5 best coastal locations for expats in Italy

With an array of unique locations to choose from, the Italian coast is perfect for those expats looking for some peace and tranquillity.

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Cagliari

Home to some of the world’s most famous and historic cities, Italy has grown accustomed to welcoming expats from all over the globe. But for those seeking a more relaxed approach to life, settling down by the beautiful Italian seaside could be the answer.

From quaint coastal towns to beautiful beachside havens, Italy’s many diverse locations could make it difficult for new arrivals to decide where to call ‘home’. Despite COVID-19 causing major disruption to many expat’s relocation plans, now is a great time to consider Italy and its beautiful, sunny coastlines as the place for you once normality resumes.

To help soon-to-be expats make their decision, this article explores five of the best coastal locations in Italy with the help of some experienced expats, familiar with life by the sea.

Atrani

One coastal retreat adored by expats is Atrani, a quiet town, embraced by towering cliffs and only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Unspoilt by mass tourism, Atrani remains a truly authentic Italian town with a small population of around 850 people, making it the perfect coastal haven for those seeking La dolce vita. 

Misha Kaura, an American expat currently living in Atrani, shares her own experience of life in the town: “The luxurious (and affordable) dining is world-class, and the contrast between lemon trees and old world charm never ceases to amaze me. I feel like I’m walking in a daydream and living on cloud 9. I suppose that’s quite a romantic way of viewing a small town, but this really is a magical place.”

As a small fishing town, job opportunities are quite limited to the tourism and hospitality industries, however, digital nomads and remote workers are sure to thrive here. Misha speaks from experience as she says, “the wifi is plentiful here. I’ve completed more work writing my books here than I have in any other city I’ve travelled to and I truly feel Atrani is the place where dreams come true.”

Featuring a sixteenth-century bell tower, thirteenth-century baroque churches, quaint piazzas, and pastel painted houses with delicate balconies, Atrani perfectly captures the essence of authentic Italy through its architecture, people and unspoilt surrounding landscapes.

Like Misha, new arrivals are sure to adore all the unique aspects of living in Atrani: “Everything in my life clicks here – the food, the way the sunset hits the ocean every night, the kindness of the people, the passion with which the food market stands stay open just so you can get ripe fruit, the refreshing feeling of walking in nature.”

“I’m at the age where all my friends are getting married and I’m so grateful I have the chance to explore the world as a single woman and particularly a place that values time and a slower pace of life like Atrani. Leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind was the best decision of my life. The contemplative and historic character of this city just makes everyone feel right at home”. Whether you’re an expat, retiree or remote worker, Atrani might just be the place for you.

Santa Margherita Ligure

Less than an hour’s drive away from the Metropolitan City of Genoa lies Santa Margherita Ligure, a picturesque port town boasting vibrant seaside villas, elegant hotels, boutiques, garden terraces and much more.

Baron Hanson, an American expat who lived in Santa Margherita Ligure for a short while had this to say about his experience: “Santa Margherita is an elegant white, plaster, and brightly colored seaside villa town with outdoor cafes and a bustle that is low key, quaint, not overly ‘touristy’ as spots nearby.”

He adds that “the food, drink and visual aspects of living and working in Santa Margherita are all delightful, and in some ways the town and coastline feels a bit like Santa Barbara, California. The people are nicer, and not as jaded by tourism, which makes Santa Margherita a nice little community to enjoy and get involved in.”

Similar to other Italian coastal locations, work opportunities are quite limited outside tourism. However, Santa Margherita is also within close proximity to Genoa, the capital of Liguria, which offers plenty of job prospects in food production, tourism, teaching (particularly English language teachers), among other opportunities in more niche areas like ship building and agriculture, for example.

As Santa Margherita is in such an ideal location, you’ll also have easy access to all the amenities and facilities that Genoa has to offer, including high-quality hospitals and medical services. If you’re employed you even may find that they include private healthcare as part of their benefit scheme so you can access the city’s high-quality private hospitals. However, if private healthcare is not covered by your employer, it may be worth looking into a global health package as private medical costs can be high.

