Officials in the small hilltop town of Sambuca, Sicily, said they couldn’t believe the response after they put a few dozen properties up for sale for less than the price of a coffee.
The town announced last week that it is selling off old properties for €1 in hopes of saving the town from depopulation.
Of course, there is a catch. Buyers will be required to sign up to spend upwards of €15,000 on renovating their new Sicilian homes, and to pay a security deposit of €5,000.
But that doesn’t seem to be putting people off.
Since the sale was reported by CNN’s travel channel and then international media, the deupty mayor said he can’t sleep and has been trying “not to go nuts” after reportedly receiving tens of thousands of emails and phone calls in just a few days.
Sambuca, Sicily. Photo: Comune di Sambuca di Sicilia.
If the interest so far is anything to go by, Sambuca might soon find the world on its doorstep.
Staff at the village’s town hall have had their English-language skills put to the test after a deluge of enquiries from the US and UK, as well as many other countries.
Enquiries are pouring in not just from tourists and would-be second home owners, but from businesspeople, too.
“A team of US lawyers, working for an American company interested in doing real estate business in Sambuca, wants to meet up with us,” the town’s deputy mayor, Giuseppe Cacopio, told CNN.
“A businessman from New York just called me, saying he's flying to Sicily tonight. And a very rich lady called from Dubai. She wouldn't say her name or who she works for,” he said. “She wants to buy all the dozens of €1 houses on sale.”
Prospective buyers have also contacted The Local Italy in apparent desperation after we reported the Sambuca offer on Friday.
“I need to know how I can buy one of these houses in Sicily,” wrote one reader from the US. “I need to move there right now!”
Cacioppo said he was delighted by the global interest in his village – but said he won’t be able to satisfy everyone.
Perhaps though this huge amount of interest shouldn’t come as such a surprise
Sambuca is not the first town to use financial incentives in an attempt to breathe new life into an old village – or to be bombarded by international calls after doing so.
One mayor in Liguria had to beg people to stop calling after he suggested in a Facebook post that villages like his could offer a €2,000 bonus to people for relocating there.
after getting more than 17,000 phone calls he took down his post, saying “it was just an idea!”
In January 2018 the Sardinian town of Ollolai was inundated after it announced that it was selling 200 uninhabited houses for one euro in hopes of attracting new residents.
And the village of Gangi, Sicily, has had a one-euro homes offer in place since 2014.
Gangi, Sicily, has also offered one-Euro homes for sale. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
For those seriously interested in the idea of renovating one of Italy’s large number of unloved old houses, many of which are proving very difficult to sell, there’s no shortage of bargain-priced properties to be found across Italy.
More than half of Italy's small towns are destined to become deserted in the next few decades as their populations dwindle further.
Last week, another scheme to save a small Italian town was announced by Airbnb, which said that it is “sponsoring four people to move to the small village of Grottole for three months and experience authentic rural life in Italy.”
But rather than enjoying a free summer holiday, they'll be put to work revitalising the town's historical centre and showing visitors around.