The Differences Between Living in Italy vs. the U.S.

If you are thinking of becoming an Italian dual citizen and living either part-time or full-time in Italy, you may wonder about the differences between Italian and American life styles. Both countries share a love of food and rich traditions, and they have different cultural mindsets and ways of life you should be familiar with, so you know what to expect and can fully enjoy your experience abroad.  

At With_Papers, we understand these nuanced cultural and economic differences. Our team of experienced international business and Italian dual citizenship law lawyers communicate with you every step of the way, so you can make the best decisions for your future and understand the differences in culture, costs, traveling and lifestyle. This dedication and individual attention can help make your dream of Italian dual citizenship or residency a reality with minimal stress.

5 differences between living in Italy vs. the U.S.

One of the best ways to integrate into Italian culture is to understand the key differences between their cultural mindsets and way of living, which can significantly differ from the U.S. Many of these contrasts act as benefits of dual citizenship, and they include the following:

Cost of living

While the general cost of living in Italy is comparable to the U.S., you may see discrepancies in housing and fuel costs. Also, the cost of living varies depending on your location in Italy. Generally, people make more money in the US, and average income in Italy is decidedly lower. For example, an engineer in Italy would make between $35000-60,000 a year, where engineers in the US can expect to earn between $75,000 – 120,000. High-paying jobs and a higher cost of living can be found in the northern regions of Italy, while the southern region has fewer job opportunities and lower living costs. 

In addition, Italian taxes are higher than in the US and help the government to provide for free health care, day care for children and quality public schools and universities.

If you can live in Italy on a US pension or fixed income, the cost of living in Italy will be more in your favor.


Many cultural differences in Italy may confuse Americans, but when you embrace them, you can live like the locals. For example, mealtimes in Italy are often later than Americans are used to – with lunch from 1-2 pm and dinner from 8-9 pm. Many shops are also closed for lunch because Italians enjoy a lengthy lunch break. When shopping for food, Italians prefer to shop daily at several vendors for fresh items instead of making a once-a-week trip like most Americans do. Almost every neighborhood has an open-air market in the square – and locally sourced fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood makes the Mediterranean diet come naturally. For Italians, food is a love affair and is how people bond with each other and family – exchanging stories and talking about the day over meals. Americans often bond more easily over doing activities together.

Understanding these differences can help you enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of the country. 

Healthcare system

One of the most significant differences between Italy and America is the healthcare systems. In Italy, the state covers most citizens’ healthcare needs, meaning Italians have free access to a family practioner (medico di base), primary care and inpatient treatments; specialists’ appointments and exams are also accessible for a fraction of the costs. As a dual citizen, you can apply for an Italian health card and have access to health care services in other EU countries.

Non-EU citizens in Italy on residency permits who are already subject to paying an annual fee to use the Italian public health care service, will now be paying slightly more for access. From 2024, a new law has increased the minimum fee for access to the health care system to approximately $2000 – still a fraction of the cost for basic health care in the US. Non-EU citizens on a study visa or au pairs still pay a reduced rate for registration to the public health care system. 

Travel options

While many Italians own cars like Americans do, Italy offers several public transportation options, especially for long-distance travel. Major cities have metro systems, and rail systems provide easy access to the rest of the country and other European cities. Italy also contains hubs for traveling across Europe, so you can easily explore historic destinations.


In America, people tend to work long hours, move quickly, and prioritize money, but this is not the case in Italy. The Italian lifestyle is much slower, with breaks during the day, relaxing and spending quality time with friends, family, and co-workers. 

This is reflected in an easier more laid-back approach toward life, aptly reflected in the term scialla used by younger Romans.

Family and community is an important part of the Italian lifestyle – and is found in public spaces, such as the market square and the local bar when you stop for your morning coffee or cappuccino.

Community is also found around the family table (again!). In the US, there are child-free restaurants or time slots. Family meals are more often special occasions with everyone – including children – on a busy schedule.  In Italy, Children are more integrated in the daily life and included with adults at the family or restaurant table. Learning early how to interact and be part of the community. This makes raising children in Italy a different experience than in the US. Starting with being pregnant in Italy, with a minimum of 5 months paid maternity leave and special lines for pregnant mothers in public offices, museums and supermarkets and designated seating on public transport.

Schedule a free consultation with the trusted team at With_Papers

With 5.6 million Americans visiting Italy in 2019, many tourists enjoy the change of pace and cultural differences the country offers. While the differences between Italy and the United States can take some getting used to, they are often a benefit of becoming an Italian dual citizen. If you love the slowed-down Italian lifestyle, our experienced team at With_Papers can help determine if you qualify for Italian dual citizenship and guide you throughout the whole process.

We are a full-service consultancy that focuses exclusively on Italian dual citizenship and residency, primarily helping Americans on their journeys to achieve their goals. Our founder has held Italian dual citizenship for over 20 years, so you can trust us to handle every aspect of the application process smoothly and efficiently. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 917-310-2246 or fill out our contact form.