When we stumbled across the rural village of Tursi in January 2022, we knew we were onto something.
With a co-working space inside a converted 16th-century monastery, this Italian idyll was the perfect place to kick off our start-up.
Our vision? To bring digital nomad communities to our country’s undiscovered gems.
A digital nomad project in a remote Italian village
Tursi’s unique co-working space belongs to Tursi Digital Nomads, a local association, and it’s located in Basilicata, a beautiful region of southern Italy region still relatively unknown to both Italians and foreigners.
We made our first visit on a cold winter’s day. The building was empty but we could really see our community working from these beautiful rooms and taking coffee breaks on the terrace overlooking the green valley below.
As we bid farewell to the association’s president, Salvatore Gulfo, we’re not exactly sure what will come next, but we know we’re onto something.
Breathing life into Tursi’s sleepy old town
Tursi ticks a lot of boxes for our digital nomad village. It is a charming old borgo huddled in a scenic rural setting. It is off the beaten track, meaning fewer tourists and more authenticity. And, of course, there’s a beautiful co-working space ready to go, provided by the local municipality.
Luckily, locals are enthusiastic about the project. Tursi’s residents believe remote workers can breathe life into the village’s sleepy old town. So we decide to team up with Tursi Digital Nomads and start planning.
The challenges of bringing digital nomads to a remote village
Despite having many of the right ingredients for our project, Tursi is by no means perfect. One major challenge stands out.
Ask any digital nomad what they look for first in a destination, and they will say without hesitation “reliable internet.” Not only reliable but fast and readily available. Although we have an old town full of houses to repopulate, most of them lack a stable internet connection.
After countless hours of planning meetings, calls with internet providers and conversations with landlords, we manage to secure enough houses and equip them with wifi.
We are finally ready to host our community of digital nomads – or ready enough, at least.
In total, 19 digital nomads from 13 countries participated
Our first Tursi nomad arrived in early June. Over the next six weeks the community grew, bringing diversity to the small town.
In total, we hosted 19 digital nomads from 13 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the UK and the USA.
Fears our community might get bored in such a tiny place were soon abated. Every week, we put on a full roster of events and activities – fitness sessions in the local park, cosy dinners, coffee and happy hours in the main square (lots of them), weekend trips to explore Basilicata and much more.
At the end of the pilot, we asked our community what they enjoyed the most about the experience. The verdict was unanimous: the authenticity of the village and the friendly local community.
What our digital nomad project in Tursi taught us
After the success of our debut project, we left with five key takeaways for setting up a digital nomad community.
1. Build bridges and facilitate exchanges
Many digital nomads want to be surrounded by an international community, but they also appreciate an authentic experience. Facilitating connections with the locals and their culture is key.
2. Engage the local community
Building strong relationships with residents and local businesses – both before and during our project – was integral to our success. Not only did our friends from Tursi help us with groceries, introduce us to the best of Basilicata, and give us tips on where to (and where not to) eat, they supported our project because we took their needs into account.
3. Engage with multiple stakeholders for long-term success
Establishing a long-term digital nomad community in a remote village with infrastructure challenges requires careful planning, long-term thinking and close collaboration with private actors and local administration.
4. Don’t dwell on perfection
Building digital nomad communities in remote places is tough and not everything will be perfect from day one. We learned to be OK with that.
5. It’s all about people
In the end, what made our project a success is community and people. Get that part right and you will be halfway to success!
About the authors
Serna Chironna and Andrea Mammoliti are co-founders of KINO, a start-up that brings communities of digital nomads and remote workers to the hidden gems of Italy. You can follow KINO and keep updated on future projects on their Instagram page.
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