Moving to Venice from the UK
American writer Truman Capote once said that Venice is ‘like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.’ Even compared to Italy’s other amazing cities, the beauty of Venice is extraordinary. Famed for its Renaissance architecture, romantic canals and artistic heritage, there is no other city in the world quite like it.
From skimming along the Grand Canal on the vaporetto (water bus) to work every morning to sipping an aperitivo in the beautiful Piazza San Marco as the sun sets, it’s easy to see why so many Brits swap the grey skies and long commutes for Venice. Standing on 117 tiny lagoon islands and intersected by 177 canals which snake their way through narrow streets, the City of Water is also a triumph of human engineering.
Yet Venice’s appeal is no secret, with over 50,000 tourists descending on the city every day in summer. The over-crowding has prompted ministers to consider charging visitors to enter the World-Heritage listed site. Residents of London, York and Edinburgh may be used to an endless stream of visitors tramping their streets but the Venice tourist trap is often a shock to expats. However, when the summer rush is over it is possible to find a quiet corner to enjoy this beautiful city.
Venice vs London
There is a scenic area of London, north of Paddington Station, with pretty canals and houseboats that has been nicknamed ‘Little Venice’ by locals. But when comparing London with Venice; that is where the similarities end.
Venice enjoys a considerably better climate than London, with an average temperature of 27°C in August compared to 23°C in London. The humidity is tempered by a warm sea breeze and you can escape the crowds for a spot of sunbathing on the Lido, a finger of beach that separates the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.
The most obvious difference between the two cities is that there are hardly any cars in Venice. Over 200,000 cars pass through London every business day, whereas you must traverse Venice by boat and/or on foot. The absence of cars will come as a pleasant change if you’re used to traffic jams and smog, with expats citing it as one of the main reasons to move to Venice.
With its population of 270,000 people (60,000 in the historical centre) Venice is tiny in comparison to London. As a result violent crime is very rare and the city has a local laid-back feel.
Moving to Venice
Venice has not escaped Italy’s high unemployment rate (12.6% vs 5.5% in the UK) and competition for jobs is high. So if you are not retiring to the city or have a lack of funds, it is strongly advised to organise employment before you leave the UK. The main employment sector in Venice is tourism followed by industry (shipbuilding) and trade. The Veneto region is also the largest exporter of Italian luxury goods. Fluency in Italian is a major advantage when competing for jobs in Venice.
EU citizens do not need a visa to gain entry to Italy but those intending to live, work or study for longer than three months must register with the local authority (Comune-Ufficio Anagrafe) where you will be issued with a certificate of registration, providing you have evidence of employment.
Properties to rent or buy are more expensive in Venice compared with other Italian cities, but are still cheaper than equivalent properties in the UK. Finding an apartment or house in Venice is much more disorganised and complicated than in Britain, where securing the perfect home can be done in a few clicks. Many properties in Venice are advertised locally rather than online or passed between families, so it is advisable to be in situ to get the best deals.
Despite Venice’s reputation for being wildly expensive, living costs are still lower than the UK. The average salary in Italy is just over 20% lower than the UK but the basics such as food, utilities and rent are cheaper in Venice.
For instance groceries are at least 20% cheaper than London and a mid-range bottle of wine is almost half the price in Venice. Broadband internet (6mbps) and utilities are around the same as the UK. Getting around Venice will cost you a whopping 80% less for a monthly transport pass than in London. Italy’s health service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) is free or very low-cost to EU nationals and provides access to GPs, public hospitals and subsidised medicines.
Despite a steady fall in house prices in Italy over the last few years (4.8% in 2014), Venice is still one of the most expensive cities in the country to buy property. Property prices have been pushed up further by foreign buyers paying over the odds for apartments and houses in the city.
Similar to the UK, Italy is a nation of homeowners so the rental market is smaller and quite disorganised. Rents vary according to the area but a one-bed apartment can cost up to £800 a week near St Mark’s Square, about the same price as a one-bed apartment in upmarket Chelsea. However an apartment in a quieter suburb of Venice, such as Mestre, will cost between £400-£800/month, considerably cheaper than the UK.
If you are lucky enough to buy property in Venice, you can pick up a small three-bed house on the picturesque island of Burano for around £400,000 or pay a cool £1.3 million for a 200 square metre apartment overlooking the Grand Canal.
The historical centre (centro storico) comprises the six districts (sestieri) of Cannaregio, Castello, San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce. There are many other small islands in the lagoon that are also part of the city as well as the boroughs of Mestre-Carpenedo, Marghera, Chirignago-Zelarino and Favaro-Veneto on the mainland (terraferma).
- Family Friendly: Located south of central Venice, La Guidecca is a quieter, working class area offering an escape from the tourist throng. It has open spaces, playgrounds and swimming pools.
- Upmarket: The area around the Grand Canal, with its palazzos and five star hotels is the most exclusive area, particularly between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.
- Hip and Trendy: Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro is where you’ll find the young and beautiful of Venice. Located near the Ca’ Foscari University it has bars that stay open until late. Dorsoduro is also the favourite sestiere of British and American buyers (Elton John owns a house here).
- Up-and-Coming: The smaller town of Mestre on the mainland is actually where most Venetians live nowadays. Although it lacks the beauty of the Venice islands it has modern housing and great shopping.
Schools and Education
Education in Italy is free from pre-school to university. Children aren’t required to begin formal schooling until aged 6, although most parents enrol their children in pre-school from age 3. In a global survey of quality in education systems carried out by OECD, Italy ranked 23rd out of 65 countries, slightly behind the UK in 20th place.
Venice has over 400 state schools ranging from pre-school to high school level and two universities, Ca’ Foscari University and Venice International University. Should you not want your child to attend an Italian state school, you could consider the International School of Venice in Mestre, which offers education in English (ages 3-14) and combines the Italian and UK curriculums. Fees range from £6,000 to £15,000 per year.