For the last seven years since March 2013, I have been living between two of my favorite regions, working remotely from the Dolomites, Italy, and Karelia, Finland, as well as from my native country Russia, spending several months a year in each of them. These people today are called digital nomads. But I’m not the one of them.
Next, you will learn why I do not call myself a nomad, as well as about the pros and cons of remote work in Italy, accommodation, workplaces, Internet costs, and so on.
(Note: I don’t answer email questions regarding remote work and life in the Dolomites. There is already a lot of advice in this post as it written in its title. I update it with more info from my experience.)
— I don’t treat myself to digital nomads, because I don’t go especially to many new countries to live in them without taking a break from work. (And nomads do.) Before I started traveling actively, I didn’t have any remote work. But since then, it happened that I lived in 10 countries for a periods from one month to a year and worked there remotely, while mastering a new profession — outdoor journalist.
After living and working remotely in all of these countries I realized that I was tired of “collecting” the countries and cities. No, I don’t speak about it negatively. Vice-versa, there are too many great places on Earth! And if you go somewhere for a longer period that one month, you easily get used to it. And what is sadder, you get to used to good people there. Then it’s hard to leave them. So I decided to travel during the year between my two favorite countries — Italy and Finland — and three cities in Russia — Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi on the Black Sea.
I found myself in Italy by chance: after working for seven years in offices and living in my native Saint Petersburg I was looking for an opportunity to live abroad for a longer period than a regular vacation in the format of “travel and work” and found a volunteer project in the Dolomites, in a small village 100 kilometers from Venice. That’s where I started working remotely: on a book and articles about my Dolomites experience.
I liked it very much in the Italian Alps.
For six years now I have been coming every year to the same village in the Feltrino valley, where I rent an apartment and work remotely as a journalist and editor for Russian travel companies and media, and, in the same time, help the local tourist center to promote outdoor activities and eco-tourism in the region.
Pros and cons of live and remote work in the Dolomites, Italy
The Dolomites are not the most popular destination for people who work remotely at all. But here you can live and work, too, if you like Italy and Austria and things I will mention right next.
- There are almost no other digital nomads and remote workers in the Dolomites, which is good, if you don’t want to meet them, and communicate with locals.
- Mountains in Italy are a less popular tourist destination in general than in other parts of the country.
- Dolomites are called “the most beautiful mountains in the world”: the rock of dolomite has a special property to absorb light, and bizarre peaks and deep canyons give the relief a special charm.
- There are many opportunities for outdoor activities in summer and winter: hiking and cycling, climbing and via ferrata, skiing and snowboarding…
- There is delicious food of several national cuisines at once: North-Italian, Alpine, German-Austrian, Ladin (native people of Dolomites).
- There is a high standard of living.
- In Italy, it is cheaper to live than in other Western European countries.
- It is cooler here in summer: +25…+30 ºC in the mountains against +30…+40 ºC on the plain in Italy (for three months from July to October!).
- Dolomites located just 100 km from Venice and 150 km from Verona, if you travel here form the south.
- To live in the Dolomites is more expensive than in the rest of Italy, if we don’t take big and popular touristic cities like Venice, Milan, etc.
- It’s hard to find affordable housing for short periods without knowing the locals, and Airbnb is quite expensive.
- There are cold winters and expensive heating, so “The Dolomites are within 500–700 euros/month for housing» is a summer option only.
- Some people may lack communication.
- Italians almost do not speak English.
- It is also hot in mid-summer here — like 25…30 ºC.
Housing in the Dolomites
Finding an apartment for a short term period like for a couple of months in the Dolomites is difficult, because in general, there are fewer rent offers here than in the more populated regions of Italy. Apartments for 400–800 euros a month (what is a good price for Italy) could be rented only on contract for a period of 6–12 months. So it remains to look for on Airbnb, Booking.com, and other similar services.
Renting an apartment without discounts will cost you around 800—1200 euros per month. This is expensive, but you can write to the owners and ask for a discount. It is worth doing it in advance, before the apartment is occupied on individual days: the tourist season in the Dolomites lasts from late June to late September.
There are no big cities in the Dolomites, but look at the three largest towns — Trento, Belluno, and Bolzano. These are three capitals of the Dolomites, like I call them. There are also smaller towns like Feltre, Rovereto, and Merano. And the rest of the towns are small villages.
