FEATURES » Abandoned Italian villages potential tourist attractions?

Abandoned Italian villages potential tourist attractions?

Abandoned villages in Italy are potential tourist attractions. However, the Italian government is not investing to relaunch them. It was estimated that in Italy there are about 200 such dying communities with a majority of houses empty but still very liveable.

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

Last year, we read on “Corriere della sera” that Italy was ready to put up for auction part of its historical heritage. 

Ghost towns haven’t only ben sold out. Some of them have been revitalised by migrants. Riace, on the southern Italian coast 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. The mayor 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.  

The trend of selling off abandoned real estate for free or at a symbolic price started 10 years ago when the mayor of Salemi, Sicily, sold houses destroyed by an earthquake for one euro each. However, 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.

Sardinia gave away run-down houses in the countryside at 1 euro upon an investment of at least £20,000 on the properties. This has happened in 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 had 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.

Last year the newspaper “Corriere della sera” listed some historical buildings that might be sold off on sale: the Orsini Castel in Soriano nel Cimino, the island of San Giacomo in Palude in Venice, the Daziari castles of piazza Sempione in Milan, villa Mirabellino in Monza, villa Favorita in Ercolano and the officials pavillion of the barrack of Peschiera del Garda.

Rome correspondent

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