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Italy Is Offering Up Giant Mansions For Next To Nothing — But There's A Catch

For a lot of us, Italy has a setting of scenic fantasies and daydreams. Who wouldn't want to settle down in a Mediterranean paradise, wine in hand? Officials in one Italian town knew people across the planet would love to park in their town and call an early retirement, so they drew up a plan to get butts in houses, and it started with cheap real estate. Of course, prospective buyers had to know: was there a catch?

The problem in Sambuca di Sicilia

Officials in Sambuca di Sicilia (below) faced a huge problem: people kept leaving their humble little town. With a population of just 5,876 in 2017, the city was a shell of its former, lively self, and the officials realized they needed to fix this — and they knew where to start.

Home, sweet home

Because of of the dwindling population, many villas in Sambuca were left abandoned. While officials hoped some could be turned into AirBnBs to promote tourism, the ultimate goal was to welcome new, permanent residents. The key was the villas.

Scenic views

After all, Sicily is full of history. With a sprawling landscape and surrounded by crystal clear seas, many visitors flock to the country for an idyllic vacation. With affordable villas, the officials thought, people wouldn't just plan vacations, they'd stay. And the best way to entice tourists to become locals, was to give them an offer they couldn't refuse.

Thrill seekers

If they could make these abandoned villas truly affordable, the town itself — which had a little something for everyone — would do all the work beyond that. What the the little city of Sambuca had in its favor was charm, history, location and above all, a rich culture. What it was working against: radical restoration needs.