When Italian villages began selling houses for $1, it seemed too good to be true. But the latest offer from Italy is enough to make even that deal look like a ripoff.
The region of Molise, a wild, beautiful but overlooked area that lies east of Rome, has announced it will pay people more than $27,000 to settle in one of 106 underpopulated villages in an effort to prevent their communities from dying.
Anyone who takes up the offer will receive 700 euros a month (about $770) for up to three years to help them settle in an area known for its green pastures, olive groves and snowy mountaintops.
There’s a catch — they’ll also have to commit to starting a small business, in order to contribute to the local economy.
“I want my region to undergo a renaissance and avoid its authentic villages turning into ghost towns,” Antonio Tedeschi, a regional councilor who came up with the idea, tells CNN. “We need to safeguard our roots.”
Young people and couples with children are particularly encouraged to apply to the scheme, which is to be officially launched on September 16.
Tedeschi, who was born in the small Molise village of Filignano — home to barely 700 residents — says he knows what it means to see old traditions and historical places fall into oblivion and wants to stop the decline in its tracks
New residents will be expected to start up a business in Molise.
“The goal is to breathe new life and revamp the local economy,” he says. “Newcomers are free to kick-start anything they please in order to get our financial support: a small inn, restaurant, bar, B&B, a tiny rural farm, artisan boutique, library or shop selling local gourmet excellences.”
Thousands of people have left Molise in recent years. Official statistics say the number of people living there has fallen by almost 9,000 since 2014, pushing the region’s population to just 305,000.
Now one of Italy’s most depopulated regions, 106 of its 136 towns have fewer than 2,000 residents.
Many communities across Italy are at risk of being lost as younger people migrate to bigger towns and cities — or abroad — in search of work as Italy’s fragile economy struggles to support its more remote, rural areas.
Recently, there’s been a spate of villages from the northern Alps to the southern vineyards of Sicily, virtually giving away homes to anyone willing to spend the money on renovating them to move in.
Molise’s offer has the potential to be the most lucrative yet for anyone willing to take the plunge.
So what exactly can applicants expect if they take the plunge? Here’s a look at some of the most picturesque villages among those inviting people to move in.
The town of Fornelli is among those hoping to attract new residents.