If you’ve ever yearned to own a rustic villa or even a castle in the Italian countryside, now’s your opportunity to make that dream become reality. The Italian government is currently giving away 103 historic sites, free of charge, to any interested parties — but only to those who pledge to restore these abandoned buildings and transform them into appealing sites for tourists, such as restaurants or hotels.
The Cammini e Percosi (Paths and Tracks) program, launched by the State Property Agency and Ministry of Cultural Heritage, arises as a unique way to promote the country’s treasures that lie off the beaten path. It’s also intended as a solution to the overcrowding of popular urban destinations, from Rome to Venice, and one that theoretically guarantees the longterm oversight of neglected sites.
“The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector,” Roberto Reggi, a spokesperson for the State Property Agency, told The Local. “The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists.”
As its name implies, the properties all lie along historic walking routes or bike paths, from the Via Appia to the Ciclopista del Sole, or the Sun Cycle Route, which is part of the EuroVelo7. Aside from castles and villas, up for grabs are monasteries, defense towers, former schoolhouses, farmhouses, and other one-of-a-kind buildings. Some standouts include the Tower of the Bastille in Serramazzoni, which will offer unparalleled views of the northern commune; the thick-walled Torre Angellara of Salerno, built in 1563 to fend off invasions; the austere, 10th-century Montefiore Castle; or the Fortilizio dei mulini in Spoleto, a small fortress which once housed grain and olive mills. (A full list is available here.)
Aspiring owners have to fill out an application detailing their plans for the property, which allows you to select up to three desired sites. As The Local reported, successful applicants will receive the rights to the property for nine years, after which they will have the option of renewal for an additional nine. In some cases, entrepreneurs who conceive of highly attractive plans may receive a 50-year lease.
The deadline for applications is June 26, but don’t fret if you miss this round, as more opportunities will spring up, with 200 more properties set to be added to the list over the next two years.