Italy is in the midst of a 10-year recession and will do anything to inject some life into its economy – even offer cash and free historic properties as incentive for people to move there.
Earlier this year, Daniele Galliano, the mayor of a Bormida – an idyllic mountain town in Liguria – offered $2200 to anyone who’ll move there. He’d also offered small property rentals from as little as $55 per week.
The idea was to attract newcomers to the region, as diminishing population could mean the death of the village. There’s not a lot to do in Bormida, apart from four restaurants, a church and, according to one local, Oddone Giuseppe, “a healthy lifestyle, and the air is very clean”.
Less than one week later, Mayor Galliano had to rescind his offer, after receiving 17,000 expressions of interest from people keen to move to the north-west Italian town.
He said it was “only a suggestion”, but one that would have disappointed 17,000 potential residents who dreamt of relocating to his town.
And if you thought that offer was too good to be true (well, it was), how about this one?
The State Property Agency is giving away over 100 historic buildings to anyone who’ll restore them and set them up as a B&B, restaurant, café, workshop, hotel or other tourism business.
The properties are situated along historic pilgrimage routes that the government wants to promote to give a boost to rural areas and the Italian ‘slow tourism’ industry.
“Slow tourism, including walking trails and cycle paths, is very much in vogue and we can combine it with properties of various kinds, from castles to old railway stations,” said Agency Director Roberto Reggi.
“We are hoping that the transformation and regeneration of these properties will involve young people, providing benefits that will have an impact on rural areas and on tourism.”
So, if you’ve got some money you can put towards renovating a castle, monastery, inn or railway house, you could live nine years rent free in such splendid regions as the Appian Way, an ancient road between Rome and the Adriatic coast, or the Via Francigena, which links Rome to Canterbury, or the Way of St Benedict, a pilgrimage route through the mountains of Umbria.
And if the initial scheme works, another 100 properties will be given away next year and another 100 the year after.
How does retirement in Italy sound?