Moving to Venice
Venice has been called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and on first approaching the city by vaporetto (water bus), it’s easy to see why. Built on 117 tiny islands, a maze of narrow streets, canals and bridges link the city’s magnificent Renaissance architecture, elegant piazzas and vast art collection.
Yet Venice’s beauty is no secret; over 50,000 tourists descend on the city every day in summer, with the over-crowding even prompting ministers to consider charging visitors to enter the World-Heritage listed site. However, when the summer rush is over it is possible for residents to find a quiet pocket of Venice, such as the Santa Croce area, to enjoy the city in peace.
With its small population of 270,000 people, Venice is the principal city in the region of Veneto, which offers further delights. A train from Santa Lucia station will take you to the cosmopolitan city of Vicenza or to the foothills of the mighty Dolomite mountain range.
The Job Market
Italy has suffered a surge in unemployment (12.6%) during the economic downturn and Venice has not escaped this trend. The Veneto region as whole is one of the largest economies in Italy yet competition for jobs has been high since the country entered into recession. If you are not retiring to the city of have a lack of funds, it is wise to have employment organised before you move to Venice.
With 39million visitors each year, tourism is the mainstay of the Venetian economy, with jobs more widely available in the hotel and restaurant sectors. Other employment sectors include shipbuilding, trade, export of luxury goods and agriculture. Veneto’s principal trade partners are Austria, Germany, USA, France, Switzerland and the UK.
The excellent Venetian transport system links the city with other large cities such as Vicenza, Treviso and Padua, so job hunters can cast their nets wider in the hunt for employment yet still enjoy living in Venice itself. Fluency in Italian is also a major plus when competing for jobs.
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Venice is undoubtedly one of the most expensive cities in Italy, only Milan manages to out-price it in terms of living costs. The good news is that Venice has comparatively lower living costs than other major cities such as London, New York, Sydney, Paris and Dubai.
Due to the vast tourist footfall, prices in Venice’s centro storico (historical centre) are ramped up accordingly. A meal or a coffee in Piazza San Marco can be the most expensive in Italy. The living costs in the centre have become too much for the Venetians themselves, many of whom have moved to the suburbs on terraferma (mainland Venice).
However, renting in Venice is still not as costly as Rome. Rents vary according to where you live in the city. You will pay an average €1300/month for a three-bed apartment in the city centre and €850/month in the suburbs, with around €200/month on top for basic utilities. A mid-range bottle of wine is around €4.50 and a cappuccino away from the tourist trail will set you back around €1.42.
House prices in Italy have fallen over the last few years (4.8% in 2014) yet Venice remains one of the most expensive property zones in the country. Attracted by modern apartments and cheaper living costs, most Venetians now live in the mainland suburbs of Mestre and Marghera. This exodus has left the city centre with a shrinking population and has opened up the market for foreign buyers, pushing prices up.
Those who remain live in renovated palazzo apartments or small houses on the smaller islands in the lagoon. An apartment near the Grand Canal would cost an average €6000 per square metre compared with €2000 per square metre outside the city centre, plus the 7% registration tax and other fees on top.
With less people able to buy, the formerly small rental market in Venice has expanded with prices going up. A three-bed apartment in the city centre will cost an average €1300/month but can rocket to up to €5000/month, depending on the property. A three-bed apartment outside the city centre would be a more modest €850-€1000/month.
The rental market is rather disorganised in Venice and finding an apartment can be tricky. There are some estate agents but sometimes the best way is to walk the streets looking for affitasi (for rent) signs in windows. Often you can rent directly with the landlord but remember most don’t speak English so knowing Italian helps.
The historical centre (centro storico) of Venice comprises the six districts (sestieri) of Cannaregio, Castello, San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce. There are other small islands in the lagoon that are also part of the city along with 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. An hour away from Venice by train, the city of Treviso (home of Prosecco) has an airport, open spaces and an International School.
- Upmarket: The area around the Grand Canal, lined with exclusive Gothic palazzos, is one of the most expensive property zones in Italy. Also the Lido, with its beachfront penthouses, is where the rich and famous gather for the Venice Film Festival.
- Hip and Trendy: Canneregio is a popular hangout for students and young Venetians from all over the city, drawn to the bars, cafés and bookshops that edge the Ormesini Canal. Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro is another place you will find the young and beautiful of Venice.
- 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.
Cost of Moving
The shipping costs of moving to Venice vary from inside and outside mainland Europe. A 20ft container will cost around €1600 from major European cities such as London, Paris or Madrid. From further afield (New York, Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne) you would pay between €6000 and €8000.
Schools and Education
State education in Italy is free from age three (kindergarten) through to university. Children start formal school aged six and the system is divided into three cycles: primary (primaria), Lower Secondary or Juniors (secondaria di primo grado) and Upper Secondary (secondaria di second grado). Secondary schools are divided into specialisms such as theoretical (liceo), Technical and Professional.
Venice has over 400 state schools ranging from pre-school to high school level. Should you want your child to attend private school, you could consider the International School of Venice in Mestre, which offers education in English (ages 3-14) and an international curriculum. Fees range from £6,000 to £15,000 per year.
There are two major universities in Venice:
- Ca’ Foscari University: Placed 701th in the World University Rankings and noted for its arts, languages and cultural heritage programmes.
- Venice International University: Established as a consortium of 16 universities from around the world which share the common campus. Located on the island of San Serolo in the lagoon.
Ranking against the World
During the Middle Ages, Venice was a major maritime power controlling a vast sea empire. Today this small city’s principal economy is tourism. With a population of only 270,000 people, Venice cannot compete with the massive economies of Milan, London, New York and Sydney on a commercial scale.
However, being small, Venice has a lower crime rate, less pollution (due to the absence of cars) and a generally higher quality of life than Milan, London, Paris and New York. It is a World Heritage Listed city and has an unparalleled cultural and artistic legacy which attracts millions of people every year. Venice was also was ranked 45th on Euromonitor’s 100 Top World City Destinations.
A Day in the Life
What could be more magical than going to work by boat? In a small city with no cars, where you are surrounded by art and antiquity on every street, the average day in Venice is a world away from other large cities. Most Venetians get to work by water bus or on foot. On spring days you may find yourself wading instead of walking to work, as the Adriatic tides push the 'acqua alta' (high water) over the streets, a phenomenon Venetians live with every year and barely seem to notice.
After work you can shop for the freshest ingredients for dinner at the Rialto market or head for an aperitivo and cicchetti (tiny sandwiches) in the elegant bars at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. Tourists pay a premium to eat out in Venice but there are smaller, out-of-the-way restaurants catering for the locals should you chose to eat out. Next you could catch a performance of Vivaldi, the city’s most famous composer, in Piazza San Marco, sip Prosecco with a view at La Giudecca’s Skyline Bar or simply wander the beautiful canals and narrow streets until sundown.