An Italian island is letting foreigners live rent-free for three months — meet the first person to arrive


Clarese Paris, a 39 year old software designer from Los Angeles has always wished to work in a place that was off the beaten path, far away from the crowds. When she was given the opportunity to work in a remote location, she jumped at it. Partis arrived in Ollolai, a Sardinian village in Italy last week for a free stay. This is part of a programme aimed at digital nomadic workers who wish to temporarily relocate in the middle of the island to work among farmers and sheep. She’s the very first digital nomad who has arrived, and she says it already feels like a major life change. Partis said that she has been a digital nomad for the last two years. “I was in Zanzibar when I did it, but the moment the opportunity to work at Ollolai arose, I was eager to try it.” She said that she felt the need for a change, not necessarily a touristy place, but one where there was more peace, nature, freshness, mountains and beautiful beaches.

The small village of Ollolai

Ollolai is located in the wild Barbagia area far from the Sardinia’s VIP-packed coastlines — a place where old traditions survive and bandits once lived in caves.

Through time, locals left in search of a brighter future elsewhere, emptying the ancient district, now covered in street art depicting rural life.

Clarese Partis working from her home in Ollolai, Sardinia.[instead]Source: Antonio Meloni

In the past century, Ollolai’s population shrank from 2,250 to 1,300, with only a handful of babies born each year.

The village adopted a highly publicized measure in 2018 to revive the old district: selling crumbling homes for 1 euro.

Partis and Francesco Columbu, the major of Ollolai.Source: Veronica Matta

“That was a major success — many foreigners bought and restyled dozens of forsaken dwellings,” said Mayor Francesco Columbu told CNBC. After investing in high-speed Internet, we now want to turn our village into a hub for digital nomads with the new project “Work from Ollolai”. “

Free stays for remote workers

Ollolai’s town hall has earmarked 20,000 euros ($21,460) to host 30 remote workers from all over the world, who can stay in the village, one at a time, over the next two years.

Online applications are open through December. The chosen

can remain for three months without paying a fee. This is the maximum time that non-Europeans are allowed to remain in Italy.

Partis overlooks the view from her balcony, with Veronica Matta, who is overseeing the “Work from Ollolai” program.

Source: Antonio Meloni

The next teleworker is arriving from Singapore, said Veronica Matta, head of local cultural association Sa Mata, which handles the “Work from Ollolai” program with the mayor’s office. “We expect many Americans,” she said. “Our goal is revive Ollolai by bringing in new people from different cultures who can share their experiences

as digital nomads. The budget will be used to rent homes from local families at a monthly cost of 350 euros for a furnished 2-bedroom home. Utilities, bills and town hall service taxes will also be covered, said Matta, but transportation and airplane tickets are not.

The homes, which used to belong to shepherd and farmer families, who in the past used to sleep on the ground floor with their animals, come with an office and high-speed internet connection .

Workers will be invited to locals fairs and festivals, according to Matta. Partis said she was invited to a party on the town’s piazza the night before.

Partis gives her landlord 1 euro as a symbolic gesture.

Source: Veronica Matta

“I just had to give my landowner a symbolic one euro for the house rental,” said Partis. Locals are very friendly and helpful, unlike in touristy areas. “

“I love to mingle with the people here,” she said.[as]A reciprocal arrangement

Winners can stay for free in Sardinia — if, that is, they agree to give something back to the local community before they leave, said Matta.

“This is not a free holiday,” said Matta. They must be a digital nomad with a track record and submit a tangible piece of work to the community at the end of their trip, whether it’s a research paper, essay or documentary. “Partis and Matta join a welcoming party in Ollolai, Sardinia.

Source: Veronica Matta

Partis plans to give a lecture on what it means to be a digital nomad, in general and specifically in Ollolai, she said.

Matta stressed that “professional remote workers from all fields are encouraged to apply: technology, media, finance, real estate, architecture — also artists, writers, musicians, scientists and academics.” She said that they are welcome to apply, but only if they leave behind a “knowledge boost” that will enrich the village culture. She said it has two bedrooms, a panoramic balcony, and views of a valley and woods. It is where she gets inspiration for her work.

Clarese Partis with Veronica Matta, looking out from Partis’ balcony.

Source: Antonio Meloni

For now, she said she’s balancing her work and desire to sightsee across Sardinia.

“I’m still settling in. She said that some days she travels to see the beauty of Sardinia, while others she stays at home and catches up on her work. She said that a typical Ollolai day is very similar to what she does elsewhere: morning yoga, work, a walk, and then a drive up to the mountains or coast to enjoy the views and silence. “I don’t drink, so the bar isn’t my favorite place to hang out,” said she. “I love to go to the farmers market and pick up fresh ingredients like truffles. I also make pesto pasta, gnocchi, etc. The food is incredible. She said Ollolai was more beautiful than she expected and that the people were friendly. Sardinia has so many things to discover. I’m happy I have enough time here to explore the island and its cultures. “