For members


Reader question: Will Italy follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

A growing number of European countries are introducing new visas which allow remote workers to move from overseas. But will Italy join them? Here's how the situation looks at the moment.

Reader question: Will Italy follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?
Several countries in southern Europe now have a special 'digital nomad' visa but Italy is not among them - yet. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Question: “Is there any news on whether Italy’s government intends to introduce special visas for digital nomads? I note that Spain has just done this and Portugal has something similar.”

There was a piece of good news in January for remote workers hoping to move to southern Europe, as Spain finally brought in its much-anticipated ‘digital nomad’ visa.

Known in Spain as the visado para teletrabajadores de carácter internacional or visa for remote workers, it will allow non-EU freelancers and remote workers entry and residency rights (our sister site The Local Spain has the details about how it works HERE.)

Portugal too has a digital nomad visa available, allowing remote workers to live in the country for up to one year.

As a growing number of European countries recognise the benefits of allowing remote workers to move from overseas, will Italy be joining them?

In fact, Italy was widely expected to have created its own digital nomad visa by now. It’s almost one year since the country’s government approved a law allowing for the creation of a visa similar to that introduced in Spain.

This news was greeted with enthusiasm by many of The Local’s readers who hope to live and work in Italy short-term but currently have no good options for visas allowing remote work.

What's going on with Italy's digital nomad visa?

Italy was expected to introduce a digital nomad visa in 2022. Photo by BARBARA GINDL / APA / AFP).

So what happened to the plan? A year is a long time in Italian politics: the government that passed this law collapsed the following July, and a new administration with an entirely different set of priorities took over in October. 

During this transition it was unclear what would happen with the digital nomad visa. In our last update on the topic in October, we wrote that the plan seemed to have fallen through the cracks and was likely to be forgotten about, not least because the party which pushed the law through, the Five Star Movement, was no longer in government.

READ ALSO: What happened to Italy’s planned digital nomad visa?

Since then, not much has changed: none of the parties in the new ruling coalition have mentioned the digital nomad visa during their first months in office, nor given any indication that they intend to draw up the inter-ministerial plans necessary for making the visa scheme a reality. 

Perhaps this apparent lack of interest isn’t too surprising from a government with a staunchly anti-immigration stance – Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is an impassioned promoter of nativist policies who has accused previous administrations of trying to “replace” the Italian population with foreigners.

However, as readers point out, allowing more international workers to move to Italy would no doubt be a positive move for a country known for its flagging economy and suffering ‘brain drain’ as large numbers of Italian university graduates seek work elsewhere. There’s also a steady population decline, combined with an ageing populace which needs to be supported by an active workforce. 

The Italian MPs who promoted the digital nomad visa law suggested it could be one part of the answer to these complex and long-standing problems.

The increasing digitisation of the economy means that the number of digital nomads in Europe is expected to increase again in 2023. There are an estimated 37 million remote workers around the globe currently, of which 10 million are from the United States alone.

Between them, these usually affluent mobile workers contribute some 780 billion euros a year to the countries they choose to call home: it’s little wonder that more countries are now seeking to make it easier for them to move in.

READ ALSO: Remote workers: What are your visa options when moving to Italy?

While the current Italian government hasn’t given any indication as to whether or how it intends to move ahead with the plan to introduce a digital nomad visa, it hasn’t actually ruled out doing so, either. Which means there is some hope.

The law approved last March still stands and, even if this government doesn’t use it, a future one could – which is something to bear in mind given the highly changeable nature of Italian politics.

In the meantime, The Local will continue to publish any updates related to the digital nomad visa.

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For members


Cafe culture and clocking out: Why remote work is so unpopular in Italy

The era of working from home in Italy ended with the Covid pandemic as Italians still overwhelmingly prefer to commute to the office and network in person, writes Silvia Marchetti.

Cafe culture and clocking out: Why remote work is so unpopular in Italy

With the Covid pandemic over, most Italians are now back to the office, sitting behind their desks and again clocking in at work. What happened to remote working or teleworking (also called ‘smart working’ in Italy)?

In my view this is (or was) the greatest novelty to come out of the pandemic, but it does not seem to have stuck in Italy. What have we learned from the pandemic about revolutionising the traditional workplace? Nulla.

