Rome and Milan ranked ‘worst’ cities to live in by foreign residents – again

Italy’s two biggest cities got bottom marks this year in a survey of international residents, who complained of poor career prospects, work-life balance and public transport.

Cycling in Rome: how bad is life in Italy’s capital city really?
How bad is life in Italy’s capital city really? Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Rome and Milan are the two worst cities in the world for foreigners to move to, according to the latest Expat City Ranking by InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas.

The site asked members to rate more than 25 aspects of urban life abroad, resulting in Milan coming 56th out of 57 cities and Rome coming an embarrassing last place.

At the other end of the rankings were Kuala Lumpa, taking the top spot for overall satisfaction, followed by the Spanish port city of Málaga and Dubai.

The best and worst cities for expats in 2021. Graphic: InterNations

Rome came at the very bottom for the second year running for urban work life and placed last in the Jobs and Career subcategory.

60 percent of residents are unhappy with the career opportunities available to them in the Italian capital, compared to a global average of 33 percent across the other cities surveyed.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know before moving to Italy

Just under half (45 percent) are worried about job security, compared to a global average of 20 percent, and almost a third (27 percent) dislike the working hours, compared to 16 percent of residents across all the other cities combined.

Milan and Rome's expat ratings. Graphic: Internations.

Milan and Rome’s expat ratings. Graphic: InterNations.

“The economy is terrible, and salaries are low,” one Brit in Rome told InterNations.

Despite its status as Italy’s economic capital, Milan fares little better than Rome in the jobs arena, with almost half (47 percent) of residents rating job opportunities in the city negatively, compared to a global average of 33 percent.

Milan is also viewed as a particularly expensive place to live, with housing considered unaffordable by 68 percent of the Milanese residents surveyed, versus 47 percent of Rome’s residents and 39 percent globally.

TELL US: What is living in Milan really like?

The overall cost of living is considered particularly high in Milan, which comes in 46th place in the category. Rome, by contrast, comes in at a respectable 20th place; though fewer than half (43 percent) of residents rate the local cost of living positively, versus 48 percent globally.

The one area where Milan does comparatively well is in its local leisure options, where it places slightly above the average, with 76 percent of residents awarding a positive rating (versus 72 percent globally).

People roller skate along the Navigli canals in Milan on May 8, 2020

People roller skate along the Navigli canals in Milan on May 8, 2020. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

And in Rome, residents like the warm climate, with 86 percent rating its weather highly, compared to just two thirds (66 percent) of respondents worldwide.

But neither cities do well when it comes to overall happiness rankings, with 55 percent of Milan-based respondents and 67 percent of those in the Italian capital saying they are generally happy, compared to a global average of 75 percent.


As in previous years, Rome gets especially low scores for its public transportation system: half (47 percent) of the city’s foreign residents are unhappy with the public transport network, versus 20 percent of those living elsewhere.

Overall, Rome outperforms Milan when it comes to the ease of getting settled, housing, finances, and the local cost of living – but Milan scores higher on quality of life.

A man cycles past the Duomo Cathedral as the sun rises over Milan on July 16, 2021.

A man cycles past the Duomo Cathedral as the sun rises over Milan on July 16, 2021. Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Where should foreign nationals in Italy go for the best possible living conditions?

According to a report compiled recently by ItaliaOggi and Rome’s La Sapienza University, the answer is Parma, which was named the best province in Italy for its liveability and excellent handling of the pandemic.


Following close behind Parma in the top ten were Trento, Bolzano, Bologna, Florence, Trieste, Verona, Pordenone, and Monza and Brianza.

Milan – perhaps surprisingly considering its poor showing in the InterNations survey – came in fifth place.

The report’s authors noted that the city recovered well from the pandemic and that it scores high on wealth and income; though caveated that it’s among the Italian cities suffering higher rates of alcoholism, mental health problems and suicide.

What do you think of these findings? Leave a comment below or take part in our survey on life in Milan here to let us know your thoughts.

Member comments

  1. Try living in the province of Siena and using so called professionals.
    I would rather live in the true South, where they ask you directly for money and hold a gun to your head if you don’t.
    Here, they quietly evicerate you covertly, year by year, ruining your life.
    Never, ever put a penney of investment into this corrupt country.
    The corruption is run through the masons -every one of the professionals, lawyers, accountants and architects are involved directly of tangentially.

