Worried about what you should get a loved one for the holidays this year? How about a free house in a charming village in Sicily? Joining the trend of small Italian towns offering up their empty houses at absurdly low prices—usually in the vicinity of a dollar—Cammarata is actually one-upping its neighbors by offering about a dozen homes for free. The reason? It's an attempt to combat urbanization in Italy, as the younger generations leave their quaint ancestral villages for major cities. Cammarata, located just shy of 40 miles southeast of Palermo, has suffered greatly, with hundreds of its historic stone homes falling vacant in recent years.
"I can't stand to see this gorgeous old historical center empty and turn into a ruin. It hurts me," Cammarata’s mayor, Vincenzo Giambrone, said in an interview with CNN Travel. He’s spent the last few years convincing homeowners who have skipped town but retained ownership of their properties to offer them up to newcomers for free rather than let them crumble from neglect.
The dozen or so homes that are on the market as part of this deal may be sold to Italians and foreigners alike, but there are a few stipulations that actually change the price tag from “free” to “an investment.” First, all buyers must be willing to renovate the properties within three years of purchase, and their restoration plan must be approved before the deal is made. The old homes don’t necessarily need to remain private residences, but they can't be turned into B&Bs, hotels, or other businesses such as restaurants or shops. Then the buyers must put down a deposit of €5,000, or about $5,500, which will be refunded once the renovations are complete.
In a similar situation a few years ago, Australian electrician Mark Kopun purchased a home in Sicily for one euro, then ended up investing about $35,000 into the home for renovations, according to Fortune. Still, that’s quite a reasonable sum for a historic holiday home in Italy, so if you have the funds for the project and a dream of spending summers in the Italian countryside, it’s likely a good investment. You might even be able to recoup some of your money—Cammarata is offering any couples who buy one of the homes a bonus of €1,000 (about $1,100) if they have a baby within a few years of moving to town.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest