2020 was a dark year, but it was also a time to reevaluate our lives and nurture creative ideas. Back in 2015, we learned about the first Italian cities, where local authorities, in an attempt to revive a steadily shrinking population and breathe new life into their provincial regions, began to pursue a very attractive policy of giving away or selling abandoned houses for a nominal fee of 1 euro. Since then, the mayors of many towns across the country have joined this initiative, and in such numbers that it is almost impossible to keep track of them.
The idea has generated a lot of interest, especially from American citizens, and in many towns, there are more applications for purchase than affordable homes, but hundreds of people have already made their dream come true. Each city has its own variations on the procedure for acquiring a property worth 1 euro, but the general principle is that buyers should take full responsibility for houses that need restoration, and many have been abandoned for decades.
Once buyers receive documents for an empty building, they have to allocate money for renovations, and in some cases, a small deposit is required, which is returned to the owner of the house immediately after the renovation is completed. Benefits for new residents include business start-up grants and tax deductions of 50 percent of the cost of home restoration. Of course, it is not without difficulties, especially if the investor does not have at least basic knowledge of the Italian language or a volunteer translator, but municipalities and local specialists do everything possible to make it easier for foreigners to move or buy real estate in Italy.
Here is a summary of the Italian town and village houses currently available under the € 1 Home Initiative as of December 2020.
Castropignano is a historic village located between Rome and Naples on a rocky hilltop in the central part of the Apennine Mountains. With a population of only 923, it should come as no surprise that Castropignano has joined the € 1 home initiative. The mayor hopes to play the role of “matchmaker” between interested foreigners and empty houses for the future of his ancient town.
In short, the conditions are as follows: as soon as the transaction on the purchase of real estate is completed, the new owners will receive a building permit, and within two months from that day they must start work on the restoration of the house and make a deposit of 2 thousand euros, which will be returned after the full completion of the repair.
2. Sambuca, Sicily
Founded by the Arabs in the first millennium AD, this town is included in the “club of the most beautiful villages in Italy” due to its artistic, cultural, and historical significance. After a successful start with the € 1 home initiative, Sambuca is now in phase two (this time the price has risen to € 2). There are 16 properties for sale.
“The people who bought the property are professionals who can contribute to the cultural development of the local community. Among them are journalists, writers, two actresses, and a singer. This means that our village is a charming place, especially since many have settled in Sambuca for a long time, ”said the mayor. Buyers have three years to complete the property renovation. And in order to select really interested people, a deposit of 5 thousand euros is required, which is returned after the completion of the reconstruction of the building. Many localities that have joined the initiative are also asking buyers to hire local builders and artisans.
3. Santo Stefano
The village of Santo Stefano is best known for the Sextantio, a luxury hotel built within a system of abandoned medieval residential grottoes. This is probably one of the most popular settlements participating in the € 1 home program.
Local authorities offer buyers very attractive conditions. In particular, they can use a grant for starting a business in the amount of 20 thousand euros, as well as a monthly grant to pay for temporary housing for the period of renovation of the purchased house. The administration has identified several business areas to be preferred in the application process, such as tourism, pharmacy, and food production.
4. Nulvi, Sardinia island
Currently, in the town of Nulvi, five old and abandoned houses are offered for 1 euro, some of them in good condition, 15 minutes from the sea. The municipality promises to take care of all the bureaucratic procedures, and buyers are not required to be Italian citizens or reside in Sardinia – the property can be considered as a secondary property. After purchasing your home, you have three years to complete the restoration.
5. Ollolai, Sardinia
The population of the Ollolai commune has declined from 2,250 to 1,300, and only a handful of new residents are born each year. It remains the most unspoiled and authentic corner of Sardinia, true to its ancient pagan folklore. Once full of life, the maze of alleyways and frescoed squares is now silent as young people have moved to big cities where there are more career prospects.
Lacking the funds to repair and pay for utilities, as well as taxes on their family houses, the Italian owners abandoned them, left them to decay and decline. The municipality is ready to play the role of a mediator, connecting those who want to get rid of their “ruins” with those who are ready to breathe new life into them.
6. Fabbrique di Vergemoli
Fabbrique di Vergemoli is a village of 779 inhabitants in the Tuscan Valley of the Valle del Serchio, halfway between the Apuan Alps Natural Park and the city of Lucca. The history of the village is very ancient, its origins date back to the pre-Roman period.
Fabbrique di Vergemoli began to develop thanks to the extraction of iron, which was used to make hunting tools and weapons. Even today, the art of local artisans can be seen in several preserved old shops.
7. Borgomezzavalle, Piedmont
The population of Borgomezzavalle was reduced to just 320 inhabitants, and the mayor of the town launched another initiative, offering them 1,000 euros for each child born there. Mayor Alberto Preioni said in an interview with CNN Travel: “We have tons of money to invest, but we need children and young people here.”
The town itself has a very recent history, as it was only founded in 2016 when the two nearby municipalities of Viganela and Seppiana merged. In January 2019, to reverse the population decline, the mayor announced the sale of abandoned mountain cottages for € 1.
8. Montieri, Tuscany
The village of Montieri is located at an altitude of 700 meters above sea level. It is a quiet place where life has flowed in the same rhythm for centuries and “where residents lead a quiet long life away from the noise of cities.” Since 2016, about 20 houses have been sold in Montieri, including one buyer who turned the purchased mansion into a Bed & Breakfast, bringing a new tourist life to the city.
9. Carrega Ligure, Piedmont
On Ellis Island in New York, where the largest reception center for immigrants in the United States operated in the late nineteenth century, there are records showing how many residents of small Italian townships left their homes for the American Dream. Thousands of people flocked to transatlantic ocean liners at the same time in the hope that I would find a better life across the ocean. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, many of the inhabitants of Carrega Ligure emigrated to America, leaving their homes doomed to inexorable desolation. To bring them back to life, the town joined the € 1 home program.
Today, the population density of this small town in the Abruzzo park is only 26 inhabitants per square kilometer. The authorities sell empty houses for 1 euro, mainly targeting young people, more precisely, young married couples.
Many are inspired by the wonderful Bed & Breakfast, which perfectly fits into the landscape of Abruzzo, surrounded by forests and snow-capped peaks.
Currently, in the village of Patricia, nestled on a hilltop 70 kilometers southeast of Rome, 38 abandoned houses await revival. During the twentieth century, many residents emigrated from here to Pennsylvania to work in steel mills.
The international media coverage generated by this initiative has attracted huge interest around the world and even spawned something like a gold rush in the affordable property market in Italy. But, of course, both the mayors of the towns and the buyers themselves must act with a certain degree of caution. “I would not want to see a real estate panic or speculation in housing in my village,” Mayor Castropignano told CNN news. “This is an individual operation and people need to know exactly what they are signing up for.”