Italy is a nation with incredible history and tradition, superb artistic treasures and more than 100,000 magnificent monuments and buildings. Add ancient ruins, precious art, timeless cities, beautiful countryside, Italian cuisine, wine and warm hospitality and it is little wonder the country attracts millions of tourists every year. Now it is your turn. But you want to spend a little longer than a few weeks there, so how do you do that? You go to live, work and play in Italy on an Italian working holiday. Yes, that’s what you do. This will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Italian way of life.
The best time to go to Italy on a working holiday
Anytime is a good time to head to Italy to live, work and play. If you are going on the one year working holiday visa and plan to stay for the whole year, you will experience every season. It doesn’t really matter when you get there. But if you are thinking about work opportunities and things you want to experience, the seasons may be a factor. For instance, if you want to spend time working in the ski resorts then you should be in Italy during the winter months. Or, if you want to spend your time on a beach on the Amalfi Coast, being there during the summer months is when you should be there. But anytime is a good time to go to Italy on a working holiday.
Visas available to work in Italy
It will depend on your nationality as to what visa you may be eligible for. Here are the most popular options.
European Union (EU) nationals: European Union (EU) nationals can live, work and play in Italy without too many restrictions. With a passport from an EU member country you will be allowed to move freely in and out of Italy plus live and work. But each EU country has their own visa rules and regulations so check those out first.
Working Holiday Visa: Italy currently has a working holiday visa arrangement with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea. Citizens aged 18 to 30 years inclusive (18-35 years from Canada) are able to apply for a working holiday visa to Italy. This will allow those granted a working holiday visa a stay of up to one year. For more details and to apply for the Italian Working Holiday Visa contact your nearest Italian Embassy.
Other visas to visit Italy: If you do not qualify for an Italian working holiday visa or an EU passport you may like to consider investigating other visas. These include and are not limited to the the Schengen Visa for a visit of up to 90 days and the student visa. To discover more about visas to Italy and how to apply visit your nearest Italian Consulate.
How will you get to Italy?
It will depend on where you are coming from as to how you get to Italy. Many fly into Rome’s international airport, Leonardo da Vinci International Airport or one of Italy’s smaller airports. If this is how you will be arriving in Italy you will need an airfare. For an airfare that suits your budget and your travel plans check out Skyscanner. Here you can compare and choose a great airfare.
As a lot of Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea you could sail to Italy from another country by ferry. Or come in a car, bus or train from another European country.
Things to do on arrival in Italy
Before you can begin to live, work and play in Italy there are some things you will need to do first.
Get your Permesso di Soggiorno (Residence Permit): The law in Italy requires all foreigners (including EU nationals from other EU countries) to obtain a Permesso di soggiorno (permission to remain for a designated period). You must do this within eight (8) days of arriving in Italy. The quickest and most efficient way of doing this is to go directly to the Questura (Police Station) in the province where you intend to reside. You will need to take your passport, two photos, a work or study permit and an application form (that you can pick up at the Questura). Since December 2006, foreigners can apply for and renew their permit of stay at one of the 5,000 post offices in Italy.
Apply for a Tax number: After applying for your permesso di soggiorno, you should sort out a tax number ‘bodice fiscale’ which roughly translates to tax code or tax number. The number is required to open a bank account and to rent a property – which will be next on your list of things to do. While you are earning income in Italy, you will be liable to pay Italian tax duties. You can apply for your Italian Codie fiscal at any tax office Agenzia Delle Entrate.
Open a bank account: It seems to be relatively easy to open a bank account in Italy for non-EU residents. You simply choose a bank and go into the local branch and open your account – don’t forget to take your identification with you. The most popular banks for expats include Unicredit, Intesa Sanpaolo, BNL and ING.
Find somewhere to live in Italy: Finding somewhere longer-term to live in Italy may depend on what type of work you want to do, such as work in the ski resorts. Or there just might be a place you really want to live like Venice, Lake Como, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany or Rome.
Living in Italy – Types of Accommodation in Italy
Most travellers arriving on a working holiday will arrive in one of the major cities but particularly Rome. No matter which city or area you choose you will need short-term accommodation. I suggest you book short-term accommodation for one week but preferably two. I suggest two as by the time you have arrived, maybe adjusted your body clock to the local time, done some sightseeing and got your residency permit, the two weeks will probably be up. And you don’t want the added pressure of finding more short term accommodation when you are trying to find a job, long-term accommodation and doing other things.
If you are happy for your initial stay to be in a hostel then check out HostelWorld. If you want a budget hotel room or small apartment then visit Booking.com. Once you know where you want to be you will need to find longer-term accommodation. Some travellers like to housesit while others find an apartment or a room in a share house.
There are many different types of longer term accommodation in Italy. Mostly available in appartamenti (apartments) which can be monolocale (a studio), bifocale (a two room apartment) or trifocale, a three room apartment. Apartments are mostly found in urban areas where there will be large buildings or blocks of flats known as palazzo. There are many other types of accommodation including small houses, villas, country houses, vineyards and farms offering accommodation. If you are lucky, there may be a castle listed on the market for rent.
