The health of the Italian economy has been in question for many years now. Many young Italians see better opportunities in other parts of Europe and are increasingly leaving their home country. Those that do stay, often relocate to the bigger cities in Italy- such as Rome or Milan. This leaves the small, picturesque villages of the Italian countryside in danger of becoming ghost towns. Italy’s especially low birth rate only compounds the nation’s population problems. The Italian government has been aggressively trying to prevent this from happening. Small towns throughout the country have begun giving away land or selling it for only 1€. The blog Italian Fix did a great article on this, outlining the challenges as well as the benefits of this incentive.
(Almost) Free Houses!
Most of the stories about people who move to Italy for the 1€ homes also include stories of significant expenses for renovations and a mountain of red tape. Some people wind up pouring 100,000€ into their ‘free home.’ This seems well-suited to a retiree who has the time, patience, and funds to build a vacation home in rural Italy. But would does this really make sense for a digital nomad? I loved visiting the Italian countryside, and could easily why someone would want to live there. However, digital nomads- especially online teachers, need to find a place that will support their lifestyle and budget.
Cash for Moving to Underpopulated Areas
Some regions have gone a step further by actually offering those who move to these rural Italian villages a living stipend. According to an article from CNN, there is a village in northern Italy that will offer residents 9,000€ (paid over three years) to a family that will move there. The catch is you have to have a child and an income of 6,000€. Assuming you do have a child, earning the 6,000€ from your online teaching job is very realistic. Again, you will need to find a place that you are able to live. While I’ve seen no information indicating that Locana is offering 1€ homes, there are several homes available for reasonable prices that require some renovations. It’s worth noting that Italy has the worst internet service in the EU according to The Local. Even mobile hotspots report a loss of coverage in more remote areas. Locana’s mayor has been trying to attract remote workers, so WiFi here may be a better than in other small towns. A contact living in the area reported download speeds of 21.6 Mbps and upload speeds of 5.7 Mbps- which certainly seems adequate for online teaching. Other things to consider include schooling for children, social activities, and access to services- all of which may be limited by Locana’s remote location. Though Turin (less than 50km away) may offer more options.
How About a Monthly Living Stipend?
The municipality of Molise has been offering people a living stipend of up to 700€ per month for a period of three years to go and live there- IF you start a business. You must commit to living in a village with a population of less than 2,000. Again, these are remote locations and concerns about internet access do exist. While 700€ per month goes a long way in remote parts of Italy, it’s important to note that you will be responsible for the start-up costs associated with your business. An article in The Guardian points to the difficulties associated with supporting a business in these villages. After, surveying some of the villages, it seems that some areas may support businesses in the tourist sector. Those with a strong background in marketing may be able to make a business successful here. The living stipend eliminates some of the risk associated with starting the business, particularly if you can live and work out of the same location. Teaching a limited schedule online, in addition to the living stipend, should be enough to keep you afloat as you try to make your new business venture a success. Due to restrictions surrounding funding, this program is limited to forty people. Applications are now open. The article in The Guardian makes this stipend even more interesting, as remote work may qualify if those living there are contributing to the local economy.
No one loves free money more than this gypsy, but I don’t see these incentives as being significant enough to lure me to Italy. Options for free or reduced priced housing may be something that suits an already retired individual with the funds to invest. Similarly, if you’ve been dreaming of a life in the Italian countryside, then these programs might be just what it takes to push you to finally make your dreams a reality. However, the infrastructure required for stable and reliable internet in areas like Molise presents challenges for a digital nomad. This, in conjunction with the lack of demand in the local market and the reported red tape associated with running a business should raise some serious red flags about Molise’s program. Anyone seriously considering such a program would be wise to do extensive market research and visit the area in person to see if the IT infrastructure will support your teaching venture- which will likely be much needed income.
Locana’s incentive to move to the region is a nice bonus, but remember you need to have a child. A stipend of 9,000€ paid over three years is not much- especially when you have a family. Again, if this area of the world is someplace you’ve always wanted to call home, it might be a nice incentive. However, the stipend by itself doesn’t make it an attractive area to move to. Finally, as someone who’s visited the remote areas of the Italian countryside, I can say it offers truly breath-taking beauty. Having said that, there is not much to do. I can remember thinking, “What would I do if I lived here?” If you are interested in hiking, running, or cycling, these outdoor activities might suit you well. It would be wise to go for a visit and see if you could really live in such a remote location.