How to Score a Free Vacation Home in Italy

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Ever dreamed of owning a vacation home in Europe but don’t quite have the capital? You might just be in luck: the Sicilian village of Gangi, in the Madonie mountains, is giving away houses for free.

There’s a catch, of course: The properties being offloaded are dilapidated, abandoned “fixer-uppers” requiring significant investment to restore and make livable. Furthermore, all renovations are required to be completed within four years—no easy feat, considering the houses, called pagglialore, all consist of three floors. (Farmers would house their donkeys on the first floor, chickens on the second, and then live on the top floor).

But that hasn’t stopped vacation home hunters from around the world swarming in to try their luck. Already, more than 100 houses have been given away and there are 200 houses remaining. (You can add yourself to the waitlist by contacting the Gangi Commune).

The incentive is aimed at energizing tourism in the sleepy town, whose population continues to dwindle due to ongoing emigration. Today, Gangi’s population is a mere 7,000 residents—less than half its population in the 1950s.

Gangi certainly isn’t the first Italian town to lure new residents with this strategy. The town of Salemi, also in Sicily, famously put 3,700 of its houses up for sale at €1 each. Most of the houses, located in the historic town center, had been wrecked by an earthquake in 1968, left abandoned by residents, and were in dire need of TLC. The mayor’s aim? “That Salemi would become like Pantelleria—or even better,” Mayor Vittorio Sgarbi told Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, referencing an island near Sicily whose restored villas are popular with celebrities looking for secluded getaways.

Elsewhere in Italy, crumbling two-story mountain homes in Carrega Ligure, Piedmont, and Lecce nei Marsi, Abruzzi, are also going for a mere €1 in an effort to combat depopulation (Carrega Ligure has only 98 residents).

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