Are UK expats giving up on La Dolce Vita

Published:  14 Aug at 6 PM
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Since the heady days of the 1930s, Rome and Italy have been favourites for expats searching for history, beauty and fantastic food and wine.

Living the dream in an Italian coastal resort or the wine regions of Tuscany has been the ambition of many Brits as they approach retirement age. Many have made the dream come true, but is it fading due to the effects of the 2008 financial crisis?

Italy is now in its third recession since 2008, with its GDP falling, unemployment still on the rise and net trade sliding further into negative territory along with property prices. For UK expats taking their pensions in sterling, the fall in the Euro points to painful reality and has encouraged calls for a return to the lira.

Expats working in Italy are taking the situation in their stride, as they’re well experienced in facing the vast problems of doing business in the country. High taxes, an unstable judicial system, smothering bureaucracy and destructive workplace laws all take their part in destroying the business dream.

Tragically, Italy is now economically sicker than is Greece, and unemployment, mostly amongst the young, is rising above its previous peak of 12.5 per cent. Even cosy, private pension-propped UK expats in gorgeous stone farmhouses are rumoured to be cutting back, but how many are actually leaving?

Last year, around 90,000 Brits left Spain and returned to wet, chilly and generally miserable England after years of sun, sea and sand. Italy, however, isn’t Spain with its Costa Red Barrel, kiss-me-quick hats and package tourists packed in high-rise architectural horrors.

There’s a charm in Italy which is unique in Europe and the rest of the world, and doesn’t fade away once belts have to be tightened. Ancient, stunningly lovely, crammed with the world’s greatest art and with a reputation for survival against the odds going back millennia, once the country gets its gentle claws into new arrivals, it doesn’t let go.

So, don’t expect to see a rush back to the UK by tens of thousands of people for whom the Italian dream has become a nightmare. Even the UK’s over-generous welfare payments averaging £25,000 a year won’t be a cure for the Dolce Vita bug once it’s bitten.
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