What’s it like teaching in Italy?

It’s no surprise that Italy attracts teachers from all over the planet, but what’s it like living and working there?

Carly Page

What's it like teaching in Italy?

Why Italy? 

Ah, Italy: world-renowned cuisine, ancient historical sites, cutting-edge fashion and lavish Baroque architecture...it’s no surprise the country is such a popular international teaching destination.

Within the country, there is a huge range of activities to enjoy, too: from hiking in the Dolomites to driving along the Amalfi Coast to riding a gondola in Venice or relaxing on one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches in Sardinia.

And, of course, there’s the world-famous pizza and pasta, which you can eat on cobbled streets while gazing at Italy’s stunning architecture.

A word on the weather, though. While you may think it’s glorious sun and dining al fresco all year around, the winters can be very cold and wet and the summers stiflingly hot. Spring and autumn are when it’s best.

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Salary 

A starting salary for a primary school teacher in Italy is €22,394 (£20,500), while a secondary school teacher, or high-school teacher, will be on an average €29,189 (£26,800). Typically, an end-of-career salary for a teacher is around €37,799 (£34,700).

While these are lower than the average figures for Europe, Italy offers plenty of opportunities for teachers to earn extra money; English teachers are in high demand in the tourism-rich country and you can make €20 to €40 (£18 to £36) an hour for private lessons. 

Accommodation is not usually included as part of a teacher’s employment contract, although many schools will provide assistance for teachers looking for housing. 

Academic requirements

There are 50 international schools in Italy, and almost all will require that international teachers hold a legitimate TEFL certificate; English teaching jobs in Italy are competitive, so certification is essential. 

Most schools also require that you have at least two years of full-time teaching experience, and some schools will insist on mother tongue language skills.

Cost of living

Depending on where you’re based in Italy, the cost of living can be quite high. If you head for the most popular cities like Rome, Florence or Milan, you'll be spending more on housing, food and entertainment than you would in smaller towns and villages. 

On average, rent will cost around €800 (£730) per month, while extras such as the internet and food shopping will set you back an additional €200 (£180) per month. 

With that in mind, many teachers in Italy choose to share accommodation to cut down on costs, especially if they are in the early stage of their career.

If you're going to live in a city, it’s advisable that you save up a bit of money beforehand because of the higher-than-usual living costs. 

Culture

Despite the language difficulties that you’ll likely face in your early days in Italy, it’s a relatively easy country to visit. 

Of course, there are some local customs that will still take a bit of getting used to, such as Italians’ gesticular way of communicating, the supermarket etiquette (it’s frowned upon to touch fresh fruit and vegetables with your bare hands) and eating out in restaurants; while in the UK we tend to have a starter, main course and dessert, a traditional Italian menu has five to nine courses. 

The driving can also be a bit unnerving.

Views from teachers in Italy

Jennie Devine, principal of St Louis International School in Milan: “I love Italy because it was always a place that seemed so exotic, cultural and romantic when I was younger; because of this, I can really appreciate the small details that make this such a great place to live. 

"The morning cappuccino and croissant, the view of the snow-covered Alps, the farmers' markets, the culture of aperitivo, great food and wine – all of these little details remind me each day that I live in a foreign country.  

“I also love teaching the children. They are exuberant, joyful and curious. This can be a bit of a culture shock for teachers who are used to more quiet, reserved students, but I love Italian students. Lessons with them are dynamic and stimulating.

“In Italy, mountains play a big role in terms of how people spend their free time. There are the Alps and the Dolomites in Northern Italy and so people often go hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, Alpine trekking – all of these activities are easy to find and there are lots of social groups and rambling clubs that people can join. Italians also love to go cycling and, again, there are plenty of opportunities to find like-minded people to join in with. Italy has lakes and seaside, too. It is a country full of incredible natural beauty.

“One quirky thing I love about Italy is the sagra. These are local festivals held throughout the spring and summer and almost every town in Italy has one. These are harvest festivals and the menus are focused on one food (usually something produced locally).

“Travelling is very easy from Italy. The trains are really good, there is a good bus service, UK drivers can rent cars and, of course, flights are regular and to all major airports. 

"Within big cities, there are metros, buses, trams and bike-sharing schemes. It is also just a quick jaunt back to the UK and so for anyone who is looking to travel internationally but not wanting to go so far afield, it is a good move.

“I would suggest that anyone thinking about coming here goes for it. There are downsides – the Italian bureaucracy will have you frustrated and cursing at times – but the lifestyle, the weather, the food, the travel opportunities and the delightful children will make it all worthwhile.”

Carly Page is a freelance journalist

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