Once you know the location you want to live in, I suggest you hone in on what is available. Most long-term accommodation contracts are signed for over a year. If you aren’t planning on staying that long you may wish to look at websites such as Sublet, Airbnb or Trusted Housesitters as an alternative.
If you are considering signing on the dotted line to rent a property, be prepared to pay a two or three month deposit. Plus provide copies of your passport, residency permit and bank account details. Budget around €1100 for a small 50sq flat in Rome, that is if you rent. Or if you find a room in a shared flat in Rome budget around €650. Budget a little less in other major cities. Please only use these amounts as a guide as the price can vary greatly.
What work is available in Italy, where is it and how to find it
It is not impossible to find work in Italy if you don’t speak Italian, but it would be a big advantage to learn the language. You can do this either before you arrive, or from one of the many short Italian language courses offered in most major Italian cities. Knowing some of the local language will make you more employable.
Where is the work in Italy
You can divide Italy into roughly three areas – the north, the middle and the south.
The North: The northern areas are mountainous and have some great ski resorts providing work for ski and snowboard instructors. As well as hospitality jobs in the lodges, bars and related services like ski hire. There are also a number of lakes where people like to spend their summer, particularly Lake Como where you might find work. The north is also home to the major cities of Como, Milan and Venice. Milan is Italy’s business capital and home to Italy’s stock exchange and many international banks are based there. Milan is also the fashion capital of Italy and is home to fashion labels such as Valentino, Prada and Versace. So business and fashion related jobs might be found here.
The Centre: Italy has many grape and other agricultural areas in the centre of the country where picking work might be found. Plus you have the major cities of Rome, Florence and Pisa. There are all sorts of work available in the major cities but it will depend on the level of Italian you speak and write as to what type of job you may find. Many travellers find work in the hostels, bars and restaurants.
The South: To the south there are lots of ‘touristy’ places like Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. There are major towns like Brindisi and Naples and the famous Amalfi Coast. There are extensive tourism offices, hotels and restaurants here where you may find a position.
What Type of Work Can You Do on a Working Holiday in Italy?
Depending on your level of Italian you may be limited as to what type of work you can do in Italy. Here are some professions where you may find employment.
Agriculture: Italy’s vineyards are some of the finest wine producers in the world, but they aren’t easily accessible for backpackers when you don’t have a car. If you are interested to work in the grape areas you will need to find out exact dates when – and where – harvesting will begin. The best way is to contact the farms directly at the peak of the season, when the need for extra staff is at the highest. Local job centers, ufficio di collocamento, might set you in the right direction.
Busking and Street Performing: Busking and street performing can be done pretty much anywhere, though the most popular places to ply your trade include shopping mails, outside or near tourist attractions and public transport stations. You should check with the local council whether or not you are required to have a permit. If you are ever approached by the law you can always plead ignorance. Read my blog on Busking or Street Performing.
Digital Nomads: Italy has a lot to offer digital nomads. There is the climate, good food, affordable living costs in some spectacular locations and the opportunity to work on-line while immersing yourself in the Italian culture. To work on-line, you will need to set yourself up in an environment where you can. There are co-working spaces available in the major cities, plus loads of coffee shops to sit in but you can rent somewhere to live and work from there. I have heard Italy is not known for its reliable internet coverage so it is advisable to travel with your own wifi modem and your other digital items to continue your digital nomad life.
Freelance Travel Writing/Blogging: Many magazines and newspapers rely on freelance contributions to fill their pages. Travel editors in particular are always looking for well-written articles accompanied by photographs. There are many magazines and on-line forums who would be interested in your time in Italy. You may want to start your own blog specifically about living and working in Italy. Read my blog on How to Start a Blog. It gives a warts and all overview of starting a blog.
Hospitality and Tourism: Tourism is one of the bigger industries to find work in in Italy. Anyone wishing to work in tourism will stand their best chance at hostels and other accommodation styles though there are jobs available in cafes and restaurants. Though not always paid well, it can be a satisfying job for travellers. You may need a good command of Italian for some positions in the large lakeside resorts or winter ski resorts but English speakers are required in the English resorts to cater for the English-speaking guests.
Italy has some fantastic skiing thanks to the Dolomite ranges and other mountain areas such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe straddling the French-Italian border and the Matterhorn on the Swiss-Italian border. Each year, thousands of staff are required to work in the ski resorts to ensure visitors have a great time in the snow. Cortona is one of the biggest ski resorts to try your luck at. The season, like the rest of Europe, runs from November to April of each year but this does depend on the ‘white stuff’.
It is preferred you have some experience in the field of employment where you are seeking a position. Some of the luxury resorts may not even consider you, without extensive experience or formal qualifications and being able to speak Italian fluently. However, even if you can’t speak much Italian, there are some resorts aimed at visitors from particular countries, such as Britain, France and Germany. It can depend on how much contact you will have with visitors. If you are working in a bar, communicating is very important, but if you are working as a chambermaid, communicating won’t be that important. To find a job here you can contact resorts directly or check out websites such as Seasonworkers.
As well as the ski resorts there are a number of resorts around the lakes that during the summer months require staff. Many travellers head to towns like Como on Lake Como where hospitality jobs can be found.
