Depopulation has long since been an issue faced by small villages all across rural Italy. Many people move to larger cities or even abroad for work, causing the population within these towns and villages to fall until they are nearing abandonment. Those who remain are thus put in a precarious position, facing the strain of limited services and facilities available, resulting in an increasing amount of rural areas unable to support themselves.
There are a great number of uninhabited houses found across Italy, falling further and further into disrepair. These neglected and abandoned properties act as physical representations of the once warm and culturally rich communities, which are now beginning to crumble, in danger of being forgotten. In order to combat depopulation, preserve, celebrate and breathe new life into the historical communities throughout rural Italy, municipalities across the country are participating in the Houses For One Euro project.
The ancient Sicilian village of Gangi was one the origin points for this extravagant initiative, the ‘Case a 1 euro,’ giving anyone the opportunity to purchase a house for the price of an expresso. The initiative works as such: owners of dilapidated and derelict houses, who are perhaps unable to look after the properties themselves, are able to give the property to the local municipality, who will then sell it for the symbolic price of euro.
With our hectic lifestyles and busy jobs, many people are choosing to visit quieter destinations over bustling cities in the hopes to reconnect with nature, history, and small communities via the countryside. Therefore, could the initiative be a chance to see the growth of sustainable tourism in rural Italy?
Of course, buying a house in Italy for one Euro is an incredibly intriguing offer. One of the most beautiful, idyllic, and panorama perfect countries in the world, Italy is brimming with a supreme collection of cultural riches. Not to mention the pull of the glorious Mediterranean sea, allure of great food and wine, and the warmth of the sun, only outdone by the welcoming warmth of the local people. It comes as no surprise then, that the thought of realising one’s dream Italian lifestyle becomes all the more tantalizing when it could be done for such a low price.
However buyers must keep in mind that renovation and restoration of the property, along with notarial and registration fees, the overall cost will most definitely exceed that of one euro.
Furthermore, there are other conditions that must be adhered to when purchasing one of these houses. It is essential to have a renovation plan prepared within a year of the purchase, and that construction work begins within a time frame set by the municipality. One of the primary goals is to improve the housing environment, whilst minimising transformative interventions in order to preserve the historical and cultural identity of the country. Thus, it is important to maintain parts of the original structures of these buildings when possible.
Initially the project was met with scepticism, along with the fear that the country was selling itself out, simply giving away it’s heritage in an act of surrender, unable to find a solution to the depopulation problem. However this was far from the project’s true objective, and it wasn’t until the story of ‘Case a 1 euro’ was featured on various news sites around the world that the initiative began to garner attention and these hopes could truly begin to blossom. Municipalities throughout Italy received numerous inquiries from abroad about the initiative. From the historical town of Pignone with its roots dating back to the Middle Ages, to Oyace, an idyllic mountain village, to Salemi, full of olive gardens and vineyards, around thirty municipalities across the county have now joined the initiative, with over one hundred properties sold in Sicily alone.
Utilising the resources we have available to us, the initiative aims for the realisation of housing for individuals, young couples and families. To regenerate the economy, the project hopes to provide tourist facilities and accommodation, such as boutique hotels and B&B’s, headquarters for cultural, musical and sport associations, as well as premises for new retail opportunities, such as craft shops, hoping for artisanal revitalisation within these villages.
Thus, the initiative has the golden opportunity to affect great change within the hospitality and tourism industries across rural Italy. At the heart of the initiative is the powerful act of building upon something old to create something new, all while bringing people together to discover new experiences in a sustainable way.
Exciting initiatives such this become that first spark, igniting the determination and passion to challenge, change and create. It is our hope that we see an increase of these projects on a global scale, making it possible to breathe new life into the old, rebuild communities together, and to collaborate with our heritage as we look towards forging a sustainable future for everyone, a future that harmonises with, remembers, and celebrates our history.
Written by Katie Wilson, EP Business in Hospitality