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There are many reasons why Italy attracts so many expats. It is the land of delicious food, pleasant weather, excellent wine and vibrant people.
Moving to Rome in particular must sound to an expat like a dream come true, an invite to live la dolce vita, but in some regards it means settling in a metropolis like any other, with traffic, pollution, petty crime and an overstrained transport infrastructure.
If you’re about to relocate to Rome and live la dolce vita, here is some essential information for your settling into daily life in the Eternal city.
Considering Rome’s location, it should not come as a surprise that the city has a typical Mediterranean climate, with rainy winters and hot summers. When you prepare for moving to Rome, you should take the climate into account, especially if you arrive in summer: in July and August, average temperatures range from 20°C at night to 30°C or more during the day. In fact, the highest temperature ever recorded in downtown Rome is 40°C.
Rome, like any western european capital is a safe and relatively crime-free place. Public drunkenness and violent crime are very rare and you can walk practically everywhere without being harmed by anybody.
But as often happens in an unfamiliar environment, expats moving to Rome can be concerned about their safety.
The most frequent crimes you might come across are, however, pick-pocketing (pickpockets are more active in the main train station Termini and also in public transport vehicles, particularly on touristy bus line such as no 64, dubbed the “wallet express”), purse-snatching, and vehicle theft.
Therefore you should never leave your valuables in the open. Don’t even keep them in a backpack, but use an inside pocket or a carefully concealed money belt.
Leave your passport and your most valuable belongings at home and make sure to have the number of your embassy and bank at hand in case you lose a passport or credit card after all. If you’re new in the city, you should remember not to take an unlicensed taxi and to avoid unofficial moneychangers, vendors, and guides you bump into in the street: the risk of some scammer ripping you off is too great. Furthermore, don’t loiter near Stazione Termini or in underground stations at night, and beware of remote roads and deserted areas in the outskirts. All in all, however, moving to Rome is largely safe. You shouldn’t be afraid to discover this magnificent city on your own.
If you are still abroad but about to move to Rome or if you have just arrived, consult POST IT IN ITALY.com webpage I LIVE WHERE YOU LIVE: you will find a group of volunteers ready to answer all your questions about different Rome neighborhoods and help you!
As an expat planning a life in Rome you will face the important question “where should I live?”. When you look for the ideal neighborhood in Rome, the area of your choice may depend mostly on the proximity to work or school and local transport. You must consider that even the most beautiful apartment will soon lose its attraction if endless traffic jams and commutes become part of your daily life.
Due to its size, Rome is divided into 19 boroughs (municipi), from I (centro storico or historical center) to XX (Cassia Flaminia, a green enclave in the northwest).
The Cassia neighborhood, a residential area in the northern area of the city, is favored by most well-to-do expatriates living in Rome for the availability of large apartments, the presence of green spaces and parks and the proximity to several international schools (American Overseas School of Rome, St. Georges British International School, Rome International School, Marymount international School). Nearby there are also shopping centers, supermarkets, family owned shops, sports clubs and a golf course. However, just like in Vigna Clara (II), a quiet and safe district which also features an international school (the New School), the transport connections between Via Cassia and the city center are not ideal; traffic into the city can be very heavy and it takes about one hour to reach the city center.
In the southern area of the city, expatriates favor districts such as the Appia Antica (XI), a beautiful neighborhood that boasts plenty of comfortable villas with gardens and swimming pools. The International School of St. Stephen is nearby; while it is just a short drive from the center of Rome, this area offers little access to metro and other public transportation links.
The office district EUR (XII), built during Mussolini’s era, is a a thriving commercial area that offer housing (mainly apartment blocks) conveniently close to shopping centers and the metro line B. The Ambrit Rome international School is nearby. The detached and semi detached villas of Casal Palocco, on the west end of Rome toward the sea, are attractive for expatriates looking for a little more room than central city apartments allow. This area features numerous supermarkets, as well as several sport and recreation centers.
Some expats also appreciate Trastevere (I), with its old-fashioned buildings, booming nightlife, and international young population.
In the eastern part of the city, the neighborhoods of Nomentano, Salario, and Quartiere Trieste are home to quite a few expatriates. Several embassies are located in this area, and public bus transportation is easily accessible. This area is just a short ride to the city center. Here, you will find upper middle class apartments, as well as convenient access to the Nomentana Junior School and the Core International School.
If you are looking for an accommodation for rent (affitto /da affittare) either you hire a real-estate agent or you can browse directly through the property ads on Secondamano or PortaPortese, as well as in the classifieds of La Repubblica.
If a property is rented through an agent, the tenant must pay the agent's fee, typically around ten percent of a year's rent, or one months rental. Provided rent isn't paid in advance at any more than two monthly intervals, the landlord can ask for a deposit equal to one to three months rent. The deposit must be returned with interest within two months of the termination of the lease, less the amount due to the landlord in damages, redecoration.
Property is rented either empty (vuoti) with no furniture, light fittings or even a fitted kitchen; semi-furnished (parzialmente arredati) with light fittings, a fitted kitchen and possibly wardrobes; or completely furnished (arredati).
