Tempting isn’t it? What with lockdown 2.0 almost in full swing, Brexit lingering like an unwanted party guest, the non-stop doom-gloom-Trump-Biden-Coronavirus-news-story-pedalling conveyor belt – and not forgetting that red wine and chocolate can only do so much – the idea of escaping to a quiet sunshine-soaked Sicilian town for as little as a €1, is appealing, to say the least.

It’s no secret that long before Covid made its way to Italian shores, several of its small towns have been withering away, struggling to prop up their declining populations, their existence at risk. Over the past decade, the Italian government has been gradually selling off homes in these ‘ghost towns’ for as little as €1 – in some cases, just giving them away – in the hope of breathing new life back into these flailing communities.

Salemi in north-west Sicily is the latest Italian town to be revived in this way. In 1968, it lost 4,000 residents when a severe earthquake decimated the surrounding area, forcing people to abandon their homes. Those homes, some empty for generations now, are today being auctioned off from €1, to the highest bidders. Of course many of them are in a pretty rough shape, and with dirt-cheap historic homes in Sicily comes responsibility, so buyers need to be aware of this.

steps in salemi

That’s not to say Salemi is completely derelict. It’s not. Life does go on here. For example, every year jazz fans flock there for a festival dedicated to musician Tony Scott, whose parents emigrated from Salemi to the US. It also hosts an annual mini  Oktoberfest, as well as various food festivals. It’s easy to reach too as it’s located just an hour and a half drive from Sicily’s capital Palermo. That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement and more residents. 

salemi town in Sicily auction

Around a dozen homes will be up for sale over the next month, with bidding starting at €1 per property. Those looking to buy needn’t visit in person; they can look through photos and locations of properties, before filling in an application form online. Potential new residents must submit a plan detailing how they would renovate the property, with those whose plans could help stimulate the local economy, such as converting a building into a B&B or other business, given extra points and tax credits.

If this first round of sales is successful, there are a further 100 properties that could potentially be auctioned off, according to Venuti. Applicants can buy more than one house, but must pay out a €3,000 deposit for each, which will be refunded once the renovations are completed to the town’s satisfaction.

Tempted? Find details of the auction can be found here.  

Sources: The Independent, CNN.



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