Always dreamt of living in abroad? This is the time to make your move to Italy! We admit that the idea of living like a local is very appealing, but how do you make it happen? Imagine buying your dream fixer-upper for less than you’ll spend on your next Starbucks run! Although, there are some strings attached.
Throughout Italy, local authorities are fighting to bring their small villages back to life. In some cases, that means attracting families with children to keep the schools open. Other villages are looking for handy homeowners to bring the luster back to abandoned city centers and mountain cottages. They’ve got the funding, all they need are families willing to move to Italy.
Sound like the sort of adventure your family dreams of? We’ve rounded up a few Italian villages that are hoping you might be their newest neighbor!
Note: This article was last updated in November 2022 with a special opportunity coming in 2023. See “Southern Charm for Cheap” below.
So, how did we get here? Italy is a gorgeous and modern nation, with one of the top ten economies in the world. Their quality of life is good, and the cost of living is, for the most part, affordable. The politics are robust and stable, and the Italian national teams almost always rank in FIFA’s top twenty! So why is it that those lovely little villages are hurting?
Turns out, it’s the same old story. During the Industrial and Technological Revolutions of the 19th and 20th Centuries, countries all over the globe saw populations move away from rural towns and villages, and into larger cities.
Italy has faced the same issues, with rural populations plummeting over the past 100-plus years. But rather than give themselves over to becoming ghost towns, some villages are trying to lure residents back, or actively recruit new ones, including foreigners who would consider a move to Italy. And they’re doing it with some very special offers that make the dream move to Italy suddenly affordable.
Here are a few places where you just might be able to make your Italian dreams come true!
Italy doesn’t get much priettier than the Piedmont region, where Comune di Locana is nestled in the Italian Alps north of Turin. The village is just outside the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, near the borders of France and Switzerland. Despite its beautiful setting, this Italian gem has seen its population bust, dropping from 7,000 residents at the start of the 20th Century, to around 1,500 today.
To help reverse that trend, Mayor Giovanne Bruno Mattiet made an innovative (and hopefully attractive) offer: You move to Locana, and he’ll pay you 9,000€. There is, of course, a catch: You must have a child and a job, with a minimum salary of 6,000€. And you must stay at least three years, as the payment is spread out over that time.
If Locana sounds nice, but you have no kids, that’s not a problem in nearby Borgomezzavalle. Also a good option if Locana’s alpine environs weren’t quite charming enough for you.
Situated near the Swiss border, but still in the Piedmont, the Comune de Borgomezzavalle is a great place for anyone seeking solitude to plant roots. The village is on the western slopes of the Matterhorn, and it’s just a two hour twisty-turny drive into the Zermatt region of Switzerland.
With a population of a little more than 300, the mayor thinks a population boom would be helpful. He won’t pay you to move to Italy, but he will sell you an abandoned mountain cottage for just 1€! The catch? You must renovate within two years. Once you’ve settled in, though, you can earn a cool 1,000€ for every new baby born into the family, and 2,000€ if you start a business and register for VAT.
Yet another mountain village struggling to stay alive. Bormida is in the northwestern Liguria region. Idyllic, to be sure, but that hasn’t been enough to keep residents from moving elsewhere. With a population of just under 400, there are likely more goats than people in the area.
If that sounds like your idea of heaven, Mayor Daniele Galliano would like to meet you. If you’re willing to move in, he’ll pay you 2,000€, no strings attached. You don’t need to have kids, start a business, or even buy property; you can move in as a tenant. Small property rentals in town go for as little as 50€. If you’ve got a little nest egg, it’s a cheap way to move to Italy and take up residence.
Maybe your dream is to move to Italy and live on a sunny Mediterranean island. Mussomeli is a small town in the heart of sun-drenched Sicily, just an hour from the beaches and temples of Agrigento. Since a building boom nearly fifty years ago, its citizenry has moved into the newer areas of town, or to larger cities, leaving plenty of opportunity for bargain hunters.
The town has created a non-profit organization, Case 1 Euro (1€ Homes), to offer “fixer uppers” for exactly that: One Euro. The objective is to attract people from around the world to repopulate and reinvigorate the historic city center. While the homes, ranging from around 25 to 80 square meters, are just 1€, that won’t be your only cost. There is a 5,000€ deposit, and you must agree to renovate the property within three years to get that back. Then there’s the matter of administrative fees and taxes, which the town estimates at up to 4,000€. Plus, of course, your costs to renovate the properties which, in some cases, may need a lot of fixer-upping.
