You know what they say about all work and no play.
Believe us, we are ALL about carving out time — a good, healthy chunk of time — for enjoying life, for clearing the mind, for feeling free! Play is molto importante.
But does a holiday always have to be synonymous with lazing on beaches and shutting your mind off for a week?
I happen to feel the most zen when my brain is in the zone — learning, being inspired, synapses sparking. I LIKE the feeling of keeping myself mentally active, even on my down time.
And travel does that for me. Figuring out my way around a foreign city, trying to capture fragments of meaning from a strange language, breathing in new smells and taking in new sights, falling in step with unfamiliar routines and customs — these things get me firing on all cylinders, they prime me for soaking up whatever the world has to offer.
That’s why I’m really digging the idea of combining work and play right now.
Folding work or learning into travel can reshape what your whole life looks like — when you can take off to France for a month just a few weeks after you spent a week in New York City because both trips were about the growth of either your work or your self, well… that’s kind of amazing, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a new kind of possibility for the way we see our lives, and I love that.
The kicker? There are some really cool opportunities right now for making your trip to Italy be about expanding your professional and cognitive horizons.
Because let’s face it, sometimes all play and no work can be dull too.
1. Study a craft with a master artisan.
If you want your trip to Italy to be about learning, what better subject to study than something the Italians are masters at?
Accademia Riaci in Florence, for example, offers a shoe making class taught by a lifelong cobbler, Angelo Imperatrice. Now 80 years old, he began work in the family trade at 11 in Oltrarno, when that neighborhood was filled with artisans all of kinds, from leather workers to watchmakers to silversmiths. Students come from around the world now to learn this craft from Angelo, one of the few remaining Tuscan masters.
Another skill that is uniquely Italian? Gelato making. And there is an actual university you can attend in Bologna where you can learn to make this delectable dessert from the very best, called (what else?) Gelato University.
Can’t make time for a semester or year or more at an actual school? Learn a quintessentially Italian craft over a weekend, like perfume making at a private workshop at Florence’s Aquaflor. Or take a glass blowing class on Murano Island in Venice.
2. Learn to code in Milan.
Oh what I would have done to have been able to attend a coding bootcamp like the one offered by Le Wagon in Milan when I was first starting out in this biz! Instead, I spent months and months with my nose in books and my laptop, trying to teach it to myself from scratch. I can’t tell you how valuable understanding code has been to my business, and I would encourage anyone to pick up this incredibly useful (and potentially very lucrative!) skill.
And holy smokes, if you are able to pick it up in a place as dynamic and as beautiful as Milan, all the better! Le Wagon’s 9-week program is an interactive experience, and being a student here is much more than just learning code. They hold private events where you can meet other entrepreneurs, freelancers, developers and product creators, there are talks by the co-founders, and that’s in addition to getting to know your classmates, who are from all walks of life. Plus, hello! You get to be in Milan the whole time. Win-win, much?
3. Be a digital nomad in Matera.
Already got your own business and want to spend your travel time investing more in that? Take it to Matera, where you can live and work for as long as you want. But like, in MATERA.
Matera is an up and coming city in Italy and we swear it’s going to be the next hot spot — we looooove Matera. Go visit before it’s on everyone’s list!
There is a fabulous cultural association called Casa Netural, that has created a co-working and co-living space, with accommodation for five people. They want to attract curious travelers, freelancers, start-up teams and other remote workers.
Rent is just 25 euro per day or 500 euro per month, which makes the idea of doing something like this feel all the more possible! And you NEED to know how amazing Matera is.
We stay in Matera for 3 nights on our tour of Southern Italy. If co-working is not your bag, come check Matera out with us for a few nights instead.
4. Attend a writing workshop in Florence.
Sign up for her emails and you’ll get why we’re so in love with her — she is a master at showing you how to make your words grab your reader by the meatballs and sound unmistakably YOU.
Come to the workshop, and you’ll learn how to write words that will make people crush on you, buy from you, share you, stalk you, want to wear you like a skin suit.
After all, that lightning bolt of inspiration is more likely to strike on a jasmine-scented balcony than in your disinfectant-scented local Starbucks, amiright?
We’re telling you about how good this because this is the fourth year we’ve done it. A writing workshop in Italy… Imagine actually doing something like this. Saying, “I’m heading to Italy to write!” We top it off with some good old fashioned in-person connecting, a walking tour, a beautiful rooftop cocktail party and other sweet treats. They don’t call us wanderlust enablers for nothin’!
Really immersing yourself in a place is more about deep connections and experiences than just seeing the sights.
We love communal travel, which means connecting with humans and letting yourself learn new ways of thinking, living and being.
Want more insider intel on Italy?
Get your hands on Gigi Guides City Guides where we dish on our hotel, food and neighborhood recs, plus things to do and sample itineraries our team has curated.
Here are a few blog posts you’ll love too:
- Matera, Italy — The Cave Town You Have to See to Believe
- What to Do in Florence
- Why Every Woman Needs to Travel Alone At Least Once
Now, share with us — if we gave you a plane ticket and you could pick just one of the experience above, which one would you choose? Dish on the deets in the comments, below.