He’s scribbling a series of 12 words on the blue paper handed to him by one of the two women at the other side of the desk. Marco is his name. Graying hair, blue jeans, and still wearing the fat, black winter coat that protected him against the cold Alpine air outside, he just drove 80 kilometers from his hometown and is now in the process of installing the Altana Bitcoin wallet, as recommended.
“I had heard of Bitcoin but didn’t own any,” he explains, when asked why he didn’t just buy bitcoins on an online exchange. “I prefer the human contact if I’m going to purchase some.”
The other of the two women walks him to the white mailbox-sized machine in the corner. “Compro Euro,” it reads, the same words that are plastered across the wall and the window of the small shop. And “Bitcoin ATM.”
The woman explains how the machine works, pointing to the small black window that hides a camera and then to the QR code on Marco’s phone screen. Marco nods and gets out his brown leather wallet.
Buying bitcoin in Rovereto
As the woman retakes her seat at the desk in front of the bookshelf with copies of Mastering Bitcoin and Antifragile, Marco starts shoving orange 50 euro notes into the Bitcoin ATM. The machine responds with a buzzing and clicking sound for every slip inserted. This goes on for several minutes before Marco puts his wallet and phone back in his jean pockets and walks back to the desk to give a final handshake to both women.
“I’d like to get some of my money out of the bank, and bitcoin seemed like a good option,” he says, briefly explaining his investment decision before leaving the shop with a thankful smile.
In the same northern Italian town about four years ago, another Marco, Marco Amadori, was discussing Bitcoin with some fellow local enthusiasts. Working on tech projects for the province of Trento, Amadori pitched them a dream. Schooled as a developer, in his late thirties at the time, Amadori wanted to turn Rovereto — the name of his town — into a “Bitcoin Valley,” with Bitcoin companies, bitcoin-accepting merchants and, of course, Bitcoin users.
Marco Amadori overlooks the town of Rovereto in “Bitcoin Valley.”
Four years later, Amadori and his fellow enthusiasts own and run two Bitcoin businesses in Rovereto, with a nearby education center and a communication company coming up. , he says, which converts euros into bitcoin. “But if they don’t want to keep the bitcoin, I will offer to buy it back.”
Like Ivan, Gianpaolo doesn’t see bitcoin as just a payment method. He is an enthusiast, trading altcoins in his free time to try and increase his holdings. Bitcoin’s volatile nature doesn’t bother him — he enjoys it.
“If you don’t like the roller coaster, go with the Caterpillar,” he had told an Italian television crew two weeks prior, comparing the stability of the euro with a kiddy ride in a nearby theme park. “No one is forcing you.” It made him a local Bitcoin celebrity. He’s now having the sentence printed on a shirt like a catchphrase, he says.
If you don’t like the roller coaster, go with the Caterpillar.
Rovereto is probably getting closer to establishing a circular Bitcoin economy than anywhere else in the world — with Mani al Cielo at the center of the payment carousel. Not only does Gianpaolo take bitcoin from the Inbitcoin crew, who will often drop by after work, but the bar owner has also convinced a local beer producer to accept bitcoin from him.
“But I’m not paying them in bitcoin right now,” he says emphatically. “Not now — now is the time to hold!”
Gianpaolo acknowledges that, for bar owners like him, Bitcoin does have one problem: Fees can be high sometimes. “In November and December almost no one paid with bitcoin,” Gianpaolo says. “Even my mom complained about fees. If my mom starts to notice, that’s not good.”
Yet there was no way Gianpaolo would accept Bitcoin’s cheaper offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, he said.
“Nah, that’s Roger Ver’s coin, and that of a few Chinese miners. I’m not interested. And with Bitcoin — my team — it’s like a football derby. I would never switch sides.”
This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.