Almost 80 percent of Italians worked from home during the pandemic – mostly for the first time, as the concept was almost unheard of before. But just 14.9 percent still work remotely today.

One reason for this is the simple fact that Italians need to hang out. They’re real political animals and for many the office is their most important social hub, after the family setting.

Unlike in other Western countries, the office is where 90 percent of one’s career is built by networking and PR, rather than on real merit and achievement. My dad always says that an after-lunch espresso with “important colleagues” is more valuable than a 12-hour shift sitting in front of a computer.

Italians have a saying: “le conoscenze contano”, meaning that knowing the right people can advance your career.

I once had a job contract at a leading industrial lobby in Rome, and I remember hours spent at the bar or having lunch chatting with colleagues and employees about future projects and summits, when all I wanted to do was rush through the speeches and papers I had to write. Eventually, I quit.

READ ALSO: ‘It’s crazy’: What to expect when you work for an Italian company

Italians are also very physical in everything they do, so the workplace must be a concrete spot, set apart from home. 

Multi-tasking is hard, and flexibility at work is as feared as the plague. It is seen as working seven days a week, on a 24-hour basis if you do it remotely. Italian workers would rather be with colleagues in person at the office, then at the beach having to answer emails.

The working week in Italy is as sacrosanct as Sunday mass. Once you’ve clocked out, you’re out. The universe may collapse but it’s not your call to step in and rescue it. Smartphones may have somewhat blurred the work-home boundary even in Italy, but haven’t destroyed it.

Lately I have noticed that virtual press conferences, events, and festivals are no longer available, during the pandemic I just needed a laptop to listen to speeches. Now I often need to take a taxi to get to the venue. It’s aggravating. 

Back to the daily commute: in Italy, seeing colleagues in person is all-important. Photo by JEsse on Unsplash

All over the world people go to cafés and bars to work from their laptops. But in Italy it’s a bit different. 

Over here, we do things our way: writing a paper while you devour a cornetto would not be cool. My gran had a saying: “Ogni cosa a suo tempo”, meaning ‘everything has its time’.

Cafés for most Italians are hangout spots where you chat with friends or colleagues and have a quick coffee on the run, gulping it down at the counter rather than sitting down. They’re not ideal places for working. 

READ ALSO: Italy ranked one of the worst countries for expats to work in – again

In some northern Italian cities, sitting for hours at nice panoramic cafés with a steaming cappuccino while answering emails may be more popular, mainly because many cafés in Milan, Bologna and Turin are huge and have several rooms. But this is not something you can do in the south.

All of this means Italy is probably one of the worst countries in Europe for remote work, and it’s not just because of the mindset. 

Many parts of the country still lack high-speed internet, especially rural areas, but also cities. I live north of Rome and don’t even have a home WIFI, so I’m considering subscribing to one of those internet companies that provide signal to yachts in the middle of the sea and campers on isolated mountain tops. 

This lack of digital infrastructure makes it hard both for Italians teleworking and for foreigners hoping to relocate to Italy and work remotely for companies abroad or as freelancers. 

READ ALSO: What happened to Italy’s planned digital nomad visa?

However, I still think that even if all of Italy was hooked up with supersonic internet, Italians would still prefer to commute to a physical workplace each day.

Foreigners have long been waiting for the ‘digital nomad’ visa, approved in 2021 and then forgotten by the new government that seems to have other priorities. One politician from the ruling coalition told me the law is rotting in parliament simply because there are so many other ways to lure foreign money which are viewed as safer.

The cheap homes bonanza, the 7 percent flat tax rate for expat retirees in several southern regions, and the elective residency visa for pensioners, are all examples of more concrete measures sure to bring significant taxes into state coffers. 

Meanwhile, digital nomads are often seen as ‘vague’ freelancers whose job isn’t quite clear, who can’t be easily classified and tracked down. In other words, digital nomads are somehow perceived by authorities, in my view, as potential tax dodgers.

I think Italy has lost an opportunity to really embrace remote work. If not even a global pandemic has the power to modernise the Italian workplace, I don’t know what can.