Renowned for its art, food and rich history, Italy remains an attractive economy for investment as it recovers from the global financial crisis and continues to grow steadily each year. Once home to the Roman Empire, Italy is now home to over 60 million people. Due to its location in Europe and the Mediterranean, it contains a myriad of different cultures and traditions. The country plays a prominent global role in everything from economics to military and diplomatic affairs.

Major obstacles that companies may encounter when doing business in Italy are a complex bureaucracy and regulatory framework, a slow judicial system, and competitive challenges due to high levels of bribery, corruption and tax evasion. On the one hand, Italy boasts one of the largest economies worldwide and in Europe in terms of GDP. On the other hand, it often ranks poorly in the Index of Economic Freedom. For this reason, expert advice is essential when considering doing business in Italy.

Despite Italy’s issues, there are many advantages of doing business there, including government incentives for foreign investors. Its diversified economy is home to almost all sectors of industry. While the Northern regions predominantly focus on food, textiles, machinery, iron and steel, clothing, footwear and ceramics, Southern Italy’s main areas are agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. There is, however, a clear wealth gap between the North and South, as the Northern regions are much more affluent. Despite this, Italy is financially developed and viewed as an ideal country for business, with its modern infrastructure, gateways to the Mediterranean, Middle East and European markets, and high levels of internationalisation and entrepreneurship.

Cross-cultural awareness is also vital for establishing business connections, as Italian culture remains very family-oriented. Furthermore, there is a tendency towards hierarchical attitudes in Italian companies as well as regional biases. On the other hand, meetings are typically less formal than in many other European nations.

For all the information you need to expand firms into Italy, the World Business Culture website is the number-one source.


Despite Italy’s much publicised economic difficulties, following the global banking crisis, it remains a vibrant and attractive economy which not only has an active export base but which is also open to new products and new ideas from abroad. Doing business in Italy has proved highly successful for scores of global companies – and will continue to do so as the country continues to grow at a steady rate.

Italy has a well-educated and discerning consumer base as well as a vibrant manufacturing sector with thousands of SME’s producing a wide range of high-quality goods across a number of sectors. Both the Italian consumer base and SME companies need new products and services and are actively looking to work with international partners who can add value to their lives. If you are not doing business in Italy at the moment, you should start to scan the market for opportunities as soon as possible.

Italy represents an attractive opportunity but that does not mean everything will be plain sailing when you get there. Like all countries, Italy has a distinct and unique business culture. Don’t expect business in Italy to function like things do ‘back home’.

Italian business is very relationship oriented and who you know is incredibly important. How are you going to make those all-important first connections and, when you meet them, how will you make a good impression? Are you speaking to the right person within a prospect organisation? How effectively will you be able to communicate your ideas and what are the ‘hot-buttons’ in Italy? These issues could mean the difference between success and failure.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Italian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips