TRAVEL: Italy reports surge in bookings for ‘smart working’ summer holidays

More people are planning to rent holiday homes in Italy this summer, taking advantage of being able to work remotely and enjoy more time away, according to a new report.

TRAVEL: Italy reports surge in bookings for 'smart working' summer holidays
Working with a view. Photo: Ostap Senyuk/Unsplash

The rise of the so-called ‘holiday working’ trend has seen a spike in bookings of longer durations in holiday home rentals across Italy, according to new figures shared by Idealista.

Instead of a holiday lasting a week or ten days, more people are booking longer stays of around three weeks, revealed Marco Celani, CEO of Italianway Research Centre – which analyses bookings made on their holiday home rental site.

“We are aiming for 25 million bookings in 2021, and periods of stay are being extended to three weeks. The Adriatic, Sicily, Sardinia and small towns are doing well,” he said.

READ ALSO: Can Americans travel to Italy for tourism this summer?

Contributing to the boom in bookings is the acceleration of the vaccination campaign and the easing of restrictions, according to Celani.

Additionally, the promise of the upcoming ‘green pass‘ to allow travel has translated into a 33% increase of bookings compared to last year, with peak earnings of €80,000 per day, the findings showed.

Some 35% of the 43,000 nights booked from 1st January – 15th of April 2021 are for holiday working purposes, the report added.

The average length of stay is 19 nights with a budget of €3,243, corresponding to an average rate of €170 per night.

The figures have encouraged the tourism site so much that they have added a section titled, ‘Holiday Working – perfect accommodation for smart working’.

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

Monopoli in Puglia is one destination high on the ‘Holiday Working’ bookings list. Photo by reisetopia on Unsplash

‘Smart working’ has become the buzz word since Covid-19 hit Italy over a year ago, forcing a change in how businesses operated and dragging the country into a new digital era.

Italy wasn’t previously reputed for its digital flexibility, with many people moving to the country noting the widespread internet connectivity problems.

However, the need to work from home has transformed how people work and live, providing new opportunities for people to freelance in Italy and moving teaching and learning online (DAD – Didattica a Distanza).

READ ALSO: Do you know your DAD from your DOP? The most common Italian acronyms explained

It’s also encouraged some Italian towns and villages to offer financial incentives to those willing to relocate there to work remotely, in the hope of injecting new life and boosting the economy.

And it looks as though it’s also paved the way for more people in Italy to leave the cities and choose a safer, calmer place to carry out their work or continue studying while enjoying a break from the crowds.

In fact, the report revealed that this year, people are looking to book ‘holiday working’ breaks with extended family, beginning as early as May and June.


Receiving the most amount of bookings are destinations off the beaten track, with a reported increase in stays in isolated places, only reachable by car or ferry.

“Top performers continue to be destinations where it is possible to book houses outside historic centres but with all services within easy reach, such as Termoli in Molise, Muravera in Sardinia and Monopoli, Castellana Grotte and Lecce in Puglia,” said Celani.

Other places receiving a swell in bookings are Sirolo in the Marche, Marone on Lake Iseo, Bormiese and Valdisotto in Lombardy and Andora and Sanremo in Liguria.

Both the sea and the mountains are attractive to people in Italy taking advantage of the ability to work remotely in a destination of their choosing.

And it’s not just the summer season that’s expected to experience this new trend – as the site has also seen a hike in bookings for October, meaning ‘holiday working’ is set to continue until autumn 2021.

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OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Instead of criticizing actor Jason Momoa over his VIP visit to the Sistine Chapel, Italy should encourage wealthy visitors to pay large sums for such experiences, says Silvia Marchetti.

OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Signing a generous cheque in order to enjoy a private, exclusive moment – without crowds – at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, or sitting on the Spanish Steps should not be seen as scandalous nor outrageous.

Imagine taking in the view of the Trevi Fountain at sunset, by yourself in a deserted Rome, after having splashed out ten or hundreds of thousands of euros, just to see the sun go down and relax for an hour.

READ ALSO: ‘I love Italy’: Jason Momoa apologises over Sistine Chapel photos

The big fuss over American actor Jason Momoa taking pictures of the Sistine Chapel recently during his Roman stay while shooting his next movie has raised eyebrows worldwide and caused much ado about nothing. It even made global headlines.

