Italy for Digital Nomads
Since my mother is Italian, I’ve been to Italy and mostly Sicily so many times that it’s impossible to count it. Additionally, I’ve done my semester abroad in Florence, living there for half a year. So, yes: Italy feels like home! That is why I wrote my very first city guide for digital nomads about an Italian city: Palermo, my second home town! Now it’s time for some more general information about Italy and life as a nomad in Bella Italia:
Facts About Italy
Located at the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy has been at the heart of European culture and history for millennia. The Italian mainland is bordered on three sides by the gorgeous Mediterranean coastline, and in the North, across the Alps, the country borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Italy’s capital, Rome, was the seat of the famous Roman Empire, which, at its height, completely encompassed the Mediterranean Sea and stretched from Britain in the north, across the Iberian Peninsula to what is now Morocco, and east to Egypt and beyond. Originally a republic, Rome later expanded under the rule of Roman Emperors such as Julius and Augustus. After the slow decline of the Roman Empire, Italy became the center of the Catholic church and still hosts the Vatican, a sovereign nation state within the city of Rome. In the middle ages and later the Renaissance, Italy acted as a center of commerce and art and was home to Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the infamous Medici family. Like much of Europe, Italy fell victim to a wave of fascism in the first half of the 20th century and was ruled by Dictator Benito Mussolini until Allied forces invaded the country in 1943 during World War II. In 1946, following the resolution of the war, the democratic Italian Republic was formed. Italy was a founding member of the EEC in 1957, which later became the European Union. Today, Italy consists of 20 regions of which five are autonomous. Every region is divided into provinces.
Information About Entry and Departure
Because Italy is a European Union member state, Schengen country nationals can travel freely to Italy without a passport, just with you national ID Card. Travelers from non-Schengen area European countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK are required to show a passport when entering the country. Italy also offers visa-free travel for several non-European country residents, including Australia, Canada, and the United States, whose citizens can stay in Italy for up to 90 days. Unfortunately, it is not possible to extend your visa after those 90 days, but you have to leave the Schengen zone for another 90 days before you are allowed to re-enter.
Italy is generally very safe for travelers, even those travelling alone. However, pickpocketing and theft aren’t uncommon, especially in areas where bags are often left unattended, such as cafés, airports, and public transit facilities. I have probably traveled more than 50 times to Italy and never experienced any theft or pickpocketing myself. Although I heard that it happened to family members of mine, I was always lucky. On the contrary, when I lost my wallet during my stay in Palermo in 2016, the person who found it brought it to the police station and they brought it to the German Consulate where I got back just three days later. Another time I lost my key right in front of the town hall of Palermo. I called the town hall bureau, asked if the guards could walk to the place where I was sure to have lost the key (by the way with my keychain of DNX saying I CHOOSE FREEDOM) and they called me back after 30 minutes because they had found it.
Like almost all of the European Union member states, Italy uses the Euro. Major credit card carriers are typically accepted by most businesses, but as with anywhere, smaller or more rural businesses may not accept your particular carrier, so it’s always a good idea to have at least some cash on you. The good news is that ATMs are everywhere in Italy, especially in urban centers.
In Italy, Wi-Fi is unfortunately generally not the best. Sicily does not even have broadband. Nevertheless, I have discovered some good networks every now and then, but sometimes I had days with high speed Wi-Fi like in Germany (30 Mbit or higher) and the other days it was as slow as in Mexico (2 Mbit). My conclusion: If you rely on stable and fast internet, I recommend you not use WI-FI. If you want, you can purchase a Wi-Fi modem in any telecommunications shop (starting from 50 Euro) and create your own WI-FI network with it. With this approach Wi-Fi speeds will be much better. I got one of those modems with a SIM Card for 20 Euro, which included 12GB.
If you want a SIM Card for your phone, you will only be able to buy one from a telecommunication center. The four companies operating in Italy are Vodafone, TIM, La3 and WIND. For 2 months with 5GB each month plus the card itself, I paid 40 Euro and later purchased an additional 10GB for 10 Euro. But beware, you will continually receive promotions after purchasing. You can easily put money on it either via the app or by buying a code at a Tabacchi store (it’s a store where you can buy cigarettes that has a big green sign with a T on it). As far as I know, all of the carriers stopped offering prepaid cards you can reuse after being away for a couple of months. They will all charge a certain amount of money for your selected promotion per month, so just throw it away when you leave for longer than a month. Special tip: When you get a WIND SIM Card you will need to set your APN on internet.wind otherwise you will not be able to create a personal hotspot! If you don’t know how to do it, just ask at the store if they can do it for you. They know the problem.
Another possibility for mobile internet access is a MiFi device, which creates a WiFi network for you. I have tested the GlocalMe device and think it’s a really useful addition of my travel equipment. You can either use it as an ordinary wireless router with up to two SIM cards (very useful if you work with mobile TANs, you want to be available on your local number or if you want to use the social networks with a 2-factor authentication) but you can also use it without a physical SIM card but with the built in cloudSIM technology (which is of course more expensive) in over 100 countries worldwide. Apart from that it’s also a 6000 mAh powerbank, which is never bad to have with you.
Living in Italy as a Digital Nomad
Airbnb, hostels, and hotels are all great options for short term stays. Prices vary based on amenities and location. Dorm beds typically average between 15 and 30 euros per night, while an Airbnb apartment rental in or around Rome will run between 50 and 100 euros per night, although longer stays can often be negotiated with the owner for a discounted rate. While in Italy, make sure to enjoy the country’s world-famous coffee and gelato. If you want the native Italian experience, order your coffee (typically for less than a euro) and drink it standing at the bar. Italian pasta and pizza also provide excellent dining opportunities. Keep in mind that most restaurants won’t open for dinner until later in the evening (around 8 pm) except in touristy places where you will be able to find open restaurants between 6 and 7 pm. Rome, Milan, and Naples each have extensive public metro systems, and most of Italy’s other cities offer public transportation by bus. Metro and bus tickets can be purchased from local shops or from booths and ticket machines at metro centers. For either, make sure you validate your ticket once on board to avoid a steep fee. Taxis are available in Italy for 10 to 15 Euros for a short ride within a city. Keep in mind that Venice has no such thing: no cars, no busses, no taxis. You have to either walk from one place to another or take a boat. For intercity travel, rental cars are an option. An economy model with an unlimited mileage package is typically between 30 and 40 Euros per day. Italy also offers an extensive passenger train network from city to city within Italy and to several international locations in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A regional ticket from Rome to Venice will cost between 60 and 80 Euros if booked a few weeks in advance.
Hundreds of coworking spaces have cropped up across Italy, and they can be found in almost all the country’s cities. In Rome, a one day desk rental typically costs between 20 and 25 Euros, with month passes averaging around 200 euros. If you only need to work for a day or two, check around online to see if the space you’re considering offers a free first day pass. Several in Rome, including Bside and Millepiani Coworking, do.
20 Useful Words / Phrases for Digital Nomads in Italy
|Where is …?||Dov’è….?|
|My name is …?||Mi chiamo ….?|
|I don’t speak Italian||Non parlo italiano.|
|Do you speak English?||Parli inglese?|
|I’m not Italian.||Non sono italiano/a.|
|Could you help me?||Mi potresti aiutare?|
|I need …||Ho bisgno di ….|
|How much is this?||Quanto costa questo? / Quanto viene questo?|
The Numbers in Italian
I think Italy should be more in the center of attention of digital nomads. It’s a beautiful country, where you can live a perfect work-life-balance and still enjoy decent Wi-Fi if you know where to go!