Remote workers wanted as investors target Italy’s ‘smart working’ villages

The Italian villages hoping to entice remote workers with financial incentives are set to receive a boost as international business has its sights set on Italy for startups and sustainable development. Will there soon be more opportunity to work in Italy with just a laptop and an internet connection?

The pandemic has seen Italy jumping on the remote working trend, known as lavoro agile or ‘smart working‘ in Italian.

Remote work was rare in Italy before lockdown restrictions forced many companies to change how they do business, with just a few thousand people working from home at the end of 2019.

Since this mode of working has “exploded”, according to a recent study, thousands of villages across Italy have taken it as an opportunity to attract remote workers and reverse the trend of declining populations.

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

This shift in Italian working culture hasn’t gone unnoticed.

A new initiative called Startup Villages has been launched to promote villages in Italy as an ideal destination for startups and encourage “reverse migration”.

Noting that the “pandemic has proved remote work is possible” and that “villages across the globe are struggling to retain residents”, some entrepreneurs have gathered to take advantage of the possibility to relocate to Italy’s depopulated villages.

The organisation’s founder, Dr. Tausuf Malik, noted that some of the financial incentives worked – but didn’t boost the towns’ economies as hoped.

Many people bought and refurbished the homes they purchased in these Italian villages, but guess what, the majority of them were holidays homes and this didn’t trigger economic activity,” he said.

Seeing an opportunity, Malik worked with business partners to pitch the idea to mayors of towns across Italy, focusing on startup development instead of attracting holidaymakers with the €1 house deals.

Malik’s Italian colleague Dr. Stefan Valente said, “Our villages are our heritage and pride, and through this programme, we would take our villages into the future with sustainable & holistic development.”


One issue in these locations is often internet connection. Before the pandemic, Italy wasn’t well known for its digital agility, and many people who move to the country noted the widespread internet connectivity problems.

However, some Italian towns are seeking to improve that and are also offering financial help to those willing to move in and set up as remote workers.

This latest initiative plans to take it one step further by creating “a sustainable ecosystem and environment for the economic development of the villages in Italy”.

The aim is to “create unique startups and take Italy to the next level – and achieve what Silicon Valley did to the American Startup ecosystem,” the organisation stated.

For now, agreements are being reached with towns, with a summit scheduled next year.

Meanwhile, thousands of individual Italian villages are already making their own plans to increase wifi provision and enable people to move there for work.

Here are some of them.

Photo by Viviana Rishe on Unsplash

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


The southern region of Calabria has an increasing amount of emptying villages that the authorities want to revitalise, offering up to a substantial €28,000 to those willing to move there.

There are nine villages on the list in total – four are located in the north of the province of Cosenza. They include Aieta, Albidona, Civita and San Donato di Ninea.

Three further villages are in the province of Reggio Calabria: Bova, Samo and Sant’Agata del Bianco, with the final two municipalities in the province of Crotone – Caccuri and Santa Severina.

Naturally, there are terms and conditions to the deal – which varies among the villages participating in these schemes across Italy.

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

A village in Calabria. Photo: David Alfons on Unsplash

In the case of these nine villages in Calabria, the small print is that you must be under 40 years old and willing to start a small business there.

There’s also a timeline – if your application is approved, you must be willing to move there within 90 days.

Gianluca Gallo, Calabria’s councillor for agriculture, said in an interview that the funds could either be given in the form of a monthly salary or as a lump sum if the business required it.

“So far we’ve had great interest and hopefully, if this first plan works, more villages will follow in the next few years,” he stated.


Santa Fiora in the Maremma area, is often described as the first ‘smart working village’ by Italian media.

It currently has around 2,500 residents and is still offering up to €200 or 50% of the average monthly rent for long-term stays, in a bid to counter its declining population.

The town council has launched a website to help would-be residents find their ideal home and you’ll have to prove that you’re actually going to work there, not just use it as a holiday base.

The village says it’s 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.

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

Montepulciano, Tuscany. Not a bad view from the office. Photo by nine koepfer on Unsplash

And this entry is likely to raise a few eyebrows in interest – Montepulciano, in the province of Siena, known for its breathtaking views and superb wine, is also a smart working hub.

It was the founding location of a startup called Smartway, which was set up to help remote workers find an Italian town to base themselves and live out the ‘dolce vita‘ remote working dream.


Latronico in the province of Potenza is nicknamed ‘the city of well-being’ thanks to its clean air and many green areas.

Mayor Fausto De Maria’s offer to smart workers exploits exactly that advantage.

“Do you live in a city and will you be doing smart work? Then why don’t you come and live in our Latronico during these months!” he wrote on Facebook.

“Lots of greenery, clean air, and lots of good things. Houses for rent and/or sale can also be found on our municipality’s website,” he added.

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


The town of Castropignano is one of thousands taking part in the €1 house scheme, on offer to smart workers and foreign tourists.

Abandoned houses in the historic centre are on sale for the symbolic price of €1, as long as you commit to renovate the property.

Although the municipality may be using the ‘smart working’ keyword to help sell these old properties, as no further details are given to help those who specifically move there to work remotely.

You can find out more about the scheme here.


A surrounding village of Rieti. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash


Rieti near Rome offers a smart working village much less remote than thousands of other options.

It currently has around 50,000 inhabitants, but the population has stopped growing and the council wants to reinvigorate its prospects.

