Whether it’s the Alpine villages or the beach towns of Sicily, almost everyone has at least once fantasised about disappearing into the Italian countryside for an attempt at the good life.
Well, I know I certainly have.
At some point between my eighth rewatch of ‘Call Me by Your Name’ and a road trip holiday along the Amalfi Coast, I got it into my head that the only way I would every truly be content would be relaxing in a secluded villa subsisting on a diet of pasta and endless Aperol Spritzes.
But true to the ever millennial stereotype, my ambitions don’t match my bank balance. So I was over the moon to find out about a glut of houses on offer for just €1.
Surely it’s too good to be true? And if it’s not, what’s the deal with these houses that Italy’s basically giving away?
Here’s how the €1 village scheme works and some of our favourite spots in the country worth having a look into.
Why are they selling the houses so cheap?
Behind this scheme are some unfortunate facts about countryside living. For most Italians, a rural lifestyle just isn’t affordable anymore.
For years, many Italians have been moving to the cities to find work and that has left numerous villages almost completely depopulated.
As these idyllic villages started to resemble ghost towns with crumbling dilapidated homes, municipalities bought the buildings off owners to try and sell them on.
The €1 price is a symbolic gesture as if you do buy one of the houses, you are also promising to refurbish it.
An essential part of the deal is that you will start a renovation project within a year of buying and cover all the legal and building costs.
Woah, woah. Let’s put the brakes on. That sounds like it will cost far more than the original €1, doesn’t it?
Put simply, it will mean spending a lot more. Italy provides a ‘superbonus’ tax exemption for buyers that covers a whopping 110 per cent of qualifying building expenditures.
The kinds of business expenses included are for works like replacing the heating or air conditioning to doing “seismic structural improvements” to improve the safety of the building.
How much will the refurbishment actually cost then?
Well that will be dependent on each property. But multiple sources give figures ranging between €30,000 and €40,000. So as much as you’re not gonna be able to live in the place for pennies, it’s still certainly a lot more attainable than that townhouse you’ve been eyeing up in central London.
Where should you go to buy a house in Italy?
Throw a dart at a map of the famous boot and you’re likely to hit a village looking for people to snap up their properties for next to nothing.
Available houses can be in anything from a tiny remote village to a bustling town centre, so it’s definitely worth going to Italy yourself to check out any potential places you’re intrigued by.
But for now, here’s three places we found that caught our eye.
3. Fabbriche di Vergemoli, Tuscany
Up in the hills in Tuscany is the ancient village of Fabbriche di Vergemoli. With ancient Roman history and a population of under a 1,000 people, it’s the perfect place to relax, listen to the rushing waters of the river Turrite and live your best life.
It’s just a stone’s throw away from the delightful city of Lucca and not too far for day trips to Florence or the beach. So you can be assured of things to do while relaxing in one of Italy’s most luxurious regions.
2. Mussomeli, Sicily
For a chance to experience the wonders of southern Italy, nowhere is better than the Island of Sicily.
Want a great city at the heart of the island? Look no further than Mussomeli. With nearly 11,000 residents and 750 metres above sea level, new home owners in Mussomeli can expect to enjoy a historic town centre with a 14th century castle at the heart of it.
Where better to get your teeth into that famous Sicilian cuisine. Another portion of Arancini for the table, please!
1. Borgomezzavalle, Piedmont
Fancy something a little different? Up in the mountains near the border of Switzerland is the picturesque Antrona valley where Borgomezzavalle is tucked away.
Surrounded by woods and lakes, Borgomezzavalle gives you the chance to be part of an exclusive alpine village unique to the north of the country.
Will Brexit affect me?
For the Brits reading this piece, you may be wondering if this dream is still attainable now that the UK has left the EU.
Unfortunately, the answer is that it’s not as simple as it used to be.
You can still buy properties in Italy regardless of where you’re from, but as you are not a member of the EU, you would only be doing so as a “non-resident”. This means you can only stay in the home for 180 days of the year, and not for more than 90 days at a time.
To spend more time in your property, you would have to apply for residency, which means you’d need to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself without employment in Italy.
So, would this London-based writer still fancy a €1 dilapidated home in Italy that I would have to renovate and can’t live in for more than half the year? I’ve already started considering a name change from Jonny to Giovanni.