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Italy Launched Digital Nomad Visa – Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Italy

digital nomad in Italy

People tend to romanticize Italy on social media, claiming it to be the best place to live. And since the country’s digital nomad visa went into effect this month after being discussed by Italian legislators for years, many remote workers might start thinking on staying there for sometime. Nevertheless Italy has many positive aspects, it also has its cons that often are left unnoticed by those who want to move there. Believing that people must have a full picture of their new temporary home, Laura Bruzzaniti, an Italian Language and Culture Advisor at Promova, a one-stop language learning platform, shares her list of things that foreigners should consider before becoming a digital nomad in Italy.

Below are more fascinating facts about Italy can be learnt in Promova’s Italian course that not only teaches language but also provides a cultural context of the country where it’s spoken.

Not every Italian speaks English. Italians start studying English already in kindergarten and continue in middle and high school. Nonetheless, as in any country, not all locals speak good English. So, if you don’t speak at least some Italian, you might have difficulty making yourself understood. Learning some Italian before you go may be a good idea. Start from the basics so you can be autonomous in everyday life and move forward. 

You can work in comfort. In Italy, you’ll find many coworking spaces where you can rent a desk starting at €25 per day. And it’s cheaper if you rent for a week or a month. We are talking about big cities, of course. Another option is to use your phone as a hotspot. On an Italian SIM card, you can get up to 180G per month for €9.99. Not bad.

Cashless payment isn’t a thing everywhere. Yes, in Italy, you can still find small shops that won’t accept card payments. Or they’ll tell you that “the device is not working today.” Always have some cash on you, just in case.

You can find amazing Italian cuisine almost everywhere. Italians take great pride in their culinary traditions. Hosts may be quite insistent when offering food to their guests. This insistence is rooted in a desire to ensure guests feel welcomed and well-cared for. If you decline a dish, don’t be surprised if your host offers it again or encourages you to try just a little bit. This persistence is a part of the Italian dining etiquette.

Thirty-year-old man might still be living with his parents. Finding a job in Italy is not easy, salaries are low, and rents are high in big cities. So, yes, you can find people in their twenties or thirties still living with their parents. Sometimes it’s the only option.

You’ll be kissed on the cheeks all the time. A handshake and two kisses on the cheek. This is the customary greeting in Italy. Sometimes, even the first time they meet you, people will kiss you on the cheeks. To tell the truth, it’s not an actual kiss but a cheek-to-cheek approach without the lips really touching the cheek.

There’s a common time to get a glass of something. In Italy, a night out with friends often starts with “aperitivo”, typically between 6 and 9 pm. It is a pre-dinner social gathering where friends meet at bars or cafes to enjoy drinks and light snacks. Aperitivo menus often feature appetizers like bruschetta, olives, cheese, and cured meats like “prosciutto”, accompanied by Spritz or Prosecco. 

Be prepared that some Italians may be loud, but it doesn’t mean they are arguing. Southerners (from Rome down) can be quite loud. And, of course, they’ll move their hands a lot when talking. If you don’t speak Italian, a conversation between two Romans might seem like an argument because of the loud tones and frenetic gestures. Don’t worry; 99% of the time, it’s just a normal conversation between friends.

No need to buy water. You can carry a reusable water bottle with you while living in Italy because you will probably be able to fill it anywhere. Most places around the country have public fountains on the streets where residents regularly get drinking water. Rome is most famous for this. Thanks to the city’s ancient system of aqueducts, there are over 2,500 fountains. You can safely drink water from all of them. There are even special mobile apps that will show you the location of the nearest nasone.

Inability to rent an apartment without a work contract. If you’re thinking of renting an apartment for a few months, you’ll need an employment contract. If you’re a freelancer and don’t have a contract, renting could be difficult. You may find landlords willing to turn a blind eye if you pay “in nero” (under the table) and accept to rent without a regular lease contract. But these are illegal situations that don’t guarantee your protection. 

Public transportation is often delayed. Patience is a virtue you will often need in Italy. More so when waiting for the bus or the metro. Traffic is heavy in big cities, especially early in the morning and around 7pm, and public transport doesn’t always stick to the schedule. Always have a book with you, just in case. Or just scroll on.

You don’t have to leave tips in the restaurants. On the bill at a restaurant in Italy, you may find an entry called ‘coperto.’ Coperto is a table service charge, added to the cost of food and beverages. It covers the cost of bread, table setting, and general service. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that tips are not welcome and coperto replaces them. It is not mandatory like it is in the US. But it is nice to leave a tip, and most people do it. It can be as little as 10%, and it’s fine. You can also decide not to tip, but most people would tip.

Vague meeting times (“See you at 8, 8.30”). Yes, meeting times can be very vague in Italy. Italians (in the South) are quite relaxed when it comes to schedules. Arriving at an appointment ten or fifteen minutes late is fine. 

Free wine. A free wine fountain sounds like the stuff of dreams – but it’s a very real thing in Caldari di Ortona in Italy. The small town has a free wine fountain that flows 24-hours a day with locally grown red wine. The fontana di vino can be found in the Dora Sarchese vineyard, which sits on the Italian pilgrimage route of Cammino di San Tommaso.

Cars don’t stop at pedestrian crossings. Are there pedestrian crossings in Rome and Naples? Of course. Do they have the same meaning as in other cities in Italy and the world? Of course. Do drivers stop at pedestrian crossings to let pedestrians cross? No. If you stand there waiting for cars to stop, you might have to wait a long time. A bit of initiative and a lot of caution will eventually get you to the other side of the road.

Ice cream all year long. Gelato is healthier than regular ice cream. Gelaterias make it daily with fresh, all-natural ingredients, and it contains 70% less fat (and consequently far fewer calories) than factory-made ice cream. There is also much less air in gelato, which makes the flavor more intense. Maybe that’s why Italians are so slim!

No early dinner at 6:30pm. Making friends in Italy is easy, and people are generally quite friendly. If you are invited to dinner, be sure you don’t show up at 6:30 pm. In Northern Italy, dinner is around 7:30. But in the rest of Italy, people sit down for dinner at around 8:30 pm. Or even later.

No cappuccino after dinner. Italians find it very funny to see foreigners drink a cappuccino after a meal. Cappuccino is something Italians only drink for breakfast or “merenda” (afternoon snack) when it’s cold outside. If you want to blend in, order coffee at the end of your meal. Try all the different coffees you can get in Italy: macchiato, schiumato, al vetro, con panna. Or even “corretto” with a little grappa.

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