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Teaching English In Italy: What It's Really Like

What it's really like teaching in Italy
Get a taste of La Dolce Vita!

Why choose Italy for TEFL teaching?

Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world. Some people chose it for its pasta, pizza and other famously delicious foods. Others are more motivated by its history, with Roman Imperial ruins and temples standing shoulder to shoulder with medieval Venetian merchants' manor houses and gothic basilicas and cathedrals. Still more people choose to go to Italy for the celebrated 'slow' pace of life, savouring a cappuccino on a piazza in the morning instead of gulping down coffee in a paper cup on a London Tube at rush hour. And there are so many more reasons, the beautiful weather, the stunning coastlines and scenery, and of course, the friendly people you'll meet there. English teachers have been moving to Italy to find work for over a hundred years, including James Joyce, who taught English in Trieste in 1905 when he was at the beginning of his writing career.

A woman looking down on Rome

Where is the best place to teach English in Italy?

Italy is not a very big country, but it is a land of contrasts, with huge modern cities like Rome and Milan offering a very different lifestyle from the idyllic rural ideal of a small Tuscan village. Italian cities indisputably have a lot to offer, whether that's Venice's canals and carnivals, Florence's art and architecture, or Bologna's cuisine and shopping. But Italy has a lot to offer in terms of rural and small-town living as well, with sought after areas including Umbria and Apulia, offering that romanticised leisurely lifestyle that Italy is famous for. Of course, life in an Italian city will offer more in terms of teaching opportunities than the countryside, but all Italian students study English and almost all do so to a higher level, so teaching jobs can be found in even the smaller towns. Many countries have a rural/urban divide, but Italy also has a noticeable divide between the North and the South, which you might want to bear in mind when deciding whether to move there. Northern Italy is the richer, more industrial part of the country, with wealthy cities like Milan and Turin. This means a slightly faster pace of life, higher rates of education and higher standards and cost of living. Southern Italy is poorer and there will be fewer jobs available and they will pay less, but of course, life in the South of Italy is cheaper. Do your research before you choose where you move! There really are many factors to think about.

Where can you find teaching jobs in Italy?

Most English teachers in Italy will work in private language schools, where students go to learn English in the afternoons after they've finished school and adults will go later in the evening after they've finished work. International language teachers in Italy will also find themselves inundated with requests to teach one-to-one lessons to students preparing for exams, or businesspeople who need to improve their English for work, and now that we can teach online, opportunities to teach can present themselves no matter how rural an area you live in.


Do you need a degree to teach English in Italy?

No. You don't need a degree to teach English in a private language school, though most schools will expect you to have a CELTA or other English teaching qualification. A European Union passport will open more doors in terms of English-teaching jobs than a degree, although a few Italian employers will be willing to sponsor working visas for the right applicant.

Do you have to speak Italian to teach English?

No. Of course Italian will be very useful when in Italy and many people, especially older people, won't be able to speak English, but there is no expectation that teachers in private language schools are able to speak Italian. In fact, the fact that your students will have to be immersed in English in your lessons may be seen as an advantage to some employers. We'd always recommend getting to know some of the language in whatever country you move to, but language school employers won't expect it.

Life in Italy as an English teacher

Sean moved to Italy in 2019 after completing his CELTA:

I knew I wanted to live in Sicily but I didn't make a plan before I arrived. I couldn't find many job ads online, but I found temporary accommodation in Messina and googled names of language academies and just started calling in to them and emailing them my CV and within 2 weeks I had a job. A lot of my colleagues are from the UK, Ireland and Canada and this meant I had a readymade circle of friends to help me get started in Italy.
The people are friendly, the food is amazing, beaches are fantastic, but yeah it can be chaotic at times (why is there no line/queue?1?). I would say that if you are more of a "go with the flow" kind of person, you'll be fine.

There are challenges involved in teaching in Italy. Finding work without an EU passport will be difficult and it's rare that you'll be paid enough to save money, but if you're motivated by culture and history and cuisine and culture, English teaching can still make a career in Italy possible for many!

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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