Working in Italy
Find out about employment opportunities for UK graduates in Italy, along with useful insights into what it’s like to live and work there.
This article was last updated before the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020. It therefore does not reflect the restrictions to travel and changes to guidance brought about by the pandemic or the UK leaving the European Union. If you'd like to find out more, the foreign travel advice on GOV.UK includes information specific to every country.
Your pursuit of la dolce vita in Italy might not be straightforward. Unemployment is relatively high when compared to other EU countries, although it has been declining in recent years. A need for skilled workers in areas such as the digital, technology, chemical and engineering industries, however, might work in your favour. The level of bureaucracy in Italy can seem excessive and you’ll probably have to jump through a few hoops during the first few weeks or months.
Nonetheless, once you’ve overcome any barriers, a life in Italy could offer you weekdays punctuated by perfect espressos or delicious ice creams, and weekends soaking up the rich culture and history found in so many of its beautiful cities.
Where could you work in Italy?
Employers in the manufacturing, finance and business sectors are concentrated in small and medium-sized organisations in the north of Italy. Opportunities to work in agriculture, on the other hand, are concentrated in the southern regions.
Major industries: agriculture, automobile industry, service sector, steel, textiles, tourism.
You could apply to work for one of these major Italian employers:
- Enel (an organisation that specialises in the generation, distribution and sale of electricity and gas, along with the provision of electric transportation and storage services)
- Eni (an oil and gas company that explores for, produces, refines and sells oil, gas, electricity and chemicals)
- Intesa Sanpaolo (a banking and financial services firm)
- Lamborghini (a luxury car maker, headquartered near Bologna)
- Poste Italiane (a company offering services in postage, finance and insurance).
Skills in demand
Industries and sectors in which there is a demand for skilled workers include:
- digital and technology
While you will find a reasonable level of English language ability in the northern cities that attract many tourists (such as Milan and Florence), this is not the case across the whole of Italy. Therefore, being able to communicate effectively in Italian will be a huge advantage when looking for work, particularly if you are applying for graduate-level vacancies.
If you get a job with an English-speaking employer and don’t need to be a proficient Italian speaker for work, you will nonetheless find living and travelling around the country easier with at least a basic grasp of the language.
Are UK qualifications recognised?
Italy is part of the Bologna Process and is a member of the European higher education area, so there is a mechanism in place for recognising the value of UK qualifications. The system for recognising UK degrees in Italy and other EU countries will be reviewed while the UK is in the transition period following its withdrawal from the EU. For updates, check the information and news on the transition period, which is due to end on 31 December 2020, on GOV.UK.
What’s it like to work in Italy?
Working hours: the average workday for an employee in Italy lasts for 8 hours. Overtime is considered to be normal practice in many workplaces. Legally, your average daily working hours (including overtime) should not be higher than 48 hours.
Holidays: employees have the right to at least four weeks of paid holiday.
Income tax: tax on income ranges from 23% to 43% and is higher for those who earn more. Workers pay this if they have lived in Italy for more than 193 consecutive days over a period of 12 months. There are also regional taxes of up to 3.33% and municipal taxes of 0.01% to 0.9%, set by each region and municipality.
Remember to check your UK tax and national insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), to ensure you aren’t losing any UK pension rights.
Where to find jobs
Take a look at the TARGETjobs international vacancies page.
You may be able to find work in Italy through EURES, an agency of the EU which maintains a database of jobs to support free movement of workers. UK citizens can continue to make use of EURES services until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. You may also be able to find work through EPSO, which selects staff to work in EU institutions and agencies.
You can also find jobs in Italy through these websites:
If working in Milan, Naples or Rome sounds appealing, take a look at the following websites:
Work experience, internships and volunteering
Italy is involved in Erasmus+, the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014 to 2020, which covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities and enables both undergraduate and postgraduate students to study abroad for 3 to 12 months.
The UK government agreed to continue funding Erasmus for at least the 2019 to 2020 academic year, but check regularly for updates on the Erasmus+ website.
Big companies such as those mentioned in the leading employers section above may offer internships in the same way as in the UK, and these opportunities will be listed on their websites.
Other organisations offering internships in Italy include the following:
- AIESEC, an international work experience programme, offers internships lasting 6 to 18 months, as well as volunteering opportunities.