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For members


What changes about life in Italy in March 2022?

From the gradual easing of Covid restrictions to the clocks jumping forward an hour, here's what to expect in Italy in March.

What changes about life in Italy in March 2022?

International travel rules change

From March 1st, Italy will allow all fully-vaccinated or recently-recovered travellers from non-EU countries to enter the country without the additional need for a negative Covid test.

Any of a vaccination certificate, certificate of recovery or a negative test result will allow extra-EU arrivals entry into Italy without any quarantine requirement – so unvaccinated travellers and those not recovered from Covid-19 will be able to enter the country with just proof of a negative test.

EXPLAINED: How Italy’s travel rules change in March

Passengers can present certificates of recovery, vaccination or testing in digital or paper format.

All arrivals will still need to complete a digital passenger locator form (dPLF) – find the instructions and download link here.

See further details of the upcoming changes to the travel restrictions here.

International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day (la Giornata internazionale dei diritti della donna or simply la Festa della Donna in Italian) and while it’s not any kind of official holiday in Italy, it’s still widely recognised in the form of small-scale celebrations or marches and demonstrations.

You can expect to see bunches of feathery yellow mimosa flowers pop up in florists’ stalls, as it’s traditional in Italy to give these to a woman on International Women’s Day. 

According to Italian Marie Claire, the flower was chosen by early 20th century activists Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei both because it can readily be found flowering in the countryside in March, and because despite its delicate appearance, it’s deceptively strong and resilient.

Hospital visits for relatives and food and drink returns to cinemas

Following a unanimous vote by the Italian parliament’s Social Affairs Commission, March 10th is the date on which it will once again become possible for family members to visit their relatives in hospital.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: When will Italy ease its coronavirus restrictions?

Those who are fully vaccinated and boosted will reportedly be able to access health facilities to visit their relatives without any further requirements, while people who haven’t received a booster shot will need a negative test to enter.

From the same date, it will also be possible to eat and drink in Italy’s cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports stadiums, Italian news media reports.

Italy’s government had banned the consumption of food and beverages in these venues last Christmas Eve in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. 

Rome marathon

On March 27th, Rome will host its annual marathon once again.

Starting and ending by the Colosseum, the 26 mile course takes runners along the Tiber and past numerous historic sites including the ancient Roman Circo Massimo chariot race track, the Spanish Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica, to name a few.

That means if you’re planning on travelling around central Rome on this date, you should prepare for most of the roads to be cordoned off and for traffic to be significantly diverted.

The race starts at 8.30am, and the maximum completion time is six and a half hours. For those who aren’t fans of running, the event also welcomes power walkers, according to its official website.

The Rome marathon starts and ends at the Colosseum. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

The clocks go forward

March 27th is also the date Daylight Savings Time begins: the clocks jump forward at 2am, and everyone loses an hour of sleep.

While the EU voted in 2019 to scrap DST by 2021, a combination of Covid, Brexit, and an intra-EU stalemate (the EU Council and the EU Commission each insists the other needs to act first before anything can be done) has delayed putting a stop to the clock change, which means it will go ahead once again this March.

READ ALSO: Clocks go back in Italy despite EU deal on scrapping hour change

Italy, for one, is glad of the delays, having previously filed a formal request that the current system be kept in place.

That’s because in southern countries such as Italy or Spain daylight savings actually lengthens the days, helping people save on their energy bills – while in northern Europe the change doesn’t bring any such benefits.

Italy’s state of emergency ends

Italy’s current state of emergency or stato di emergenza, in place since January 31st, 2020, will end on March 31st, 2022, Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced at a business conference on February 23rd. 

The state of emergency is the condition which has allowed the Italian government to bring in emergency measures by decree over the past two years.

READ ALSO: Italy to end Covid state of emergency and cut ‘super green pass’, PM confirms

Bringing the state of emergency to an end doesn’t automatically mean that all current restrictions will be immediately dropped; however Draghi has already confirmed that after March 31st, some rules will be removed.

These include the abolition of Italy’s four-tiered colour coded system of Covid restrictions; the removal of outdoor mask mandates throughout Italy; and an end to the requirements for schoolchildren to wear high-grade FFP2 masks in the classroom or to quarantine if one of their classmates tests positive for the virus.