Italy will soon roll out a new visa that allows remote workers to live in Italy even if their jobs are based abroad. Proponents hope it will attract well-paid workers and spur innovation.
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
If you’ve ever dreamed of dropping out and moving to Italy to live la dolce vita, it’s about to get easier. The country hopes to attract more than just tourists, whose numbers have dwindled during the pandemic, and has developed a program to attract people who no longer have to work from the office. Adam Raney reports from Rome.
(DOG WALKING SOUND EXTRACTION)
ADAM RANEY, BY LINE: The sound of Nitro, a chocolate Doberman pinscher on his afternoon stroll through the heart of Rome as street music fills the air. His loving owner, Mike LaPointe, trailed behind him, happily admiring the view as we crossed the Tiber.
MIKE LAPOINTE: It’s pretty amazing. I like crossing that bridge. I think it’s the fourth oldest in the world.
RANEY: LaPointe, a longtime resident of Washington, DC, now lives along this timeless river with his wife, Gillian Kirkpatrick, and, of course, Nitro. Their apartment is a stone’s throw from the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. Lapointe and Kirkpatrick do not consider themselves tourists. They want to stay in Rome. Mid-career professionals plagued by the isolation of remote work, they came to Italy last fall on temporary student visas, which expire in a few months.
GILLIAN KIRKPATRICK: I’ve loved Italy since I set foot there in 1985, and I’ve been coming back as often as I can for as long as I can. And it’s very hard to leave every time it’s over.
RANEY: It may not be over for them. Italy is set to launch what it calls the Digital Nomad Visa, aimed at remote workers who earn money abroad but want to move to Italy. LaPointe wants to be first in line to apply as soon as the visa is implemented, which could be any day now.
LAPOINTE: The United States is a great place to work and it’s a great place to make money, and Europe is a great place to live. I think that would be the ultimate telecommuting situation for us.
RANEY: The visa is expected to attract thousands of applicants in the first year, people like LaPointe and Kirkpatrick, who have realized that working remotely will allow them to live the life of their dreams abroad.
LUCA CARABETTA: This type of law allows us to attract people at no cost to our economy, but only with gains for our economy.
RANEY: It’s Deputy Luca Carabetta of the Five Star Movement. The party was one of the main backers of the new visa. Since it is aimed at foreigners with relatively high incomes, proponents take it for granted. This contrasts with Italy’s armed policy against migrants from Africa. Digital nomads enjoy near universal support, especially since they will not be eligible for social protection programs and will have to provide their own health insurance. Meanwhile, they could potentially inject hundreds of millions of euros into the economy.
A few hours north, Venice, the floating city with stunning squares like St. Mark’s, was a trading powerhouse for centuries until it declined. Tourism is now the mainstay of its economy. Economist Massimo Warglien of Ca’ Foscari University wants to attract digital nomads to Venice to fill the gaps in a city that has lost tens of thousands of people in recent years. He helped launch Venywhere, where a program to support international remote workers relocating to Venice. He says the digital nomad program will drive innovation and entrepreneurship.
MASSIMO WARGLIEN: Well, the main objective of the Venywhere program is really to bring a population of workers to Venice from anywhere, to make the city a city where you can experiment with new forms of work.
RANEY: When I asked Warglien again if this was just another way to keep Venice as a playground for the rich, he said no.
WARGLIEN: We’re not trying to attract the rich. We are trying to attract human capital, which is lacking in the city. You want people who come with the energy to do things. The city loses a lot of these energies. We want them back.
RANEY: The head of Italy’s visa unit, Stefano Bianchi, echoes that sentiment.
STEFANO BIANCHI: We must attract people capable of contributing to the revival of our economy and its integration into the world economy.
RANEY: Back on that 2,000-year-old bridge over the Tiber, Gillian Kirkpatrick imagines a lot of workers like her would line up to do just that.
KIRKPATRICK: I know quite a few people who are 100% distant. And you can live wherever you want and spend time in Italy. I mean, what’s better than that?
RANEY: For NPR News, I’m Adam Raney in Rome.
(MUSIC SOUND EXTRACTION)
NPR transcripts are created in peak time by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.