The website has declared an end to the Coronavirus Pandemic, and claims the project is fully functional once again. For application details, you need to register on their Contact page.
Perhaps the best known of the cities making deals is the Sicilian city of Sambuca. It has literally everything a traveler – or foreign investor – could ask for: Hilltop views over the Mediterranean, nearby beaches and vineyards, and a history that dates back to the ancient Greeks. In fact, the town was nominated as one of Italy’s Most Beautiful Towns in 2016.
So how is it you can buy a home here for just 1€? Even a town as pretty as Sambuca has suffered from depopulation over the past 100 years, with older homes left to decay. The city purchased dozens of these homes, and auctioned them off – starting at 1€ – through Case 1 Euro Sambuca, in hopes of bringing international newcomers into town, either as permanent or seasonal residents. That first round closed in 2019. Rumors of another round of auctions persist, but have not been confirmed. (Perhaps a world of wishful thinkers locked in quarantine is keeping the rumors alive?)
As with Mussomeli, there are other costs: A 5,000€ deposit, administrative fees and taxes, and the cost of renovations, which the city estimates will be at least 15,000€. Still a bargain, if you don’t mind literally building your sweat equity.
More 1€ Houses
Some Italian municipalities have already had success with similar programs. Now the movement is picking up steam. The website 1€ Houses lists a half-dozen more villages where you can buy a home to renovate for just a Euro when you move to Italy. You can also learn about initiatives to reclaim abandoned, under- and disused places. (“Disused” being mostly industrial locations no longer used for their original purposes.) There are even public projects to reclaim lighthouses and train stations that start at just 1€ for a long-term license.
Southern Charm for Cheap
In southern Italy, another town is trying something similar. In the picturesque region of Puglia – the heel in the boot of Italy – lies the town of Presicce, nestled in the countryside not far from the region’s famous rugged coastline and beaches. It’s an idyllic setting, but families have left the historic city center for opportunities in the big cities. Local councillor Alfredo Palese addressed the situation so many similar villages are experiencing, telling CNN, “It is a pity witnessing how our old districts full of history, wonderful architecture and art are slowly emptying.”
The ages of the empty houses vary, but all were built before 1991. Most cost around 25,000€, but are in varying states of disrepair. To attract new residents, the village is offering up to 30,000€ to be spent on purchasing and improving the homes. The project is still in the planning stages, expecting to launch in early 2023 on the town’s website. Note: the site is in Italian, so you can practice the language of your new hometown!
La Vida Dolce!
It all sounds so idyllic, doesn’t it? Move to Italy, get a cozy, private mountain cottage or sunny Sicilian studio, at a bargain basement price, and enjoy la dolce far niente. That’s the dream, but most of these offers are far from it. At least, at first. Let’s be clear: One Euro buys you an abandoned, run-down building that makes “shabby chic” look absolutely luxurious. There is serious work to be done, just to make them habitable. Reported cost estimates have ranged from 15,000€ to 50,000€, possibly more.
On the bright side, Italy ranks pretty favorably in terms of Cost of Living. A quick comparison on Expatistan shows Italy is 20% cheaper than the USA, and 24% lower than the U.K. Perhaps most importantly, items that are vitally important – coffee, wine, pasta – are very affordable, as you might expect. International Living lists out various costs to help you decide how affordable Italy really is.
In terms of real estate, a 480-square-foot apartment in areas similar to those above, would run about $732/mo. That is close to the average size of homes listed by Case 1 Euro. Compare that to the cost of renovating your new Italian home, plus taxes and fees, and then add a Euro. The answer will probably be close to breaking even.
The words you’re looking for are probably, “Si, grazie!” At the same time, you’re probably thinking this is too good to be true. There must be some catch, right?
Okay, you caught us. If time is money, then moving to Italy can be super expensive. Real estate laws in Italy can be very complicated, and the red tape – especially for foreigners – can take years to navigate. This is not for the weary nor faint-hearted.
But, if you’ve got the time, Italy’s got the money.