The main complaint was that the actor had been granted the privilege of taking photos. in spite of the ‘no-photo’ ban, which many said apparently applied only to ‘ordinary people’.

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about Momoa’s not-so intimate moment in the Sistine Chapel.

We Italians tend to look down on tourists who are constantly grabbing their camera to take pictures. We consider our artistic heritage untouchable, or in a way, non-reproducible through photography. 

But Momoa was not committing a crime. 

He later apologized, and explained that he had paid for an exclusive “private moment” by giving the Vatican Museums a large donation.

I think this is something positive: a ‘mechanism’ that could be exploited to raise cash for city coffers and urban projects – instead of raising local taxes that weigh on Italian families.

Rome, and all other Italian cities, should rent out such locations for events – even for just one night, or one hour – in exchange for a high fee.

The rich and famous would be more than happy to pay for such an opportunity to enjoy Italy’s grandeur. As would ordinary people who may decide they can afford it for a special occasion.

These are solo, one-in-a-lifetime experiences in top sites, and must be adequately paid for. 

Rome’s Colosseum in February 2021. Lower visitor numbers amid the Covid-19 pandemic meant Italian residents were able to see the country’s major attractions without the crowds. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Italy is packed with historical, artistic and archeological gems that the entire world envies, people flock here just for a selfie in front of the Looming Tower of Pisa.

So why not make a leap forward and raise the bar for ‘private moments’; something Momoa, despite the unknown sum of money he paid, did not even actually get.

I’m not suggesting Italian cities lease monuments for weeks or months, for they belong to all humanity and everyone has a right to enjoy them. But allowing exclusive, short private experiences at Pompeii, or Verona’s arena, or just time to stare at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, should be seen as a source of extra revenue, not a taboo.

Italy should economically exploit its infinite artistic treasures as a powerful money maker, unleashing the full potential of it. 

If offered the chance, I think Elon Musk would not mind paying hundreds of thousands of euros, or even millions, for a private corporate cocktail party at the Colosseum.

OPINION: Italy must update its image if it wants a new kind of tourism

Of course, you’d need rules: a strict contract with specific clauses in case of damage or guest misbehavior; a detailed price list; and surveillance to safeguard the site during the private event. And extremely high fines if any clause is breached.

It’s a matter of looking at a city from a business and marketing perspective, not just a touristic one.

Today you can already take a private tour of the Vatican Museums for a higher ticket price, but it’s mostly for groups of 10 people, and there’s always a guide with you. You’re never really ‘still’ in your favorite room, so forget having a completely ‘private moment’.  

Taking photos inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel is usually forbidden, except for members of the media with special permission and, apparently, celebrities. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

One model city to take as reference is Florence, which in the past few years has done a good job of promoting the city brand.

The mayor’s office has set up a special committee that rents out Renaissance piazzas for private wedding celebrations and birthday parties, as well as several key historical spots like the Giardino delle Rose, and Palazzo Vecchio, the historical headquarters of the town hall.

There is an online menu with all the locations available for weddings and other private events, depending on the number of guests and type of celebration. 

Those interested should contact the town hall’s special ‘wedding task force’ if they want to book frescoed rooms in ancient palazzos or other buildings owned by local authorities. Last time I enquired, some elegant rooms are available to hire for as little as €5,000.

Would you pay big money to have major attractions, such as Rome’s Colosseum, all to yourself? Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Venice, too, has attempted to raise cash by renting the façades of public buildings overlooking the Canal Grande to global fashion brands for advertisements, but the move raised eyebrows among locals. 

Even in Florence, residents weren’t so pleased to see huge, lavish billionaire Indian weddings celebrated in front of their palazzi, blocking access to their homes.

Italians need to reset their mentality. If anyone is willing to pay big money to enjoy the solo thrill of a site or location, we should be more than happy to allow it. 

As a result, we might end up paying lower city taxes for waste removal, water and other services. Every day, for free, we share the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona with masses of noisy, coin-throwing, gelato-slurping tourists; why not occasionally accept a generous donation from a VIP or philanthropist eager to pay for a moment alone in the company of Bramante and Brunelleschi? 

We would only be helping our cities to maintain their artistic heritage, which fills us with pride.