Daydreaming of moving to Italy? Another village near Rome is selling homes for 1 euro

Aug 27, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


Who among us hasn’t fantasized about ditching the day-to-day and moving to a charming village in Italy à la “Under the Tuscan Sun?”

If you’ve been dreaming about buying a crumbling stone house perched on a hillside, you might just get your chance.

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Over the past year, multiple Italian towns and villages have announced plans to sell abandoned houses at an almost-zero price tag (aka 1 euro). Each place has its own reasons for attracting new homeowners — reversing population decline in the area, attracting new businesses to the area and more — and the locations vary around the country.

Most recently, CNN reported that the Italian village Maenza, located in the Latium region near Rome, will sell homes for just 1 euro (just 86p).

According to the article, Mayor Claudio Sperduti hopes that it will bring new businesses to the area while matching nearly 100 neglected homes with new owners who can repair and renovate the properties.

“This is not a dying city, people still inhabit the old district but it needs a revamp, fresh oxygen,” Sperduti told CNN.

Maenza is nestled high in the Lepini hills, about an hour and a half southeast of Rome. The town is filled with stone structures with an incredible history, and many of the homes now on sale date back to the 18th century.

Maenza, Italy. (Photo by Laz@Photo/Getty Images)

You can see the Circeo promontory some days (where Odysseus was enchanted by Circe, for Greek mythology fans), and seaside escapes such as Gaeta and Terracina are nearby.

But you know what they say — there’s no such thing as a free lunch … or in this case, a free house.

Similar to other towns selling off old properties, buyers must commit to renovating the property. For sought-after properties, the applications that outline faster renovation plans will even get priority.

Additionally, they’ll need to put down a 5,000-euro (£4,300) security deposit that they’ll get back once the work on the house is completed. Lastly, they’ll need to come up with a refurbishment proposal that describes what the property will become — whether it be a vacation home, bed-and-breakfast, cafe, bookstore or something else.

Unlike some villages requiring residency, applicants won’t have to pledge to live in the renovated properties. Priority will go to those who do plan to settle down in the community, but it’s not a requirement.

According to Sperduti, most of the homes average 50-70 square meters (around 538-750 square feet), and renovation costs would start at about 5,000 euros (approximately £4,300) if new owners take advantage of tax deductions for environmentally friendly and earthquake-proofing updates.

Maenza is only the most recent Italian location to join the growing trend of selling off dilapidated properties for cheap to draw new businesses and families to settle down. More than a dozen towns in Italy have done the same — including idyllic spots such as Locana, a village in the northern Italian region of Piedmont; Castropignano, a village around 140 miles southwest of Rome; and even the Sicilian town of Mussomeli.

“We’re looking to draw mostly young people and professionals who work remotely or are willing to start an activity here,” Locana’s Mayor Giovanni Bruno Mattiet told CNN Travel in 2019 when the town first started selling off its own abandoned homes. “There are dozens of closed shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques just waiting for new people to run them.”

A vineyard in Asti, a Piedmont town known for its sparkling wines. Photo by Laura Itzkowitz
A vineyard in Asti, a Piedmont town known for its sparkling wines. (Photo by Laura Itzkowitz/TPG)

Think this all seems too good to be true? Well, it’s certainly not as simple as throwing a dollar on the table and hopping on a plane for your Tuscany happily ever after.

Renovating a home that is in major structural disrepair — even a smaller one like those being sold in Maenza — can be a large undertaking. Add to that the over $5,800 deposit you’ll need to put down and property taxes, which in Italy are notoriously high.

Jonathon Spada, an American web designer living in Rome, heard about a town in Abruzzo auctioning houses starting at 1 euro a few years ago and went to the town hall to try to bid for a house.

“In that case, it was structured like a competition and there were dozens upon dozens of entrants for just the two small homes that I was interested in,” he told TPG. “Additionally, the competition required (that) a minimum amount of private funding, something like 50,000 euros, was secured before applying and an entire design project, including specs and budget.”

Sextantio Grotte della Civiltà hotel in Matera. Photo courtesy of Design Hotels
Sextantio Grotte della Cività hotel in Matera. (Photo courtesy of Design Hotels)

He added, however, that in the case of many towns selling cheap properties, investing 10,000 to 20,000 euros into a property might still be a good deal, citing the examples of Basilicata’s ancient cave city of Matera — currently the European Capital of Culture — and Santo Stefano di Sessanio in Abruzzo, where crumbling old homes have been transformed into sister locations of an albergo diffuso called Sextantio.

Translated literally, an albergo diffuso is a “scattered hotel” — in essence, a hotel that operates as a collection of suites in renovated houses or, in the case of Matera, cave dwellings spread out around the town. In fact, Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in Matera and Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in Santo Stefano di Sessanio are chic members of Design Hotels.

“You can see that the road to success lies with foreigners buying up these properties, renovating them and spending vacation time there,” Spada said.

If you are interested in purchasing one of the homes in Maenza, you can check out the public notices on the town’s website, or contact the town hall to make specific property requests that officials will try to help match.

The initial batch of properties on the market will close applications this weekend on Aug. 28, but more will go on the market once original owners are contacted by local officials.

Who knows — if you’ve got the money to spare and want to play a part in a town’s revitalization, it just might be worth it.

Additional reporting by Samantha Rosen and Madison Blancaflor. 

Featured image of Maenza, Italy by Laz@Photo/Getty Images)

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