Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: 1 euro deals on homes are attracting people back to Europe’s abandoned villages (updated)

(Editor’s note: This post on 1 euro deals on houses in remote villages has suddenly become our most-read post, with more than 105,000 page views as of October … even with a pandemic. So, we called Casa a 1 Euro in Italy for an update.)

The major news sites such as CNN have endless headlines exclaiming “You can still buy $1 homes all over Italy.” And you can if you have the time and resources to fix up a ruin in a remote, abandoned village in Italy, France or Spain.

In fact, American actor Lorraine Bracco (“Goodfellas,” “The Sopranos”) bought a 200-year-old 1-euro house in Sambuca, Sicily – one of the most popular of the cities pioneering this 21st century Italian renaissance – with HGTV building a whole new series around her project.

“My Big Italian Adventure” premiered 30 October, and the Wrap has the most detailed post about the show.

While some media present buying the 1 euro house as a new opportunity, this trend has been going on since at least 2015, when entire Spanish villages started going on the market for less than the cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in London. And the reason is simple: While a lot of outsiders can afford the luxury of living in an idyllic village in rural Italy, locals can’t.

“A lot of people move to the city from the countryside to work,” said Maurizio Berti with Case A 1 Euro. “It’s a cultural phenomenon, not just a business phenomenon.”

Full disclosure: You can throw a dart at a map of Italy and pretty much anywhere it lands, there’s a 1-euro house “initiative.” Some are ad hoc, with houses coming and going, and mayors and officials making up the rules, then changing them on a whim.

The details

We can say without fear of contradiction that people rarely give anything of value away for free or even for 1 euro. And that’s at the heart of this proposition as working-age people leave small towns and villages in rural Europe, they leave behind houses that don’t appeal to conventional buyers.

Now, getting one of the fabled 1 euro deal for a house might seem like a gimmick, but it’s not. Some houses – typically those in poor shape – really change hands for 1 euro. But they’ll revert right back to municipalities if buyers don’t hold up their end of the bargain – spending serious money to bring the buildings up to code in a fixed amount of time, usually three years.

And it’s worth noting that a lot of people set out to buy one of the 1 euro homes, but end up buying a move-in property at market price, which is still a huge bargain compared to big cities.

By far, Italy has the most villages and towns using the 1 euro scheme to restore and repopulate, and there are dozens of active campaigns to attract investors from north to south as well as on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

France, Spain and other countries are only now getting on the bandwagon.


In Italy, there are thousands of houses available from north to south and on Sicily, said Maurizio at Case A 1 Euro. Most are in poor condition, and the municipalities sell for a symbolic price of 1 euro, though auction prices tend to be higher.

Buyers have to make a significant investment in rehabbing the houses. There are also fees for real estate agents, taxes and the costs of hooking back up to local utilities. By the time the house is done, it’s not unusual for the new owners to have spent 30,000 euros. In fact, the process of finding the right house for a comparatively small amount of money, then finding the local contractors to do the restoration, is so nuanced that Maurizio says it’s imperative for shoppers to come to Italy.

Before the pandemic, he took people from all over the world on tours to the villages and introduced them to the local mayors and familiarized them with how the process works, because it’s complicated.

First, the south is far different from the north, Maurizio said. A small village in the north might have 300 residents where a “small” village in south might have 20,000 inhabitants.

Second, many of the houses in the south including Campania, the poorest region, were built for migrant workers who traveled from region to region, working on estates. Those houses are quite small, perhaps 60m2 on three floors. “So, if you want a big house, sometimes you have find three close to each other and turn them into one house,” Maurizio said.

You can call Maurizio at: country code 39 – 349-664-0136 or email him at: [email protected]

So, let’s go shopping..


Bisaccia, in the Campania region, has 90 – yes, nine-zero – properties listed, each for 1 euro, according to CNN. But that post has an interesting twist … because all those properties are clustered together in the center of the city, Bisaccia’s strategy is to find buyers who’ll also bring their family and friends for a communal approach to reviving the village.

We couldn’t find a website or contact information for the 1 euro properties. But you can see market-priced homes here starting at about 11,000 euros.

Bisaccia is in the mountains about 130 kilometers east of Naples.


Borgomezzavallee is in the mountains of the northwestern Italy on the Swiss border, and about equidistant between Geneva and Milan. So, a prime location.

But not all that many people want to live in this remote valley, so the population has dwindled to about 300, leaving lots of empty homes. Borgomezzavallee has made the news recently both with a 1-euro house initiative and with an offer to pay couples to have children at rate of 1,000 euros per, and 2,000 euros to anyone willing to start a tax-generating business.

Check out the video above in which an Italian-speaking American expat drops in and gets the details. Also, a CNN post has lots of details.

Here’s the municipality website.


No town has ridden the train to international headlines like Cammarata. They did it by upping the ante … well, actually, by lowering the ante to zero. That’s right … the city fathers and mothers of Cammarata in the mountains of Sicily are giving away their houses for free to a good home like a litter of kittens.


This village toward more affluent Northern Italy is just south of San Marino. Two former farmsteads located in the rural surroundings have already sold, but a couple of historical buildings in the old village center are available, according to media reports.

Check out the municipality’s 1 euro home website here.


Castropignano Mayor Nicola Scapilati has come up with a different approach for this hilltop town – complete with castle – about 140 miles southeast of Rome and in the center of Italy.

Instead of merely selling dilapidated houses for 1 euro, Scapilati is playing matchmaker, trying to hook up potential owners with the most suitable dwellings. And he has 100 houses from which to choose. Also, unlike other vague efforts in Italy, Scapilati is the front person, with lots of contact info and facts and figures about what it’s going to take to get a house squared away in Castropignano. He calculates each house needs 30,000-to-40,000 euros in investment on top of that 1 euro.

The mayor is handling all this himself and you can email him directly at: [email protected] And here’s the fact sheet Scapilati has sent out with all the stipulations including the 2,000 euro surety deposit and the requirement you renovations no more than two months after taking possession of the property.

Here’s all the contact info:

Mayor Nicola Scapilati’s email is: [email protected]

Via G. Marconi, 1 – 86010
Tel: 0039 0874.503132
Fax: 0039 0874.503522
e-mail: [email protected]


CNN has a detailed post about the mayor and his picturesque town and Scapilati has gotten a lot of publicity for his effort, so we wouldn’t wait too long if you’re interested.


You could see this coming from a mile away ….

Cinquefrondi is the first Italian village to market itself as a “COVID-free” alternative in Calabria. CNN has a post promoting the village as set in the “rugged Aspromonte National Park and overlooking both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts,” but blighted by abandoned homes. Lots of abandoned homes.

In addition to unspoiled vistas, the southern village claims zero coronavirus cases and is in the “toe” of Italy’s boot, a region with one of Italy’s lowest levels of contagion.

Interestingly, Cinquefrondi has its own twist on selling its dozens of 1 euro houses. Most villages in Italy require buyers to put significant skin in the game early on, with deposits running 5,000 euros. CNN reports that Cinquefrondi only requires an annual 250 euro “insurance policy” until work is completed. Though if you buy, then do nothing, you’re looking at a 20,000 euro fine after three years.

This is “middle of nowhere” Itally, but the CNN post has a lot of great cultural and culinary details, along with an interesting look at local history. And they even have an email if you want to know more: [email protected]


Gangi near Palermo in Sicily has been selling houses at give-away prices since 2011. And like a lot of the towns on this list, it’s the sort of place people imagine when they dream of a quiet life in Italy. In fact, Gangi was voted the most beautiful village in Italy in 2014, according to its website.

You can check out their offerings here.


The mountain village of Luserna in Italy’s Piedmont near the France/Italy border has a different take on accomplishing the same ends – reviving a small mountain city. Luserna officials are offering four unfurnished homes for four years to couples 18-to-40 years old. In other words, of prime child-producing years as they try to rebuild their population, which has dropped to 300 residents.

They also have a different take on the commitment to get that house, asking applicants if they’re willing to take an active part in the community in the form of collaborative living, helping raise kids and looking in on old folks.

From the website:

(The commune of Lucena) is offering young families the ideal conditions to become autonomous, build a couple life project and contribute to the development and life of a mountain area. Families will find valuable support and will be accompanied on their way by the experience and professionalism of the operators of the Franco Demarchi Foundation.

There are quite a few stipulations and unfortunately, all the documents are in Italian. But here’s the link to the municipality page with all the information. You might try calling or emailing ….


Mussomeli is another town in Sicily that, like Gangi, has gotten a lot of pub for their effort, sold a lot of homes and started to attract new residents. CNN has a great feature on a French couple who negotiated the process and ended up with a small home in this thriving Sicilian town, apparently without any real complications.

