I Work in Tech, and I Chose Italy Over the Bay Area.

Here’s why it’s worth the pay cut.

5 min readMar 30, 2022


Photo by Ouael Ben Salah on Unsplash

Before I get into it, I must acknowledge that I’m writing this from a place of privilege. I’m a citizen of both the US and Italy, so I can live and work in both countries without a visa.

Growing up in Northern California, it was clear from a young age that I needed to make a lot of money to live the type of life that I imagined for myself.

Even a simple wish, like owning a tiny house or apartment in a well-connected California city, didn’t seem feasible without a six-figure salary and an equally-well-off partner.

So, during my last year of college, I taught myself how to code. Nothing crazy — just some CSS and vanilla JavaScript. That was enough to land a job in San Jose after graduation, and my starting salary of $65k was higher than anything me or my parents believed was possible.

Six months later, there was only one problem: I hated it.

A high salary is meaningless if you have a higher cost of living.

I made significantly more money in San Jose than I’m currently making in Milan, but I was living with three 30-somethings in a dingy house near the Amtrak tracks.

Sometimes, late at night, I could hear a police helicopter flying low overhead for up to an hour at a time. My flight-tracker app couldn’t tell me what it was doing, but I doubt I would have slept better had I known.

Since moving abroad three years ago — first to Norway and now to Italy — I’ve never had to pay more than 30% of my post-tax paycheck in rent. In both countries, I’ve been able to afford semi-modern studio apartments inside the city center.

Living alone isn’t for everyone, but having the option to live alone without breaking the bank or living in an unsafe suburb is a huge reason I didn’t repatriate.

I don’t have to worry about using (or losing) my health insurance.

One morning in San Jose, as I got in my car and prepped a playlist, I realized that I could shave off about 15 minutes of my commute by biking to work instead of driving.




American emigrant & resident Italian. Read more about what it's like to live and work in Italy at layoverinitaly.com.