Many tens of thousands of foreign retirees move to Italy permanently and many tens of thousands of retired Italians do the same to the new destinations, such as Bulgaria, Portugal and the Canary Islands. How is it that these two flows occur together? Who is right?
The number of retired people who come to Italy after earning their retirement, called "retired expat", is difficult to estimate but probably exceeds one hundred thousand. Authoritative magazines and websites, such as 10 Best Places To Retire, place Italy among the top ten destinations in the world for this class of the population.
On the other hand the number of Italian pensioners who opt for the reverse path is growing at an impressive pace, as pointed out by INPS (the Italian Social Security).
But is there a contradiction in this data? In short, is Italy a suitable country to retired or not?
To resolve this apparent contradiction, we must consider that the Italian pensioners go abroad primarily as a matter of economic survival and perceived safety. The pension is a fixed income security but its purchase value can increase dramatically as a result of the different tax regimes (the 6% tax in Bulgaria, 0% for ten years in Portugal) and of the different cost of living (equal to 30/40% compared to Italy). All the interviewed pensioners stated that, if it were not for these two points, they would have continued to live in their country. They are moving abroad, where anyway they live well, just to regain a dignity that in Homeland their low pension does not allows them to have.
On the contrary the retired expat come often from countries with high cost of living, for which the change is advantageous for them. The tax burden is equivalent, or even unfavorable, but some people may adopt some legal mechanisms to transfer a large part of their funds in "tax efficient" countries, as Malta and Gibraltar, and stay in a third country like Italy.
To complete the picture we must consider that potential expats do not compare Italy only with their country of origin, such as the UK, but also with the other countries that could host them. To make an objective analysis, we start from the 2016 ranking of InternationalLiving.com in the article "The World’s Best Places To Retire In 2016" where Italy is at the 16th place worldwide and at the 5th place in Europe. Not bad, considering that the world's nations are 196, and to understand better we examine now the individual factors.
Our average is lowered by economic factors, such as the cost of housing and life, and by the lack of a policy aimed at attracting foreign retirees. Our strengths are climate, infrastructure, healthy lifestyle, entertainment and easy integration into the local tissue.
As a direct effect of this perception, expats are moving towards those areas that maintain the strengths but mitigate weaknesses: apart from the "usual" Tuscany, many people are discovering Emilia Romagna, Abruzzo, Marche.