Moving to Milan from the UK
Milan is rightly known as Italy’s financial, industrial and cultural engine room. The city contributes 9% of Italy’s GDP and is home to the Borsana Italiana (stock exchange) a global banking sector, the national media and, of course, the top fashion houses of the world. It is also one of the only cities in Italy to remain relatively unscathed by the ongoing recession.
Even mention of the word Milan conjures up images of beautiful Armani-clad Italians gliding along the graceful iron-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, home to the most exclusive boutiques and mecca for professional fashionistas.
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Yet Milan isn’t all about fashion, the city also has other gems to explore. The soaring spires of the Gothic cathedral (Duomo) and Da Vinci’s crumbling Last Supper etched on the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie church are awe-inspiring sights. Just an hour’s train ride from Milan takes you to the foothills of the Alps in one direction or to beautiful Lake Como to the north. Along with its global business reach, Milan is a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, attracting hundreds of expats each year.
Milan vs London
Both global centres for finance and industry, Milan and London share many similarities. Indeed, Milan is closer to London in distance, as well as attitude, than it is to Palermo in the south of Italy. Milan is the 5th largest urban area in the EU (London is the 2nd) and has a population of 5.5million people (1.3million centrally). Like London, Milan has a vast suburban sprawl and extensive commuter belt.
However, British people will enjoy a considerably hotter climate in Milan, with highs of 31°C in August (23°C in London) and only 88 days a year of rainfall compared with the average 164 rainy days Londoners see. Average temperatures in winter are around the same for both cities (5°C) and like London, Milan can feel bitingly cold. Rents, groceries and utilities are up to 50% cheaper in Milan than London and the two cities share similar crime rates and pollution levels.
One notable difference is the lack of green space in Milan compared with London. Where London has a plethora of large parks and green areas such as Kew Gardens, Milan’s only large parks are Parco Sempione and Parco Forlanini. The lack of green space is much lamented by the Milanese, with 36% saying it leads to a lesser quality of life in the city.
Moving to Milan
The first thing on the list to consider is employment and if you are looking for work in Italy, Milan is the place to go. The unemployment rate is much lower than the rest of the country (5.5% vs 8.45%) and the city has job opportunities in business, trade, banking, commerce, design, industry and of course fashion. Milan has a large number of expats, many of whom have moved to the city with their own UK-based company (all major UK banks have offices in Milan) so this is worth considering. Fluency in Italian will also give you the edge on the competition.
Accommodation in Milan is easier to find than in other Italian cities. However, due to the shrinking sales market, demand for rental accommodation has increased rapidly, so competition for properties is high. The best way to find rental properties is through the ‘Affittaso Appartamento’ section of local newspapers, or to contact estate agents. It is advisable to search for accommodation while in Milan as apartments can be snapped up within an hour of being advertised.
Living Costs in Milan
The cost of living in Milan is higher than other Italian cities yet still considerably lower than the UK. Rents can be up to 50% cheaper than in London and utilities can be over 30% lower than the UK.
A cappuccino will cost you 62% less in Milan (as long as you are not drinking it in Piazza del Duomo) and staples such as bread milk, rice and eggs hover around 20% less than the UK.
House prices in Milan, as across Italy, have fallen by around 20% since 2008, compared with a rise of 8.14% in the UK (2014). As a result of lower prices in Milan, sales have been pushed up and a canny British buyer could get a real bargain in the city. However any buyer must consider that the cost of buying a house in Milan can mount up, with a 7% registration tax plus a land registry tax of 2% and other fees.
A three-bedroom villa located outside Milan’s city centre costs around £258,765. An equivalent-sized property in the UK costs around £290,565 (outside London). If money is no object, a luxurious penthouse apartment a stone’s throw from Milan’s Piazza del Duomo will set you back £5.6million.
Rents vary according to where you live in Milan but a one-bed apartment in the city centre is around £680/month or £484/month in the suburbs. Equivalent rents in the UK are around £515/month for a one-bed flat in the city centre, much more in London, or £450/month for a suburban one-bed flat.
Milan is divided into nine concentric administrative zones with the historical centre (centro storico) at the heart. Each zone is connected with an excellent and far-reaching transport network comprising the Metro (the longest in Italy), trains and buses/trams. Further out into Lombardy, the towns of Monza and Pavia offer quieter living options and the beautiful Lake Como is an hour away by train. Neighbourhood picks in Milan are:
- Family friendly: Brera is a quieter area of the city popular with expats, though it can be expensive. Further afield the smaller city of Monza offers good schools and facilities for children.
- Upmarket: Comparable to Kensington in London, the areas around the Piazza del Duomo are the most expensive, where chauffeur-driven cars glide around the high fashion boutiques.
- Hip and Trendy: Corso Como is where you will find trendy bars and modern apartments. The area is packed with young fashionistas out to be seen during Milan’s famous ‘aperitivo hour’.
- Up and Coming: Tortona (or sometimes called Solari) is popular with young designers and has been on the up since the 1990s. Here you will find converted warehouses, tall modern apartment blocks and bustling shops and restaurants.
Schools and Education
The education system in Italy is free from age 3 (kindergarten) to university. Children are not legally required to start school until aged 6. The school system is divided into three cycles similar to the UK; primary junior and secondary. Children take an entry exam to get into secondary school, which, unlike the UK, are divided into different specialisms such as technical, language or classical.
Being a world centre for finance and business, Milan is well-catered for private International Schools, which are attended by the children of bankers, diplomats and executives. Tuition is in English, Italian and French and students follow the UK National Curriculum, earning qualifications (including the International Baccalaureate) that transfer between countries.
Two of the best International Schools in Milan are the Sir James Henderson British School (ages 6-18) and The International School Milan (ages 3-18). Both schools are centrally located with excellent facilities. They come at a cost though with fees of up to £12,000 a year plus extras.