Insider has the best of many, many posts about Cammarata. And of course, the standard rules apply … if buyers don’t restore the houses within a certain time, the city repossesses them.


This Sicilian town has probably sold more houses in the past year than any other in Italy, receiving 110,000 requests from foreigners interested in buying one of the first batch of 16 homes. So in light of that success, Sambuca moved to Phase II of its revitalization in August with 2 euro houses.

We know … 100 percent more expensive. But Sambuca is just a few miles from the sea and the capital city of Palermo in one of the most spectacular parts of Sicily, with its own cuisine and quality wines. Which is what we’re all after, right?

Deputy Mayor  Giuseppe Cacioppo told local media the first effort attracted precisely the people Sambuca needs to be “interesting” including  journalists, writers, two actresses and a singer.

The terms of the first round were pretty simple: Newcomers had to spend 15,000 to renovate each home, along with 5,000 euros on deposit until those renovations are complete. You can get more details here on the Sambuca de Sicilia city government website. There are 16 properties listed currently.

CTV News in Canada has a great post about Sambuca that illustrates how well these schemes can work, especially when you have a beautiful town in a choice location.

Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Is it just us, or is this turning into a bidding war for people to repopulate and rehabilitate Italian mountain villages? Take for example Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a walled medieval village in Abruzzo in east-central Italy about a two-hour drive from Rome. The town just announced a scheme (or a plan, in Euro-speak) to not just pay people to come and start a business, but to sweeten the pot by giving them a place to stay at a nominal fee to get them started. This is geared toward young families, with eligible adults 40 year old or younger willing to start a business relevant to the needs of the village, then stick around for five years.

Santo Stefano’s town council will pay eligible aspiring residents a monthly fee for three years, up to a maximum of 8,000 euros per year along with a seed investment up to 20,000 euros to start a business, according to CNN.

We’ve never quite figured out where the money comes from as these struggling areas and empty villages (Santo Stefano has about 70 permanent residents) compete for people. But this plan seems legit as media outlets from CNN to Vanity Fair have have scrutinized their proposal and about 1,500 people have applied since the scheme launched on 15 October.

This is a time limited offer and you have to apply by 15 November. You can apply here.


In early 2020, Taranto got a lot of publicity from the U.S. to Australia as the first real city to jump on the 1-euro bandwagon. This industrial seaside commercial center near Brindisi on the bottom of the Italian boot is trying to reinvent itself. This includes boosting the population of its neglected Old City above the current 3,000 citizens. So city fathers/mothers are selling five properties in the center.

But there’s way more to it … Taranto is getting a lot of funding that will update the steel plant that’s its main employer as well as rebuild sections of the city. You can see a .pdf of the plans here, which are in Italian. But you can see physically where the improvements will happen. This is quite an attractive city with a fortress and lots to do and see. So if joining the Village People has little appeal for you, the bright lights of the big-ish city are also an option.


In southern Italy’s Campania region near the Amalfi coast, the mountain village of Teora is offering to pickup most of the rent for families with children in a tax-free gambit to attract new residents. In the program, here are 100 houses available for 200 euros rent per month … but the city picks up 150 euros of you rent if you bring at least one child. If your family likes it, you can buy a house starting for as little as 20,000 euros, according to Forbes.

The recruitment scheme began 24 February and runs thought 31 July. You can see more details here.


We kind of saw this coming. With so much competition for investors, it was inevitable that a mayor would decide to sweeten the pot by helping new residents renovate their 1 euro home. That mayor is Sebastiano Fabio Venezia and the town is Troina, ranked as one of the loveliest villages in Italy

You have to check out the Troina website for this, which also lists habitable houses for sales. This is the most complete website we’ve seen and written in flawless English. That’s because Venezia assembled a multi-lingual team for the effort including renovation consultants, according to CNN.

The drill is pretty standard up to a point – buyers put down a 5,000 euro deposit that gets refunded once renovations are complete. But, the city is willing to subsidize buyers with 15,000 euro renovation credits and another 10,000 if you add solar panels and other renewable energy options.

Of all these listings, we have to say Troina seems to have the best chance of attracting a critical mass of professionals and artists and breaking out as a tourist destination.


This village about 100 kilometers east of Naples in Southern Italy has a section of the city’s website dedicated to showcasing 1 euro deals on homes. Village officials have put together a volunteer committee to help out potential buyers.

Pages: 1 2

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week. Keep up with what's going on in Europe. Everything Expat.

You have Successfully Subscribed!