It is also possible to settle in villages — there are no tourists, and the choice of accommodation is more. This year, I managed to negotiate with three owners at once for a long rental period of one month for only 550 euros.
So, where to live? This is maybe the only thing I won’t recommend — it’s very beautiful everywhere in the Dolomites!
You can get literally to any settlement, where you will find housing, and look, if you like there. Just keep in mind, that in small places there are not many shops and other kinds of modern entertainment, as well as good transportation to these places (maybe a few buses in a day). But there will be a lot of bars for sure!
Places for remote work in Italy
For me, this is not a problem, because I usually work at home or from the library in my village, or from the bars, when there are not many people. The largest town close to my village is Feltre (20.000 inhabitants). There are no co-workings in Feltre, but you can try to find them in other towns in the Dolomites. For example, I managed to find two in Trento: Social Tank and Impact Hub. There are cafes and bars everywhere.
Costs of mobile Internet in Italy
There are four main mobile operators in Italy (in order of number of customers and market share): Vodafone Italy, TIM, Wind Tre and Iliad. They have similar rates to mobile Internet. It can be a SIM card in the phone or a separate small modem: I have a modem from Vodafone, with a SIM card it costs 35 euros for 50 GB, there is also a plan of 10 euros for 30 GB. I have enough traffic for about three weeks, then I refill my account — just put the money on a number in any shop at the cash desk.
Another way to get Internet is to use it from your mobile phone (not modem). In Italy it cost just about 10–12 euro with the same 50GB of traffic and you can share it with laptop. But I don’t recommend doing it for long time cause, as I know, it is not good for your phone’s battery. Or, you can take some old second phone and charge it all the time.
Very important: home Internet in Italy is not everywhere because many people use a mobile Internet or refuse to use the Internet in general (really) — for example, the older generation. This was the case in my last apartment I rented from a family of the age of 60–70 years. They just don’t need the Internet.
Remote work visa in Italy
The bad news is that there is no remote work visa in Italy. The good news is that there is no remote work visa anywhere in the world, yet, as I know. (Update January, 2022: some countries are trying to make such a visas or already made a kind of it, for example, Estonia, or they make some good conditions for longer stay, for example, I heard, there is something in Portugal or Georgia — read latest news.) So, to come to live and work remotely in Italy you need to make it like a regular tourist.
If you are not a resident of one of the European Union countries, or some English speaking countries like UK, Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand, you may need visa to come to Italy as a tourist. You can check it here, on the website Vistoperitalia.esteri.it.
Anyway, staying in Italy as a tourist from any country of the world is limited to 90 days per half-year — you can’t spend a full summer season in the mountains from May to November without breaking this rule. And this is another minus for going to live in Italy for longer periods.
Probably, you will also need to make a simple travel insurance for your travel to Italy. In Russia, we need to make it by applying for a new visa. For your country, please, check the rules.
Monthly dudget for life in the Dolomites, Italy
If you manage to find accommodation in a small village for 500–700 euros per month (utility bills are usually included in the price), then along with other expenses you need no more than extra 500–700 euros per month: 200–300 euros for food, which is less expensive in the villages, and the same amount for other things, so 1,000–1500 euros in total. But of course it depends on a person.
The main entertainment in the Dolomites — hiking, cycling and other sports — are free of charge. If you don’t have your own bicycle, to rent a regular road or a mountain bike cost about 15–20 euros for the whole day but ebikes are much expensive — 35–50 euros for 3–5 hours (about 7–10 euros per hour). To buy a second hand bike on Subito.it cost from 300–350 euros up to 1000–1500 euros.
Transport in the Dolomites is also inexpensive by European standards — about 10 euros for 200 kilometers.
English language in Italy
As just a few people speak English in the Dolomites and Italy, knowing Italian, German and other European languages is a big plus. But there are more chances to meet English speaking people in Trento and Belluno (but, maybe, not Bolzano), as well as among younger people. Besides, one can meet Russian speakers (Ukrainians, Belarusians, Moldovans) here.
Well, do not forget that you can try to solve all the necessary issues, writing your message with translator on a paper in advance and showing it to people, and just using sign language, in addition to it and your knowledge of other languages. Usually, it really helps.
Italy, and the Dolomites in particular, is a great, inexpensive place for live and remote work, if you like and have interest to Italian and Alpine culture, language, and the way of life.
Cover photo: self-portrait in the Dolomites, Italy.