Want to spend your retirement like royalty but can’t decide where? Check out our guide and choose whether you should retire in Portugal or Italy!

Last Updated on August 19, 2022 by Maryam Siddiqui

Who said retirement has to be boring? You’d be amazed by how many people decide whether to retire in Portugal or Italy. Relaxed lifestyles, great weather, and well-developed healthcare are just some of the reasons, but one of the two can get you a lot more for the same price! 

Making a decision between the two is easier said than done, and that’s exactly why we’re here. There are so many factors you have to put into consideration before deciding which one is right for you. This post will shed some light on the basic things that you should know before deciding

Tag along to find out the similarities and differences between the two, how the lifestyle compares, and which area would be the best one. By the end, you’ll be able to pick your new home; happy reading!

Retire in Portugal or Italy? Why do expats choose them?

Portugal and Italy are among the top 10 favorite destinations for most Europeans looking for a retirement destination. So why do expats love these counties? Are there things that they have in common? Let’s discuss!

Similarities between the countries

When old age eventually catches up with you, simple things like peace and climate become more important to you.

In fact, retirees are drawn to warmer weather more than anything else and based on this observation alone, Portugal and Italy are top-tier destination choices. Both of these countries experience extended seasons of warm weather as compared to other European nations. 

The warm climate is nice, however, a cheaper and quality healthcare system is another factor that sends many people to Italy and Portugal in droves. Similar to other European counties, both Portugal and Italy put a strong focus on quality health care for their citizens.

Additionally, both cultures really value human relationships and gathering for meals with loved ones. Portuguese and Italian are big on cooking hearty dishes and sitting for hours laughing and cherishing every moment. 

When all is said and done, anyone looking to immigrate to another country wants a peaceful and slow pace of life; Portugal and Italy offer exactly that.

Portugal vs Italy for expats

Let’s dive a little deeper into what it’s like living in each of the countries and help you understand the culture a bit more. 

About living in Portugal

Portugal is an ideal destination for many expats, and the beautiful weather and many beaches aren’t the only things this country has to offer.

If you’re a retiree with children still in the process of completing their education, you’d be delighted to know that there are plenty of International schools and universities with excellent structure.


Expats from other European countries or even the US are astonished at how cheap food is; even €10 goes a long way in Portugal. Everything is very affordable, especially for foreigners.

Finally, the Portuguese culture is family-friendly, children are known as the joy of life, and the Portuguese people like to welcome all visitors. Restaurants will go out of their way to accommodate even the funniest of eaters.

About living in Italy

Italy is the perfect embodiment of the famous phrase la dolce vita or rather ‘the sweet life’. Life is generally cheaper compared to most European counties, although still more expensive than in Portugal.

Outside the big cities, services like transport and internet connections are affordable. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that the cost of living is relative to which area you choose to live in.

The cost of living in cities like Rome will cost up to 50% more as compared to other small rural towns within Italy. Generally, the population of Italy is welcoming to visitors, and you’ll find integrating with the local community easier.

The atmosphere itself is very homely and romantic; people are also nice and tolerant. Both countries have their own charm. And it’s okay to still love both countries whether you retire in Portugal or Italy!

Differences between the countries

With all the similarities, it’s also obvious that there are some major differences, the cost of living being one of them, but we’ll talk about that in just a bit. 

Firstly, the Global Peace Index 2021 ranks Portugal as the fourth-safest country to live in, while Italy is ranked at thirty-two. Of course, this doesn’t mean Italy is completely unsafe, but an environment where you don’t have to worry about your safety is an added benefit for older people.

Another difference is how particular the Italians are with how they cook meals and mix ingredients. The cuisines are pretty similar, except for the fact that the Portuguese love fish and rice more while Italians love pasta.

While these differences don’t necessarily mean much to most people, here’s one thing that will: the cost of living in each country, so let’s find get into the details!

Cost of living in each country

One is more well-known for being a vacation destination, a place where people celebrate love and life’s milestones; the other has recently gotten famous for being an excellent destination to live in!

Rome in Italy and Lisbon in Portugal are two of the best cities to explore at least once in your lifetime. And it goes without saying that they’re also some of the most expensive regions in Portugal.

As a retiree, you can live a very peaceful life in both cities, but depending on your passive income, you might prefer one over the other.

Check out the table below for some estimated figures that’ll help you compare:

DataCosts in PortugalCosts in Italy
A single person estimated monthly costs (without rent)€547€765
1-bedroom apartment in the city center€717€677
Family of four estimated monthly costs (without rent)€1,921€2,698
3-bedroom apartment in the city center€1,260€1,293

Data is from Numbeo (as of August 2022).

As you can see in the table above, the rent for a one-bedroom and three-bedroom apartment is almost the same in both countries. Portugal’s rent is much lower in regions like the Azores Islands and Madeira Islands or the Silver Coast. 


The good news about moving to Portugal as an expat is that you won’t have to worry about paying taxes twice. Portugal has a tax treaty with most EU and Non-EU countries, so you won’t find yourself losing your hard-earned money.

Similar to other EU countries, the tax year begins on the 1st of January to the 31st of December. The standard income tax range is between 14%-48% depending on what you earn in the taxable duration.

However, expats can benefit from 10 years of tax benefits thanks to the Non-Habitual Resident Tax Regime

What this means for you is that you get to keep every cent you earn outside of Portugal for up to 10 years. However, if you’re self-employed or employed, you’ll be subject to a standard 20% flat-rate tax.

In Italy, tax returns must be filed by the 30th of September of the preceding year. Employees are subject to three types of taxes in Italy.

