Italy is selling off its public properties for pennies.

Well, for a few euros, to be exact.

In the past few years news articles abound with reports of entire villages up for sale in Tuscany and Abruzzo, properties for sale for one euro, entire islands in the Venetian Lido and even Medieval castles on the cheap. They attract you in with the idea that owning your own Italian dream-home is possible. 

You could live here! Photo from the Agenzia del Demanio

You could live here! Photo from the Agenzia del Demanio

The biggest push from the Italian government came in 2013, when the country put dozens of sites up for auction in a campaign to “kill the public debt.”

The sites included fortresses, castles, farmhouses, and even two Venetian islands. 

Now, in 2017 there’s a similar plan. The Italian State Property Agency and Ministry of Cultural Heritage has announced a project give away 103 structures (castles, monasteries, farmhouses etc) for free!

But of course, there’s a catch. 

A few catches, actually.

First, these properties can only be used for touristic purposes.

You have to pay out of pocket to restore them (most are wildly decayed) and turn them into a tourist locale, meaning a restaurant, hotel, coffee shop or museum of some sort, and you must be able to prove that you have a detailed plan to do so. Last but not least, the structure is only yours for nine years (though there is the possibility to renew the license).


The classic trulli houses in Puglia are a huge tourist draw….but this one needs a lot of TLC… Photo credit: Agenzia del Demanio

So, pay a shitton if money, pray you attract tourists to no-name places and then, after nine years, go home.

The intentions are good though. The idea is to boost Italy’s tourism to lesser-known areas and away from the already strained tourist hotspots. To promote a “slow tourism” based on walking or cycling in rural areas that’s sustainable for both the country and its visitors. And though the properties aren’t in a major city, most run along the beautiful Mediterranean coastline or green countryside of Italy, beautiful in their own right. 

The colored lines indicate the popular hiking and cycling routes where the properties are located, such as the via Appia and via Francigena.

In other locations, the idea isn’t so much to lure in tourists, but to simply lure in residents. Entire villages are for sale at a small price in the hopes that they won’t be completely abandoned. In Abruzzo, houses are on sale for just one euro in an attempt to repopulate the town centers and avoid the brain drain of youths to the cities and abroad.

Or, live in your very own castle. Photo from the Agenzia del Demanio

Or, live in your very own castle. Photo from the Agenzia del Demanio

Still there’s another, not insignificant, factor to consider before buying property in Italy: Taxes.

Once you own one of these structures, you’re officially inserted into the hell that is Italian bureaucracy.

Put on your helmets because it’s going to drive your head through the wall. Italian property taxes are a significant fee to keep in mind – especially considering the size of some of these properties! That’s not all. If you buy a property in Italy, you’re very likely to live at said property. Well, if you spend more than 183 days a year in Italy, and your “center of economic interest” is in Italy, your worldwide income is subject to IRPEF, aka Italian income tax. So what you earn abroad, what you earn in Italy, everything: taxed. Anywhere from 23 – 45 percent depending on your income. 

Without getting into the fine print of Italian taxes, that “free” building, could end up costing you a lot! 

What about an old mill in Lombardia? Love the vines! Photo credit: Agenzia del Demanio

Nonetheless, people seem to like the idea. Approximately 25,000 people responded to the project.

I guess the charm of an Italian dream home never goes out of fashion. 

Written by ginamussio

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *