As the COVID-19 malaise slowly lifts around the world, governments are looking for quick and innovative ways to kickstart their travel industries.
Portugal is building a remote worker village on the stunning island of Madeira, and now two Italian towns are paying 50% of the rental costs for remote workers looking to swap their current digs for a slice of medieval Italian rusticity.
Rieti in the Lazio region, and Santa Fiora in Tuscany, are both having problems keeping young people in town, and the populations of both communes are stagnating.
Maybe for coiffured Italian youths the lure of medieval walls, renaissance piazzas, and baroque palaces set amid vineyards, rivers, local markets, and chestnut forests doesn’t find purchase, but for most Americans it’s the quintessential vision of European life.
And all that can be yours if you just prove to Santa Fiora mayor Federico Balocchi that you are a full-time remote worker, and that you’ll sign on for a stay greater than two months.
It’s a serious government initiative, not a paid holiday, and Balocchi stressed to CNN Travel that the purpose is not only to bring outside money in, but to find people looking to revitalize Santa Fiora.
Dreams of Tuscany
Just cabled with high-speed fiber optic internet, Santa Fiora has only recently garnered the option to host telecommuters, or “smart workers” as the Italians call them.
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Nestled in the heart of Tuscany’s Montepulciano province, it’s located within the Monte Amiata Nature Reserve close to Val D’Orcia, or Dorcia Valley. Not far from Sienna, the houses are affordable, costing between €300 – €500 monthly, for which an approved remote worker would receive a check for 50% of the total, potentially transporting you from your lousy studio apartment to this dream-inspired village for around €200, or $240 per month.
For investors or entrepreneurs, particularly those with Italian heritage or connections, Balocchi is also offering a €30,000 grant for those looking to open a B&B or hostel business in town, and is also willing to provide childcare assistance.
“The goal is to incentivize people to move in and virtually work from here. We want Santa Fiora to become their flexible office,” said Balocchi. “Each time a youth leaves to search for a job elsewhere a piece of our village is taken away.”
The commune has set up a website for people looking to take advantage of the offer, and they’ve included links to local services like plumbing, other utilities, and childcare. The town is perfect for nature lovers, and horseback riding, trekking and mountain biking are popular hobbies.
A little closer to Rome
Rieti, with a population of 50,000, is also witnessing a stagnation in youth opportunity and wants to invite remote workers to bring an outside perspective into the Roman-era town.
An hour and a half from the Eternal City, Rieti was founded by Italian tribesmen before Rome controlled all of the peninsula, and remains from the Roman period can be found under the streets, houses, and out in the countryside.
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“Rents in town are in the range of €250 to €500,” explains deputy mayor of Rieti, Daniele Sinbaldi, to CNN. “For €600 you can have an entire little villa in the peaceful countryside. Also, the voucher can be used in the entire territory of Rieti, including the rural hamlets of Sant’Elia, Cerchiara, and the skiing resort of Terminillo but we’d love to have people move in to live in the historical center.”
For employees, they would need a letter from their boss that they are in fact a remote worker with enough hours and money to pay for a minimum 6-month rental (Italian lease and rental conditions are much stricter than in the U.S.) but self-employed folks only need a detailed description of their work, and some proof of income to secure rent assistance.
Located on one of the most important highways in Roman times and surrounded by creeks, ponds, canals, and lakes, Rieti is known as the “fresh water Venice,” and by the less-charming “Umbilicus Italiae” or Italy’s belly-button, as they claim their historical town center is the geographical center of the country.
There is no convenient website like Santa Fiora has, and perspective movers would need to use subito.it, casa.it, or immobilare.it—all Italian rental sites—to find lodging.
As this author, who himself is an American remote worker living in Italy, often says, many Americans will think nothing about spending 30 years dreaming of living in Europe, even though modern telecommunications have made it beyond possible to do so.
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