It is important to check whether your new flat has central or oil-fired heating (riscaldamento centrale or a olio) and if the obligatory service charges (spese) such as heating, hot water, rubbish removal, upkeep of grounds and gardens, use of lift, communal lighting and maintenance, and possibly a caretaker service are included in the rent.
If the utilities such as gas, electricity and water are included in the rental contract, then the landlord will itemise the amounts at the end of the year.
Tenants usually pay utilities separately. When moving into your new accommodation it will be necessary to set up connections to all utilities. If taking over the utilities from a previous tenant, you need to find out whether the person has cancelled his contract. If not, it will be necessary to transfer the accounts (this is generally easier than setting up new accounts). In order to ask the utility company to transfer the contract to you (voltura) you will need:
The previous owner or tenant should provide the last charges on the meter (their most recent bills). It is advisable to go through the meter together to verify that there are no extra charges incurred, otherwise you could be liable for any debts.
The Italian national, Poste Italiane, provides a bill paying service (pagamento delle bollette) widely used for making regular payments for services.
The main electricity company in Italy is ENEL.
You can visit ENEL website or call 800 900 800 (free from a landline) or 199 50 50 55 (from a mobile) or +39 023 017 2011 (from abroad). Operators do not often speak English and getting an Italian speaker to make the call is advised.
Bills are normally sent out every 2 months and are payable at the local offices, through your bank or in post offices.
Italy's Standard electricity supply is 220 Volts (V), 50 Hertz (Hz) - check your electrical appliances and buy transformers for any equipment operating on a different voltage. Adapters can be bought for appliances with foreign plugs.
Most cookers and central heating systems run on gas - water heaters can be gas or electric, but gas is cheaper and will give you instant hot water.
Billing is every 2 months, payment can be made at the local offices, post offices or through your bank. On moving in, a new tenant, to have the meter read and the gas turned on, should contact the gas suppliers:
The water supply is controlled by the local Comune (municipal authority). If you live in an apartment block water charges are included in your rent. Homes with a water meter will be billed after meter readings. Water is usually billed twice a year with an "estimate". When the meter is read, an adjusted bill is sent. At this point it is recommended to confirm the reading to make sure the figures are correct.
Waste management in Italy is managed at a municipal level in accordance with national legislation, and differs widely from area to area. Typically, rubbish is collected by a waste disposal company contracted to the Comune.
Funding for the system comes from a refuse disposal/garbage tax. Most Comuni have their own websites with notices to residents regarding local rates, the tax system and how to pay the tax.
In municipalities that do not offer kerbside collection, household rubbish is placed in large black roadside bins that can be found on residential streets. The times at which these can be used is usually restricted to late evenings and early mornings, particularly in the summer months. These bins are emptied by the municipality’s garbage contractors on a weekly basis.
For disposal purposes, the most common categories of rubbish are:
Guidelines for recycling can be found on the website of the municipality’s garbage contractor. Bulky waste items can be collected by the local garbage contractor upon arrangement with the municipality. This may be provided free of charge.
In Rome AMA (http://www.amaroma.it/en) has an English-language guide to street recycling banks (PDF)
The Italian school system has a good reputation and is free of charge. Therefore if your child is comparatively young, shows noticeable ease at picking up foreign languages, or has another European language as his/her mother tongue, this could be a great opportunity for your kid to acquire fluent Italian skills.
To enrol a child at school, you will need :
Very young children can attend nursery schools (Scuola Materna) or kindergarten (Asilo Nido) either public or private. The education system comprises Scuola Elementare (primary, ages 6-10), Scuola Media (secondary, ages 11-13) and Scuola Superiore (high school, ages 14-18).
The Italian school year usually runs from mid-September to the end of June. School hours can vary from region to region and can be five or six, full or half days.
However, if you are planning on returning to your home country soon, and are worried about the language barrier, there are a considerable number of international schools in Rome. Many of them have their own nursery and kindergarten as well. As private schools, however, they charge annual tuition fees that can be fairly costly.
Make sure to check out the following schools well in advance of your move:
National health insurance in Italy is managed by the National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale - SSN) and registration is handled at a local level by the Local Health Authority Service (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, ASL). There are eight ASL offices covering Rome’s metropolitan area (ASL A – ASL H). Some ASL regional offices have their own websites with online services and contact details. Their addresses are always displayed outside Pharmacies.
The National Health Service offers low or no-cost health care of a good standard, with well-trained and dedicated doctors. Hospital services are provided free and a 75 percent reduction is given on the cost of outpatient and some dental treatment.
Note that in Italy regardless of coverage, emergency treatment is available at free or low-cost to anyone in need.
For your SSN registration, you need to go to the nearest ASL center (competent for the area where you live) and bring along the following documents:
After completing the necessary forms, you will receive your health card (Tesserino Sanitario personale) and be assigned a general practitioner (medico di base). If you are not content with your original GP, you can look for a new family doctor whenever you want. There are quite a few Anglophone and German-speaking doctors around, while physicians fluent in other foreign languages are somewhat rare. When you visit your doctor's surgery (ambulatorio), be prepared to wait, as there are no appointments - the system is first come, first served.
