The corner bookstore is filled with books on the marvels of Italy, but it is important for teachers to be versed in the hard facts of teaching in Italy before embarking on their journey. Few countries conjure as many deep passions. With thousands of years of history, and over seventy-five percent of the world’s historic and artistic patrimony, it is easy to understand why. A mild climate, delectable cuisine, and the rich and varied landscapes can make anyone feel like they’ve found a place that offers more than they could dream of. Teaching English in Italy is one of the best ways to explore this country’s boundless history and culture. Not only does it give you an enormous amount of freedom and flexibility, but it is also relatively easy for qualified people to find teaching jobs at one of Italy’s thousands of private language schools.
The first thing you need to be sure of before you get your heart set on teaching in Italy is that you possess the right documents for working in Italy, or have the right criteria to obtain them. Though Italy has long been famous for bending the rules, tighter controls on immigration and tax evasion have forced English schools in Italy to make sure that their teachers are both in Italy and able to work in Italy legally. The easiest solution to this problem is if you are already an EU citizen, or can apply for a passport for any of the EU Member States. This, however, can be a problem for many Americans and Australians who want to teach in Italy. Make sure to take a close look at your family tree, because if you have just one grandparent who was born in Italy and never gave up their Italian citizenship, you will be able to use this lineage to procure a passport. This can be a long and drawn out process requiring a separate trip to Italy to collect documentation to be submitted from your home country, but you will also have Italy at your fingertips if you manage to get through the bureaucratic labyrinth, as well as the sweet satisfaction that you did it. Yet another possibility is studying in Italy which will give you the possibility of working up to 20 hours per month through your study visa.
The second thing to consider is the myriad contractual forms that you will be asked to work under. I’ve been teaching in Italy for over ten years and have never heard of anyone being offered a permanent work contract, or contratto a tempo indeterminato, which gives employees access to such benefits as paid holiday, paid sick leave, and a 13th month salary. Fixed time contracts, contratti a tempo determinato, are also fairly hard to come by as they offer the same benefits for a fixed period of one or two years. Probably the best of the remaining contracts to work under is a contratto a progetto which requires your employer to deduct taxes from your earnings and pay into the country’s public healthcare and pension systems. These might not be important to you, but you don’t stand to earn anything more by renouncing these benefits. A contratto a progetto also forces employers to work with you on a two-way street basis, which is fundamental if you want to avoid risking unpleasant surprises. Contracts to steer clear of are the Contratto di Collaborazione Occasionale, which allows you to earn up to 5,000 Euros per year before being lambasted with the full weight of taxation. It’s not a bad deal depending on what your individual circumstances are, but you have to keep in mind that earnings from these kinds of contacts are cumulative over the course of the fiscal year, and your earnings will almost certainly float above this ceiling. There is also the possibility of opening your own partita IVA, or personal tax identification number, which basically makes you like your own little company. Unfortunately, this means that you will not only have to pay up to 46% of your earnings to the state, though there are some loop-holes, but you will also have to pay a private financial adviser when you file your taxes each year.
Don’t be disheartened by the bureaucracy. It is an essential part of living in Italy, and teaching in Italy offers so much more than so many other destinations. Rome, for example, offers a good cross-section of all the things that make Italy an unforgettable place to teach. It is a large and dynamic city that offers teachers a variety of contexts to teach in. Rome is filled with government offices and ministries, headquarters for Italian and multinational corporations, professionals that need English for their evolving business needs, world travelers, college kids, and high schoolers, all of whom sense that English is a fundamental step to achieving their goals in life. New areas that have begun to open up are teaching English to children ages 2-7, and to people with learning disabilities. All of these people inhabit the largest open air museum in the world, with a mild climate, good food, a lot of movida, a central location to visit the rest of Italy, Europe, and the Mediterranean. The list goes on and on. Just make sure you take a step out of the postcard to prepare yourself so that your experience of teaching in Italy is as successful, and positive as you want it to be.