Digital Nomads Innovate Italian Tourism

In Italy, digital nomads represent a wave that is upsetting the world of work, as well as transforming tourism and promoting societal renewal.

A shot looking out over a balcony of a green, undeveloped valley in Spain. A laptop on a glass-topped table is in the foreground.
Smart working with a view. Photo: Euan Cameron on Unsplash.

Have you ever found yourself in front of your office window staring at the birds and trees beyond the glass and fantasizing about how nice it would be to work out there? Maybe you are envying those freelance writers who can work behind a screen on a wonderful beach of the finest sand, or in a desolate chalet with the scent of pine among the highest peaks of the Dolomites. Those are the digital nomads.

Well, good news. Nowadays, digital nomadism and remote working are no more a luxury reserved only for crazy novelists, adventure columnists, or fancy bloggers. Together with the digitalization of the country, the phenomenon of decentralized co-working and teleworking is a wave that is upsetting the world of work. As a result, new opportunities are arising in the tourism sector, and some cities see digital nomads as a solution to depopulation.

Who are ‘digital nomads’?

Digital nomads are usually identified as those individuals that take advantage of internet and computing technologies to work remotely from diverse locations around the world. Digital nomads are not bound by the physical constraints of face-to-face work. They can move freely in the world without reasons to abandon their job or activities. Over the years, digital nomads are used to living in different states, unsettled and free.

Digital nomadism is well suited to tasks that do not require an actual physical presence in the workplace, such as journalism or blogging, or technological tasks. However, the range of possibilities for remote working has expanded greatly in recent years, encompassing many sectors of the economy.

More and more companies are recognizing the potential of this new way of employing people, and are offering an unprecedented chance to digital nomads. According to Eurostat, in Europe in 2020 the number of people working from home doubled. Despite the fact that these numbers don’t distinguish proper remote workers from actual digital nomads, and even though these estimates are skewed due to the hard conditions dictated by COVID-19, they also present a trend of digitalization that will accompany the employment dynamics of the future.

This renewed interest and the openness towards the digitization of work, and consequently the indirect acceptance of digital nomadism, is also underlined by the fact that many countries are creating new legal frameworks to simplify the recognition and regulation of digital nomads and remote workers.

Following Germany, Spain, Estonia, and many other European countries, also Italy might soon see a digital nomad visa among its legislative instruments.

Slow-life, tourism, and societal renewal

The question then arises: what motivates us to look for these new working solutions? 

On the one hand, the opportunities of the new liberalism, the search for flexibility in working hours, and the spread of new types of entrepreneurship. On the other hand, the search for a slow life, where time is marked by nature and traditions.

According to a recent study, what motivates digital nomads is that “disengaging from sedentary life enabled them to express an ethos of freedom, in which minimalism, uncertainty and risk replace material accumulation, stability and comfort.”

But living conditions and a healthy lifestyle are no less important; and on this, Italy has several cards to play. In fact, Italy is gaining more and more attention from digital nomads. Along with the digitalization of the country, which for many years has lagged behind that of other European countries, Italy can attract more and more people by leveraging its slow life and its cultural and natural heritage.

Just a few months ago the community Nomadlist, which offers its rankings and advice for digital nomads, indicated Bari as the best Italian city for digital working. The reasons included the economic accessibility, and the slow Mediterranean lifestyle, with its rhythms, foods, and traditions. All aspects that in one way or another contribute to longevity and serenity, look at Ogliastra.

In the north of Italy, the tourism industry is also proposing new products with the aim of seizing the opportunities of digital work. In 2020, the ‘Queen of the Dolomites, Cortina, developed a specific program to support the innovative dynamics of jobs and jobs seeker. The Cortina Marketing Smart Working Holiday project offers new chances and services to those people who are looking for new, quiet, and closer to nature workspaces than the grey offices and chaotic areas of big cities.

But the opportunities behind the digital nomadism wave are not limited to tourism. Venice is trying to combat the depopulation of the city, due to the unfavorable economic conditions, by inviting those who can do so to move there to work as digital nomads or smart workers. The project Venywhere works alongside digital nomads by helping them in everything they need to work from Laguna, from visas to health insurance and networking.

From digital nomadism, Italy might gain and learn a lot. Encouraging people to not think about Italy merely as their holiday destination, but also as a place to work and to feel at home, is an opportunity. It’s a wave that is approaching silently and impetuously and must be ridden as soon as possible before it passes.