Italy has charmed expats for decades with its legendary food, wine, history, architecture, beaches and natural landscape.
Thanks to some touristy cities, areas and attractions, the Mediterranean country has a reputation for being rather expensive, however, those rumors are largely untrue. In fact, the average cost of a one bedroom apartment in a major city center is just around €558 per month. Even in the most popular cities for expats, like Milan, Rome and Naples, it’s easy to find a comfortable one bedroom apartment in the city center with rent lower than €1000. Plus, if you’re planning to live outside of a major city, you’re likely to find the cost of living to be much more reasonable than it is in the US or other other European countries.
Whether you’re looking to move to Italy for its gorgeous countryside, to infuse more pasta into your life, to start a new job or to start a business, one of the biggest hurdles can be finding an apartment. This guide will walk you through the most important things to know as you begin your rental search.
The real estate market in Italy is a little different than it is elsewhere, in that most apartments are rented directly by their owners. It’s pretty uncommon to have whole buildings of rented apartments, or for holding companies to own a large amount of rental property. Therefore, most private owners choose to work with an agent or broker to handle the negotiation, instead of spending their time handling the rental themselves.
As such, you may have luck finding an apartment online or through word of mouth that you can rent directly from the owner, but if you want to truly check out the possibilities, and potentially get a better deal, it’s a good idea to work with an agent.
Searching for an apartment in Italian can be tricky when you don’t have a good grasp on the language. Here are some key terms to keep in mind:
| Appartamento in affitto | Apartment for rent |
| Contratto di affitto | rental contract |
| Arredato | furnished |
| Bilocale | One-bedroom |
| Due camere da letto: | Two-bedroom |
| Monolocale | Studio apartment |
| Servizi | Amenities |
| Utilità | Utilities |
| Edificio moderno | Modern building |
Whether or not you’ll be able to find a furnished rental depends on what type of lease term you’re looking for.
Commonly, long-term rentals (2-4 year leases) come unfurnished, so you’ll need to work purchasing furniture into your budget. It’s important to understand that in Italy “unfurnished” means completely devoid of everything but rooms-- you probably won’t have a refrigerator, stove or even lighting fixtures.
Short term rentals (six months - one year), on the other hand, most likely will come with furniture intact.
Yes, in fact, it’s a good idea to do so. Because most rentals come from private owners, there’s usually a little wiggle room in their price, and they’re less likely to be inflexible than a major rental company would be. That being said, your agent or a local friend will have better luck negotiating than you will. Italians tend to hike prices for expats, as they’re under the assumption they have bigger budgets.
Whether you’re able to get an apartment without a job depends heavily on where you’re moving from. Other EU residents aren't required to have a job in order to get an apartment, however most landlords will require proof of income before allowing you to move in.
Non-EU residents will need to prove their legal residency in order to get an apartment. While it’s possible to get a visa as a student or under other extenuating circumstances, most visas are work visas, and will only be issued to those who have secured jobs in Italy.
Generally, tenants have the same rights in Italy as they would anywhere else. It’s usually required that any upgrades or cosmetic changes are approved by the landlord, and renters are expected not to damage the apartment, do anything illegal inside of it or disturb the peace of their neighbors.
Landlords reserve the right to remove a tenant if they’re found to be destructive, disruptive or using the apartment illegally.
Because apartments are mostly rented by their owners, rules around subletting will vary from apartment to apartment.
There are three types of contracts that are widely recognized in Italy:
- Transitory, for stays of up to 18 months.
- 3+2 contracts, which last for three years and may then be renewed for an additional two years.
- 4+4 contracts, which are for the duration of four years and can be renewed for an additional four years.
The exact contents of your contract will vary from apartment to apartment, but should include the following information:
- The landlord’s full name and address
- How much you’ll pay in rent and any expected changes to that amount
- What deposit you’ll need to put down
- What terms are necessary to get your deposit back
- What rights you have to terminate your contract early
- What rights your landlord has to terminate your contract early
You can find a sample lease agreement here.
You’ll typically be required to pay all of your own utilities in an Italian rental. These include:
- Garbage service
- TV tax (if you own a TV)
Renting an apartment in Italy can require a lot of paperwork, as owners are super careful to protect themselves as they rent their spaces out. It’s a good idea to have your agent or broker take care of it for you, outside of the actual signing of your lease agreement.
Most Italian landlords will ask for a direct wire transfer, or will allow you to pay through an online payment portal. In both cases, you should be able to use your foreign bank. That being said, consider using a service like Transferwise if you plan to open a bank account in Italy or know someone who already has one. This allows you to get the real exchange rate and cut down on international transfer fees, instead of having your transaction dinged by both you and your landlords’ banks.
Some good sites to start your apartment search include:
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a roommate you can check out:
While scammers change their tactics every day, there are a few good rules to keep in mind to ensure you don’t end up losing your money.
- Never pay a landlord cash, especially before you’ve signed a rental contract. Having an electronic trail is key to getting your money back if it’s stolen.
- Never agree to send money to a landlord you’ve never met.
- Never allow your new landlord to send your keys in the mail.
- Try to confirm your landlord’s ownership of the apartment, or confirm the person you’re renting from has the right to sublet before agreeing to sign a document.
With that, you’re ready to start your search. Good luck!
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