22 May 2017

How to Get a Free Castle in Italy?

Do you want a castle in Italy? How about one for free?

It might sound like April’s Fool joke but Italy’s State Property Agency (SPA) is not joking. The SPA, together with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, has decided to implement a programme to save over hundreds of historical buildings by giving them for free. The catch is that the candidates must come with a plan of restoration and idea how to turn the places into attractive touristic attractions.

Italy has always been a popular touristic destination but most visitors are driven towards major cities like Rome, Venice, Florence or Milan. On the contrary, there are regions in the country with decreasing population, abandoned villages, which are struggling with the economic situation. Just a week ago the mayor of Bormida, a small village in the region of Liguria, near Genoa posted on Facebook, that he would give a cash bonus of around €2000, to whoever decided to buy or rent a house in the village. The initiative went viral and just in few days the page was over-floating with 17,000 requests of people, interesting of moving in Bormida. The post was delated and the mayor, Daniele Galliano, came up with another post that the €2000 cash bonus was merely a proposal he had risen in front of the local government, but nevertheless he achieved his aim – attracting attention to the issue.

More so, this is not the first attempt of Galliano, to boost the life in the village. He became mayor in 2014, when Bormida had 390 inhabitants. In the next two years, 54 of them had died or moved to another place and only four babies were born. Trying to save the dying village, the mayor rented small houses for €35 a month and big houses for €115. His tactic worked and currently in Bormida live 394 people. “Instead of seeing a heavy demographic deficit, the situation is stable thanks to the initiatives of the municipal administration to encourage those who, by necessity or pleasure, wish to live in a small mountain community like ours,” Galliano commented.

Apparently, his ideas inspired the country’s SPA for their new initiative. The agency posted list of 103-properties which are in desperate need of renovation. The agency has no money to maintain the buildings, so opened a call for projects which aim to turn the places into a tourist facilities. “The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used, to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists” Roberto Reggi, the SPA-director explained.

The call is open until 26th of June and anyone can apply. The agency after will look through the applicants and the selected ones will receive 9-years free lease with possibility to extend.

59 of the properties are situated around cycle paths, along the Appian Way (an old Roman road that connects Rome with southern city Brindisi), while the other 44 are located around historic or religions walking routes such as Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route from Rome to the northern border. In the list of the available buildings are farmhouses, old schools, defence towers and few castles. For example, in the region of Marche, in eastern Italy, between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, there is a magnificent 13th century castle – Castello di Montefiore and in Lazio region – an 11th century cliffside castle, with a stunning sea view.

The SPA is planning after the initial 103 properties, another 200 to be included in the programme in the next two years.

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