Working in Italy
Jobs in Tuscany and Umbria
By Lucia Mancini
Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Tuscany. Photo © Transitons Abroad.
I have lived in Tuscany for over five years now in Arezzo and now in the smaller town of Chiusi (Siena). My friends back home always ask me how one can find employment in Italy. Let's be up front: It is by no means easy to find work
in this beautiful but often complicated and bureaucratic country. You really have to be innovative with your ideas because of the high unemployment. The best advice I can give is to think creatively. I won’t discuss here how you can get a job at a multinational
firm in Italy, such as a transfer to an Italian bank, but rather how to work on your own as an entrepreneur for the smaller companies.
Of course, you will need all your work papers in order if you are planning to earn your income in Italy and do your tax returns. Italian tax laws are complicated and you should seek out an accountant or commercialista to help you.
If you work as an independent consultant, you should always have a written contract binding both parties. You can draft the contract in English. It is also wise to request a small deposit up front for any
work. The deposit usually is not denied if the client is serious about the work you will render and about paying you.
There are several possibilities for someone who wants to work in Italy. Our greatest advantage is our ability to speak English fluently. I have found that it has opened far many more doors for me than the MBA I possess.
Know Your Regions in Italy
Employment in Italy is regionally oriented and the best research you can do before coming to Italy is to study the region you plan to come to. Ask yourself the following questions: What is the main industry or industries
that this city or town is involved with? For instance, the city of Arezzo is the gold jewelry manufacturing capital of Italy and it has hundreds of big and small jewelry companies that export and may be looking for fluent English speakers.
What is the up-and-coming industry or company of this town? News events will steer you towards new health spas, new museums, new facilities, new tourism offices, etc. What is the history, culture, and attitude of the townspeople? Are they open
to foreigners? What products do they excel in producing? For instance, the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino are famous wine-producing centers with numerous companies that export to the U.S. These could be great venues for English-speaking
A typical landscape in Tuscany. Photo © Transitions Abroad.
Tourism and Tourism-Related Jobs
In Tuscany and Umbria there hotels, inns, bed and breakfast establishments, agriturismo (farm holiday homes), vacation villas, thermal spas, and restaurants are always looking for fluent English-speaking people who
are computer and internet literate to fill positions as reception desk clerk, management personnel, telephone operators, chambermaids, doormen, waiters, waitresses, etc. These establishments are also looking for people to find foreign clients
for them and willing to pay a good commission on sales. A great website is www.valdichiana.it, which lists hotels, wineries, restaurants, and tour agencies for the provinces of Siena,
Arezzo, Perugia. and Terni.
It is of great help to contact the local tourist boards for each town you are interested in to get a full listing of the tourist establishments in the area. You can visit Regione Toscana for tourist board information. Within this website you can find lists of agriturismi or farm holiday homes, wine associations, and health spas. Go to Agriturismo.it for many listings of agriturismi.
Trying to find employment is not so much a numbers game as it is analyzing logically which organizations or sectors in your particular area would need someone with your background and abilities. For instance, I found
that there are numerous companies that need local native English speakers to assist in their services: cooking tour groups, walking and bicycle tours, painting and art schools, ceramic schools, etc. Many of these are owned and run by American
companies. Your role could be booking or guiding tours or managing the groups and itineraries.
Teaching English still remains one of the best employment possibilities. Here there are two options: teaching privately or teaching at a language school. Many schools require a TEFL license; however, I found a few
that did not. I used the local yellow pages of my town and contacted all the language schools and followed up by sending a resume and then paid an in-person visit. Companies really appreciate meeting candidates in person as they feel more comfortable
speaking face to face.
Teaching privately can pay up to $30 an hour for individual lessons. I found the best way to find clients is by word of mouth. You may want to put up flyers in strategic spots in your town like the local bakery, bar,
hair salon, etc. You can offer English lessons to bank personnel, post office personnel, other teachers and staffs of schools.
Real Estate Agencies
A multitude of realtors throughout Italy are always looking for fluent English speakers. Foreigners are buying more and more property in Italy. Agencies owned and run by foreigners or by Italians welcome native English
speakers. They too can offer of a commission-based salary for every client you bring them. Here again, you can search the web for the area in which you want to live and contact each the many property agencies, such as Toscana Houses. Some only employ Italians, but some will be looking for native English speakers who can be sponsored.
Closely related to property sales is property management. Remember that a foreigner needs certain services once they purchase property in Italy. Property management includes taking care of bills, gardening, housekeeping,
house sitting, pet sitting, and finding renters for their property. I ran into a German couple that did quite well with this business in Umbria. You can place an ad in the many international travel magazines available either in print or online.
Sometimes the best jobs are those you can do from home. Translation work offers this luxury. Of course, your command of the Italian language should be good. You can translate everything from documents to product catalogs
to websites from Italian to English.
Often times companies need interpreters to assist them, especially at trade shows. These gigs usually last from three to seven days and companies usually pay quite well plus cover any expenses you may have such as lodging
and transportation. You can see on the internet which companies will be exhibiting at different trade shows by going to the official website of each trade show organizer. For instance, you can visit the website of tradeshows yourself and then see if they need an interpreter. Websites for tradeshows includes www.fierarimini.it, www.bolognafiere.it, and www.fieradiroma.it.
Every large city has a convention center and puts on tradeshows.
I found the tourist offices of each city to be very helpful. They sometimes are looking for native speakers to accompany groups of foreigners for different itineraries. For instance, I found the tourist office in
Citta’ della Pieve (Umbria) to be very helpful as they were organizing many group visits for the Perugino Art Exhibit this past summer and needed native English-speaking people to accompany groups. Try Umbria Online for
information on itineraries, tours, etc.
Why not set up a business selling Italian items on the internet. You could be a sales representative for one or more companies. Stick to products that excel in your zone. For instance, in Tuscany and Umbria, food
and wine that are traditional in that town like cheeses, pastas, wines, and specialty foods like truffles or organic foods. Most of the small- and medium-sized companies do not sell virtually and have a very basic usage of the internet. E-commerce
is not widespread. You can do some research on these companies and present yourself in person. Expect an offer of commission on sales and not a salary. For instance, you can visit Wine-Searcher to
get full listings of wine producers in the regions of Umbria and Tuscany and contact the ones that seem the most interesting to you.
Best Advice for Finding Work in Tuscany and Umbria
Although it has been difficult at times, my time in Italy has also been an incredible experience. I have met many foreigners that have come and gone and many who have remained. I have seen the most amazing businesses
set up. Some have failed. Others have managed and will to stick around.
The best advice I could give anyone is to seek out other foreigners, especially in your region. Many expats have years of experience and can steer you either toward or away from something. I met many of my non-Italian
friends while I was searching for property. There are a multitude of realtors and related businesses (property managers, architectural firms, property restoration agencies, etc.) run by foreigners. Pick up the local newspaper that runs
ads for realtors and start calling. This is also a great way to meet people who can become a sort of support group which you develop into a network.
Editor's Note: See our section full of articles and resources on Living in Italy: The Best Expatriate Resources for much more on living and working in Italy, including
Tuscany and Umbria.