Can you work online from the Italian countryside?
Over the past year many of us have adapted to working from home, with varying degrees of success! The growth in smart working has had two interesting effects. Firstly, it has increased the demand for homes out of the city, with space to work and enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Secondly, it has led many of us to rethink our plans for moving abroad. After all, why shouldn’t “home” be in the Italian countryside?
For the second point, please refer to our visa and residency pages. Essentially, you can stay in the European Union for a total of 90 days in every 180, up to half of the year. There are also simple visa options if you wish to retire to Italy. But things do get more complicated if you wish to earn a living while full-time in Italy, even if was for a company based in the UK or US.
For the first point, a fast internet connection has become a top priority for most house buyers, with estate agents being questioned closely on whether you can find this in villages and the countryside. As a writer for Italy Property Guides for so many years, I can assure you of the importance of excellent internet. Trust me, sometimes it has been a struggle! So the news that Italy is investing billions of euros on upgrading internet across the country is very good news.
In the past, young people found it difficult to set up businesses in their home villages when it didn’t have a good internet connection. Many moved to the big cities, leading to a sad departure from the villages and their country traditions. Internet companies didn’t feel it was profitable enough for them to provide fast internet to what they call “white areas”.
However, that is changing and people are starting to move back. Improved internet allows municipalities to increase their online presence and welcome tourism, businesses and new residents. Hence it makes sense for the government and regional authorities to help finance the upgrade.
While a slower pace of life is wonderful, slow internet doesn’t have the same charm
Smart working in the villages
With the recent increase in smart working, many Italian villages seized the opportunity to encourage city dwellers to relocate to their village. Consequently, they have been to equipping themselves to attract the modern house buyer. They realise that to attract tourism and new residents they need to offer more than peaceful surroundings and a relaxing village atmosphere. While a slower pace of life is wonderful, slow internet doesn’t have the same charm.
For innovative ideas on raising the money to buy your Italian home, read How to Pay for an Italian Property.
Today, an Italian telecommunications company is beginning to reach these villages. It’s all thanks to the creation of a digital highway, completely in optical fiber, which will bring an ultra-fast broadband service to smaller towns and villages. Many digital professionals, such as graphic designers, have already chosen to return to their small villages, with the introduction of ultra-broadband. To check if a village you are interested in has coverage there is a simple coverage checker on their website.
Government investment in fast internet
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) for recovery after the pandemic has allocated €6.31 billion for ultra-fast networks. Using optical fiber, fixed wireless and 5G, the aim is to provide 1 Gigabit to all families, businesses and schools by 2026. This includes providing even 18 small islands with an undersea fiber-optic connection to complete coverage of “white areas”.
Staying connected with home
When you move to another country it’s important to able to keep in touch with family and friends through social media and video chat services, stream films and TV in your mother tongue, and be able to email large documents. Anyone starting a business in Italy, such as a B&B, will need to be able to contact clients and advertise online. A fast internet service can be a great advantage.
Santa Fiora: small village, fast internet
In Tuscany, about halfway between Florence and Rome, is the village of Santa Fiora. It’s surrounded by nature’s colours, from chestnuts trees to a large beech forest. This beautiful area is great for hiking and even skiing in winter. The people of Santa Fiora love their music and culture, and there are various concerts and festivals throughout the year. It’s possible to find apartments and small houses from just €45,000, and two-bedroom stone houses from €80,000.
But the village has a population of less than 3,000 and it doesn’t wish to get any smaller. So it set itself the goal of becoming the first “smart working village in Italy”. The initiative was launched by the Municipality, after the recent installation of ultra-broadband in the village. They have been offering vouchers and grants to encourage people to stay there for long periods.
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2019 data shows 10 British people living in the village. Ultimately, they are hoping visitors will decide to stay and maybe open more accommodation facilities, or start up commercial or artisan businesses in the historic centre. By encouraging businesses that will employ local people, they hope the young residents will choose to stay and work in their home village. The villagers pride themselves on their hospitality and everyone is welcome.
Montepulciano: a hilltop village with fiber
Montepulciano is a charming medieval hill top village in the province of Siena. The streets are full of elegant Renaissance palaces, ancient churches and piazzas. Many properties have breath-taking panoramic views over vineyards in the Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana. Fast internet enables residents to confidently video chat with family and show them the amazing view out the window.
The excellent location of Montepulciano makes it the ideal place to explore this beautiful corner of Tuscany. Enchanting villages such as, Pienza , the spa village of Bagno Vignoni , and the famous Montalcino. Tourism is growing here, especially after being a film location for the Twilight Saga sequel, New Moon.
The village itself has a lot to offer residents and visitors, including excellent cafes, restaurants, and fashion boutiques. There are many concerts and festivals held throughout the year celebrating the local culture, food and wine. There is a beautiful selection of properties for sale in Montepulciano on our property search page. Currently you can find apartments in the historic centre from €135,000, town houses from €158,000 and farmhouses to renovate from €95,000. There are some wonderful villas and farmhouses for sale in the surrounding countryside.
Fontecchio: small but connected
If you want to be part of a very small community then take a look at Fontecchio. Located in the province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, this “Borgho” has fewer than 400 inhabitants. In the village, you’ll find all the basic amenities you need; shops, restaurants, bars and a school. Like in many small Italian communities, visitors are treated like guests rather than tourists and everyone is encouraged to try the traditional cuisine and produce.
The village is surrounded by nature and looking out from the houses you will see the valley and the woods that rise towards the mountain. Fontecchio is part of the Sirente-Velino Regional Nature Park and a few kilometers away, is the Gran Sasso and Monte della Laga National Park. This is a lovely area to go hiking along the valley, in the vast solitary plateaus or up the nearby mountains.
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Fontecchio’s ancient history can clearly be felt as you stroll through the narrow streets passing medieval houses and fountains. The medieval tower, whose façade is embellished with an ancient clock, is considered to be one of the oldest in Italy. It has a six-hour dial and the mechanism moves only the hour hand. Every evening it sounds 50 chimes in memory of the 50 days of the Spanish siege of 1648.
The price for an apartment starts at around €50,000, while a three-bedroom villa can cost €130,000. The province of L’Aquila has several villages with low priced properties perfect for holiday homes surrounded by nature.
When viewing properties in remote villages, internet speed is a something worth adding to your question list. In the thirteen years I’ve lived in Italy, I’ve noticed massive improvements in the internet services, and with more government investment it will come on leaps and bounds in the next few years.