In a program offering rent-free housing to remote employees, a Sardinian community welcomes its first digital nomad.
Do you want to work from home in surroundings so beautiful they put chocolate boxes to shame?
Thanks to a new program in Sardinia, you may now sleep beneath sweeping hills and sloping terracotta rooftops for three months rent free.
Clarese Partis, a 39-year-old software designer from Los Angeles, was the first to take advantage of the offer.
She boarded a trip from the United States and landed on the island last week, making her new home in the little village of Ollolai. She was eager to get away from the throng and work off the grid.
“I felt I needed a change of scenery,” she says.
Partis insists on a location “surrounded by nature, fresh air, mountains, and beautiful beaches, where I could find more solace, peace, and a slower-paced lifestyle.”
Many workers have been seeking it since the COVID-19 outbreak, and digital nomad-focused lodging and travel packages have been trying to meet demand.
Ollolai in central Sardinia is a world away from the country’s popular – and often crowded – coasts. It’s like a time capsule, with the country’s cultural traditions still extremely visible. It is mirrored in the way of life found there.
“I love going to the farmers’ market to pick fresh ingredients such as truffles, making pasta and gnocchi with pesto,” Partis says. “The food is amazing.”
Though stunning by any standard, Ollolai’s population is shrinking. It has shrunk from 2,250 to 1,300 persons in the last century.It’s a situation Italy has been grappling with for years, and one they consider a national emergency, with population growth reaching an all-time low by 2022.
Since then, the government has been attempting to recruit visitors, both short and long term. Their ‘purchase a house for €1’ promotion drew people from all around the world. Ollolai took part with the hope that foreigners would invest in revitalizing its old quarter.
“That was a major success — many foreigners bought and restyled dozens of forsaken dwellings,” Mayor Francesco Columbu told CNBC.
Columbu is now putting his money where his mouth is. The ‘Work from Ollolai’ program intends to transform the location into a digital nomad hub, with a €20,000 euro investment. The village will accept remote employees one at a time for up to three months (the limit for non-European visitors without a visa) throughout the following two years. Interested digital nomads must apply online by the end of December.
If getting to know the locals seems appealing, Ollolai is an excellent choice. Workers who wish to stay will be housed in dwellings originally occupied by farmers and shepherds who used to sleep on the floor with their animals. They now include an office and high-speed internet.
Socializing is simple for me because I am the only nomad in the region.People are eager to see the guest and are sending invitations to local fairs and festivals.
“Locals are so warm and welcoming,” Partis says, “and it’s not because they want to sell you something, like in touristy places.”
The municipality covers nomads’ rent, utilities, bills, and service taxes, but not transportation.
There is, if you can call it that, a minor catch.
“This is not a free holiday,” said Veronica Matta, president of the Sa Mata cultural association.
“[Workers] must have a proven background as a digital nomad and leave a concrete piece of work at the end of their stay – be it a conference, an essay, a research paper, or a documentary.”
She emphasized that “professional remote workers from all fields are encouraged to apply: technology, media, finance, real estate, architecture — and also artists, writers, musicians, scientists, and academics.”
Everyone is welcome as long as they are willing to leave a “knowledge jolt” that improves the village culture and are open to the reciprocal arrangement.