Los Angeles-based software designer Clarese Partis, 39, has always wanted to work in a unique place away from the hustle and bustle.
Therefore, she seized the chance when it was presented to her.
Partis arrived in the Italian Sardinian village of Ollolai last week for a free stay funded by the municipality. The stay is part of a program for digital nomads who want to move temporarily to work near farmers and grazing sheep in the center of the island.
“I have been traveling as a digital nomad since the past two years, last in Zanzibar,” said Partis, but “when the opportunity for Ollolai came along I was excited to give it a try.”
“I felt I needed a change of place,” she said, “not a touristy one, but [instead] surrounded by nature, fresh air, mountains, beautiful beaches, where I could find more solace, peace and a slower-paced lifestyle.”
The village of Ollolai
Ollolai is situated in the untamed Barbagia region, a considerable distance away from Sardinia’s popular coastal areas frequented by VIPs. It is a place where ancient traditions continue to thrive.
The population of Ollolai has dropped from 2,250 to 1,300 over the last century, with only a few children born each year.
To revive the old village,in 2018 the municipality implemented a widely known plan: the sale of old houses for one euro.
“That was a major success — many foreigners bought and restyled dozens of forsaken dwellings,” said Mayor Francesco Columbu told CNBC. “Now, after investing in high-speed internet, with this new project ‘Work from Ollolai’ we want to make our village a digital nomad hub.”
Free stays for Digital Nomads
Ollolai City Hall has set aside 20,000 euros ($21,460) to house 30 employees from different parts of the world who can stay in the municipality consecutively over the next two years.
Applications can be submitted online through December. The maximum length of stay for non-Europeans in Italy without a visa is three months, and those who are selected can stay there for free for up to three months at a time.
According to Veronica Matta, head of the Sa Mata Cultural Association, which coordinates the initiative “Work from Ollolai”, the next remote worker will come from Singapore.
“We expect a lot of Americans,” she said. “Our goal is to revive Ollolai with new people of different cultures and languages that may share their experience [as] digital nomads with the residents.”
A furnished two-bedroom home will cost about 350 euros per month to rent from local families, with money allocated from City Hall funds for this purpose. According to Matta, the cost of utilities, bills and taxes of the municipality will also be covered, but not airline tickets.
A mutually beneficial arrangement
Winners are entitled to a free stay in Sardinia, but only if they commit to giving something back to the community before they leave, Matta said.
“This is not a free holiday,” said Matta. “They 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, research paper or documentary.”