Retirees Abandon Italy in Search of a Better Life

By Marco Tistarelli
Marco Tistarelli
Marco Tistarelli
August 20, 2013 Updated: August 20, 2013

FLORENCE, Italy—The astounding sights, the rich history, the artisan food, would anyone not want to spend their retirement in Italy? Well, if you ask Italian retirees, some would say ‘yes.’

Research by Italy’s national institute for pensions (INPS) reveals that half a million Italians receive their pension abroad, a number that continues to grow.

So why is that so many Italians go trough the great trouble of leaving their country, considered by many as a choice destination?

Nearly seventy percent of Italian retirees receive a monthly allowance that’s below the 1,011 euros ($1,349) poverty line, according to INPS data—leading many pensioners to leave for countries with lower living costs.

Walter Chiccoli, 66, originally from the Italian town of Ferrara, moved to Thailand 15 years ago.

“I had a dream to relive Italy’s golden years. Thailand today is exactly like that” Chiccoli said.

“This is a land of smiles as well as clean and secure—we have to consider the quality of the food and the hospitals. Retired people I meet here seem to rejuvenate!”

Sergio Stabile, 81, owns a bungalow resort in Tanzania, mostly serving retirees.

“Some come especially in winter months to enjoy the climate. Those who come for summer holidays stay typically 2 or 3 weeks, while in winter many book three or four months, because with a thousand euro a month you can live very well if you avoid the luxury.”

Sergio, who himself moved from Italy’s Friuli region to Tanzania 20 years ago, says that he thinks the advantages are undeniable, such as living in a mild climate.

Data collected by shows an increase in Italians moving abroad in 2012, with a large number moving to Brazil and the Canary Islands. Other popular destinations are Thailand and Costa Rica.

“We find ourselves in a world where spring weather embraces us all year round. There are some important features for older people, including health system, with a European standard,” Stephen Taranto, owner of a real estate company, said about the Spanish Island of Tenerife.

An increasing number of online platforms have sprung up informing Italians about the possibilities of moving abroad, and professional services offering help to retirees considering to move abroad.

“Out of ten phone calls I receive, 7 are by older people in the process of moving,” Nicos Bertani, head of Vivinelmondo, in an interview with L’Indipendenza, a community nonprofit organization.

“There are men who have been widowed, elderly separated, but there are also couples that go great together and want to change their lives.”

According to Bertani the choice to move abroad is also influenced by factors such as security and access to health care.

Marco Tistarelli
Marco Tistarelli