In 2019 we made the decision to move to Italy. We were living and working in New York and were in a favorable position to make the jump.
Some brief context:
- My spouse and I both had the ability to live and work remotely;
- We have two young daughters that were growing, but our rental apartments in the Tri-State region of New York City weren’t;
- Italy was a soft-landing destination (as we had family there) and more or less knew what to expect;
- I was already in the process of getting Italian citizenship through marriage.
As you can tell, the stars were aligned for a new adventure.
Relocating to Italy - Immigration & Visa Options
I already knew it was a privilege to have this opportunity. The ability to live and work remotely is a luxury in itself. Add on top a somewhat smooth immigration pathway for becoming an Italian resident and ultimately, Citizen, well this is molto fortunato.
Most people reading this article might not check all these boxes to relocate to Italy. In fact, the clients I’ve represented with interests for moving to Italy have been somewhere between these categories:
Semi-Retired or Retired: Been to Italy before and loved it. Ready to live and enjoy the good life again for this next chapter. Solid pensions. Likely going through the Elective Residency visa and potentially buying a home.
Jus Sanguinis: You have Italian descent and can effectively trace this family lineage through your bloodline. Grande! – this means you can potentially become an Italian Citizen through this unique (and time consuming) naturalization process known as jus sanguinis. So if you have some Italian in you – go check the archives!
Remote Workers and Digital Nomads: You have the ability to live and work from Italy as a remote worker or digital nomad. Well in many ways Italy is the ideal destination. Affordable. Incredible work and life balance. High quality of living standards, etc., etc., etc., This would be the dream destination if and when Italy actually launches the requisite visa for remote workers and digital nomads. In the meantime, you’ll need to explore other possible paths to make this happen.
💡When will Italy launch a digital nomad/remote work visa? Expert views on this vary anywhere from 6 months - 2 years. In fact, legislation has already been drafted and approved for this type of visa. It now needs to be formally enacted and implemented.
Can I live and work remotely in Italy?
This depends. As mentioned above, Italy has not yet launched a visa catering to remote workers or digital nomads. This is unfortunate, as many other EU/Schengen countries are ahead of the curve and providing visas for this demographic. Still, it is not surprising. Italy has a lot of layers to its legislation, and many more to its political and administrative bureaucracy.
Still, there are other pathways that you might want to consider, such as the freelance or self-employed visa (lavoro autonomo) – or even the student visa. But still, none of these are ideal and do require additional heavy lifting to gain residency.
For others who have a Schengen visa, or visit the European Union for 90-days on a visa waiver (i.e. US Citizens), this should be an option. In other words, you likely won’t have any carabinieri or eloquently dressed police officers with white velvet gun holsters overlooking your shoulder at a cafe.
In reality, if you are looking for a taste of Italy, you can comfortably carve out 3-months to live and work here as a visitor. This of course should be put into context with any longer term immigration goals you might have, and one option is to consider another EU-based nation that will grant you a remote work or digital nomad visa with mobility and access to Italy – i.e. Spain, Portugal, Greece and Croatia.
In other words, you won’t be resident in Italy, but you can use the residence permit of another Schengen country to travel freely into Italy without visa waiver limitations.
We moved as a family to Florence in 2019, and are constantly reminded about the beauty that engulfs us here.
Is Italy a good place to live and work remotely?
I’m pretty sure you already know the answer to this question. Still, I will list some of the advantages and disadvantages – as reality and formalities are always another matter, especially in Italy.
Disadvantages of Living in Italy as a Remote Worker:
- No perfect Visa. Yeah, this is obviously number one as there is no current visa that caters to remote workers and digital nomads in Italy.
- Bureaucracy. If you are looking for that Swiss-German-Austrian-US kind of efficiency when it comes to any kind of administrative process, you better look elsewhere. It might take you weeks to set up a bank account, or find the right internet provider;
- Customer Support. While you don’t have to speak the language, it doesn’t mean that it is instrumental at all times. Dealing with customer support will likely require you to add another couple hours – so block out your calendar accordingly, and expect a lot of conversations happening in between the actual time you are “being helped”’.
- Integration. Parts of Italy does have diversity, however, there is a serious, systemic lack of integration. In other words, certain nationalities seem subjected and restricted to certain types of labour opportunities and Italy’s framework for integrating migrants is seriously lagging. This can certainly take a toll on any Global Citizen, despite the welcoming culture and good life Italy has to offer.
Advantages of Living in Italy as a Remote Worker
- Occupation. You don’t have to rely on the local Italian economy for a job. This likely means that your earning power (for better or worse) goes further than most employed in Italy.
- Cost of Living. Cost of living compared to other destinations in the European Union is comparable. Compared to major countries like the United States or United Kingdom, well, you will be pleasantly surprised at how people live. I’m referring to the prices of everything from tomatoes and ice-cream to housing and flights…or even the fact you don’t need to tip;
- Culture. Italian culture is extremely welcoming, even if you don’t speak the language you will be embraced;
- Travel throughout Italy. Italy has countless destinations in itself. Moreover, major cities like Milan, Rome, Florence and an emerging tech-hub in Turin are well-connected via high-speed rail;
- Central Location in Europe. You can travel at budget prices to other destinations around the EU and Schengen region very easily;
- Connectivity. There is strong wi-fi virtually everywhere you want and need it (aside from within the thick walls of wine-cellars, but why would you want WiFi there?
- Endless Discoveries. Countless of off-beat locations where you can get away from the typical tourist-ridden destinations and even call home;
- Family-Friendly. Itay is extremely family-friendly, with no shortages of grandmothers who will look out for your kids safety in the numerous public squares in every city and village.
Future of Italy
In recent history many Italians returning home would emphasize that time stays still. That Italy has a tendency to be stuck in the past and hold on tightly to its roots. While this is certainly true in many regards, it is clear that the future of Italy will go through some dramatic changes. In fact, in a post-pandemic world, I would argue that Italy is already going through these changes.
In many ways Italy lost an entire generation of highly skilled-labor – doctors, scientists, educated businessmen and women with higher education left Italy due to lack of economic opportunities and job prospects. This brain drain took a serious toll on Italy, with an aging population and villages literally left to ruins.
This is no longer the case. In the past several years Italy has seen a rapid increase in migrants. These range from unskilled laborers landing on Italy’s shores to foreign direct investments in real-estate and other major industry sectors with global mobility policies. An appetite to move to Italy for foreign nationals never wavered, and a post-pandemic world, coupled with a remote work revolution is resulting in Italy being a prime destination in Europe. This is happening now, without the implementation of any golden visa programs, digital nomad or remote work visas.
As I’ve seen in other EU destinations, there is a growing volume of interest to live and work remotely in European countries. There is a genuine interest in a work-life balance. Italy has all the ingredients within its soil, but this doesn’t mean that it will remain stuck in the past. Indeed, I’m quite confident we will see a generation of Italians (and new Italians) returning to their homeland sooner than they might have ever imagined.
David is a passionate advocate for the freedom of movement and licensed immigration lawyer. In his private practice, he advises individuals and businesses regarding global immigration and mobility solutions.