€1 Homes in Sicily, Italy




at least getaway dream (2)
regret abandon think twice
risk purchase correspondent
cost turn out throng (2)
price sink (2) real estate
crowd festivity bad/worse/worst
narrow fall apart picturesque
local isolation inconvenient
vanish steadily desperate
way incentive inhabitant
require amazing too good to be true
livable renovate extinction
slight shutters modification
annual divide (2) multiply (2)
get to perch (2) shadow (2)
allure catch on roughly (2)
beware stun (2) contagious
hunt assembly hidden costs
fragile code (3) up to code
avoid collapse square (3)
rubble get rid of empty it out
debris range (3) short-term
realtor celebrate non-existent
idyllic strategy demography
extent term (3) put up with
invest overhaul long-term
utterly habitable according to
worth it cupboard






Did you ever dream of owning your own vacation getaway in Italy?

Well, the cost usually make people think twice, at least.

But now in some parts of Sicily, you can buy your own home for just one euro — or a little more than a dollar. That’s because the homes for sale have been abandoned. And the towns there risk vanishing, if new owners don’t move in soon.

Special correspondent Christopher Livesay went to see just what kind of home you can buy for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

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In the Sicilian town of Gangi, it seems like little has changed since the Middle Ages. Throngs have turned out on this day to celebrate the annual Festival of Saint Francis.

But many in the crowd are only tourists or actors. And once festivities finish, and everyone leaves, the town looks like this: empty, at least down many streets.

And it’s been getting worse for decades.

Francesco Migliazzo, Mayor of Gangi, Sicily, Italy: “Consider that in 1951, Gangi had thirteen-thousand (13,000) inhabitants. Today there are fewer than seven-thousand (7,000).”

Francesco Migliazzo is the mayor of Gangi. He tells me that the same things that makes his town picturesque, from its narrow streets to its isolation to noisy cities, have also made it inconvenient for locals, who have been steadily leaving in search of work in those noisy cities since after World War Two.

In Sicily and across Italy, there are thousands of towns like it, risking extinction in the coming decades.

The mayor says, Gangi was desperate.

Mayor Francesco Migliazzo, Gangi, Sicily, Italy: “Homes were being abandoned, and left to fall apart. We needed a way to incentivize people to move in the historic center in order to save our town.

So we started selling homes for only one euro.”

Special Correspondent: “So hold on. You can buy a house in this town for just one euro?”

Mayor Francesco Migliazzo, Gangi, Sicily, Italy: “Absolutely, for the price of a cup of coffee.”

Sound too good to be true?

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To see for myself, I meet Ignazio Tuzzolino, a retired banker who bought a vacation home for less money than he’ll spend repainting his mirrors.

Ignazio Tuzzolino, Retired Banker: “I’ve got to get a smaller car.”

Correspondent: “So this is it? Wow! This is amazing.”

Of course, he didn’t find it this way. Part of the one euro deal requires that buyers renovate their homes within three years of purchase.

Correspondent: “The original design was this way; you just cleaned it up and made it habitable. Wow. It’s amazing. Beautiful.”

With some slight modifications.

You took the shutters off the old window and it became a cupboard.”

Ignazio Tuzzolino, Retired Banker: “We managed to save that sink too: It’s at least one-hundred years old.”

Correspondent: “They don’t make them like this anymore.”

Tuzzolino says he spent two-hundred thousand euros (200,000) about two-hundred-twenty thousand dollars ($220,000) right now, to make over all thirty-two-hundred square feet (186 m2), inside and out.

Ignazio Tuzzolino, Retired Banker: “That’s money that went into the local economy: to pay for materials and wages for workers. Now multiply that by all the homes like mine. So far these been roughly one-hundred-and-twenty (120) homes sold as part of this program.”

Perched in the shadow of Mount Etna, Gangi’s allure has been contagious. So has its marketing strategy. It’s been ten years since it began selling homes for one euro. And now, other towns in Sicily have caught on.

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Towns like Mussomeli. With a population of ten-thousand, it’s currently selling nearly four-hundred homes for just over a dollar each.

Houses are cheap, come with stunning views, and three-hundred (300) days of sunshine a year.

But buyer beware: there are hidden costs. And a lot of assembly required, some more than others.

