So you’re thinking of relocating to Sicily. Do you already have a clear idea of what life here will look like? If so you can skip this article and get straight to browsing our database of property listings. But if you are in the market for business or investment opportunities on the island, well, we’ve been in your shoes ourselves!
Business Opportunities in Sicily
Perhaps you have a dream of becoming an entrepreneur, but are worried about the expense? Investing in Sicily is a great way in which to start: wage costs and living expenses are low, and quality of life is high.
60% of the Sicilian economy is in the service sector, but the region is also Italy’s agricultural heartland. The island is a major exporter of pasta, wine, olive oil and other locally grown and cultivated products. There is also a large ceramics industry. The main value here is in our unrivaled image. By investing in Sicily you are buying into a name, iconography and cultural heritage which are key selling points when exporting goods. Many successful companies focus on sharing the stories behind their products.
Perhaps you have dreamed of creating your own produce? The cheap cost of land in Sicily, combined with the fertile soil and perfect climate make this kind of small industry very possible – as does the boom in demand for organic and small-scale produce. One idea we would recommend for its low startup costs and simple charm is to make your own olive oil.
This can be done anywhere you have space for a small olive grove – if you search our database of properties for sale in Sicily using the ‘land’ filter, you will discover several excellent possibilities for investing in Sicily! Wine production is of course another possibility, but this can be a more expensive process and requires more specialist knowledge.
If you are reading this page in English then one industry you might consider is using your language skills. The demand for English teaching and translation is everywhere, and Sicily is no exception – just ask our British colleague Sandy (who is helping write this page at the moment!)… Sandy moved here four years ago to work as a language teacher and has since founded a small association which uses theater to teach English to local students. In his spare time he says it’s a pleasure to work on with a project that can share the excitement and beauty of Sicily with the wider world. We didn’t even tell him to write that bit – he just added it in himself!
Of course, many people these days have become digital nomads, working online in all kinds of languages. If you’re looking for a base for that lifestyle then, honestly, this culture-packed Mediterranean jewel sells itself!
The Tourist Dollar
And, of course, the largest opportunity for investing in Sicily is the tourism industry. From small-scale B&Bs to vacation rentals to hotels the affordable price of real estate, stunning year-round climate, excellent air travel connections to all major European cities through the airports of Palermo and Catania and the island’s strong identity and name recognition are all in your favor.
The industry also supports a wealth of secondary economic activity. Once the area becomes familiar turf your local connections will make you a valuable point of reference for many of the 15 million people who visit Sicily each year. The region is the fastest-growing tourist market in Italy and this is no Costa Del Sol – very few of these arrivals travel on package deals, with the vast majority in search of an experience that is authentic and local. This creates demand for tour planners, guides, language travel and homestay hospitality. So just by living in and getting to know a charming community you are developing a marketable knowledge base – it’s beautiful!
Thanks to increased low-cost air traffic in recent years, one fast-emerging market in Sicily is the mini break economy in and around the city of Palermo. Once seen as a slightly poor cousin of the great Northern cities like Milan and Turin, Palermo has enjoyed a real renaissance over the past decade, culminating in it becoming Italian Capital of Culture in 2018. There would be potential here to run anything from a bed and breakfast to a street food tour, or for larger scale capital investment or property speculation.
English is not yet widely spoken here, so if you are not yet fluent in Italian speaker it would pay dividends to take some classes to help make these connections. We can put you in touch with good teachers online or all over Sicily!
Crime and Punishment?
Any concerns you may have about the effect of Mafia activity on your dream of investing in Sicily are completely understandable, but, in the twenty first century, overwhelmingly misplaced. Yes, we are all aware of the island’s troubled past but in this day and age what organized crime remains is concentrated in specific areas like the narcotics trade and large-scale construction projects.
Thanks to community initiatives like ‘Addiopizzo’, a union of business owners who took a stand against the protection rackets of the past, today’s Mafia reality is more one of political maneuvering and white collar crime than interference with small businesses. In the thirty years we have been living and working in Sicily we have never had a problem with this, and none of our clients have reported any difficulties while settling here or starting businesses.
Too good to be true?
If you’re planning to support yourself through self employment or running a small business we understand that you’ll want a realistic picture of the challenges as well as the opportunities available. One of these is that the culture in many areas of Sicily is very well-established and some locals can be slow to embrace new ideas. However, one such pattern of behavior which has endured for centuries is hospitality and socializing. Our best recommendation is to take advantage of this and do what you can to become a part of the local community. You will find most people very welcoming and gestures of kindness reciprocated. Sometimes you need to think in less straight lines, and find ways to cooperate and collaborate with other businesses which might seem informal in other countries, but here can pay big rewards, both socially and professionally.
The expatriate community is also strong, with populations from the US, UK, Germany, Russia, Scandinavia and more besides. In the areas of Palermo and Cefalù, Catania and Taormina, Naxos, Trapani and Marsala there are groups both offline (like the German-speaking community in our area, to whom we’d be happy to introduce you) and online (like this social group in Palermo who are planning to organize a regular meeting for small business owners) who have close relationships and are happy to share their experiences.
Another issue faced by investors and new arrivals is the sometimes incomprehensible Italian bureaucracy. If you are already involved in a property transaction here then you will understand what we mean. Working out what you owe to whom (and, significantly in a market with such generous subsidies for overseas investors) what you can claim from where can be an uphill struggle. Especially if you are going to become a resident or develop a business we strongly recommend finding a trusted accountant and business manager. Fortunately, we have a wide network of contacts and would be delighted to help you find someone in your new area who speaks your language.
So What Next?
It’s easy to search our database of real estate in Sicily.
Or find out how we can help you get relocated and get into business.