Have you ever confused a holiday with life? Some locations sound so wonderful, but the expat life reality on the ground is very different from its Instagram filtered dreams. Top of my holiday romance list would be moving to Rome, Italy. So, in the latest of my relocation guide series, I got in touch with an Expater in the know for her take on life in modern Rome.
Tiffany Parks is co-host of The Bittersweet Life, an acclaimed podcast with high profile guests, discussing everything from what it’s like to live in Italy, to what it means to live.
Here she shares her impressions on life in Rome, from finding a job to finding a soulmate…
First up, what brought you to Rome?
I fell in love with Italy and Italian culture as a very young child. My passion for opera and the Italian language was a big part of that. I was fortunate to be able to visit several times, sometimes for months at a time, as a teen and young adult, and it wasn’t long before I had made up my mind about moving to Rome—and try to stay indefinitely.
I’ve been here for 16 years now, and although I’d love to live in a few other places during my life, it’s become home.
Where do most expats live in Rome? Where do you recommend moving to in Rome?
It really depends on your lifestyle and family status.
Young single expats tend to live in the center, particularly in Trastevere and Prati.
When expats settle down for the long-haul as immigrants (and especially if they marry locals and have kids), they tend to move into the outskirts where it’s less expensive, quieter, and easier to park.
There is no best place – it depends what kind of lifestyle you want.
Is it expensive to live in Rome?
Although it might not be comparable to cities like New York and Tokyo, Rome is a very expensive city to live in when you factor in the average salary.
Like in any city, rent varies drastically depending on the area and condition of the apartment. But if you want a nice two-bedroom in the center, you can expect to easily pay between 1500 and 2000 Euros per month. That might not sound like a lot, until you consider the average salary is 1200 Euros a month, which explains why so few Romans live in the center.
I talk a lot about renting on my podcast in a mini-episode called Bittersweet Moment #32: Rent.
Eating out, on the other hand, is very affordable if you know where to go. Public schools (including daycare and preschool for qualifying families) are free, as are medical costs for legal residents, although there are some out-of-pocket costs.
Can you move to Rome without a job? What about remote work?
Rome is a pretty great place to work remotely.
If you are being paid a typical London or New York salary, for example, it would go much farther in Rome. I would highly suggest trying to find a job in your own country first that you can do remotely from Rome rather than looking for a job in here, where good jobs are very difficult to come by, even for native English speakers.
Italy is famous for its nightmare bureaucracy, and sadly, that reputation is earned.
Is Rome a safe place to live? Do you feel safe as a woman?
Rome is a relatively safe city. The only thing you have to be aware of are pickpockets, particularly on public transportation, and minor scams (i.e. if an apartment sounds too good to be true, it is).
Petty crime is very common, but violent crime is rare and I have never been afraid to be out alone at night, even very late.
Tell me about everyday life in Rome.
Rome is a very social city, where people are always out on the streets, in the piazzas, meeting up for drinks, taking walks, and eating out.
Working hours tend to be long and go into the evening, but vacation time is generous.
That said, it can be a challenge to make friends with the locals, simply because Italians tend to live in the same town (or even the same neighborhood) their entire lives, so often they keep the same friends from childhood, and don’t feel the need to make new friends.
My suggestion for making friends with locals would be to take a class in the hopes of meeting like-minded people.
Another idea is to participate in a language exchange program where you trade a half hour of conversation in your native language with a half hour of conversation in Italian. One of my friends met her husband this way!
Is Rome good for families?
Although there are certainly places that are even better, I find that Rome is a wonderful place to start a family—speaking as an American where there is no maternity leave or free daycare. The Italian medical system is surprisingly straight-forward, and maternity care and pediatric care are guaranteed for all.
There are international schools, but they are outrageously expensive, particularly considering the average salaries. But local public school is of a very high standard (if anything, it’s too rigorous!) and daycare and preschool are free for qualifying families.
What’s more, the parks and cultural offerings are simply the best in the world.
All in all, is Rome a good city to live in? What are the main pros & cons?
It really depends on what you value.
If you value living in a city rich with art, beauty, and history—more than perhaps any other in the world—then moving to Rome might be a great for you.
If you put more value on convenience, innovation, or career mobility, it might not be the right fit.
A question we asked in the very first episode of my podcast is: Is beauty enough? For some it is, but certainly not for everyone.
You have to really adore this city to not let it drive you crazy. Lucky for me, I do.
What’s your top advice for someone moving to Rome ?
Try it out first. You may have adored Rome as a tourist or a study abroad student, but not everyone will want to live there long-term.
Before giving up your apartment and selling all your belongings, come to Rome for three to six months, and see if you love living here before you take the plunge.
In my experience, you have to really adore this city to not let it drive you crazy. Lucky for me, I do.
For more on life in Rome and Italy, check out The Bittersweet Life podcast