If you’ve been thinking about relocating to Europe then the two countries that are most likely to top your list are Italy and Spain. Both Mediterranean countries are beautiful, have a great climate and an ancient cultural heritage to explore, but there are also major differences between the two nations that you should be aware of before starting a new chapter of your life abroad.
Cost Of Living – Italy Vs Spain.
The cost of living in Italy varies considerably from place to place. While it’s usually far more expensive in the cities, particularly Tier 1 cities such as Rome or Milan, you can live very cheaply in rural parts of the country. The average cost of living in Italy for a family of 4, excluding rent, is about 2,700 Euros per month and for a single person, it’s just under 800 Euros per month.
The cost of living in Spain is also relatively low compared to the United States and the rest of Western Europe. For instance, a family of 4 can live very comfortably in Spain for around 2,200 Euros per month, excluding rent, while a single person can live for under 650 Euros per month, excluding rent.
The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centers of Italy is 660 Euros per month and a 3 bedroom apartment is around 1,300 Euros per month. Outside of the city center, an average 1 bedroom apartment is 500 Euros per month and a 3 bedroom apartment is 900 Euros per month.
Rents in Spain vary considerably although the average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in the city center is about 740 Euros per month or 1,250 Euros per month for a 3 bedroom apartment in the city. Outside of the cities, you can expect to pay around 600 Euros per month for a 1 bedroom apartment and 930 Euros per month for a 3 bedroom apartment.
The overall cost of living in Italy is a little higher than it is in Spain although in practice this will depend on precisely where you live. Generally, if you live in a city then your cost of living in both Italy and Spain will be higher than if you choose to live rurally. Even so, the cost of living in Italy and Spain is much lower than most other parts of Western Europe and the United States, making both countries popular destinations for relocating Expats.
It’s worth noting that there are some issues with housing shortages in some urban parts of Spain which have led to high rents in certain locations. This is something which is becoming an increasing problem in Spain as the population is growing much more rapidly than the available stock of housing, causing problems with the availability of affordable homes for many younger people.
Attractions And Cultural Heritage – Italy Vs Spain.
Both Italy and Spain are ancient cultures and have a wide range of tourist attractions, important museums and world-class collections of art. Spain has an impressive array of cultural attractions, including the Alhambra palace in Granada, the Boulevard of Arts in Madrid and Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces in Barcelona, to name but a few.
However, when it comes to cultural attractions Italy is head and shoulders above its neighbor, Spain! Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world, with an amazing total of 58 official sites. Italy has an incredible number of stunning cathedrals, churches and palaces that represent numerous important periods in the development of Western architecture.
Italy also has the most famous art galleries and museums in the world which house works of art such as Michelangelo’s statue of David and the heavenly Sistine Chapel in the heart of the Vatican. For any culture vulture, there is no comparison between Italy and Spain. Every small town, and even rural village, has fascinating churches, museums, galleries and archeological sites of interest.
Essentially, when you live in Italy you’ll quickly start to get the feeling that you’re living in one vast open-air museum that houses some of the finest artifacts in the whole world!
Landscape – Italy Vs Spain.
Italy’s landscapes are one of the nation’s top attractions for tourists, locals and Expats alike. From dramatic, snow-capped mountains in the North to enchanting lakes, mystical forests and pristine Mediterranean shorelines, Italy has something for everyone.
Spain also has a magical landscape that has inspired a fiery culture and a multitude of artistic and literary classics. The rolling dusty hills and mountains to the North are contrasted by the stunning beaches and Mediterranean islands off the nation’s Southern coast.
However, there have been serious problems with the mismanagement of Spain’s rural landscapes and many areas are plagued with constant droughts and dying ecosystems. This has made living outside of the cities quite difficult for many Expats and is part of the reason why most choose to base themselves in an urban area instead.
By contrast, the Italian regional and national governments have wholeheartedly embraced a greener agenda and go to great lengths to protect the natural environments outside of the cities. As well as fostering good ecological practices, local authorities provide grants and other benefits for rural businesses that operate in an environmentally friendly way; thereby helping to protect the natural beauty that attracts tourists and makes Italy a real joy to live in.
Cuisine – Italy Vs Spain.
The cuisine of Italy truly represents the very essence of the Dolce Vita, the sweet life, for which the country is so fondly known. In fact, Italian cuisine is seen as a refined art form by many of its fans from around the globe. Italian cuisine is very healthy and is usually made using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
There’s also a vast diversity of food in Italy, with each region having its own unique culinary traditions, ingredients and specialties. For example, in Northern Italy, you’ll find a lot of dishes that use pork, fish, potatoes and rice while in the South the dishes are more commonly pasta based and use more tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, peppers and seafood. This is largely due to the availability of ingredients in the different regions as well as the result of the local farming and agricultural traditions of the area.
