Imagine retiring to the stunning Italian countryside, having cities such as Florence, Venice or Rome within an easy drive, of waking up to views across the stunning Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian or Mediterranean Seas each day? Retirement in Italy can be a dream come true – the cost of living in Italy is low, the standard of living is exceptionally high and what’s more, Italy is a welcoming nation where international retirees quickly feel at home.

So if you’re considering retirement in Italy we don’t blame you!  In this article we’ll look at some of the practicalities you need to get in order to facilitate your move to Italy and your eventual settling down into retirement in one of the most stunning nations in Europe.

The first thing you need to know is that if you’re a citizen of the European Union you are free to retire to Italy without the need for a visa for entry.  Having said that, once you do arrive in Italy you have to register your presence with the local authorities by going along to the nearest police headquarters (questura) and applying for a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno).

If you herald from any other nation you will need permission to retire to Italy and you will need to demonstrate sufficient proof of income so that the authorities see that you can support yourself fiscally speaking in retirement.  Contact your nearest Italian consulate and find out about the paperwork you will have to complete and the proof of income that you will have to provide.  Note: this proof of income has to be passive income – i.e., you should not need to keep working when living in Italy in order to support yourself if you’re asking to move there to retire.  What this means is that your proof of income should be in the form of pension payments for example.

If you are in receipt of pension income no matter where you’re moving from, find out from your pension provider whether they will pay your income into an Italian bank account.  If they won’t then you will need to keep your old account going and ensure you have access to it via the Internet or through telephone banking so that you can have easy access to your funds.

Once you have residency in Italy sorted out you can apply to join the national health scheme.  There is a reciprocal agreement between the UK and Italy so that UK retirees can have access to free basic healthcare in Italy in retirement assuming they have paid into the UK state healthcare scheme through taxes and National Insurance contributions during their working life.

To apply to join you register with the local health authority (unita sanitaria locale) and get your health number.  With this number you can register with a local doctor.  Because the Italian public health care system is underfunded and overstretched, many who retire to Italy choose to take out some form of private health insurance to ensure they will be well looked after if they need to be.  Premiums need not be expensive – but shop around, look at the small print, consider getting critical care cover so that if you are taken ill for a long period you will have someone to take care of you and also make sure the excess you will have to pay if you make a claim is affordable to you.

Finally a word about the cost of living in Italy.  When buying property in Italy there are many costs and fees and charges to take in to consideration and these can push the purchase price up by as much as 15 – 18%.  Having said that, if you steer clear of Tuscany, Umbria and the Italian lakes and cities you will find that property can be bought for a fraction of the UK price.  If you then move to live in Italy and embrace the Italian way of life you will find your cost of living dramatically declines.  Italians shop locally and buy produce when it is in season, what’s more, they tend to cook using fresh ingredients…shop and cook in the same way and avoid imported goods and your cost of living will be vastly reduced.

The one commodity that is expensive is electricity though – but if you head south and enjoy a finer Mediterranean climate, you will not need the lights on as long by day and you will not have to heat your home for more than four months of the year maximum.

Retirement in Italy can indeed be the realisation of the good life…just take your time to get everything in place before you move, be forewarned about the intricacies of bureaucracy and spend time getting to know a region before you commit to buying a property there and you will quickly settle in happily to your new life abroad.