Will Italy really pay you to move to its ‘smart working’ villages?

Some small Italian towns are hoping to breathe new life into their neighbourhoods by luring remote workers with financial incentives. But is it really as simple as that? We look into the Italian relocation schemes on offer in Italy.

Will Italy really pay you to move to its 'smart working' villages?
Can you really get paid to freelance in Italy? Photo: Benjamin Jopen / Unsplash

The pandemic has hit Italy’s economy and its people hard. But there have been some positives to come out of the challenges too – the need to work from home has pushed the country forwards digitally, creating a new way to live and work.

Remote working, or ‘smart working’ as it’s often referred to in Italy, has been recognised as a successful way to do business, shifting the culture with it.

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

With that change, new possibilities for moving to and living in Italy have opened up.

Italy wasn’t previously known for its digital agility, and many people who move to the country note the widespread internet connectivity problems. However, some Italian towns want to put paid to that and are now offering financial help to those willing to move in and set up as remote workers.

It sounds idyllic to move to a stunning Italian village and be your own boss – and if someone is offering to chip in to pay your rent, it sounds like a no-brainer.

Rustic property and being your own boss. Dream or doable? Photo: Chris Barbalis/Unsplash

Santa Fiora in Tuscany and Rieti in Lazio are two such towns offering to stump up funds, paying up to 50% of your rent if you’ll move there with your laptop and work for yourself.

Dozens of these so-called ‘smart working villages’ will soon be springing up in the hope of attracting new residents and reinvigorating some of Italy’s thousands of declining towns.

Locations taking part in the idea are usually quite far-flung, and so young people leave in search of employment.

READ ALSO: Could Italy’s abandoned villages be revived after the coronavirus outbreak?

The plan is to ramp up the wifi provision and get more people back in the towns, equipping them with the means to enable people to work.

It doesn’t matter what you decide to do for a living, as long as it can be done from home.

But is it really so easy?

Well, this is Italy so there’s bureaucracy to get through and of course, there are eligibility criteria.

For the Tuscan town of Santa Fiora, which now has just 2,500 residents, the local municipality is offering up to €200 or 50% of the average monthly rent for long-term stays.

It’s valid for two to six months, though, so it’s a sweetener and you’ll have to account for that in your budgeting once the help is taken away and if you want to stay.

READ ALSO: Community cooperatives: the small Italian towns taking charge of their own future

Stunning Italian landscapes for those willing to up sticks. Photo: Lennart Hellwig/Unsplash

Still, with average rent of around €300 – €500 per month, it’s an attractive prospect, depending on the remote work you can find.

The town council has launched a website to help would-be residents find their ideal home.

But you’ll have to prove that you’ll actually be going to work there, not just hoping to freeload on a summer holiday rental.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

You’ll be asked to provide a document detailing what you’ll be doing there and will need to fill out an application form. And you can only get funds for the rent in the form of reimbursement, after you’ve already paid it.

The villages say they are ready to accept newcomers to carry out their jobs remotely, with newly installed high-speed fibre. Details on how to apply can be found here.

What would life really be like working from a remote Italian village?

The image often banded about when portraying schemes like this in Italy is one of sitting on your terrace with a glass of red wine in hand.

But if you’re working, the reality will probably be a bit different.

Remote, depopulated villages in Italy famously lack infrastructure such as fast or reliable wifi, shops, and public transport connections – though the organisers of the ‘smartworking villages’ scheme say participating locations will need to be able to provide certain services.

READ ALSO: Digital divide: The parts of Italy still waiting for fast wifi

While this won’t be enough for all remote workers, it could be ideal if you need peace and quiet and would relish a slow pace of life.

Otherwise, one option is Rieti – which is closer to the capital, Rome, and has a similar deal availble – although you’ll need to stay for at least three months.

It’s a much bigger town than most taking part in the scheme, with 50,000 inhabitants, but the population has stopped growing and the council wants to reinvigorate its prospects.

Compared to Santa Fiora, the deal can be extended beyond six months, giving you even more help with your rental payments. You’re even allowed to choose a nearby neighbourhood that’s more rural, where costs are cheaper.

If you’re a freelancer, you simply need to describe your work. If you have a kind boss that will let you up sticks and move to Italy to do your work from there, you’ll need a letter to prove it.

You can find out more and how to apply here.

READ ALSO: ‘This is where I want to be’: The growing number of young Italians choosing life on the farm

Other towns have previously offered incentives to move, such as Santo Stefano di Sessanio. This town gave grants if you relocated there in a bid to “give a new demographic boost to the area”, according to its website.

Aimed at attracting new residents, it was offering up to €8,000 per year for three years, paid in monthly instalments. If you opened a business, you could even get a lump sum of €20,000.

As more villages and towns pop up with financial incentives to attract new residents, Italy is making this more and achievable.

Technologically, it’s something that the government wants to make happen, with plans in place to increase the amount of high speed fibre throughout the country. That’s in conjunction with the European Union’s plans to rollout fast internet to some 202 million homes across the bloc.

Other small towns have taken their fates into their own hands by building cooperatives, such as Vetto in Emilia Romagna, which hopes to run itself and promote business from within.

Member comments

  1. What visa do I apply for it I work for a foreign company but want to live in Italy (smart working, but not self-employed)?

  2. Hi,

    We are travelling from the UK to our house in Marche on Saturday, we will self-quarantine for 5 days on line with Ministry of Health order.

    My in-laws would like to come for a visit while we are there, they will obviously have to self-quarantine but does anyone know if we will have to self-quarantine again with them?


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EXPLAINED: How to find a longer-term apartment rental in Italy

Ready to move out of your AirBnb? Here's our complete guide to finding a place to call home in Italy.