Spain has also developed its own style of cuisine that combines the best of Mediterranean and North Africa ingredients and recipes. With plenty of seafood, fresh vegetables and fruit, you can enjoy a seriously healthy diet if you mainly eat local dishes. As well as tasting great, food in Spain is very cheap compared to most other parts of the Western world and despite the low cost, the quality is top-notch. This is partly because Spain is one of the main growers of fruits and vegetables in Europe and consequently it’s quite cheap for the locals to buy.
One of the most common dishes in Spain is the tortilla de patata, or ‘potato omelet’. The nation is also famous for its delicious chorizo, Jamon serrano, seafood, chicken and rabbit dishes as well as the use of rice in recipes, such as the beloved paella.
Whether you choose to live in Italy or Spain, you will have easy, cheap and plentiful access to a fantastic range of locally sourced fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats and seafood. Of course, both nations also produce some of the finest wines in the world, the perfect compliment for your meal.
The two great Mediterranean nations have a wonderful culinary heritage and so whichever country you chose to relocate to you’re bound to enjoy shopping in the markets or eating out in the neighborhood’s restaurants.
Music And Entertainment – Italy Vs Spain.
Italian music and entertainment is a wonderfully diverse mix of the traditional and the modern. Although mainly found in the cities and larger towns, you can enjoy opera, dance performances, live contemporary music and even nightclubs and DJs.
Spain is famous for its magnificent flamenco music which is steeped in the culture of the nation, however, the modern nightlife and music scene are also thriving. If you’re looking for late nights in live music bars then Spain’s major cities are packed with traditional flamenco bars, dance clubs and modern venues that host DJs from all over the world.
The beach and island towns of Spain, such as Ibiza, are hugely popular holiday destinations for young travelers who tend to spend more time in the bars than they do in the local museums! However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle then Spain might not be the best country for you to relocate to.
Italy and Spain have an amazing musical and artistic heritage that is still alive and well to this day. No matter which nation you choose to relocate to you’ll be spoilt for choice and always be guaranteed an abundance of options when it comes to entertainment and the arts.
The Job Market – Italy Vs Spain.
The job markets of Italy and Spain can be quite difficult for Expats to break into. This is partly due to the language barrier but it’s also down to local nepotism and a variety of other localized factors which can reduce your chances of finding work. Essentially, it can be quite risky to arrive in either Italy or Spain without having made any arrangements in advance.
However, there are opportunities in both countries for English-speaking Expats. For example, if you would like to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) then you should be able to easily find a job in one of the major cities.
On balance though, Italy has a stronger job market for Expats than Spain does. Outside of tourism, teaching and hospitality, Spain has very few opportunities for relocating Expats, at least compared to Italy. Major Italian cities, such as Rome and Milan, are financial services, banking and Non-Governmental Organization hubs of the international community.
This means that if you have the right qualifications you can find a well-paid job in a large multinational corporation or NGO and build a long-term career in Italy. The Italian government has also established programs and benefits to help foreign entrepreneurs to set up businesses in the country, particularly in the agrotourism industry. This provides a great opportunity for Expats who want to settle in rural Italy on a permanent basis.
Of course, differences in the local job markets have been somewhat mitigated by the emergence of remote working. Remote, internet-based work, means that many digital nomads, IT professionals, freelancers and small online business owners can choose where they want to live without being too concerned about the availability of jobs in the host country. Even so, for most people, the Italian job market has more to offer than the Spanish job market does.
Bureaucracy – Italy Vs Spain.
Unfortunately, both Italy and Spain have a highly bureaucratic central government system that extends right down to the local level. Everything from your national taxes to the color of your roofing tiles can be subject to bureaucratic authorization!
This may sound pretty off-putting but once you understand the local regulations and rules it’s quite easy to get around, particularly in Italy. However, there really isn’t too much difference between Italy and Spain when it comes to the bureaucratic red tape that you will have to navigate while you live there.
Italy Or Spain – Where Should You Relocate To?
While it’s true to say that both Italy and Spain are beautiful countries that have a lot to offer relocating Expats, Italy is certainly preferable overall. Spain is mainly popular with relocating retirees and is not really a destination that suits younger professionals and families. Italy on the other hand has a much stronger job market and just as much, if not more, to offer in terms of culture, heritage and attractions.