In a desperate bid to stop its community from slipping away in a fight against depopulation, the idyllic Italian town of Cammarata has launched a plan to offer free houses to new residents.
The scheme dreamt up by mayor Vincenzo Giambrone, has been a three-year process which has resulted in him personally appealing to the owners of the now-abandoned property to hand it over for free. The buildings, which are starting to crumble away to ruins, are being used to lure new residents in order to rebuild the town.
“I can’t stand to see this gorgeous, old historical centre empty and turn into a ruin. It hurts me,” Giambrone told CNN Travel.
“The owners are oblivious to the damage they cause when they ditch their homes and refuse to restyle their ancient dwellings. It leaves a deep scar on the townscape with the risk of dangerous collapses.”
As it stands, the mayor has around a dozen empty stone buildings available for free to those willing to apply and, as his plan gains momentum, Giambrone claimed to have “more to come shortly” as a study showed more than 100 buildings in the ancient area of the town remain abandoned. “Now new buyers can finally step in to secure these crumbly walls and revive the historical area,” he added.
The stipulations of claiming one of the free houses means that potential new owners must commit to renovating the property within three years, pay a €5,000 deposit (to be returned once the work is complete), and present a clear refurbishment proposal upon application.
“It’s a unique location,” Enzo Li Gregni, head of the tourist board for Cammarata, told CNN. “Cammarata is known as ‘the town with 1,000 balconies to the East,’ as each window here basks in sunsets and you can enjoy spectacular views of Mount Etna.
“When the volcano erupts, we see the sciara red lava flow and the rising smoke.”
The mayor has left all propositions open to interpretation and is willing to allow potential investors to create homes, hotels, a B&B, shops or even a restaurant.
How to get there:
Get on A19, exit Villabate and take SS121 to Agrigento, continue on SS189, exit S.Giovanni Gemini – Cammarata
Get on SS189 to Palermo, exit S.Giovanni Gemini