Italy is a beautiful country that boasts a fantastic quality of life, delicious food and a wonderful cultural and artistic heritage. Even so, over the last 150 years, millions of Italians have left their homeland in search of a new life abroad. The reasons for the successive waves of migrations varied but were often related to difficult economic times in Italy, and, in many cases, the spirit of adventure that was epitomized by famous Italians such as Marco Polo.
When Italians move to a foreign country in pursuit of economic opportunities they frequently choose to live in close proximity to one another. This is partly because of the linguistic barriers that 1st generation immigrants face but it’s also because this allows Italians to continue to enjoy vital aspects of their shared cultural heritage, such as cuisine and religious celebrations, even while abroad.
These flourishing pockets of Italian life in foreign countries help new Italian immigrants to find their feet but they are also popular with the locals who regularly visit the authentic Italian restaurants and stores that spring up in these neighborhoods. Little Italy, in New York, is an iconic example of an Italian community abroad but you can find these communities, old and new, all over the world.
Italians In Argentina.
With a population of over 880,000 Italian citizens living full-time in Argentina, this is the largest Italian community outside of Italy’s borders. Several main waves of immigration from Italy to Argentina have occurred since Argentina gained its independence from Spain in 1816. In fact, Italy has had such a major impact on life in Argentina that it’s commonly said that Argentines are just Italians who happen to speak Spanish!
Today, it’s estimated that around 30 million of the total 45 million people in Argentina can actually trace their family roots back to at least one Italian ancestor. These Argentines are fondly nicknamed ‘Tanos’ in Lunfardo, a slang Argentinian language. The Italian influence in Argentina is reflected in the Italian-sounding surnames, the physical appearances of people, and the generally laid-back attitude towards life that Argentinians share with their distant cousins in Italy.
And so while the original arrivals to Argentina were predominantly Spanish, the country has been equally influenced by waves of Italian migration and the hundreds of thousands of Italians who currently live in the country. In fact, you can even see the Italian influence in the elegant fashion sense of Argentinians and the country’s native cuisine. All of this means that for Italians looking for a home abroad, Argentina is often top of the list.
Italians In Germany.
Germany has the second largest community of Italians living abroad, with just over 800,000 Italians currently calling Germany their home. While it’s true to say that most Italians living in Germany moved from Italy, a surprising number also originate from neighboring Switzerland. The majority of the Italians living in Germany moved for career opportunities or to study at one of the nation’s world-class universities. This means that the Italian community in Germany is a fairly young demographic compared to Italian communities in other parts of the world.
Moving to Germany from Italy is a highly attractive prospect for many young Italians. Wages for young workers tend to be a lot higher in Germany than in Italy and it’s really easy for them to pop across the border to visit their families back at home. Recent streamlining of European Union travel and work policies has also made it easier than ever for Italians to move to Germany in search of new opportunities. Italian immigrants have certainly left their mark on German society, with recent estimates suggesting that around 1% of Germans are originally of Italian descent.
Italians In Switzerland.
Italians constitute the largest group of immigrants in Switzerland, with a current population of almost 640,000. Italian integration into Swiss society has been incredibly successful and Italian citizens, or descendants of Italians, can be found at every level of political and economic life. The main concentrations of Italian immigrants in Switzerland are based in Zurich, Basel and Lausanne, where economic opportunities are much better than in the rural parts of the country.
The first major waves of Italian migration to Switzerland occurred following World War 2, with most of the migrants finding employment in the catering and construction industries. The migration to Switzerland has been so successful that there are some cantons that officially speak the unique Italian Swiss language, namely Ticino and parts of southern Grisons. As a general rule, everyone in Switzerland speaks Italian to some degree but is only spoken as a first language by about 700,000 people.
Italians In Brazil.
With just over 500,000 Italian immigrants living in Brazil, the exciting South American nation has long been an attractive option for Italians seeking a new life abroad. Italian immigration to Brazil began in the 1870s when the country was actively promoting migration to help establish a modern economy in the newly colonized nation. In modern times, over 30 million Brazilians claim to have Italian ancestry which means that newly incoming Italian immigrants find a welcoming society that is easy to fit into.
In the first waves of Italian migration to Brazil, Italians were enticed by the prospect of owning their own piece of land, something that was out of reach for many working-class Italians at home. However, today, most Italians are drawn by the fantastic beaches, the romantic lifestyle and the job opportunities in hospitality and other emerging industries in the flourishing BRICS nation.
Italians In France.
France’s population of Italian immigrants numbers almost 450,000 and plays an important role in the cultural life of the country. France and Italy have a long history of cross-border travel, that literally dates back thousands of years. Indeed, more than 5 million French citizens are of Italian descent, a figure that makes up almost 10% of the French population. As a result, it’s very easy for Italians to fit into life in France and, what’s more, many Italians learn French in school, making integration practically seamless.
Life in France can often provide Italians with educational and economic opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable at home, particularly if they are moving from some of Italy’s rural towns which are suffering from economic stagnation and deprivation. Originally, Italian migrants tended to settle in the southeast of France but in recent decades, with improvements in transport, Italian migrants to France live all over the country.
Italians In America.
Italians have been emigrating to America for generations, attracted by the American Dream and the possibilities that it afforded them. Italian immigrants have helped to shape the modern identity of America, influencing America’s food, culture and fashion. The first major wave of Italian migration to America took place between 1880 and 1924 when 4 million Italians emigrated from their homeland to start a new life abroad. Successive waves of migration, following the world wars, and continuing, more as a trickle until the present day, means that almost 20% of Americans have Italian ancestry.
Italians have certainly left their mark on day-to-day life in America, with every city having an Italian neighborhood where you’ll find genuine, family-run, restaurants, businesses, galleries and more. This means that it’s very easy for Italians to move to America, often having direct family links and friends in the country. Currently, there are about 290,000 Italians living in the United States who do not have citizenship, staying in the country on various working and temporary stay Visas. While this may seem to be a surprisingly low figure, considering the millions of Italian-Americans who live in the country, many of these migrants will eventually make America their permanent home.
Italy Has Helped To Create The Modern World.
Italians are a people that are bursting with flair, elegance and the Dolce Vita, and so no matter where they go in the world they are always welcomed with open arms. Italian culture has been embraced, particularly the nation’s cuisine, by almost every country on the planet but Italy’s fashion, artistic and automobile exports have also transformed contemporary society. However, despite the success of many of Italy’s exports, perhaps the nation’s greatest export of all has been, and remains, the adventurous people who set off each year to start new lives abroad.