It’s often said that you can enjoy a very high quality of life at a low cost in Italy, particularly compared to other European Union countries. While this is certainly true in many rural parts of the country, where a 2 bedroom apartment can easily sell for as little as 50,000 Euros, it’s not always clear if this is really the case overall.
The prices in Italy’s cities, such as Milan, Florence, Rome or Venice for example, can be very high. This includes property prices, restaurants, tickets for entertainment and even your daily groceries. Even so, it’s difficult to properly compare the average prices across the spectrum in Italy with the rest of the European Union.
Research conducted by Eurostat, on behalf of the European Union, has carefully surveyed and compared the prices of a whole range of goods and services throughout the EU. This is an extremely reliable source and can be used to gauge exactly how prices in Italy compare with their European neighbors.
Eurostat Consumer Price Level Comparison
You can use the Eurostat Consumer Price Level Comparison to discover how Italy compares to the rest of the EU but to save you time I have analyzed some of the results.
Food & Groceries.
Italy is famous for its superb cuisine and is the home of some of the world’s favorite recipes. People in Italy take their food very seriously and generally have a healthy diet and lifestyle as a result. However, when it comes to the price of buying your groceries, how do Italian prices compare to the rest of the continent?
The short answer is that food prices in Italy are 12.7% higher than the EU average. There is a wide diversity of price ranges throughout the EU and so even though Italy is over the average it’s still much cheaper than countries such as Switzerland, which is 63.4% above the average and Norway which is 60.9% above the average. The food in Italy is also much cheaper than many countries in the EU including France, Ireland, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Iceland, among others.
To put this in context, the average Italian household pays around 400-500 Euros per month on groceries. It’s worth remembering that these prices are averaged across the whole country, so you can still find great bargains and lower food prices in Italy if you shop in the farmers’ markets and larger box chain stores.
Housing And Home Furnishings.
The cost of renting and buying a property as well as maintenance, repairs and utilities in Italy are 8.9% below the EU average. This is fantastic for relocating Expats and is often cited as a major reason for making the move abroad.
Once again, this is an average price for Italy so you can find much cheaper property prices in rural parts of the country. On the other hand, in rural parts of the country you might find that utilities and other services are more expensive.
When it comes to home furnishings, such as carpets, furniture and household items, Italy is 11.9% more expensive than the EU average. Don’t forget that most rentals and properties that you buy will not include the furniture, so you’ll either have to buy your own or ship your old furniture from home with you.
This means that if you’re considering relocating to Italy on a fairly long-term basis it is probably worth shipping your furniture from home instead of buying new items when you arrive.
Although the majority of Italians own their own car, the public transport services in most of Italy are modern and well maintained. In some parts of the country the coverage is very poor but in all the cities and many provinces public transport, including trains, buses and ferries, are excellent.
The cost of transport services in Italy is an astounding 21.2% lower than the EU average. This is an encouraging finding for backpackers, tourists on a budget and anyone who relies on public transport during their day-to-day lives in Italy.
Internet, postal services and telephone prices in Italy are 11.2% over the EU average. On top of this, internet services in Italy can be quite poor, especially in rural areas, and the post office is usually crowded with long lines! Therefore, considering that the quality of these services is not very good, the high cost is difficult to justify.
Italy is one of the more expensive countries in the EU for communications although there are at least 10 countries where the prices are even higher. However, the good news is that internet and mobile phone services are improving and the costs have been coming down in recent years.
Hotels, Hostels And Eating Out.
When it comes to eating out or staying in a hotel Italy is 3.9% more expensive than the EU average. This includes restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and hostels. This is partly because tourism is such a major sector in the Italian economy and so it’s not particularly surprising that prices will be a little inflated.
Of course, you can find some very cheap hotels and restaurants in Italy but in the major cities, the prices can be pretty steep. Prices near to the top tourist attractions will always be higher than in neighborhoods that are primarily inhabited by local Italians.
You can always find cheaper street vendors to get low-cost meals while you’re out in the town, even close to the tourist hotspots. Equally, if you’re staying in another part of the country on vacation then you can save money by renting an apartment or staying in a small, family-run B&B instead of one of the large chain hotels.
Cars, Motorbikes And Bicycles.
Italy has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the EU, with more than 60% of people owning their own car. However, the price of buying a new or second-hand car, motorbike or bicycle is 2.3% above the EU average. This includes the cost of repairs and maintenance.
Public transport in Italy has been improving for several decades and now it’s perfectly feasible to live in any of the big cities without needing your own car. On the other hand, rural public transport services are very poor with limited timetables and frequent cancellations. Therefore, in rural parts of Italy it’s essential to have a car or motorbike otherwise getting from place to place can be very difficult.
Clothing And Footwear.
Clothes, shoes, accessories and other fashion items are very good value in Italy, particularly when you consider that the country has some of the top quality goods in the world. The prices of clothing, footwear and accessories are 1.1% above the European average but given the superior quality of the goods available, it’s a price worth paying!
Recreational and cultural activities in Italy cost 0.7% more than the EU average. This includes books, newspapers, gardening equipment, cameras and audio-visual items such as TVs, radios and music. This means that you can have a good quality of life and pursue your hobbies in Italy without spending a fortune.
Alcohol And Cigarettes.
Alcohol is a major part of the Italian Dolce Vita and so it’s great news for everyone that alcohol and tobacco products are 5.1% below the EU average. You can find lovely wines, beers and spirits at very low prices in all the big supermarkets and in smaller wine shops which are scattered throughout every city, town and village in the country!
Tobacco is also cheaper than in other parts of the EU although prices are slowly rising due to increasing government taxes. In fact, alcohol and tobacco experience some of the highest levels of inflation in the Italian economy so you should probably expect these prices to continue rising in the coming years.
Is Italy Cheap Compared To The Rest Of The European Union?
Italy is surprisingly expensive compared to many other countries in the European Union, although if you want to save money you can still live an affordable lifestyle without sacrificing quality. For example, if you want to find cheap, high-quality food then you should do your grocery shopping at the local markets where you can find fresh ingredients at very competitive prices. You can also keep an eye out for discounts in the larger supermarkets and avoid shopping in the tourist areas in the center of town.
Similarly, if you stay in hotels and eat out in restaurants Italy can be quite expensive. However, if you rent or buy an apartment you can get some great bargains compared to other countries in Western Europe. Cooking your own meals at home is another easy way to save a lot of money while you’re in Italy.
Therefore, depending on your personal choices, you can live extremely comfortably in Italy even if you have a tight budget. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, if you want to treat yourself to a fine meal in a restaurant or stay at a beautiful hotel you can do so in Italy whenever you want!