NEWS » 1 euro can buy you a house in Sardegna?

1 euro can buy you a house in Sardegna?

In recent years we’ve often read news about Italy selling off its abandoned real estate for free or at a symbolic price such as 1 euro. 

The trend started 10 years ago when the mayor of Salemi, Sicily, sold houses destroyed by an earthquake for one euro each. There was a catch: new villa owners had to invest about £72,000 into those structures, in part to make them earthquake-proof. The initiative proved to be successful and the area is now full of refurbished homes rented out for the summer months. 

Since then, a number of dying communities followed suit and last year the government gave away in an under-40 set bidding old castles it could no longer afford to keep. 

Now Sardinia is giving away run-down houses in the countryside at 1 euro upon an investment of at least £20,000 on the properties.

The town in question is Ollolai, which lies almost at the centre of Sardinia, a 110-mile drive north of the capital, Cagliari. In the town there are about 200 unused dwellings - some of them more than 200 years old. The new owners have to agree to commit about £20,000. The refurbishment would also need to be completed within the next three years. Ollolai's location does not make it the most obvious of contexts for a place in the sun, but a fee of £20,000.87 is a hugely attractive amount for a holiday home in Italy. Ollolai lies at least 45 miles from the sea, high up in the mountainous interior, in the rocky area known as Barbagia.

The initiative was launched to prevent Ollolai from becoming a ghost town. The empty houses were once owned by shepherds, farmers and other villagers, but have been abandoned for years.

It was estimated that in Italy there are about 200 such dying communities with a majority of houses empty but still very liveable. Some of these towns were revitalised by migrants. Riace, on the southern Italian coast, which had dwindled down to less than 100 people. The city mayor secured a government grant, to offer the houses and the tools for maintenance and repairs to the refugees who had been awarded political asylum.

He also won a grant to teach vital skills that fit with the historic enterprises of the town, including artisans in the ceramic sector, tailor shops and bakeries. The refugees were all trained for jobs at shops that already existed. Now the town has more than 450 new refugee residents from 20 different nations running its various businesses, which are all booming because everyone is working.   

Another town is Sant Alessio Aspromonte in Calabria, which had also lost the bulk of its population to old age or better opportunities elsewhere. Now the town takes 35 migrants at a time to slowly integrate them, offering language and cooking classes and providing work opportunities. 

Giulia Lombardo

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