Home to hillside towns, rustic countryside, picturesque coastal towns and prosperous cities, Tuscany offers the perfect blend of rural and city life. The region’s rich Renaissance culture and luscious landscapes attract expats, retirees and tourists alike, and as a result, Tuscany is home to more than 4 million people – 7% of whom are expats.
With so many incredible places to call home in this breathtakingly beautiful region, here are a few top picks for expat arrivals.
Tuscany’s Renaissance Cities
From Florence and Lucca to Pisa and its famous tower, Tuscany is home to many awe-inspiring cities known for their historic beauty and immersive culture.
At the very heart of Tuscany lies Florence, also known as the ‘Cradle of the Renaissance’. This city has been home to some of the world’s greatest artists, architects, thinkers, and political figures, including Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Masaccio and Michelangelo. Beautifully littered with museums, churches, art galleries, operas and so much more, Florence practically breathes culture and offers plenty for expats to experience.
“Living in Florence is easy; you can walk everywhere, go to the bar, have an espresso while relaxing in the piazza and being surrounded by art in each corner” says Meaghan, author of Good Tastes of Tuscany, who has lived in Tuscany since 1988.
As you might expect, the cost of living is slightly more expensive in Florence than it is in other Tuscan cities including Pisa. Florence is also home to one of the two international airports in Tuscany – Pisa being the other.
When it comes to job opportunities, Florence “is famous for the production of jewellery, perfume, ceramics and leather, as well as for pioneering unusual production techniques such as marbling and mosaicking. If you have strong technical skills and experience, it may well be worth exploring these options” says Meaghan.
Tourism is one of the city’s main economic sectors, and as such, offers plenty of opportunities for expats – especially those who can speak both English and Italian. Another popular career path here, as it is in many other major Italian cities, is teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
Situated to the west of Florence, closer to the coast, “Lucca is one of the cities most favoured by many expats. Known as the city of 100 churches, it too is renowned for its historic monuments and breathtaking Renaissance architecture” says Marta, an expat who has lived in Massarosa, Tuscany for 14 years.
With quaint cobbled streets and pretty piazzas and promenades, exploring the enchanting city by foot is like a dream – made all the better by the fact that almost everything is within walking distance.
With a lower cost of living and a slower pace of life, Lucca is the perfect place for those looking to enjoy city life at a relaxed pace. Plus, Lucca “is not as overrun by tourists all year round as is, say, nearby Florence” adds Marta. Tourism however, does play a major part in Lucca’s economy, and there are plenty of job opportunities in this sector for expats to pursue.
Expats may also find opportunities in the industrial sector (paper, marine, mechanical, chemical and pharmaceutical) which is also an important addition to Lucca’s economy.
Less than an hour’s drive from Lucca lies Pisa, mostly known by tourists for its famous Leaning Tower. But this is only one piece of incredible architecture that inhabits Pisa – The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Pisa Baptistery and the Scuola Normale are also architectural jewels that are not to be ignored.
The overall cost of living in both Florence and Lucca is higher than it is in Pisa, especially when it comes to buying and renting property. With plenty of real estate opportunities to pursue and fantastic education options to explore, Pisa is a great place for expat families and students alike.
Like its sister cities, Pisa offers plenty of opportunities in the tourism industry. Expats may also find potential career paths in the wine, oil, leather or trade sectors.
Home to the largest airport in Tuscany – the Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport – getting to Pisa is easy. Getting around Pisa is even more so. As a small city, you can easily get to where you want go by foot or bicycle, but if you want to explore the surrounding area, you could use the city’s bus service or drive. Just remember that the historic centre of Pisa is a car-free zone, so you won’t be able to drive there at all.
Tuscany has countless charming small towns and scenic villages hidden in the rolling, green hills. The region is very well connected transport-wise, so there’ll always be plenty of ways you can get to where you need to go, even if you do choose to settle in a smaller town off the beaten track.
San Gimignano, a picturesque medieval hill town situated in the stunning Tuscan countryside, is a perfect haven for expats or retirees looking to embrace a slower pace of living. Tourists swarm to San Gimignano for day trips to marvel at the archaic 13th century walls and neck-craning towers which encircle the historic old town.
But it’s not only tourists that are drawn to this enchanting town. Sara Graham, author of How To Make Big Moves, and expat who has lived in Torino for two years with her husband who is Tuscan says: “I think people would be surprised to learn that there are expats everywhere… even in tiny towns”.
Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, San Gimignano may be a small town but it is home to an abundance of shopping opportunities, including speciality food and wine shops, and getting around is easy – just follow your feet.
The Chianti area is located just south of Florence and is known for its gentle hills, countless vineyards and olive groves, rustic villages, stone churches, and more. It’s difficult to define the borders to the Chianti area in Tuscany, because the name ‘Chianti’ traditionally refers to the area between Florence and Siena where Chianti wine is produced.
As well as incredible landscapes and a thriving wine production sector, Chianti offers plenty of unique shopping and sightseeing opportunities. Expats seeking a more laid-back approach to life will definitely find home in this region – plus it’s only a stone’s throw away from Florence.
In more rural areas like Chianti, access to English speaking doctors can be more difficult. Sara, who lives in Torino, says “I absolutely needed my husband’s assistance in setting up my healthcare. Once assigned a doctor, I knew enough Italian to communicate what I needed to. Generally doctors, the younger ones, will speak a bit of English.” But for expats who are not yet confident with the language, it may be a good option to look into expat health insurance policies so you can easily access doctors who are fluent in English in case of a medical emergency.
Whether you choose to relocate to a quaint coastal town or settle in an enchanting city, there are an array of places to choose from in Tuscany – the land of vineyards, rolling hills, renaissance culture and so much more.