The town of Santa Fiora in Tuscany, Source: Antonio Cinotti, on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Smart working: la dolce vita in the Italian countryside

Smart working: la dolce vita in the Italian countryside

This is yet another strategy of small Italian localities to stop and even reverse depopulation

Small Italian towns have definitely been devising an interesting strategy trying to reverse the demographic decline that is now an all-too-common phenomenon in the European countryside. We have all heard of the various 1-euro house offers to future residents, and now there is a different twist on that tactic from the towns of Santa Fiora in Tuscany and Rieti in Lazio.

The authorities in these towns are keen on attracting the tech-savvy young people to settle in with an offer to subsidize 50% of rental costs. The condition is that the future residents should not be just long-term tourists looking for a place to kick back but people with actual remote-style jobs – the kind of people increasingly known as digital nomads.

Is the future of the countryside digital?

The two towns are not exactly alike, except perhaps for the desire of their governments to reverse depopulation using a mixture of modern language and old-world rural charm. Santa Fiora, located in the UNESCO World Heritage region of Val d’Orcia, counts with only 2,500 residents and is the more pastoral of the two.

Oddly enough, however, despite its smaller size it is the one that has developed an online campaign with a dedicated website called ‘Vivi in paese’ (which translates to Live in the countryside) in order to inform and tantalize digital nomads. The authorities are offering to subsidize up to 200 euros or 50% of the average monthly rent on stays of between two to six months. Supposedly, that should be long enough for people who are on the fence to experience the life and charms of the place and hopefully opt to become longer-term residents.

Such people, however, would need to prove they are digitally employed; they will also have to be able to cover the remaining part of their rent and utilities. Prospective residents will have to fill out an application form demonstrating their employment, in order to qualify for the aid. Interestingly, the website is only in Italian, which shows that the town council is mainly trying to attract Italians or at least foreigners who are fluent in that language and can reside legally in the country.

The conditions in Rieti, located only an hour away from Rome, are similar in the sense that they also offer to cover 50% of the rent, plus a one-time subsidy of 1500 euros for a couple that will have a newborn baby there.

Rieti, whose official website describes it as the centre of Italy, is actually a bigger town of 50,000 people so it offers a fusion between rural peace and quiet and the affinities of a larger urban centre.



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