  • The national income tax ranges between 23%-43% and is levied on all incomes.
  • Regional income tax ranges from 1.23% to 3.33%.
  • The Municipality Income tax is similar to the national income tax. This levy is dependent on the municipality of residence and ranges between 0% to 0.8%.
  • Flat 7% tax rate for pensioners if you live in a municipality with less than 20,000 inhabitants (For example, Abruzzo, Apulia, Sicily, or the Basilicata).

As an expat, one major concern is double taxation, however, fret not! Italy has treaties with most countries that are aimed at reducing the chances of double taxation as well.

Labor Market in Portugal and Italy

As it stands, Portugal has an average unemployment rate of 5.7%, and expats often find the transition slightly challenging. Alike to Portugal, Italy can also do better, with an unemployment rate of 8.1%.

First off, the Portuguese economy is manufacturing-driven and quite dependent on tourism, often having a limited need for expat workers.

However, highly skilled expats often choose to look for employment in big cities like Lisbon that need highly skilled personnel. Recently, there has been a huge surge in startups, coworking spaces, and businesses within the country. So the opportunities are increasing.

Getting an English-speaking expat job in Italy should not be too difficult. However, speaking Italian will be an added advantage in certain job fields. Getting a job in the tourism field or as an English educator is also possible in Italy.


Public transportation is efficient in Portugal, given the many modes of transportation available. For instance, trains, buses, metro, or taxis.

The Comboios de Portugal, or rather Portugal’s train system, connects different inland towns in the north and south. Ticket prices are affordable, and there are plenty of discounts.

Also, buses are available for transport around the country. Different buses operate on different routes in the north and south regions.

If trains and buses are not your fancies, then you should try the subway system. Portugal has two subway systems in Porto and Lisbon. They both open at 6 am and close at 1 am. The tickets are affordable and have daily to monthly plans.

Italy is no different as compared to most EU countries when it comes to transport. You don’t need a vehicle to get by. There are plenty of other cheaper and more efficient transportation options, for instance, the train system, buses, metro, and air transport.

The train system in Italy is efficient and can take you from one town to another. The high-speed Frecciarossa trains travel at speeds of 300km/hr.

Italy has 4 metros in Turin, Milan, Rome, and Naples. Each metro station charges different prices for tickets with different validity periods.

Buses in Italy offer transport between and within cities. All you have to do is book a ticket and be sure to validate the ticket once on board. Buses are often limited during Sundays or public holidays.


When compared to some countries in the EU, then both Portugal and Italy have fair weather all year round. However, Portugal has the best weather in Europe, hands down!

The country experiences mild winters and longer sunny hours than any other country in Europe. In Italy, different cities experience different extremities when it comes to weather. Southern Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate while cities like Milan and Venice experience extreme climates, especially during the winter.

Here’s a table that summarizes the four different seasons:

Portugal15.4 ºC
(59.72 ºF)
21.4 ºC
(70.52 ºF)
18.1 ºC
(64.58 ºF)
11.8 ºC
(53.24 ºF)
Italy10.6 ºC
(51.1 ºF)
22.5 ºC
(72.5 ºF)
17.1 ºC
(62.8 ºF)
8.5 ºC
(47.3 ºF)

Data is taken from the Climate Data website.


We already mentioned it once, but Portugal is the fourth-safest country in the world. While Italy is ranked as 31st safest. While this doesn’t mean people are scared for their lives in Italy, you’d probably want to be more cautious. 

Portugal has a relatively low crime rate. However, nonviolent criminal activities like pick-pocketing in certain areas like beaches could occur. 


On the other hand, Italy is not extremely different than Portugal. Besides the fact that it’s notorious for having organized crime groups and mafias. They don’t go around spreading hate and war, but we do advise taking safety as an individual responsibility.


Italy and Portugal share a common love for football. Both of these countries rank well as far as national football teams are concerned. Outside of football, you can enjoy luxury driving experiences on tracks in Italy or hiking and tracking on the famous tracks of Portugal.

There’s always the usual too; nightclubs, bars, casinos, golf, other sports, great food, and street entertainment. It’s never a dull moment in these countries! You can expect to be fully entertained whether you retire in Portugal or Italy.

How to get a Visa in each country

So, we’ve highlighted the differences and also the similarities. Now it’s time for you to know how easy it is to obtain a visa in each country so you can make your move easier!

Obtaining a visa to live in Portugal

There are several types of visas, but if you’re looking to retire in Portugal and live on passive income, then the D7 Visa (Passive Income Visa) is the one for you.

You’ll need to show proof of private and valid insurance in Portugal or Europe in general.

Another requirement is proof of funds to support your relocation and cover the cost of living and accommodation in Portugal.

Once all these documents are in order, then fill in the application and submit it to the nearest Portuguese consulate near you.

How to get a visa in Italy

If you are considering permanently relocating to Italy, then you should apply for a long-term visa (Type D). This is particularly necessary if you are a non-EU resident. 

For self-sufficient retirees, the most common visa is the Elective Residency Visa for people who have the financial means to retire in Italy.

Visit the Immigration Portal to get the visa requirement based on your individual situation. Provide details of your nationality, reasons for travel, and length of stay. Also, pay a visit to the nearest Italian consulate for further direction on the document you will require.

Bottom Line: Should I retire in Portugal or Italy?

There you have it, a breakdown of what to expect if you’re considering to retire in Portugal or Italy to live your twilight years. The choice of exactly which country you pick is entirely up to you. 

Moving to either of these countries is a great choice, but we’ll be waiting for you if you decide to relocate to Portugal. We know the process can be overwhelming, and our team of professionals here at Viv Europe will help you every step of the way to ensure you have a smooth relocation process throughout.

If you’re scared it’s too late to move and retire in Portugal, you’d be surprised to see our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. Ask questions from people who were in their sixties when they decided to retire in Portugal or Italy and are now having the time of their lives!

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