Cortina Ski Resort where you might find a job
Hostels: As well as being great places to stay, hostels can be a great source of work. Many can be staffed by travellers who are doing what you are doing. You could find yourself cleaning, working on reception greeting and checking in and out guests, cooking meals in the cafe or driving the courtesy minibus to pick up other travellers from the airport or bus station. This work is usually found by ‘being in the right place at the right time’ but it is advisable to become friendly with the staff and make it known you are looking for work. You could also contact hostels in advance by looking at the HostelWorld website. Read my blog on working in hostels.
Life Drawing Models: Some travellers have topped up their travel funds by doing life modelling (or being naked so students can paint/draw you). This type of work can be found in art schools, particularly in Florence. Your best bet is to contact the art schools directly. Just a word -you may wish to visit a class to see what is required of you first. Not everyone feels comfortable taking their clothes off.
Nannies and Au Pairs: If English is your mother tongue, the work opportunities as a nanny or au pair are rife. Many families look for someone to interact with their children in English. As a nanny or au pair, your primary role is to take care of the children and interact with them. Food and accommodation are provided. Housekeeping duties are minimal, although a nanny or au pair is usually expected to do the housework required for the children. This can involve making their beds, washing and ironing their clothes and cooking their meals.
Some reputable agencies to contact to help find you a position include Europlacements and Great Aupair. If you are in the UK, you may wish to purchase a copy of The Lady. This very useful publication carries advertisements from recruitment agencies and families seeking child care help in Europe.
Summer Camps (Holiday animators, entertainers and sports instructors): Summer camps are a popular thing in Italy over the summer period. There are a number of agencies that offer positions for people to undertake activities with kids attending summer camps. From playing games to organising art and craft to entertaining the kids, this can be a fun way to spend your summer in Italy (between June and September).
Teach English: One of the most portable careers in the world is Teaching English and Italy has many English Language Schools where those wanting to learn or improve their English go. Although there are some schools that will take you on without any qualifications, the pay and conditions are often extremely poor. Investing money and a month of your time in gaining either a CELTA or Trinity certificate in TEFL will pay dividends later. Plus will give you credibility with the serious language schools. If you want to obtain a certificate on-line check out i-to-i who have a number of on-line courses available.
Language schools in Italy start in September or October and finish in May or June, and so contracts are typically nine to 10 months. Check out the websites of some of the large English Language Schools as they advertise positions available. They include Berlitz, EF Education and International House.
WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms): If you would like to experience life working on an organic farm, you could WWOOF your way around Italy. No, no, no, you don’t have to do dog impressions, even though you will find yourself digging in the dirt. WWOOF is an exchange program – in exchange for your willingness to work, you will receive food and lodging. As well as gain first-hand knowledge of agricultural methods and experience your host’s way of life. Farms range from self-sufficient holdings through to full commercial operations, with duties being wide and varied. It is not necessary to be experienced or qualified. For more details visit WWOOF Italia www.wwoof.it.
How to find work in Italy
There are a number of ways to find work in Italy. I would suggest considering where you are, then adapt your skills to what work might be available in the area. For instance, if you are in an agricultural area you could find picking work. If you are in the mountains, you might find a job in a ski resort, or if you are in a major city or tourist area you might find a job in a cafe, hotel or bar. This is when tourist brochures might come in handy, as they provide information about a particular area, what accommodation is available and what services exist.
Another way to find work is by reading Wanted in Rome www.wantedinrome.com, a fortnightly magazine published in English. It has a useful classified section on Rome and Italy for finding accommodation, jobs, travel, etc.
The Internet is another source to finding employment in Italy. Check out job sites such as www.europa.eu.int/eures/, and specialist recruitment agency websites of Adecco, Eurointerim, Kelly Services, Manpower and Randstad.
If in Rome, there is a noticeboard at the Lion Bookshop at Via dei Greci 33/36, 00187 Rome. It is about a 10 minute walk from the famous Spanish Steps so if out sightseeing, pop in and check it out.
Door knocking is another way to find work. Just put on your best clothes, summon up the courage, walk in and ask to speak to someone about employment. They can only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
What to see, do and visit in Italy
You will have it in your mind what you might want to see, do and visit while in Italy. From visiting the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to sailing on a gondola in Venice to taking a touristy photo of you holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There is so much to see and do. Click on the link following to find out some sightseeing options.
Final Thoughts on a Working Holiday in Italy
Living, working and playing in Italy is a unique opportunity that most people don’t get the chance to experience, but you have chosen to. There will be challenges and cultural differences but I hope, after reading this guide, that your next port of call is your nearest Italian Consulate to get the ball rolling. The vibrant cities of Rome, Venice, Bologna and Naples await, as do the charming villages of Tuscany or the sun-soaked coasts of Amalfi and Cinque Terre. Enjoy your working holiday.
Sharyn has travelled most of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. In her 20’s she went overseas and spent 4 years living, working, playing and travelling through many countries. Her travels inspire her ‘Live Work and Play’ series of working holiday guides and LiveWorkPlayTravel where she shares her knowledge of travel, being a digital nomad and blogging. Sharyn continues to travel and currently calls Melbourne home.