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Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

Many jobs can now be done from anywhere with only a laptop and a decent wifi connection - but what are the rules if you want to work remotely in Italy for a company back in your home country?

Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?
Working from home might be technically easy, but there other things to consider. Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP

Remote work, or even just working from home, was almost unheard of in Italy just a few years ago but that’s all changed since the pandemic.

These days it’s perfectly possible to be physically located in Italy while working remotely for a company based in the UK, the USA or elsewhere. More companies worldwide are open to the idea of remote working, and Italy’s internet connections are (gradually) improving.

So it seems easier than ever before to move abroad and take your existing job or freelance business with you.

But anyone considering doing this will also have to factor in paperwork: namely residency and work permits, and tax status.

What are the rules?

What you need to do depends on where you’re from and how long you intend to be in Italy for. 

If you want to live in Italy longer term, rather than just passing through for a short while, you’ll need to get some paperwork in order.

If you are an EU national, there will be no requirement to obtain a visa or work permit.

However, if you belong in this category you will need an Italian residence permit for stays longer than three months.

READ ALSO: Remote workers: What are your visa options when moving to Italy?

Person working on their laptop in a cafe

The rise in remote working means more people are looking to work temporarily in different countries. Photo: Alizée Baudez, Unsplash

If you’re from a country that doesn’t benefit from EU freedom of movement, you can take advantage of the 90-day rule, which means you can travel to Italy visa-free for up to 90 days in every 180.

See more details on these rules in a separate article here.

This may be enough if you only want to spend a short time in Italy before returning home. However, if you want to stay longer, you’ll most likely need a visa.

What type of visa will you need?

You might have heard the term Digital Nomad, which is usually used to describe someone spending a short time in a country, or moving between various countries while doing some short-term tech-based work – for example bloggers or Instagram influencers.

Italy doesn’t have a specific Digital Nomad visa – at least, not yet. One has been promised in Italy for some time, and was even approved earlier this year – but the process has now stalled and there’s no sign of it becoming available any time soon.

And unfortunately the options available at the moment are not always viable for self-employed freelancers and remote workers, immigration law experts say.

The self-employment visa, or visto per lavoro autonomo, is the permit that most non-EU freelancers would probably expect to apply for when seeking to move to Italy for work. 

But successful applications are rare. So rare, in fact, that Costanza Petreni, a senior immigration consultant at specialist law firm Mazzeschi, says she actively discourages clients from taking this route.

READ ALSO: How many people does Italy grant work permits to every year?

“We have so many clients asking for this type of application, because in the absence of a digital nomad visa there’s almost no other option. But what we tell them is it’s extremely hard and uncertain,” Petreni says.

As well as a low number of work permits available via this route (the limit has been set at 500 per year for the past few years) experts say another problem is the absence of clear guidance from consulates as to exactly what documentation applicants will need.

Here’s a breakdown of the visa options available at the moment for those hoping to work in Italy.

Find more information on the Italian Foreign Ministry’s visa website here, which details the visa requirements that may apply in your circumstances.

Will you need to pay Italian taxes?

This is often an area that trips people up if they work for international clients but live in Italy. Where do the taxes get paid to?

“If you live in Italy, you pay taxes in Italy,” clarifies tax expert Nicolò Bolla who runs Accounting Bolla.

If you’re a resident in Italy, your income will be subject to tax known as ‘Irpef’.

For employees, the employer is also required to pay the social security contributions to Italian Social Security Authority (INPS) – even if the employer is based outside Italy.

Different tax rates apply for freelancers with tax breaks available to new residents – and of course, you’re responsible for paying social security contributions too. 

You’ll need to file an annual tax return in Italy as stipulated by the worldwide taxation principle, which dictates that you must report your worldwide income and therefore file your taxes in the country where you reside.

You shouldn’t be paying your taxes twice, however, according to Italy’s Inland Revenue or tax office (Agenzie delle Entrate).

“Italy has bilateral agreements with many foreign countries to avoid double taxation on income and capital. These agreements establish the range of the power of the two states to set taxes,” to the Italian tax authority’s website says.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. For more information on visa applications, consult the Italian embassy or consulate in your country or an immigration law professional.

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For members


‘What we’ve learned from running an Airbnb in Sicily’

Moving to Sicily and running holiday accommodation has brought challenges, rewards and unforgettable moments for one French family who won an Airbnb competition last year. Silvia Marchetti finds out what they've learned from the experience.

'What we’ve learned from running an Airbnb in Sicily'

Relocating to Italy to open a B&B or become an Airbnb host in a picturesque rural village is an idea that has likely popped into the minds of many foreigners looking for a life-changing adventure, even if for a limited period.

The Gautherie family, from Périgueux in the Dordogne, France, last spring won an international competition launched by Airbnb to live as host for one whole year rent-free in a renovated €1 home in the Sicilian town of Sambuca, retaining all earnings from the rental of one double room within their abode. 