EXPLAINED: How to find a longer-term apartment rental in Italy

You’ve arrived in Italy, and you think you might be able to settle down for a while. But there’s one thing you need to do first — find a longer-term place to stay.

Finding a long-term rental in Italy can be daunting, as the process can be very different from finding a place in countries like the US, UK or Canada.

READ ALSO: Why are long-term apartment rentals ‘disappearing’ in Italy?

Here’s what you need to know before going hunting for the perfect home.

Rental contracts

When you’re ready to move out of short-term housing, it’s worth knowing that Italy’s rental contracts tend to be on the long side.

That’s because they’re designed to protect tenants like you, and ensure you have a place to live for up to eight years at a time.

Generally, most long-term rental contracts fall into just two categories.

The first, 3+2 or ‘determined rent’ (canone concordato) contracts, are for a minimum of three years, with an automatic option to renew for two more. Rent in these units are set by the municipality, and cannot be negotiated.

The second category is 4+4 or ‘negotiated rent’ (canone libero). Here the landlord can set the rent at what they want, but must offer a contract for a minimum of four years, with an automatic option to renew for four more.

There are also some shorter-term leases, generally reserved for students and temporary workers — you can read about them in our guide to rental contracts.

Consider which type of rental contract works best for you. Photo by mike nguyen on Unsplash

You will need your codice fiscale to enter into any contract, and may need to prove your income is sufficient or secure a rental guarantee from a major bank. You’ll also need to provide a deposit equal to between one and three month’s rent.


If you’re worried about committing to Italy for three or four years at a time, don’t worry — most rental contracts include a clause that allows you to leave with notice. But be warned, it’s often not the one or two months typical in English-speaking countries. In Italy, anticipate giving at least six months notice before moving on.

These terms, along with your rent, can also be negotiated when you’re closing the deal, which is one reason why you might consider finding your apartment with an agency.

Using an agency

Most Italian towns or regions will have a plethora of agenzie immobiliare that can help you find your future home.

These agencies will do the work of finding and connecting you with potential properties, and negotiate on your behalf for terms that suit your needs.

They also offer a human touch, potentially making the whole process less intimidating. If you have special needs or accommodations, like a dog or a disability, they will screen out the properties that don’t meet your requirements.

Rental agencies can help you find properties that meet specific requirements.

Rental agencies can help you find properties that meet specific requirements. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

READ ALSO: How can I find an apartment to rent in Rome?

And, they may know about some properties before they hit the open market, giving you a leg up on the competition.

But there are downsides, too. Properties let through rental agencies can be more expensive, as the owners must cover the costs of their own fees to the agency.

Rental agencies can also act as gatekeepers, and are notorious for refusing to work with students or recent immigrants, or freezing out prospective tenants they just don’t like the look of.

As a rule, rental agencies will take a commission upon sealing the deal from both the tenant and the owner. That commission is usually equivalent to one or two months rent, but in some cases is calculated as a percentage (usually 10-15 percent) of your total annual rent.

It will also usually be subject to 21 percent VAT, meaning your total cost for a commission on a €800 per month flat could be as high as €1,700 or more.

Since commission is determined partly by local custom, it’s important to ask before beginning your search with an agency what the commission will be.

Searching online

If those fees look a little steep — or if you just want to explore every option — there are an increasing number of real estate rental websites you can investigate.

These sites often offer a mix of properties proposed by rental agencies and those rented by owners. Anecdotally, your success and response rate may vary greatly.

Real estate websites are a key resource when apartment-hunting in Italy.

Real estate websites are a key resource when apartment-hunting in Italy. Photo by Caitlin Oriel on Unsplash

The biggest websites include,, and All work more or less the same way: select your area, filter by rental cost, number of rooms, and other details, and see what’s available.

There are also often rentals posted on the classifieds site, and even Facebook Marketplace.

Be wary of scams on any of these sites — never exchange money without visiting the apartment and signing a contract first.

All offer direct messaging systems, but be sure to read the descriptions of properties carefully, as many will encourage you to call or text via WhatsApp instead.

If you do write a message, make sure it is in your best Italian — it will no doubt be read alongside many others and you want to put your best foot forward. Consider reading up on our guide for formal email writing in Italian before diving in.

Terminology to help your search

In Italy, most apartments are listed by the total number of rooms, minus the bathroom. A monolocale (one-room) is a bachelor or studio apartment; a bilocale (two-room) is a one-bedroom.

Kitchens are more often an angolo cottura (kitchenettes) than full separate rooms — but where they are divided, they will not always be included in the room count.

If you don’t want to buy all your furniture, look for apartments that are arredato or furnished. If you opt for an unfurnished apartment, be warned — it may come without even kitchen appliances or light fixtures.

Be prepared for an unfurnished apartment in Italy to be truly bare. Photo by Steven Ungermann on Unsplash

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

Keep an eye out also for spese condominiali, which are often additional to advertised rent. These are monthly fees to cover common costs like lift maintenance, garbage collection, and central heating. They’re often charged at a flat rate and then reconciled with actual costs a few times a year.

Since the energy crisis, many of these fees have been skyrocketing, so when visiting a property, it may be worth asking what the current average cost is when you can.

Prepare for a long search

Once you begin your search, you may be looking for a while. Make sure to prepare for at least a few months of searching.

Recently, data has shown a massive drop in the availability of long-term rentals in many major centers. Landlords have little appetite to find tenants when they’re locking in rents during a time of soaring inflation.

Consider also that in many university towns, there are shortages of housing around the beginning of each semester. If you can time your search to fall between these periods, you may have a better chance of success.