Ever since the advent of the pandemic, countless publications have pondered the question: would you work from home or commute to the office? The choice isn’t simply between those two anymore. The world had heard of digital nomadism before but now, a city said to be gasping under the weight of unregulated tourism and rickety palazzi is set to take it to the next level.
Less than a year after a rap by the U. N. over cruises docking at its ports and posing a risk to its World Heritage status, Venice is looking for more people than ever to come and work on its shores—as residents. As part of a new initiative, the city wants professionals—freelancers, remote employees with the freedom to work from anywhere, and even entire teams—from the world over to set up a temporary base here.
Called Venywhere, the project was launched in December 2021 by the Venezia Foundation, which conserves the city’s cultural heritage, and the Ca’Foscari University of Venice. It will offer digital nomads the opportunity to explore life as a “true Venetian citizen” for a period of (ideally) six months or more.
The idea is to utilise the great variety of unused spaces across its sprawl as workspaces while pursuing and enriching community experiences to aid the local economy for longer periods of time. A platform-based service, accessible after paying a one-time subscription fee, will allow temporary citizens to find office spaces, accommodation and long-term engagements (lagoon sports, crafts and culinary workshops, Italian lessons) of a quintessentially local nature, to facilitate an easier and richer immersion into the Venetian way of life.
The concept is engineered around the idea that the whole city can be one’s office, Massimo Warglien, professor and Venywhere founder, told Bloomberg. The city’s natural features and art-centric modern spaces will be reconfigured as floating workspaces. One might find themselves attending a meeting at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia one day, and hammering out a presentation on a gondola ride, the next—or even hopping on a vaporetto to Giudecca Art District, where unused artist studios, galleries and other underutilised spaces. The city also plans to equip designated workspaces with fast and reliable WiFi, which is probably the biggest prerequisite for an on-the-go worker.
Venice for the past few decades has been facing a population crisis: from 1,75,000 residents after WWII to just over 50,000 today, as more and more people continue to leave thanks to a lack of career opportunities and other resources in the tourism hub. The city seemingly wants to create a buffer, a steady flow of temporary residents to utilise its surplus housing, public buildings, art spaces and contribute to creating a local community.
The project aims to become an exercise in halting the marauding charge of fast tourism in the city and bringing about urban renewal. The old buildings flanking the canals in the city were built on land that was marshy, and after centuries, their foundations have gone wobbly. Community engagement is also one of the objectives of Venywhere, but what it will entail is yet to be disclosed.
Venice, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, was faced with the prospect of relegation to UNESCO’s list of endangered heritage sites last year, thanks to the steady number of cruise ships docking on its banks. In recent years, these vessels have exacerbated an increasingly concerning trend: an ever swelling percentage of day visitors and thus falling revenue. While a €5 prior entry fee might not be enough to deter visitors from contributing to the overload threatening Venice’s crumbling infrastructure, a sustainable slow tourism model might bode well for the city.
The target demographic is expected to be urban, on-the-move, and flexible professionals with creative, well-paying jobs/engagements. However, it isn’t just freelancers and WFA employees the project wants—organisations are also encouraged to send entire batches to work offsite in the scenic Italian city. However, the city hasn’t declared a cash incentive for its prospective work residents.
However, before you or your organisation apply, there are two crucial considerations to keep in mind. The first is figuring out the right kind of visa, because to live and work for longer than a few months in Italy needs regular visa renewals. The second is that the country happens to be one of the highest-taxed countries, and for now, it seems that only a few income brackets might be able to pursue this programme, unless one is successful at procuring a self-employment visa. Venywhere is also working to optimise costs pertaining to requisite permits, taxation, health insurance and transportation, through a feature called Soft Landing. For details, check out their website.
Digital nomad programmes elsewhere in the world
While several E. U. countries and scenic island nations such as Costa Rica, Antigua and Iceland have started offering remote work visas, here are a few programmes that offer dedicated ecosystems to digital nomads:
Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.