Working from home (“WFH”) has mixed associations. Joining Zoom meetings whilst wearing a dressing gown, in the car or from the bath (with microphone and camera off, obviously) is appealing, but living, eating and working within the same four walls can feel monotonous, isolating and a little claustrophobic. Attending online appointments from my childhood bedroom as a university graduate aged 23, I can attest to the latter.
Enter digital nomadism, or changing the “H” of your WFH. As the pandemic began to ease, in September last year I left my London-based job in politics and relocated to Indonesia as an online tutor, where sandy toes and a fresh coconut by the sea made teaching algebra and personal pronouns more exciting. I have now taken the job to Florence, the piazza del Duomo and River Arno a backdrop to my lessons. I am one of many “digital nomads” who are uprooting their day-to-day life elsewhere, the flexibility of online work opening up the possibility of offices all over the world. Florence’s breath-taking architecture, addictive cuisine and “dolce vita” lifestyle seems an obvious choice. Whilst a specific digital nomad permit is yet to be launched in Italy, the government’s self-employed visa enables highly qualified remote workers and freelancers outside the EU to relocate to Italy and work there under a certain set of conditions.
28-year-old cyber security specialist Vanity Dijkhuizen moved to Florence from the Netherlands last year. Both she and her partner, a freelance IT consultant, work remotely from their home a few kilometres outside Florence’s centro storico. The couple share my motivation for embarking on a digital nomad journey. “We regretted never having a gap year or travelling abroad for a long period of time. Since Corona we were all working from home. We figured that if we can close the laptop and be in the Netherlands, we could close the laptop and be somewhere else.”
Given the green light from their employers, Vanity and her partner decided on Italy as their WFH destination, despite neither of them having ever visited. They were initially torn between Florence and Naples. “We wanted an environment that had Italy’s famous cultural and architectural elements, but also somewhere that was close to nature or the sea.” On further research, it was Florence’s larger expat community that swayed the pair’s decision. An open community of internationals living in the city seemed “convenient to make more connections and friends. And it has definitely delivered!”
Of course, remote working whilst also geographically away from family and friends has its drawbacks. The lack of office chit chat had me at times a little stir crazy. Vanity and her partner acknowledge that living abroad “is definitely more difficult from being at home, where you have your own friends and people you know. Here we are truly remote. We both work from home since our dog limits the spaces we can travel to for work during the day. It’s a little harder to make friends. You really have to go out and participate. It won’t just come to you.”
Despite not having an office, Vanity has committed to the expat lifestyle, venturing out after work to meet people and groups in bars and shared spaces. We both thank our ever-expanding social opportunities in Florence to the “Foreigners in Florence” Facebook page, an online community of expats through which I found Vanity to speak to. With posts ranging from event invitations to questions about restaurant recommendations and accommodation, it’s a great source for newbies at all ages.
Whilst remote working is incompatible with my extrovert personality, so far I’m loving life abroad. Florence not only boasts inspiring architecture that makes me want to explore, but through its buzzing social web I have found English-speaking and Italian friends to hang out with. The bitter cold and overwhelming busyness of London now a distant memory, I might indeed be here for the foreseeable.
Where to co-work in Florence
For “Gen Z” entrepreneurs: The Social Hub
The Social Hub (viale Spartaco Lavagnini 70-72) aims to bring a new generation of international citizens and digital nomads together in an exciting and collaborative work environment. The space is not only delightfully Instagrammable, decked with plants, murals and “Go get em!” quotes, but its hot-desking layout inspires collaboration and motivation to push through difficult deadlines. Florence’s branch offers event spaces, an on-site bar, restaurant and hotel rooms for international conferences. At 20 euro, a day pass permits access to all facilities and Social Hub community activities. A flexible monthly membership is available for €109.
For 9-to-5-ers: Bi4working
For those familiar with the global “WeWork” chain, Bi4Working (via Muzio Clementi 19) offers a very similar set up, with a monthly fee for a mature and comfortable office base in the Novoli area. Its bright, open plan space is equipped with a bar, stylish bathrooms and desktop computers. All the facilities of a typical office for use on your own terms, starting from 180 euro a month.
For students: Biblioteca delle Oblate
Set in a peaceful cloister in the perfect location, the Oblate Library (via dell’Oriuolo 24) is a popular hub for both students and remote workers. It has free entry and a rooftop bar with spectacular views of the Duomo, providing space for both work and socializing. The air-conditioning serves as a heavenly retreat in summer, whilst its medieval architecture offers many cosy reading nooks in winter. End a study session or meeting with a coffee, smoothie or Aperol Spritz! Make sure to check the opening hours before visiting.
For creatives: Manifattura Tabacchi
Originally a cigar factory with over 70 years’ history, Manifattura Tabacchi (via delle Cascine 35) opened its doors as a co-working space in 2018, attracting digital nomads to a new district of the city. Housing some of Polimoda’s classrooms and with a jam-packed calendar of arts and culture events, unsurprisingly it draws in creative professionals from across Florence. Public spaces include event facilities, a bistro, craft beer tasting area, biodynamic vegetable patch and children’s garden.
For start-ups: Nana Bianca Firenze
Branding itself as a “Start-up Studio”-cum-coworking space, Nana Bianca (piazza del Cestello 10) is one of the largest accelerators for Italian digital professionals. It hosts over 60 participant start-up businesses and has 75 million social media followers. Head down to Florence’s Granaio dell’Abbondanza not only for snazzy offices and LED-lit basement conference rooms, but the opportunity to collaborate with innovative new businesses from all over the world. Flexible desks start at €150 a month, and fixed desks at €300.
For café-hoppers: Ditta Artigianale
If you’re craving the comfort and consistency of a good old-fashioned Starbucks or Pret-a-Manger, Florence’s answer is Ditta Artigianale (via dei Neri 30-32R, via dello Sprone 5R, lungarno Soderini 7R, via Giosue Carducci 2/4R). Francesco Sanapo’s American-style chain, boasting 4 stores of varying sizes across the city, prides itself on artisanal coffee, tasty brunch and homemade desserts. Ideal for those who enjoy some background noise, as these cafes are humming with customers chatting and working with friends. Particularly noteworthy are their Sunday opening hours, be it for a last-minute cramming session or a freshly squeezed orange juice to cure a weekend hangover. Opening times may vary depending on store.