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Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

The Cost of Living in Italy: my Annual Budget

The cost of living in Italy

If you’re planning on moving to Italy or studying here for any length of time, you’re probably preparing a budget and evaluating what your costs will be. I’ve been living in Florence, Italy on and off since 1999, and believe it or not, ever since my husband and I set up a house, we’ve been keeping track of all our expenses on an excel file! This has produced a lot of interesting data about the cost of living in Italy, which I’ve been meaning to share with you for some time – so here it is! Consider that this is my personal, annual budget and not a wider study (and I’m not an expert in economics), but I hope it can be helpful for anyone trying to figure out their expenses.

The cost of living in Italy 2010-2016

We have been keeping track of our expenses since 2004, but I’m going to look at the cost since 2010, when we moved into our current home, which we purchased. So we have 6 years of data to show average costs of food and utilities (phone and internet, gas, water, electricity, condo fees, the obligatory RAI tv tax, garbage tax).

The costs I’m indicating here are for an adult couple living in a 100 square meter apartment in a residential area of Florence. Our calculated expenses include insurance for the house, and for one small car and a Vespa. They do not include gas for the vehicles, vacations, personal expenses such as gym, cell phone and clothing, and extras such as eating out. Also excluded are additional house or car maintenance.

  • Food expenses: we spend €270 per month on groceries (that’s just over €3000 per year). That’s the cost of buying food and household supplies (cleaning materials, personal products) at a supermarket in a residential area, for an adult couple. We don’t eat much meat or packaged foods, which bring costs up – fresh vegetables are really inexpensive and I buy a lot of them! I bring my lunch to work, while my husband has a company-funded cafeteria, so I suppose that we’re saving a bit on his lunches.
  • Utilities: We spend about €7000 per year for utilities, which is a huge part of our family budget. That’s considering a good sized apartment, with condominium-controlled heating (they decide when to turn it on – luckily, the place heats up nicely). Electricity is the one cost I’ve noticed go up a lot in the past 2 years – we used to spend €120 per year and now it’s over €400. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve become more generous with the a/c unit and the washing machine of late… Most electric contracts have the option to activate a lower price on nights (after 8pm) and weekends, which I always take advantage of. Our condo costs have also gone up lately since that includes the (gas) heating; there’s been about a 25% increase in cost over the past 5 years.

The cost of living in Florence: average rent

My personal budget is based on home ownership. Buying a house in Italy’s major cities isn’t cheap, and with salaries being very low, it’s difficult for a young couple to buy a house. It’s quite frequent to hear of couples moving in with grandparents or inheriting an apartment from nonna. While the market has come down somewhat in recent years, the asking price of most urban apartments has remained high, as those not desperate to sell refuse to lower offers.

Rent seems to have remained rather consistent over the years. The average cost to rent an apartment in Florence is €13,22 per month per square meter according to immobiliare.it, whose 24 month trend shows a steady but slow increase, and up to €18 per month per square meter downtown. But how does that translate into reality?

Prices vary widely based on condition of the apartment, location, presence or not of furniture (including kitchen, bathrooms and lighting!), and especially on length of contract. The “4+4” contract usually used for Italians moving rather permanently in to a non furnished apartment is much less costly than the annual, furnished or partially furnished contract given to foreigners. Either way, it’s possible to get a small and practical one bedroom for €850 downtown, and a very nice one for €1200. The same €1000-1300 will get you a large unfurnished family home for rent in the Campo di Marte area. Student rooms and small studio apartments can be had for less (a room in a shared apartment goes for 350-500 euros).

The cost of living in Italy: additional expenses

You might wonder what some other things cost that are not included in my list. Here are a few considerations:

  • A tank of diesel for a small car (we have an 8 year old VW Golf) is about €80 (we go about 1000km on that). Diesel usually goes for about €1.35 per litre. Gas costs slightly more.
  • Other transportation. I have an annual bus pass with the much-despised public transportation company, that runs me €310 per year but then I never have to worry about validating it. The monthly pass costs €35 and there are discounts for students and seniors. Fun tip: if you’ve got a Coop membership card, buy your ATAF passes and tickets at the coop and you get points for it (plus you can use a credit or debit card!).
  • Gym membership at Italy’s largest chain gym, Virgin Active, costs €85 per month. But there are lots of smaller community type gyms where you can be a member for €40 or €50 per month, long term. Usually you can get a discount by paying up front for a year or more. Yoga studios have pay as you go as well as all you can attend type options. Single classes usually range from 10-15 euros. Tennis courts cost around 15-20 euros per hour. There are also community center classes and teams for all sorts of sports at very low prices.
  • Eating out. We usually get take-out pizza once every 2 weeks, spending €5 each for a margherita and eating it at home. Dinner out can add up quite a bit more – the average cost of pizza, beer and coperto in Florence or Rome is about €20-25! Lately we’ve observed that pretty much anywhere GOOD that you eat, primi (pasta dishes for the most part) cost €10-15, secondi 18-35. Eating out at a fancy restaurant with 2 glasses of wine might be €50-60 per person; I’ve rarely encountered the need to spend more than that except on a Michelin-starred tasting menu.
  • Cell phones. We have a land line and internet in the house, but of course we both have smartphones with internet. There are some very good deals to be had for smartphone service in Italy, I think it is one of the most competitive markets in Europe. If you purchase your own phone, you can get almost unlimited calls, messages and internet for about €12 per month. If you need a phone included in a plan, it’s a long term (30 months usually) commitment requiring an Italian credit card, bank account and proof of employment, but then it costs about €45 per month with the latest iphone and tons of traffic.
  • Healthcare is free to working residents of Italy (declared, residents with permit of stay for work, registered at the local health office – the ability to register depends these factors). While the public service is excellent, it is possible to get additional private health insurance which allows you go to go private hospitals and specialists with co-payment. The SSN (national heath service) includes most prescription medicine, with a small co-payment based on your declared salary (we’re looking at €2 per prescription). Allergy meds, antibiotics, etc are included in this plan. As far as I know, the birth control pill is not included, and the cost depends on how new your brand is, but might average around €20 per month. Oddly, ibuprofen is something I’ve found to be much more expensive here – almost a euro per pill, so it’s one of the things I buy in the bottle of 200 when I go to the UK or USA!
  • Home Insurance. Homeowners insurance varies but may cost around €500 per year for an apartment. Renters insurance is not obligatory, but is a good idea to get.

So that sums up my personal budget and what I know about the cost of living in Italy – what’s your experience? Have you found things that cost a lot more or less here than where you’re from?

Italy Roundtable

Other tips on the theme of MOVING have been published this month by my colleagues in the Italy Blogging Roundtable:

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • http://girlinflorence.com/ georgette

    Great post Alex!!!! I pay way more for my cell phone each month, my last bill was something like 100€ a month, how can I get on this 12€ considering I own my own iPhone? You have to help me! Obviously there is an issue considering I’m home most of the time using WiFi here so I would advise people to check your bill as “surprises” crop up quite frequently for me and cara vodafone..

  • Bonnie Marie

    We have kept the same expense report for the past 20 years – my husband’s an accountant and VERY meticulous. The only area we differ in is utilities, we pay about €3,500 a year but we own a townhouse and have no condominium fees. And we EAT waaaay more than you two do! Our food bill is around €450 per month (just the two of us) but we like good wine and we make everything at home: bread, jam, etc. Plus we entertain a lot, so I guess on average we’re feeding more people with that amount.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Interesting comparisons, Bonnie. I think we really are pretty frugal on the food shopping, not for lack of buying good things… we don’t entertain much and we are often out for events. Actually I didn’t factor in wine costs in the food shopping, because that’s a separate bill from the supermarkets. Probably a few hundred euros go straight to a few wineries – we like to buy direct from them.

    Our condo fees are actually mostly for heating, so I am amazed that your utilities are so much lower!! What am I doing wrong?

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi Georgette,
    The cheapest traffic-only packages we’ve seen are with Wind, but then again you know the market changes all the time… You probably use more internet on your phone than the average bear, but €100 is way too much here! My phone is included in my plan with 4G and unlimited calls and sms’s (though who uses sms’s?!) for under €50 per month, and the unlimited internet AND international calls was only about 10 euros per month more than that. Phone included! Oh and including that wifi internet dongle thing too. Tommy pays 12 for more than he can use, with Wind – it was a special offer for home landline/internet customers, as an add-on to the phone bill. Methinks it’s time to shop around for better phone service!
    AMK

  • Bonnie Marie

    For sure centralized heating running on petrol is your culprit. I probably spend much more on gasoline than you because I live out in the Chianti vineyards. We probably pay the same for wine, my suppliers are my neighbors :P

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    I don’t know about that – the heating costs are a few hundred a month in the winter, running on gas (which I don’t think is the same thing as petrol but I don’t know in the UK??) and it’s way cheaper than when we had a similar sized apartment on termosingolo. I find that centralized heat means you don’t have to be stingy about turning the heat on, whereas when I had control over it, I just froze all the time! Yet it’s hotter, and cheaper, using more of it but for the whole building.

  • Katy Thomas

    That is a crazy high cell phone bill in Italy. I have wind for 12 euros a month, but friends lately have been getting even cheaper deals with 3. Check it out.

  • http://girlinflorence.com/ georgette

    Me thinks you are right. I will be heading to Vodafone today. So pissed..

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