Three Italian Villages Attempt to Escape Dire Fate by Selling Homes for One Euro

Purchasing a historic home in one of Italy’s gorgeous villages for an unbelievable one euro, or even getting one for free, sounds too good to be true. Yet the price tag is genuine, part of a plan to attract people to three towns at risk of dying out if they do not expand their population.

As always, there is one catch: buyers will need a spare $30,000 to transform what could be little more than a pile of stones into their dream home.

The bargain homes are far from Renaissance villas, but rather crumbling houses set in superb locations which have been abandoned and are now at risk of crashing to the ground. They are in villages terribly close to becoming one of Italy’s fabled “ghost towns,” places where natural disasters, lack of jobs and even pirates have driven locals from their homes in search of a better life.

It is a fate the townsfolk of Gangi in Sicily, Carrega Ligure in Piedmont and Lecce nei Marsi in Abruzzi, are determined to avoid, and so are putting their all into luring people back so their villages do not fall into oblivion.

The Mayor of Gangi in Sicily is so desperate to save his beautiful town he is not just getting rid of 100 houses at one euro each, he is donating others for free. The houses for sale are dubbed “pagliarole” in the local dialect: two-floor stone buildings boasting as much 1,000 square feet of space which, when they were built in the 1800s, housed animals below and peasant families above. All have two entrances, one facing the hilltop, the other downhill, typical of Sicily’s so-called “beehive-style hamlets” rising on different layers.

Gangi is far more than a pretty village with a view of Mount Etna. The town is one of only two places in Europe where the Holy Spirit is said to have appeared. Yet despite its beauty, spirituality and long history, people have been leaving in droves. “Since the early 1900s more than 9,000 people have left,” complained Mayor Giuseppe Ferrarello. “I want to repopulate Gangi no matter what it takes.”

Those who prefer the fresh mountain air should look to Carrega Ligure in Piedmont, where a host of crumbling buildings, once home to farmers and shepherds are up for sale.

Dating back to the 11th century, the homes are scattered across five valleys in eleven mountain districts, at an average height of 5,250 feet. The area prospered in the Middle Ages as a trade center along the salt routes and later monks and hermits arrived to meditate and build monasteries. Nowadays, it is far quieter.

Among Carrega Ligure’s villages is Reneuzzi, a town that has been totally uninhabited since the 1970s after residents became fed up of the cold winters and harsh living conditions. However, Mayor Guido Gozzano says there are definite advantages to purchasing property in the area. “All you’ll find here is peace, breathtaking views and zero pollution,” says Gozzano. The two-story ruins have thick stone walls, small windows and plenty of space, ranging between 430 and 753 square feet inside, with the additional bonus of a piece of land outside.

Those wanting to impress their friends with the history of their new home should look no further than the bargains offered in Lecce nei Marsi. The town is selling off dwellings, complete with their own small gardens, which once housed shepherds, cattle breeders, miners, woodmen and even outlaws. When a terrible earthquake rocked the region in 1915, inhabitants started running for their lives, marking the beginning of the end for the village.

“I want to avoid that the historical center crumbles to pieces; there are no public funds for maintenance and I’d like young couples to return,” explained Mayor Gianluca de Angelis.

It would certainly be a pity if the village died out. Set in the Abruzzi Natural Park, it is surrounded by a 600-year-old Beechwood Forest that might soon be a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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