The rolling hills of Tuscany, with Monte Amiata behind and the Fiora river in front of you. A place to take a deep breath and unwind. And recently for some the right place to work. Santa Fiora, a village of 2,500 south of Florence, is poised to become a hotspot for smart workers.
A fiber optic cable has recently been laid across the Tuscan mountains to Santa Fiora, bringing high-speed internet to the hitherto sleepy town. "The idea came up in the first few months of the lockdown, when almost all employees were sent to work from home. That's when it occurred to us that we have a bunch of empty houses here," says Azzurra Radicchi.
The consideration: Santa Fiora is interesting for everyone who works from home. You could work in a small village in Tuscany "without being locked up in a town". Radicchi is the second mayor and fought with others for the fiber optic connection. A data superhighway is now leading from Santa Fiora into the Internet world, which is intended to attract start-ups and smart workers.
A win-win situation for the idyllic Tuscany village. Like other remote places, Santa Fiora is suffering from depopulation. Now people are coming whose business world is the Internet – like Isla Grossi from Portugal. "I expected less," she says. Now that she's in Santo Fiora and people are showing her around, she's seeing lots of things she didn't expect.
Fast internet and beautiful scenery
Like the thermal springs nearby and also the mountains, Monte Amiata. "I think it's really good here," laughs Isla Grossi. Born in Brazil, she commutes between Portugal and Sweden and sells recycled fashion through her online shop. In Santa Fiora, she enjoys the good internet connection in her apartment that she has rented: "Our generation can take the good part of a traditional way of life and the good of modern technologies and create a balance between them".
That's what's happening right now. "People," says Grossi, "are freer, they can do what they want, work and live anywhere in the world."
Giampaolo Palma also loves the fast internet and the beautiful landscape in Santa Fiora. He works for a Milan pharmaceutical company and also rents apartments to other smart workers. He knows what is important: "A stable internet connection, as secure as possible, is important for those who come here for smart working". That's why he set up wireless access points in the apartments "so that everyone can work without any problems".
Apart from the information superhighway, Santa Fiora also attracts with financial subsidies. The municipality reimburses half of the rent to smartworkers and start-ups who come to the Tuscan village. The home office paradise project, says Azzurra Radicchi, is off to a good start. After the Italians came first, there are now more and more inquiries from the rest of Europe, but also from the USA and South America.
And living together with the locals works. The people who came integrated without any problems, emphasizes the second mayor. The hip Smartworkers and the locals would meet for an aperitif, for example. "I think", says Azzurra Radicchi, "it is an enrichment for those who have come, but also for the people of Santa Fiora".