- I recently traveled all the way to Sicily to visit three towns
that have sold homes for as little as $1.
- The housing scheme has been
widely trialed throughout Italy as rural towns attempt to
revitalize their communities and economies that have suffered at
the hands of urbanization.
- While a home in southern Europe for $1 may sound like a dream
come true, there is obviously a catch.
- Most of the $1 homes I visited in Sambuca, Mussomeli, and
Cammarata were derelict and in dire need of repair.
- However, I was struck by their historic charm and potential —
especially once I saw one that had been completely renovated.
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Over the past few months, you may have become aware of a certain
A plethora of Italian towns have adopted a scheme of
selling abandoned homes off for 1 euro ($1).
Urbanization has led to the dwindling populations of provincial
settlements as cities and their suburbs thrive and become
overpopulated. As a result, some of Italy’s most beautiful,
historic small towns are dying out.
The $1 housing schemes are designed to combat that, and what
success there has been so far has led to a proliferation of similar
strategies being deployed across the country.
The schemes have received plenty of media coverage, and many of
the towns have become inundated with offers from foreigners on
their insanely cheap properties.
However, a home for $1 was always going to be too good to be
true, and most of these properties are often in a dilapidated
condition, requiring thousands of dollars in restoration and
renovation to make them habitable again — let alone nice.
I recently traveled all the way to Sicily to visit three of the
towns that have adopted the $1 home schemes — Sambuca, Mussomeli,
and Cammarata — to see what foreign buyers are really getting
Here’s what they look like inside, and finally, once they’re
The first place I visited was Sambuca di Sicilia. After CNN first
reported the historic town’s scheme back in January, foreigners
flocked to the region to see it for themselves. Deputy town mayor
Giuseppe Cacioppo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the
influx of foreign investment was “an invasion — but a positive
one” after the town sold 16 properties at auction.
Giuseppe Cacioppo was my guide in Sambuca, and he showed me around
many of the properties that were for sale, had been sold, or had
already been renovated.
Here’s the exterior of one of Sambuca’s $1 properties.
Many of the properties in town were covered in scaffolding.
Sambuca is famous for its Arab history, and many of the $1 homes
have incredible curved ceilings like the one below, which is
typical of Islamic architecture.
I was told that many of the homes had been abandoned after an
earthquake in 1968, which killed 231 people in southwestern Sicily.
Many people simply cashed in on their insurance, and built new,
modern homes just down the road.
The interiors were bare, but the original masonry was an extremely
attractive feature and there was no mess or graffiti inside like I
would later find in other towns.
With a washing machine already installed, what more do you need?
I hoped that the wooden beams weren’t the only thing propping the
roof up in this room.
While in Sambuca, I also met Tamara and Gary Holm, an American
couple who were putting an offer down on a property in the town.
They were buying from a private owner, so the house wasn’t a $1,
but it was still very cheap and needed less work.
Inside, a few items from the previous owners had obviously been
left behind, like this creepy portrait …
… Which Tamara said looked like her mother, and naturally grabbed
There was also some extremely dated storage and tableware.
And a very pink bathroom.
The real selling point of the property was the roof terrace, which
boasted stunning views of the Sicilian countryside.
We agreed it would be the perfect spot to put a hot tub.
The next town I visited was Mussomeli, which is famous for its
Mussomeli, like Sambuca, has a fascinating history and beautiful
old buildings (many of them churches).
However, the $1 homes in Mussomeli had not been cleaned out in the
same way that Sambuca’s had, and there was a lot of abandoned,
creepy furniture lying around in the homes that I visited.
This room looked like the set of a horror film.
This home had already been adopted … by a pigeon.
Another home already had somewhere to sleep — sort of …
… And bathroom facilities.
It would take a lot of work to restore this living room back to
After seeing these dilapidated buildings, I got to visit a property
that was in the process of renovation, and I was pretty blown away
by the transformation.
This home belonged to Belgian couple Bert Vanbellingen and Nina
Smets, who had bought several properties in Mussomeli.
While renovations were very much still underway when I saw the
property, the deck was shaping up nicely, and it was easy to see
how it would become the perfect place to sit and eat dinner in the
evenings, or entertain guests.
The views from the deck were nothing short of spectacular.
Below the deck was a perfect example of how these schemes would
reinvigorate the towns’ local economies, as a local man was
cleaning rubble from around the new brickwork.
The last town I visited was Cammarata, which was just a few miles
northwest of Mussomeli.
Cammarata’s town councilors told me that many young people,
especially with families, were deterred from living in the town
because of the tiny, winding roads, which were nigh on impossible
to get a car around. Instead, they lived in the neighboring San
Like Mussomeli, Cammarata’s $1 homes were full of miscellaneous
… And lewd graffiti.
Some of the exteriors looked like they were about to collapse.
Lots of the buildings clearly needed a bit of TLC.
Back in Sambuca, I managed to see what a finished article looked
like. This was one of the $1 homes that Cacioppo had helped
renovate himself. That stone wall is all original masonry, it had
just been given a new lease of life.
The kitchen wouldn’t have looked out of place in a trendy, New York
… nor would this seating area with beautiful modern artwork to
The first floor even boasted a balcony, which was ripe for covering
in flower pots.
The pièce de résistance, though, was the terrace, which had a
beautiful white fabric awning that billowed in the breeze.
The view wasn’t half bad.
The property was a testament to the potential that the $1 homes
After visiting many of the $1 houses in person, I can honestly
still say that despite the garbage, graffiti, and pigeons, most
still seemed like a good bargain.
They may have been derelict, and in need of thousands of dollars
in renovations, but the properties I visited had bags of historic
Furthermore, all three of the towns I visited were delightful.
The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the weather
was incredible — I barely saw a single cloud. The only criticism
you could levy at them was just how quiet they are, but that is,
after all, why these schemes are being tried in the first
However, I was told that in Sambuca, some residents were already
learning English to begin operating walking tours, open gift shops,
and run B&Bs.
With the media storm surrounding Italy’s $1 homes, it won’t be
long before the towns will be full of Americans, Brits, Russians,
and more. Some aren’t far off already.
I sensed there was, probably for the first time in decades, a
hum of optimism in Italy’s ghost towns.
Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
Italy's homes might be dirt cheap, but they need a lot of work — take a look inside