If you need medical care 118 (ambulance service) is the number to call in case of emergency. For regular check-up exams and minor ailments, though, you have to consult your GP first.
Italian pharmacies are small and family-run, with the sign of a green or red cross outside. Take your prescription (ricetta) to a pharmacy (farmacia) to be dispensed. If you take regular medication in your home country, find out its generic name from your doctor (not its brand name) to avoid confusion.
For more detailed information on accessing the Italian Healthcare system (PDF) from the SSN: http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_opuscoliPoster_128_allegato.pdf
Medical, fire, police and roadside assistance: These are the national emergency free call numbers that can be reached from pay phones, without the use of a phone card or money. There are also emergency telephones every two kilometres on the motorway (autostrada) that connect directly to the ACI (the Italian Automobile Club) Italy's main provider for Roadside assistance and recovery.
|General Emergency (Soccorso pubblico di emergenza)||113|
|Fire brigade (Vigili del fuoco)||115|
|Forest Fire (Incendio boschivo)||1515|
|Car Breakdown Assistance (Soccorso Stradale)||116|
|Ambulance/Medical Emergencies (Emergenza sanitaria)||118|
|Child abuse helpline||19696|
|Womens abuse prevention||800 001 122|
|Directory Enquiries (Informazioni elenco abbonati)||12|
|International Operator (English speaking)
|Free call numbers (Numeri Verdi) prefix||147 or 800|
If you are wondering whether, as an expat, you need a car or not, please consider that if you live in the city center and you don’t need to move too far, you can avoid owning one. Traffic in Rome is busy and can be quite heavy in peak hours, it is difficult to drive in and parking is scarce (or expensive).
A golden rule: in case you decide to buy a car, a small/medium-sized one will make your life much easier!
Owning a scooter in Rome is definitely a good option to consider. However you must get used to the Italian driving style: Italian drivers are aggressive and fast…but competent. You must therefore concentrate on your driving and be alert!
Another simple way to avoid Rome's congested traffic is riding a bicycle, which gives you the flexibility to use oneway (senso unico) streets and allows you to reach central areas with no access to cars or scooter.
The train and bus systems are extensive in Italy, so you can move between cities easily without a car.
Rome like other big Italian cities has a good CAR SHARING system. For more detailed info consult:
http://www.carsharing.roma.it/en (in English)
https://www.car2go.com/en/roma/ (in English)
To own a car in Italy you need a full certificato di residenza. To register or buy a car you also need a tax code number (codice fiscale).
- Non-residents with a permesso di soggiorno can drive on a foreign or international licence until they have lived in Italy for one year. The International Licence is preferable - apply in your home country before you go, straightforward process
- After a year's residence, non-Europeans must acquire an Italian licence, whilst Europeans with an EU model licence can keep using it. The EU model licence still has to be authenticated at the nearest Motorizzazione.
Italy has reciprocity agreements with certain countries regarding licences. Because the USA and Canada are not included, their citizens must register with a driving school and take theory and road tests to obtain their licence
Best to use an agency to handle this matter for you, see 'Pratiche Automobilistiche - Agenzie' in the yellow pages (http://www.paginegialle.it)
You must know that:
- On the autostrada (motorway), you must drive with your lights on.
- You must wear a seat belt.
- The drunk driving laws are strict - do not drink and drive.
- You must carry an International Driver's License.
- There are speed cameras set up in many places. If you are speeding, you may get the ticket months later. If you drive a rent car, the rental agency will charge the amount on your credit card even months later.
A golden rule: Never drive in the old part of a city or village! Always park outside the walls! Old central streets are often very narrow and it can be difficult to proceed with a big car.
Before you start a long trip through Italy, consult www.autostrade.it/en (the official Autostrade d’Italia website) to get detailed info about roads, highways, traffic, road maps and much more.
Many of the city's expatriates opt to use Rome's extensive and relatively efficient public transportation system to avoid the headaches of driving in the city (for info: http://www.agenziamobilita.roma.it/en.html).
The quickest way of getting around the city is the Metro (Metropolitana di Roma). At the moment, it consists of two underground lines (Line A and B) and three urban railway lines (Roma Lido, Roma Giardinetti, Roma Nord). Line B1 was recently extended, and the construction of another line is currently under way.
Urban and suburban trams are a good alternative to the Metro since they aren’t as affected by traffic jams as the numerous bus lines. Both trams and buses are run by the ATAC. The route planner on the ATAC website helps you find the quickest connection.
As a last resort, you can take a taxi. Make sure to choose a licensed one with a meter. Licensed taxis in Rome are easy to recognize: the cars are generally white or yellow and have a SPQR sign on one of their doors. In contrast to other cities, you can’t simply hail a taxi in the street. You need to wait at a designated taxi rank or call the taxi company directly.
Radio Taxi (3570) is one of the biggest taxi companies in Rome, and they list their fares (tariffe) on their website. Taxis booked in advance via telephone have an extra charge of €3.50: that’s because the driver switches on the meter as soon as the taxi is dispatched, so you’ll have to pay for the additional distance. Supplementary charges may apply if carrying luggage or travelling to airports or stations. It’s considered polite to tip the driver with up to 10% of the fare.