday items such as TVs being oddly more expensive. Being prepared for this is just as vital as learning the language and embracing the local lifestyle in order to be happy with the transcontinental move.

On this page, you will find a detailed comparison of the cost of living in Italy and the United States. We are going to look at big aspects such as rents and average salaries as well as small things like bread and cappuccinos.

What Is the Average Salary in Italy?

Naples hidden halleys and narrow streets between the buildings - Italy

When it comes to tourism, Italy is almost unbeatable. Between world-class museums and archaeology, stunning beaches, and the exciting nightlife, there is much to see and do in Italy. But when it comes to moving permanently and working there, is it worth it?

The average salary in Italy is lower than in the US. Italians earn around 52 thousand per year on average but due to heavy taxation, that results in a net salary of 33 thousand per year. On the other hand, Americans take home 54% more than Italians and the average monthly disposable income is ranked 12th in the world with $3,258 per person (Italy features at number 39th with an average of $2,117 per month.)

Foreigners should keep in mind that Italy has one of Europe’s highest unemployment rates. It is advisable to arrive in Italy with a work contract rather than joining those who are looking for a job in a saturated market. If you do not speak the language, large cities like Milan and Rome are preferable due to the greater number of international companies and start-ups.

Average salaries can vary greatly depending on location. Very generally speaking, the north of the country is more industrialized and offers better opportunities. Lombardy (the region of Milan) is the overall highest-paying area while salaries are at the lowest in Basilicata.

Italy vs. United States: Cost of Living Comparison

Craft pizza bench of a classic pizzeria in Naples Italy
Craft pizza bench of a classic pizzeria in Naples Italy

Sure, the average annual salary does not mean much if you do not have the cost of living data at hand. Find below a thorough comparison of prices in Italy and the US.

Housing is where you can see a stark difference, with the States being 87% more expensive than the Bel Paese:

  • Internet connection: $32 in Italy, $66 in the US
  • 1 bedroom flat in the city center: $591 in Italy, $1,220 in the US
  • 1 bedroom flat outside the city center: $442 in Italy, $1,022 in the US

When it comes to food, groceries are significantly cheaper in Italy, while restaurant prices are similar:

  • 1 loaf of bread: $1.73 in Italy, $2.71 in the US
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $14.96 in Italy, $13.96 in the US
  • Local beer: $4.71 in Italy, $4.57 in the US
  • Cappuccino: $1.48 in Italy, $4.20 in the US

The cost of transportation will depend on your favorite way to move. Driving is more affordable in the US than in Italy, but Italian public transport is cheaper:

  • 1 liter of petrol: $1.69 in Italy, $0.73 in the US
  • 1 month of public transport: $39.66 in Italy, $63.20 in the US

Raising a child in Italy is less financially challenging, with childcare being much more affordable than what American parents are used to:

  • 1 month of private preschool: $434 in Italy, $892 in the US

It is easier to find a bargain for your clothing in the USA than in Italy:

  • 1 pair of Levi’s jeans: $84 in Italy, $44 in the US
  • 1 dress: $33 in Italy, $36 in the US
  • 1 pair of Nike or Adidas running shoes: $89 in Italy, $76 in the US

Overall, the United States is 34% more expensive to live in than Italy. The only areas where American prices are more affordable are clothing and gas. However, as highlighted, salaries in the US are significantly higher than the Italian ones. That means that expats moving to Italy and earning an American stipend are able to live comfortably and save money.

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