Lerici

Another highly recommended location for expats is Lerici, a beautiful coastal retreat nestled in the province of Liguria. With pleasant public gardens and pastel painted houses, Lerici may at first glance, come across as any other Italian town by the coast. However, what makes Lerici so unique is the imposing medieval castle that looms above the Piazza Garibaldi, the town’s main square.

Heather Dowd, co-founder of Tourissimo and expat, who spends 6 months per year in Italy, shares her own experiences with living in Lerici: “Lerici has remained under the radar and sees fewer tourists than surrounding areas, but it is just as beautiful. The sea sparkles and the coastline is made up of rocky cliffs and hidden coves.”

She adds that, “Italy is known for La dolce vita, and this laid-back lifestyle can be found in Lerici. You can walk among the locals on the mile-long seaside promenade or get lost in the narrow alleys in town. There’s no shortage of good food, wine and gelato! Some of my favorite food is found in this area – focaccia, pesto and olive oil. Local white wine is mineral and fresh and pairs well with anchovies. There’s nothing better than sharing a snack like this with friends from a table with a sea view.”

Painting such an attractive picture of Lerici, it’s difficult to resist the town’s authentic Italian charm. Though if you still need convincing, “they’re welcoming people who want to settle there year-round due to a declining population.”

Even better, similar to Santa Margherita Ligure, Lerici is within close proximity to cities including Florence, Genoa and Milan. So, whether you’re a retiree or an expat seeking a better work/life balance, Lerici could hold something special for you.

Cagliari

If you’re looking for a taste of island life, then Cagliari, the historic capital city of Sardinia might just tickle your tastebuds. Embedded with the history of its fascinating past, you’ll find ancient Roman ruins, archaic churches, and time-touched palazzos.

Claudia Tavani, originally from Cagliari and author of My Adventures Across The World shares her opinion of living there: “Cagliari is a beautiful city with lots of character. Perched on the hills and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it offers easy access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Poetto, the most popular urban beach in Cagliari, is an easy bus ride from the center of the city and a perfect location to exercise, with a good biking and running lane.”

If you’re a night owl, then you’ll adore the nightlife in Cagliari. Claudia adds that “the nightlife is thriving – concerts, opera, ballet, cinemas, bars and parties. The city is also packed with lovely restaurants and cafés.”

When it comes to finding work in Cagliari, you may need to have a job lined up before you relocate because the island of Sardinia suffers from a low employment rate. That said, tourism is again, another key industry here, as well as some more niche sectors like international trade and new technologies. If you’re a remote worker, however, you should thrive here.

Le Marche

As opposed to one particular city or town, the region of Le Marche earns its place on the list as it is home to a beautiful array of coastal towns and villages. Situated between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, Le Marche offers beautifully diverse landscapes and scenery – from white-pebble beaches to majestic mountain ranges and medieval towns tucked away in the region’s lush hills.

One such place to settle is Fano, a family-friendly fishing town and place of great historical significance. Rich in culture and history, Fano was established by Julius Caesar and features Romanesque-Gothic architecture such as the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Malatesta Palace and the Court of Malatesta.

Some other seaside destinations to note in the region of Le Marche are that of Numana and Sirolo – both beautiful coastal locations boasting superb white sand beaches and fascinating histories.

Similar to other Italian destinations, finding work in Le Marche can be tricky due to Italy’s low unemployment rate when compared to other European countries. “I would suggest coming with your own job in mind or starting a business. That being said, think outside the box, there is more than just the possibility of owning a B&B in Italy!” shares Ashley, Owner & Founder, La Tavola Marche, and American expat living in Italy for over 13 years.

With an array of unique locations to choose from, the Italian coast is perfect for those expats looking for some peace and tranquillity. Whether you choose a well-connected coastal retreat like Santa Margherita or an authentic Italian escape like Atrani, there’s plenty of places to settle by the Italian seaside where this can be achieved.

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