The municipality is offering people help with property rent and can be extended beyond the initial six months offer.

If you’re a freelancer, you simply need to describe your work. Or if you have an employer willing to let you relocate 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.

As more and more towns are offering schemes to attract remote workers – and with international investors now setting their sights on Italy for smart working development – will Italy be ready?

Although infrastructure still needs to be put in place, the government has made plans to increase the amount of high speed fibre throughout the country, in line with the European Union’s goal to rollout fast internet to some 202 million homes across the bloc.

Find out all the latest property news in our weekly property roundup.

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PROPERTY: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the restyle of one-euro homes

Facing long delays and cost increases amid a renovation boom, some foreign buyers of Italy’s cheapest homes are now giving up on their dream renovation plans.

PROPERTY: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the restyle of one-euro homes

Finding builders these days is proving challenging for many buyers of Italy’s one euro homes and other cheap properties in need of major renovation.

While the wide array of building bonuses introduced by the government offering homeowners up to 110% deductions on expenses related to energy upgrades and reducing seismic risk, or to simple fixes, has breathed new life into the economy, it has been so much in demand that it has delayed the restyle plans of many foreign buyers.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s building ‘superbonus’ has changed in 2022

Patrick Brown, from the US, last year bought an old rural farm in Bergamo’s countryside for  €30.000 but is still looking for a building company to take on the repairs needed, including fixes to a partially collapsed roof, a new garage and modern bathrooms.

“I knocked at the door of at least eight firms in the area and they all told me I would have to wait some 7-8 months,” he says.

“They were too busy with other pending renovations and were facing a lack of builders and other professionals, including architects, engineers, and contractors,” he explains. “I found out quite unpleasantly that Lombardy is among the regions with the highest number of building bonuses related delays.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s building bonus: Can you really claim back the cost of renovating property?

Brown complains that the extension of building bonus schemes into this year by the government means he’ll have to look for builders in other nearby regions where demand might be lower, but at a higher cost to him.

Superbonus delays are causing buyers of cheap Italian properties to abandon their renovation plans. Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

“I was hoping the building delays would end when the pandemic abated, but now I face these new obstacles. In the meantime, as the months drag on, more parts of the roof are collapsing and the living room walls are starting to crack”.

Brown is feeling so downbeat he’s even considering getting rid of the farm before starting the renovation by selling it to the highest bidder – or to the neighbours.

READ ALSO: Italy’s ‘superbonus’ renovations delayed by builder shortages and bureaucracy

He says this bad experience is killing the “adventurous thrill of bringing back to life an old home”, and that friends of his who have bought a cheap dwelling in the surroundings are also facing the same problems. 

The shortage of builders is occurring all over Italy, particularly in Lombardy and Liguria. Rural areas, where there are many dilapidated homes and fewer building companies, are the most vulnerable. 

It’s also happening in deepest Sicily, where many towns have launched one-euro home schemes to lure new buyers.

In the town of Mussomeli, Australian chef Danny McCubbin, who runs a social kitchen for the poor, bought a house for one euro and was then forced to sell it back to a real estate agency for the same price.


He says it was very difficult to find a builder, and over time the house deteriorated. By the time he did find someone, high demand and the spike in inflation had doubled the cost to renovate it, so he thought it was not worth it anymore. 

Danny eventually bought a slightly more expensive property in better shape in Mussomeli, and says other foreign buyers who have faced the same delays are now renovating their one-euro homes themselves. 

Mussomeli mayor Giuseppe Catania explains that the high demand for all building bonuses from villagers meant that nearly everyone in the area was exploiting the tax breaks in order to redo their homes, with the town’s handful of building firms facing overwork and a shortage of builders.

Local architects in Mussomeli assisting buyers of one-euro homes say there could now be delays of up to five months, but it largely depends on the degree of renovation work required.

READ ALSO: My Italian Home: ‘We bought the cheapest house in Piedmont and live mortgage free’

Firms are willing to squeeze in massive restyle projects that involve the entire restructure of a house, and are more profitable – rather than taking on minor fixes like redoing a kitchen. 

Some buyers have resold their cheap Italian properties as they can no longer go through with renovations. Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Also, if the buyer is willing to invest significant sums of money at once instead of doing the restyle project in phases, it is easier to find builders.

Catania is however confident that the situation will improve as measures have been taken by the town hall to boost supply: “Most of these bonuses are expected to expire by year-end, so the pace of new renovations will decrease, and in the next few weeks there will be an influx of new builders from other Italian towns to help out, perhaps even from abroad”. 

Given that many towns in Sicily have either been rocked in the past by terrible earthquakes or mass emigration which has caused abandoned buildings to deteriorate, says Catania, most families and condominiums are now rushing to benefit from the tax credits to give their homes a makeover or turn them into B&Bs. 

OPINION: Why Italy must put its forgotten ‘ghost towns’ up for sale – or risk losing them forever

But the delayed renovations are still pushing foreign buyers to have second thoughts. 

Anna Müller, from Switzerland, also had to give up her dream of living in a renovated cheap home in Genoa’s countryside. 

She says it took her contractor eight months to find an available builder and by the time he did, Susanna and her partner had decided that the house, for which they paid just €4.000, required too much work. Like Danny, they sold it back to a local agency, luckily for the same price they paid.