A freelancer’s guide to Italy: wi-fi cafes and coworking spaces

coworking

The best thing about being a digital nomad – or even just a freelancer with a largely internet-based business – is the freedom to work from anywhere. Or is it. Nothing gets your creative juices flowing like a walk through a historic town centre or a trip to the countryside to take in the scenery and sample the local goods, right? Setting down to work after a fulfilling morning of cultural enrichment can be slightly anticlimactic though, particularly if you happen to find yourself in a lovely and quaint little cafe with no wi-fi. If you are used to most European capitals, visiting Italy as a digital nomad can be quite puzzling at first. Free wi-fi is not as common here as it is in London, coworking spaces are not nearly as popular as in Berlin – although both are on the rise – and you won’t find anything in the shape of a Starbucks here, as we are quite particular about our coffee, but there are plenty of other options available to make your stay as productive as you can possibly want. The following is a short guide to some of the best places to sit down with your laptop and get some work done, be it for a short break between a shopping trip and a visit to a museum or for a proper 9-to-5 workday.

Milan

Santeria

This is the closest you’ll get to actually believing you are in Berlin. This creative hub is not on the usual tourist routes, but once you find it, you will want to spend a lot of time in it. You can sit and work in the free-wi-fi-cafe or on the outside terrace, with a drink or a delicious burger, but if your requirements for a working environment prove to be more complex, you can rent a desk in the neighbouring coworking space. Share an office with local creatives, print the hell out of your latest business report, get a free bike ride and then get down to the shop to stock up on vinyls, cool t-hsirts and art-books. Throughout the year, a number of artistic and cultural events take place at Santeria, including concerts, vintage markets and book presentations. As Milan seems to be going through a full-blown cultural renaissance, Santeria is set out to become a privileged spot to watch for new trends.
English spoken

Conservatorio 22 Business Center

If you are in town for at least a month and want to have a place to call your office, you couldn’t do better than Conservatorio 22. This multi-purpose space caters to every possible professional need, from basic office equipment to multilingual reception and secretarial services. You can rent a desk in a co-working area or your own private office, to be furnished according to your needs. If you can work from any cafe, but still need to have mail delivered or take landline calls, Conservatorio 22 can function as your temporary address and provide you with a landline contact number. All services are reasonably priced and extremely flexible.
Multiple languages spoken.

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Coffice

The name really says it all and the concept is brilliant in its simplicity. This is not, strictly speaking, a bar with free wi-fi, nor is it just a co-working space, but rather a mix of the two. You pay by the hour (booking is recommended but not mandatory) and while you are there you can enjoy unlimited wi-fi, unlimited coffee, tea and cappuccino and unlimited access to the buffet, which includes pastries, croissants, muffin, snacks, fresh fruit and cookies. If you are not all about long, coffee-fuelled working hours, you can hang out with friends, play board games, share books or attend the seminars, classes, exhibitions and events that regularly take place at Coffice.

Parma

Un_Type

The main focus of this enterprise is on shared projects and fostering collaboration between creative professionals. This hidden gem in the heart of Emilia-Romagna is the place to go if you want to have the creative pulse of the region and meet young freelancers, particularly designers (both the web and the non-web variety), photographers, marketers and event professionals. If you are only in town for a short stretch of time, this is also where you will find a desk to park your laptop and prove to yourself that you are being a good digital nomad and not just a glorified tourist with a computer. Advance booking required.

Rome

Acino Brillo

If you are visiting Rome, this is an excellent spot in which to have your lunch break and get some work done, while soaking up the atmosphere of Garbatella, a charming neighbourhood as yet untapped by mass tourism. Happiness truly lies in the small things: free wi-fi, excellent food and a large selection of fine wines. If the weather allows it, I warmly recommend you sit outside and enjoy a view of the lovely piazzetta S. Eurosia – unless you are in need of a power socket, in which case sitting inside is probably your best option. You are unlikely to come across the same menu twice, as the in-house chefs likes to experiment with a variety of fresh ingredients, but the quality is unwaveringly good. Whatever you do, however much you eat and drink, always live room for a taste of the local desserts: they are unbelievable. This is probably not the right spot for a whole day’s work session, as it is only open for lunch and dinner, but it is perfect if you are pacing your stay in Rome and looking for a healthy mix of working and sightseeing. You can stretch out your meal and have that article written and your laptop charged by the time the espresso is served. English and Spanish spoken.

Necci

When in Rome, do as the Romans do and of one thing you can be sure: you will find no Romans sitting with their laptop in an overpriced in the vicinity of the Spanish Steps or Piazza Navona. To get a feeling of the real roman hipster scene, you need to head for that slice of suburbs between via Casilina and via Prenestina that goes under the name of Pigneto. Once a favourite hangout of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s – who shot part of his celebrated masterpiece Accattone in this area – Pigneto went on to become a supercool, artistic neighbourhood. Although those days too might be now over, it is still worth walking along via Fanfulla da Lodi on a sunny Sunday morning to enjoy a luxurious breakfast at Necci. Slightly more expensive than you might have come to expect in this area, Necci more than makes up for its extravagant prices with excellent food, good quality coffee and – you have already guessed – free wi-fi, as well as its unique atmosphere. It works as a bar, restaurant and cafe, as many places do in Italy, which means that, depending on the time of day you decide to visit, you can enjoy a complete meal, an aperitivo (1 drink and a plate of snacks and nibbles) or a foamy cappuccino. The retro décor and the international clientele contribute to the timeless feeling you get while sitting on the beautiful multi-level terrace or at the checked tables inside. Your novel is guaranteed to grow by at least one chapter in here.
English spoken.

Catania

SAL

Did you think had to keep to the mainland in order to make your stay in Italy productive as well as pleasurable? You couldn’t have been more wrong. In Sicily you can have it all: breath-taking scenery, food to die for, the kind of weather that allows you to go swimming throughout most of the winter and, of course, wi-fi and coworking spaces aplenty. Catania is a teeming hub of freelancers and artists and SAL is the perfect place in which to rent your own desk while you are in town. You’ll get to meet local creatives and have access to a variety of events ranging from trade-shows and lectures to exhibitions and concerts.

Fablab Coworking

Whether you are in town for a day or a whole year, Fablab will offer you a fully furnished office at a very reasonable price. You won’t simply get a desk and wi-fi here: if you happen to be in urgent need of a computer and don’t have your laptop at hand, you will find one with Microsoft Office installed. You will also have access to both a 2D and a 3D printer, as well as a meeting room (free of charge, but you will have to book that in advance).

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Angela

She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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