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To start the house hunt, I book a visit with a realtor.

Cinzia Sorte shows me just what you can get for one euro.

Cinzia Sorce, Realtor: “As you can see, this floor is divided between the living room and bedroom, which is very big. You’ve got to be careful about the floors — which are very fragile.”
Correspondent: “Wait, wait. So you can’t walk over here?”
Cinzia Sorce, Realtor: “No, avoid it.”
Correspondent: “It could collapse?”
Cinzia Sorce, Realtor: “Yes, it’s unsafe.”
Correspondent: “Okay.”

For better or worse, one euro also gets you whatever you find inside these dusty two-thousand square feet (186 square meters).

Cinzia Sorce, Realtor: “Whoever buys the house then has to empty it out in order to rebuild it. That means getting rid of furniture, getting rid of rubble and debris.”
Correspondent: “A lot of surprises, yeah.”
Cinzia Sorce, Realtor: “Yes.”

But don’t be surprised by the extent of the overhaul. In this house and most others, there’s little you won’t have to fix.

Cinzia Sorce, Realtor: “Everything: new pipes, new electric, gas. Not a single thing is up to code.”
Correspondent: “So how much would I have to invest in this house if I want to make it livable again?”
Cinza Sorce, Realtor: “You’ll have to invest a lot. Absolutely. It’s impossible to say: at least twenty-thousand euros (20,000).”

Still, not a bad deal for idyllic views in your own Sicilian hideaway. And hidden it is, not to mention hard to get to.

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The nearest major airport is more than two hours away by car on highways that have seen better days.

If tourists are going to want to move here, they’re going to have to put up with roads, which range from the good, the bad and the utterly non-existent.

And most of these homebuyers are, after all, tourists, here for just a few months of the year. Most aren’t raising children, the only real long-term solution to the population decline, according to demographers.

But among the hundreds of people who have already invested their euros in Sicily, some are starting new families.

One year ago, Belgians Bert Van Bellingen and Nina Smets became the first people to buy abandoned real estate in Mussomeli.

Correspondent: “This is original?”
Van Bellingen: “This is original.”
Correspondent: “But you rebuilt it?”
Van Bellingen: “I rebuilt it. It’s about three-hundred (300) years old.”

Wow it feels so much like home.” they got married here just a few days before we met.

Van Bellingen: “Over there is a church.”
Correspondent: “Oh, wow.”

Since they moved here, more than a hundred other homes have been sold in Mussomeli to people across Europe, Asia and the United States.

Correspondent: “Do you regret anything about having moved here?”
Van Bellingen: “None. It’s worth it. When you see what the finish is, in one year, what we have done, me and my wife, it’s beautiful.

When you wake up, and you see this view in the morning.”
Correspondent: “No regrets?”
Van Bellingen: “No regrets, never no.”

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Kitchen Counter. Many Americans and other foreigners wish they could live in Italy. True or false?

Sink, Faucet. In terms of homes, buildings and customs, are Sicilian towns very new and modern, or old and traditional?

Refrigerator, Freezer. Have Gangi and other towns in Italy changed since the Second World War?

Cupboard. All towns in Italy will stay the same indefinitely. Is this right or wrong? What might happen to them?

Stove, Oven. What is Gangi’s solution? What was the mayor’s solution? Is there a catch to the scheme?

Dining Table, Chairs. Because the houses in Gangi and Mussomeli sell for only one euro each, does the town and region lose money?

Sofa, Couch. Is it quick, easy and simply to restore, renovate, remodel and redecorate the houses?

Coffee Table.
How do many foreign owners feel about their new homes?

Bookcase, Bookshelf, Shelf.
There are many old, shrinking or abandoned villages and towns in my country. Is this correct or incorrect?

Carpet, Rug. Has it always been like this? Why are there shrinking or abandoned towns and villages?

Curtains. How do people feel about this? What do people think of this situation?

Bed. Are there any solutions? Should people and governments do anything?

Bedside Table, Nightstand . Do outsiders or foreigners buy old houses or move to old villages in your region or country?

Chest of Drawers, Drawers, Dresser. My friends and I would like to live in a village (in Italy or elsewhere). Yes or no?

Wardrobe. What might happen in the future?

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