Mathieu and Eva Gautherie, together with their children Iban, 13, Jeanne, 7, and Pierre, 6, arrived in July to a welcome party thrown by local authorities. 

They’ve learned a lot since then, mainly that settling in a little village with a slow-paced life where people are friendly and warm is much easier, and more pleasant, than doing so in a larger town.

“Locals welcomed us with open arms and made a huge effort, ‘folding themselves into four’ (se plier en quatre) to help us integrate”, says Eva, a psychoanalyst and yoga teacher.

Alongside her husband who works in trade, remote working in Sambuca has turned out ideal in balancing work with the new Sicilian job, and looking after their children.

The Airbnb house in Sambuca, Sicily. Photo: Giuseppe Cacioppo

One of the main challenges was trying to understand how tax declaration works in Italy on rental income earned during their one-year stay, which ends in June. 

“It’s not quite clear whether a simple statement to the tax office will suffice, and we just pay tax on that. But if we have any issues and must get in touch with tax authorities, we fear reaching them by phone, and the dialogue, might be hard and all very complicated”, says Eva, who like many foreign nationals moving to Italy has found it’s always better to rely on a local accountant or tax expert for help. 

EXPLAINED: What are Italy’s rules and taxes for Airbnb rentals?

Another issue has been living in an old house with lots of humidity, even though restyled, which is an aspect people longing to follow in their footsteps should take into account. 

The house, located in the ancient Saracen district at the feet of the belvedere where an emir’s palace once stood, belongs to Sambuca’s town hall but has been elegantly restyled by Airbnb.

However, despite the upgrading and extensive makeover, the family found some of the walls drenched with damp, which turned out to be bad for the kids’ health. 

“The house is part of the ancient castle walls and when it rains, drops fall inside and the curtains get wet. We hope this will be fixed for the next hosts”, says Eva. 

She suggests people wanting to run an Airbnb should also consider the type of accommodation they plan to offer, noting the potential complications of renting out one room.


“Given we’re renting just one super spacious king size room within our residence, not a detached, independent wing of the building, being a family of five with three hyperactive kids running around the house at all times could frighten guests and couples longing for silence and more intimacy”, says Eva.

Another challenge is dealing with the potential homeschooling of children. “They have to integrate in a new, local school and it might be tough for them, not just for the language barrier but for the different school pace.

“In France kids stay at school eight hours a day and have after-school activities, in Italy only until 2pm. So you have to know what to expect and weigh up what’s the best thing for your kids”. 

The Gautherie family were surprised to discover that Italian pupils have fewer holidays than French ones, who enjoy five days off each month and a half, she says. This can weigh on the kids, and the parents, if they’re used to another system with more leisure time. 

In September the Gautherie’s two younger children were homeschooled, while the eldest son Iban attended the local village school, but didn’t integrate well, says his mother. This pushed the family to return to France in mid-October to enrol the kids back into a French school, but they’ll be coming back to Sambuca in April to continue their experience and continue to handle bookings online in the meantime.

“Anyone with kids who embarks on such an adventure must take into account that at some point, if the local school doesn’t work for them or the kids are too small, the parents might have to become their momentary teachers”, says Eva.

The Gautherie family with Sambuca mayor Leo Ciaccio (centre). Photo: Leo Ciaccio

Discovering Sambuca and mingling with residents has of course also led to pleasant surprises.

The way people went out of their way to communicate in both English and French to make the newcomers feel at home, showing off their multilingual skills, was unexpected. The Gautherie were given free Italian language and cooking lessons by the town hall with tutorials by local housewives.

They were given a proper “Mediterranean welcome” each day and treated like “princes and princesses”, says Eva. 

“We never thought such a small place like Sambuca was thriving with regular summer events, so culturally rich with street art and paintings decorating the alleys”.

She admits she was however quite amazed that very few people attended her yoga lessons, from an initial small group she eventually found herself down to just one person at the end, probably due to the summer heat.

The Gautherie family are grateful that they learnt the Sicilian driving style, more “instinctive” than the French one. “We had to get used to it at first, then we just copied their way of driving,” says Eva. 

Their first time in Sicily has exceeded their expectations, the family say – the gorgeous blue sea, the art and islands – but warn that the car trip from mainland Europe is long and tiring. 

“Getting to Sicily on a plane is certainly more comfortable and practical,” says Eva. 

The family are now looking forward to welcoming more international guests and contributing to the social regeneration of Sambuca.

While they’re not currently planning to prolong their stay beyond the one-year Airbnb project, they may spend most of next summer touring Sicily to learn more about the local culture and make the most of their stay.

“No matter how little you know at the beginning, or the challenges and obstacles, it’s always worth the experience so never hesitate,” says Eva.