A beautiful city in Sicily has become the latest in a growing trend in Italy: the abandoned houses are being auctioned for € 1 each to reverse the trend of depopulation.
Picturesque Salemi will sell some of its dilapidated properties for a pittance in an effort to bring people back to the city.
It has seen its population shrink significantly over the past 50 years, after at least 4,000 residents fled after the 1968 earthquake in Sicily’s Belice Valley.
Salemi in Sicily, Italy, has become the newest town in the south of the country to auction houses for € 1 in an attempt to reverse the trend of depopulation
Houses will go on sale for a starting price of € 1 each and will be sold to the highest bidder, in the same way as the Sicilian town of Sambuca did last year
The city suffered a massive migration of residents after the 1968 earthquake in Sicily’s Belice Valley destroyed much of its architecture. Pictured: the remains of the Matrice Church, restored by the architect Alvaro Siza
All the houses being auctioned are multi-storey and thick-walled, and the ones on Belvedere Street, overlooking a green valley, are considered the most attractive
Mayor Domenico Venuti said CNN: ‘All buildings are owned by the municipality, which speeds up sales and reduces the administrative burden.
Before we started the plan, we had to restore the old parts of Salemi where the houses are located, upgrade the infrastructure and services from roads to electricity grids and sewer pipes.
“Now the city is ready for the next step.”
Salemi is certainly not the first city in southern Italy to try the one-euro home project, with Cinquefrondi in Calabria doing the same in July and Mussomeli and Bivona, both in Sicily, trying it out last year.
Salemi officials were among the first to come up with the idea of selling houses for next to nothing. Pictured: an empty swimming pool at Hotel Villa Mokarta in the city
Maintenance work was needed on high-risk crumbly areas of the city and the coronavirus pandemic also delayed the project
The 1968 earthquake in Sicily’s Belice Valley left much of the medieval city in ruins, including the Piazza Alicia (photo left). Right: the Collegio dei Gesuiti, where the Leonardo Sciascia mafia museum in Salemi is located
The houses to be auctioned are located in the historic city center, enclosed by the old city walls and date back to the 1600s
But Salemi officials were among the first to put forward the idea of selling houses for next to nothing.
Mr Venuti said the project could not be signed on time due to bureaucratic issues and the need to give some of the properties a makeover first.
Maintenance works were needed in high-risk friable parts of the city and the coronavirus pandemic also delayed the project.
Italy was one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19 earlier this year, but Sicily was one of the least affected areas in the country.
The buildings are made of a yellowish pink solid sandstone quarried from nearby caves called ‘campanedda’ or ‘bell’ in local dialect
Much of the city is deserted. Salemi officials were among the first to come up with the idea of selling houses for next to nothing
The medieval town was seriously damaged by the 1968 Belice earthquake, which displaced at least 4,000 residents
According to Mayor Domenico Venuti, potential buyers do not need to visit Salemi before making an offer
Salemi currently has about 30 reported cases within its 10,971 population, but Mr. Venuti insisted that this was the right time to move forward with the project, despite some residents’ concerns about the spread.
Homes will go on sale at a starting price of € 1 (£ 0.91) each and sold to the highest bidder, in the same way that the Sicilian town of Sambuca did last year.
They are located in the historic city center, enclosed by the old city walls and date back to the 1600s.
They all have multiple floors and thick walls, while a few have panoramic balconies, and the one on Belvedere Street, overlooking a green valley, is considered the most attractive.
The town’s main square is a crumbling church, with the ruins of the stone apse still standing after the 1968 earthquake that killed at least 231 people in the region.
Thousands of residents fled Salemi after the 1968 earthquake. Pictured: A displaced family stands outside the ruins of their home
Centered between the cities of Gibellina, Salaparuta and Poggioreale, the series of earthquakes killed at least 231 people, possibly more than 400, with between 632 and about 1,000 injured and 100,000 homeless. Pictured: Salemi after the earthquake
Immediate relief efforts have been hampered by a lack of emergency response plans at both local and provincial levels. Pictured: A displaced family hangs their laundry to dry after losing their home
The houses are made of a yellowish-pink solid sandstone quarried from nearby caves, called ‘campanedda’ or ‘bell’ in the local dialect, named for the sound it makes when hit with a hammer.
In the Middle Ages, rural families slept on the top floors of the buildings, while their animals lived in the floors below.
The town is located at an altitude of 450 meters above sea level, which means that it is cooler than the rest of Sicily during the island’s notoriously hot summers.
According to Mr. Venuti, potential buyers do not need to visit Salemi before bidding, but they must send a detailed restyle plan to demonstrate their commitment to the project.
He said there are at least 100 more homes in the city that could potentially be sold after this first lot.