- IVS, the International Voluntary Service, provides long-term and short-term volunteering projects.
Teaching English as a foreign language in Italy
You could become an English language assistant in Italy through the British Council. Most of these opportunities are in state secondary schools, although some are in primary schools. To qualify, you’ll need to have or be studying for an undergraduate degree, have a UK passport and have B1-level Italian (approximately equivalent to A level standard). It’s worth keeping in mind that 60 posts are available with the British Council every year and undergraduates who are studying Italian with a compulsory year abroad are prioritised, so you may face stiff competition.
If your Italian language ability is not particularly strong, you may find it easier to secure a job at a private language institute or international school. Nonetheless, even at these institutions, you will generally be expected to know Italian to some degree. Many will require a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification, as well as an undergraduate degree in any subject. Our TEFL/TESL teacher job description gives more information about what is involved in working in this area.
A third option is to search for more informal opportunities to teach English in Italy. You might, for example, become an au pair (someone who lives with a host family and helps them out with childcare and light housework responsibilities, in exchange for free accommodation and a small amount of money) for a family looking for someone who can teach their children English.
Job hunting and CV tips
The structure and content of your CV shouldn’t be very different from one for a job in the UK. Below are a few changes you might consider, but – for the most part – following our general CV tips will help you to impress Italian recruiters.
- Add a note on your personal data. According to Italian legislation, companies can use your personal data and prospective employees usually have to express agreement with this. It’s a good idea to mention the law (675/96) at the end of your CV and state that you’re willing for your information to be used in accordance.
- Keep the hobbies section short. Italian recruiters will often prioritise your qualifications over your hobbies. So, if you do write about them, choose activities that are relevant to the position and keep the description brief.
- Clearly highlight your Italian language skills. Knowing Italian will likely improve your employability, so make sure a recruiter can see this – along with any supporting qualifications.
Using networking to progress
Traditionally, trust built through personal relationships is important in Italian business culture, so having personal connections in your industry may be beneficial. Once you’ve secured and started your job or work experience placement, make the most of opportunities in the workplace and during networking or social events to talk to others in the industry. Take a look at our advice articles on networking.
Do you need a visa to work in Italy?
UK nationals do not currently need a visa to work in Italy. Any updates to how this will change in 2021 can be found on the GOV.UK website.
In order to remain in the country for more than three months, you will have to register as an Italian resident at your local town hall or comune. If you secure residency in Italy before the end of the EU transition period (31 December 2020), you will be able to remain in the country after that date.
Living in Italy
Cost of living: the cost of living in Italy is relatively high when compared with that of other countries in the EU. Food and the costs associated with owning a car can be particularly expensive, yet the public transport system is among the cheapest in the EU. The big cities and regions of the north are more expensive, whereas living in smaller towns in the south is more affordable.
Healthcare: UK citizens in Italy can access healthcare in Italy on a par with Italian residents until the end of the transition period. See the guidance on GOV.UK for more on what you need to access this.
Public healthcare in Italy is free for residents for the most part. There is no charge attached to inpatient care, primary care or visiting a doctor. There is a small co-payment required for some services and treatments (such as prescription medicines and diagnostic procedures), but this is based on how much you earn and so should not make it difficult for you to access the healthcare you need.
Laws and customs to be aware of: Due to the high level of bureaucracy in Italy, you might face difficulties when obtaining registration of residence, visas or work permits, and be required to provide many documents.
According to Italian law, you must be able to show proof of identity at all times. Although a photocopy of the data page of your passport will generally be enough, it’s advised that you also carry a second form of photo ID. If you’re stopped by the police while driving, you will probably be asked to show your full passport.
Tickets for public transport must be endorsed in a ticket machine before the start of a trip, in order to avoid being fined.
It is illegal to take sand, shells or pebbles from beaches in Italy. Similarly, picking flowers, plants and herbs from mountains or areas of woodland isn’t permitted.
Sitting on the steps of monuments or eating and drinking right next to the main churches, historic monuments and public buildings is illegal in certain regions. In addition, entering or bathing in public fountains is forbidden.
Major religion: Christianity (Roman Catholicism)
Type of government: parliamentary republic