There aren’t many countries in the world as romanticized as Italy. From the history, the food, the nature, the language, and the people, everyone has heard about it and has a longing to visit this amazing country. One of the best aspects of Digital Nomad life is the ability to live, visit and travel around Italy. In the past, only European nobility could afford to galavant around Italy, but nowadays it is one of the cheaper destinations on the old continent and a very popular one. If you are considering living in Italy, here are my top picks for Digital Nomads. Keep in mind that I only included large cities, but there is something to be said about small charming villages:
Milan is known throughout the world as a fashion and luxury capital, and the stereotypes about it are accurate. There are countless high-end boutiques, brand stores, and beautiful models walking around this northern Italian city. The location is important because this part of Italy is different from the rest, with the architecture being more central European, the people being blonder and the city itself being wealthier and better organized. A lot of Italy’s largest companies in IT and finance have their headquarters and originate from Milan. As you can imagine, all of the wealth and glamour translate to higher prices compared to the rest of the country, but Milan is still much more affordable than Northern European countries and the food is substantially better.
I have spent some time in Milan and think it’s one of the best cities in Europe to live in, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal for digital nomads. I’ll start with the good things first. The city is very well organized, much better than other Italian cities and the airport is great and has cheap flights to pretty much anywhere in Europe. Milan also has a thriving nightlife, many universities, and a decently sized ex-pat community. All of that is great, and you are pretty much guaranteed to have a great time while there, but I still think there are better places in Italy than Milan. The reasons for that are simple. It is one of the most, if not the most expensive cities in the country, which means it’s more comparable to France, Austria, or Germany than your typical southern European nation. Adding to that is the vibe of Milan. The city doesn’t have the rugged Mediterranean charms of Italy, which is one of the main reasons why I want to be in Italy. That doesn’t mean that the food or coffee is bad in Milan, it simply isn’t the postcard, stereotypical picture of Italy and that has its drawbacks for me.
Catania is located on the notorious island of Sicily, one of Italy’s most distinct and charming regions, that is just off the southern coast of the continent. It truly is an ancient place and the age of the city can be felt at every corner, on every street, and in the culture. Sicily is unique in Italy, perhaps due to the 3 kilometers that separate it from the mainland, or from the many invasions and migrations on the island through the ages. To most people ancient Greek and Roman history is the background to the Godfather’s imposing shadow. The truth is that the mafioso past and present of Sicily are a part of the picture, but as a digital nomad in Catania, you will likely not experience any of that. The more traditional and mafia-linked parts of Sicily are in the mainland and reserved to locals only, so unless you speak Sicilian (which is pretty different from normal Italian) you won’t hear much about it. The food here is also different, with Arancini (deep-fried rice balls) being the most popular street food.
Sicily is the poorest region of Italy and it is notorious for being controlled by the mafia, but as already mentioned, you are unlikely to notice or experience much of that. The truth is that the villages are indeed very poor and quickly depopulating, but the larger cities, like Catania, are fine, similar in standard to Eastern European cities. That is to say that you will find all kinds of stores, businesses, and amenities here, as you would expect in any large European city. The healthcare is not as good as that in Germany, or even the north of Italy, but it is still very good and the airport is international has a lot of good connections to Europe. However, Catania is not a very international city, there aren’t many ex-pats and foreigners, and finding a community and friendship can be hard for digital nomads. If you are going with friends, Sicily can be an amazing adventure, but if you plan to live there on your own, you might feel lonely. That being said, life in Sicily is cheap and the sun is plentiful, so you will always have something fun to do.
Italy’s capital, the eternal city of Rome is one of the most popular and romanticized cities in the world. It’s essentially an open-air museum that gets visited by millions of people every year, and for a good reason. As a matter of fact, Rome gets visited by so many visitors every year, that living there can be a little annoying, as the city is populous just by itself, but when you add all of the tourists it can be unbearable. I like the history, the food, and the grandeur of Rome, but found the size and the crowds to be exhausting. Of course, there are many neighborhoods away from the historical center that does not see many tourists, but you will need to venture to the touristy spots every now and then. Rome is a massive city and offers something for everyone, there are fancy and expensive restaurants, nightclubs, and boutiques, but there are also countless places where you can get an espresso for 1 euro and a beer for 1,50. Regardless of what your budget is, Rome is an amazing spot for digital nomads and probably the best city in Italy for that lifestyle.
Rome is quintessentially Italian, which comes with the good and the bad. The city has a lot of quirks that can be annoying, such as the public transport and other bureaucratic oversights, but it is undeniably a good place to live in. I enjoyed the history, the parks, the countless amazing restaurants, and bars and think that Rome needs to be visited by everyone, and experienced for at least a few months by those that can. It is a great place for digital nomads, cheaper than comparably large cities in the rest of Europe, and with much better weather than most of the continent. That being said, the summers in Rome can get extremely hot at times, but I didn’t mind it too much. There are a lot of foreigners there, ex-pats, students and tourists, so it shouldn’t be too hard to meet some new people, even without Italian. However, it is a good idea to learn a few words of Italian, as many of the locals don’t speak it.