Review: Italy's Casa Netural Coliving Space For Digital Nomads
An extraordinary coworking experiment unlike any other we’ve experienced, where nomads are encouraged to integrate into the local community, and the community happily returns the favor. It’s also located several kilometers from the Sassi, a vast and incredible archaeological site that is the most interesting place we’d never heard of. We spent countless hours exploring it.
Surprisingly, Casa Netural in Matera, Italy is the only coliving facility we know of anywhere in Italy.
When we first arrived at Casa Netural, I was very underwhelmed. In fact, my negative reaction led to our adopting the “three day rule,” which means we have to wait three days before we decide to leave a place we don’t like at first. Why the negative reactions? Casa Netural isn’t located in the nicest area of town. It’s part of an old redevelopment project that looks a bit like some of the housing projects in the U.S. It’s also near a noisy road and overlooks a pretty busy petrol station. And nice public spaces in this part of town aren’t exactly prevalent.
Casa Netural only has five rooms for coliving (so it’s important to make your reservation pretty far in advance), and the quality of the rooms varies. One of the two rooms upstairs is very small, and the other has a dramatically sloping ceiling that made it impossible for me to stand. The upper bathroom is very small and awkward. And in summer, southern Italy can get very hot. Alas, the rooms themselves don’t have air conditioning and some nights it was simply too hot to sleep.
The coworking section is on the first floor and is quite nice. It had full length windows that opened up to let in the breeze, and was bright and airy (though it can’t compete with the views at Swiss Escape). The kitchen is in the basement, and has pretty much everything you could want. It is also in many ways, the heart of Casa Netural. More on that in a bit.
There are plenty of shops in the neighborhood, including several well-stocked groceries, plenty of fresh fruit and veg shops, and, of course, many places to get wine.
Casa Netural rents by the person, not the room. The cost is 650€/$735 USD per-person a month, 190€/$210 USD for 7 days, or 30€/$33 USD per day (two days minimum stay). Prices went up this year, most likely because Matera is one of Europe’s cultural capitals for 2019. This is also Europe, where accommodations are more expensive in general. But given the accommodations, this seems overpriced. Perhaps the rate will fall back in 2020.
For your month’s rent, you get accommodation with shared bathroom; fast, reliable WiFi; the use of the coworking space; weekly cleaning; a washer; and use of the nicely equipped kitchen.
As for other prices in Matera, an average meal out will run about €6/$7 USD, while the all important gelato — which one is required to eat every single day — will set you back about €1.5/$2 USD. But this is Italy, so the food will be good and very fresh.
One thing that isn’t expensive? The wine. It’s cheap and good.
As noted earlier, Casa Netural is one of the smaller coliving places we’ve stayed, and also one of the most unusual. What sets it apart is that the coliving aspect is just one part of Casa Netural. Part of Casa Netural’s mission is to bring digital nomads together with the locals in order to share their experiences and skills with Materans, who, like much of southern Italy, has languished behind their cousins to the north.
That means it’s expected — though not required — that digital nomads share some of their expertise with the local community. That can take place in any number of ways. Doing a presentation about taking better pictures or giving a talk about how you started your business. For Brent and I, it meant giving a presentation to the local LGBT group which had only formed a year before. Matera is a somewhat conservative place when it comes to gay issues, and Brent and I talked about our relationship, our fight in the part for LGBT equality, and how much things had changed during our lives.
It was one of the highlights of our time in Matera.
Thanks to Casa Netural’s deep connections with the community, we also got to know a number of the locals. Many days we shared a communal lunch cooked in the kitchen with both our fellow digital nomads and Materans using the coworking space. And we were also invited out to several dinner parties that included excellent local recipes. We’re still in touch with many of the friends we made in Matera, and we wouldn’t trade our experiences with the local folks for anything.
Matera is situated way down south in the arch of Italy’s boot, in the Basilicato region. Even though it’s located 40 km from the ocean, Matera sits up at 400 meters in rolling, sometimes rocky hills and ravines (known as gravinas). If arriving by plane, you’ll fly into Bari, about 60 km away, and then take the train over. Bari is served by both Wizz Air and Ryan Air, which keeps flights affordable for us digital nomads. And getting here by train is pretty easy from almost anywhere else in Europe.
Matera is actually home to one of the longest continuously inhabited places in the world. And also one of the most interesting archaeological and architecturally amazing places we’ve ever visited. Called the Sassi, which is Italian for “stone city”, this UNESCO World Heritage site is truly worthy of the designation. How it isn’t world famous already, we don’t know. We guarantee you’ll want to spend days exploring this place.
Matera itself has lovely plazas where you’ll want to stroll around with the locals. And if you’re lucky enough to be here during Festa della Bruna, you have to go. It’s one of the most … unusual cultural celebrations we’ve ever witnessed.
Bad news here. Italy is part of the damned Schengen Zone, so you’re trapped in that 90 day limit.
Tucked down so far south, Matera has a pretty temperate climate. But it can get awfully hot in summer including the upper thirties Celsius/high 90s Fahrenheit. And thanks to its elevation, in winter Mater can get snow. But overall, this is a pretty nice Mediterranean climate that you should enjoy.
So should you come to Casa Netural?
BRENT AND MICHAEL SAY:
Despite it’s drawbacks, we’re both enthusiastic “yeses.” As noted earlier, Casa Netural is one of the smaller co-living places we stayed, and also one of the most unusual. What sets it apart is that unlike every other coliving facility we’ve stayed at, the coliving aspect is just one part of Casa Netural. Part of Casa Netural’s mission is to bring digital nomads together with the locals in order to share their experiences and skills with Materans.