If there’s one thing a European country like Italy is committed to, it’s maintaining its beloved history. But thanks to modern technology, changes in the economy, and the new generation’s increasing desire to be close to metropolitan areas, it seems like many of the oldest, smallest, and most character-filled towns are rapidly dying out. That’s why some—including a Mediterranean town in Sardinia called Ollolai—are going to great lengths to incentivize people to come and stay.
Last year, the New York Times reported that there are nearly 2,500 rural Italian villages suffering major infrastructure damage, decreases in population, and semi-abandonment. This has led various places throughout the country to offer up building and land opportunities, from paying people to move there to literally giving away old castles. The latest? Selling hundreds of abandoned homes for just one euro ($1.25).
Joining the seeming trend to lure more people to these dwindling towns is the mayor of a quaint but beautiful mountain destination on the island of Sardinia called Ollolai. According to CNN, Efisio Arbau is committed to restoring and reviving his town with unprecedented housing deals. After asking former homeowners in the area to sign their homes over to the town authorities, he worked on advertising the buildings for sale.
The only catch? You’ll be buying a building that’s in poor condition.
Though the exteriors of the 200 homes that are up for grabs are made of traditional Sardinia gray granite rock to match the mountain peaks, the dilapidated interiors need some work. As such, buyers are obliged to commit to a refurbishment of the home within three years. And although this is obviously going to cost you more than the $1.25 home price, it still remains an incredible deal.
The enticing offer is certainly enough to attract newcomers—Arbau has already sold three houses, with more than 100 purchase requests awaiting approval—it does bring to light a greater phenomenon, one that suggests the demise of a simpler way of life.
According to The Local Italy, “The phenomenon has its roots in the post-war economic decline of rural Italian communities, which saw more and more small town inhabitants emigrate to major cities. As youngsters left in increasing numbers, birth rates fell way below the rate of replacement, and the towns began to empty.” Not mention, housing prices in Italy have been declining for about eight years.
But this isn’t something that is unique to Italy. Even here in the United States, small towns are left behind as technologies and economies change. Once thriving industries that are now obsolete force populations toward more urban areas and larger cities.
But when the residents leave, so do parts of the community and culture that once sustained these thriving towns. As Arbau told CNN, “My crusade is to rescue our unique traditions from falling into oblivion.” He plans to do this by introducing activities like pasta and basket making, along with dialect lessons for residents and homeowners. With hopes to create new jobs and revive the local economy through his endeavor, Arbau’s Ollolai may have the potential to survive the urban exodus and carry on its traditions. Plus, if you’ve ever dreamed of living the Italian lifestyle and becoming a resident, it looks like now’s your chance.
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