Want to Be a Digital Nomad in Italy? Here’s What You Need to Know
This was originally written for AllBusiness.
While living and working in another country has always appealed to a relative few, we’re now seeing an uptick in digital nomads around the world. Chalk it up to Covid teaching us that life is short and adventures are many.
I’m one of those people who sold everything and relocated to another country (Italy). I’m fortunate enough to work as a business coach and content creator, so I can work anywhere, including two blocks from the Ionian Sea in Calabria.
Attracted by la dolce vita? Ready to give up your high mortgage for a much more affordable house by the sea (any of the four that surround Italy)? Excited by the prospect of eating pasta and drinking wine every day? Here’s what you need to know.
1. There’s a Digital Nomad Visa (Coming Soon)
Earlier in 2022, Italy announced a new digital nomad visa that would make it easier for those who work for non-Italian companies to live here. As of this writing in December 2022, the country hasn’t worked out all the details nor announced when it will be ready.
Even without this visa option, I was able to get a one-year visa as a freelance writer without issue, though I was told it was a very difficult visa to obtain.
2. You Might Want Help with the Immigration Process
Despite being a very DIY kind of person, I hired a lawyer to help with the immigration paperwork and process. There’s not a lot available online about what exactly you need to do, and there are some deadlines you might miss if you’re unaware of them, which could delay your move.
My attorney has helped me with the visa application, as well as applying for the permesso di soggiorno, or residency permit. It was definitely an investment (under $4,000), but well worth it.
3. You’ll Also Want Help with Taxes
Now that I’m here, I’ve been told I need a partita IVA, which is like a Social Security number for business owners. I don’t know a lot about this, but do plan on working with a comercialista, who is a bit like an accountant and can help with setting up the partita IVA as well as filing your Italian taxes. And yes, you do need to file in Italy. There’s an agreement between the United States and Italy that allows you to only pay Social Security taxes in one country, not both.
4. Allow Time to Get Settled
I say this not only because you’re going to feel like you’re in vacation mode when you arrive in Italy (and eating like you’re on vacation too), but also because things can sometimes take a while to set up.
I live in Calabria, in a tiny town down south, so this is my experience. If you move to a big city like Milan or Rome, things likely will move faster. For me, it took several weeks to get internet. There were multiple visits to the internet store (for me TIM, which also sells phones and SIM cards). Then once I got my modem, it took several days for it to activate.
Things are not instant in Italy the way we expect them in the States. Be patient. Channel your inner Yoda. I took a full month off when I arrived, and thank goodness I did because I really couldn’t do any work without my trusty internet.
5. Open an Italian Bank Account (but Have Patience)
Another task that may take a while is opening a bank account. Italy has some pretty strict rules about money laundering (thanks, Mafia), so a bank will do a background check on you before you can open a bank account. This could take days to weeks.
To open an account, you’ll need a contract for a lease on a house (if you buy one, I’m sure that sales contract will also suffice), as well as your Social Security card, passport, and U.S. bank statements. You’ll also need a codice fiscale, which is like a personal Social Security number that is free to obtain. You’ll need it fo
r everything you do, from buying a SIM card and internet to shopping at a thrift store!
Some banks may require other documents. I read that the post office (yes, they offer banking) requires a tessera sanitaria (health insurance card), but an Italian friend said not to go by what the website said. Italians bend the rules when they feel like it, so you may not need everything listed on the site!
6. Let Your New Life Dictate Your Work Schedule
How and when I work has changed quite a bit now that I’m settled in Italy. Because my clients are in the United States, I don’t have to start working first thing in the morning. Instead, I take a walk along the sea, have coffee with friends, and do yoga. My work day starts in the afternoon when I’m more aligned with American work hours.
If you’re attracted to living in Italy, you’ve got to embrace the culture, and that means letting go of the workaholic mentality so many Americans have. Italy is more affordable than much of the United States (especially if you’re coming from California like me), so you might be able to reduce your work hours and still live a very accommodating life!