Located on the south-west of the island, Salemi is offering up abandoned dwellings for bargain prices in a bid to recoup its residents, as numbers have been steadily on the decline for decades.
It’s a gorgeous, historic location, surrounded by vineyards and olive grove, with its homes enclosed by ancient town walls dating back as far as the 1600s.
Salemi is still suffering from the aftershocks, both physical and cultural, of the 1968 Belice Valley earthquake. Soon after, at least 4,000 residents fled the town, leading it on the path to desertion ever since.
Town mayor Domenico Venuti spoke with CNN Travel:
“All buildings belong to the city council, which speeds up the sale and reduces red tape. Before launching the scheme, we first had to recover the old parts of Salemi where the houses are located, upgrading infrastructures and services from roads to electric grids and sewage pipes. Now the town is ready for the next step.”
Over the course of the next month, a few dozen homes will be up for auction with a starting price of €1, with hundreds more potentially on the horizon. While its similar to the initiative seen in Sicily’s Mussomeli, Sambuca and Cinquefrondi in Calabria, Salemi was one of the first to consider the idea.
However, rolling it out isn’t simple: one, because of bureaucratic issue; two, the town’s homes and buildings needed a slight overhaul to make them habitable which may need quite an expenditure to restore them.
Venuti continued, ‘It was a long process. Not only did we carry out thorough maintenance works to secure the risky crumbly areas, we also had to recover many properties to residential use. We’ve been ready for a while but wanted to wait and see how the COVID-19 emergency evolved.’
Italy’s had a difficult battle with coronavirus, with more than 543,000 confirmed cases and 37,479 deaths. However, while Salemi has around 30 cases in its 10,971 population, Venuti is keen to get the town’s pulse pumping again.
Buyers can purchase multiple properties as long as they pay a £3,000 deposit for each one, returnable if their projects reach completion in three years.