Living in Italy

Can You Really Live in Italy Free for a Year?

A recent Airbnb contest offered a year-long rent-free stay in Italy. Can a foreigner live in Italy? Italy's 90-day limit + types of long-term stay visas.

No, you cannot just live in Italy for a year. Not even if you win a contest. Or can you? As part of the 1 Euro House campaign, Airbnb is offering one lucky contest winner a year-long rent-free stay in Italy. The home is in the Province of Agrigento, in Sambuca a small rural village of about 6,000 inhabitants characterized by a unique blend of Italian and North African cultures and architectural styles. So what’s the catch?

The following article examines some of the common myths about living in Italy with the help of Damien O’Farrell the Managing Director of Damien O’Farrell Mobility Services, a boutique destination service provider specializing in bespoke relocation and immigration services. Damien has overseen more than 10,000 relocations into and out of Italy. I couldn’t think of anyone better to answer questions like “Can anyone just move to Italy?” Even if they win a year-long stay in an awesome home like this one?

  • Bedroom in the Airbnb house being offered up in the latest 1 Euro House Italy campaign contest by Airbnb
  • Office Space in the Airbnb house being offered up in the latest 1 Euro House Italy campaign contest by Airbnb
  • Sambuca, Sicily, Italy.
  • Life in Sambuca, Italy
  • Countryside near Sambuca, Italy

There were some pretty hefty stipulations associated with the contest in exchange for living rent-free. In order to qualify, entrants had to be above 18 years of age, have good English speaking skills, and be able to move to Sambuca on June 30th, 2022, and then stay in Sambuca for at least 3 months. The final stipulation being the winner would have to host a private room within the home on Airbnb for at least 9 months. Boom. That’s the hitch I was referring to earlier. The winner will be contractually obligated to share their home as an Airbnb host, in Italy for at least 9 months. That’s where winning to contest could get difficult for Americans or any non-European citizens.

Living in Italy

For American or non-European citizens winning Airbnb’s €1 Home contest doesn’t by default give you the right to a long-term stay visa for Italy. In short, no you cannot just move to Italy even if Airbnb is giving you a free place to stay. Non-EU citizens planning to stay in Italy for more than 90 days will need a visa.

To help explain, I enlisted the help of Damien O’Farrell owner of Damien O’Farrell’s mobility service located in Rome, Italy. In the following interview, Damien and I discuss the 90-day limit to travel in Italy along with visa options available to move to Italy for a year or longer.

Can You Live in Italy for a Year?

In 1990 Italy joined fellow European countries in the Schengen Agreement expanding free moment across borders. To date, Europe has a 90 day limit for visitors from outside the Schengen block. So yes you can visit Italy visa-free if you are from one of the approved countries but only for 90 days within 180 days. If you come to Italy for 90 days without a visa, you then have to leave for 90 days before re-entering. Here is an online Schengen Calendar to help figure out what a potential entry and exit timeline to Italy might look like.

Can You Live in Italy if You Own Property?

As Damien mentioned in the video interview above, buying a home in Italy does not automatically give non-EU citizens the right to live in Italy. I believe much of the curiosity surrounding owning property and living in Italy right now is being driven by the publicity around Italy’s 1 Euro homes. It’s not surprising given the number of towns in Italy where foreigners can buy 1 Euro homes in Italy. The map below was created by The Local.It to show all of the towns in Italy currently offering one euro homes for sale. See what I mean!

Although buying one of these 1 Euro homes in Italy does not entitle you to a residency permit, as Damien mentioned you can obtain an Elective Residence Visa to stay beyond the 90 days allowed to visitors.

Airbnb Italy Contest

The chance to live in Italy rent-free for a year is pretty attractive at any age. For those entering retirement, able to work remotely, or simply just looking to hit reset on life in Italy, Airbnb’s 1 Euro Home contests present a rare opportunity. You’re afforded the chance to test out a few ideas. What living in Italy is like (like we write about here on ALOR) or what being an Airbnb host is like. All without making a major real estate investment. If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be.

I did reach out to the Airbnb PR team for this article I received no response. My hope is that Airbnb will help the winner apply for a long-term visa to live and work in Italy but details are not openly disclosed on the contest site. I believe this is why Airbnb says “Applicants must remain in Sambuca, Sicily for three consecutive months.” You can bet I’ll be watching to see if any further details are publicly released by Airbnb in the coming months.

One of the things I do like about the contest is that it’s bringing some of the smaller towns in Italy into the international spotlight. Sambuca is located 42 miles southwest of Palermo and 55 miles northwest of Agrigento. While I haven’t been to Sambuca, Paolo and I did recently spend a few weeks touring Sicily with stops in both Palermo and Agrigento. Palermo is Sicily’s most populated city with a happening food scene. Agrigento is home to the Valley of the Gods, one of the most flourishing Greek western colonies of the 5th century B.C. The Regional Archeological Museum of Agrigento is a very popular tourist attraction and for good reason. It’s stunning! Plus there are plenty of smaller stops aside from Sambuca that we did visit. One was in Castelvetrano which offers its own archeological temple fields to explore with fewer tourists.

Greek Temple Castelvetrano Sicily Italy
Greek Temple Castelvetrano Sicily Italy (raw unretouched iPhone photo!)

We visited as many of the smaller towns in Sicily as we could. Castelmola is perched at 1,736 ft above tourist favorite Taormina yet the population sits at just over a thousand people. One of my favorites was Gangi with a population of around 6,700. Like Sambuca, Castelmola and Gangi are part of the circuit of the most beautiful villages in Italy known as Borgo dei Borghi. I promise to share more once Paolo has a chance to go through his images from our trip!

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In short, these are definitely parts of Sicily I would consider living in myself. The food is outstanding. Sicilian wine is among the best in Italy. There is so much to see from a historical perspective. Plus, the nature in Sicily is awe-inspiring between its beaches, mountains, valleys, and three volcanos. Airbnb says “The lucky winner will join a growing international community moving from bigger cities to rural villages in pursuit of a slower pace of life.” Having recently moved to Italy, I’m happy to share if a slower pace of life is what you’re looking for, Italy is definitely a place to look into. Most especially in the small towns and villages off the tourist track. Life might be slower in them, but with so much to see within an hour’s drive in Italy, you’ll only ever be as bored as you want to be.

I’m happy to see the spotlight being turned on smaller towns through Italy be it Airbnb’s 1 Euro House campaign or House Hunters International episodes. I just wish there was a bit more transparency with these programs around the difficulty of moving to Italy. Be it as a foreign homeowner or a contest winner.

What about you? What do you think of Airbnb’s recent contests and property investments in Italy?

References

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