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Demography is Destiny

A Sicilian town for sale

A Sicilian town for sale

by Marcus Roberts | January 25, 2019

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Towards the end of last year we wrote a blogpost about the Italian government’s attempts to deal with the demographic decline that is gripping the country (this decline consists of the old story: a very low fertility rate of around 1.3, a shrinking population, and a very large proportion of that shrinking population consisting of those aged 65). The government proposal was free state-held agricultural land for 20 years for those who have a third child between 2019 and 2021.

Now, we can report on another proposal from Italy to counter depopulation. This proposal is also potentially available for any of us (no children needed as far as I can see) so if you are interested in moving to Italy, read on.

The island of Sicily is home to about 5 million people, about one-twelfth of the entire Italian population. Sambuca, a town in the west of the island, has a population of about 6,000 people. It has a history stretching back to its founding by Arabs in the 9th century and is home to ancient castles, palaces and churches. According to its deputy mayor and tourist councillor, Giuseppe Cacioppo, the town is known as the “city of splendour” and is located inside a nature reserve and surrounded by beaches, woods and mountains. “It’s silent and peaceful, an idyllic retreat for a detox stay”.

Unfortunately, Sambuca is a little too silent and peaceful. The young are lured to bigger towns and the town has many houses (“built with reddish-pink stone…feature[ing] courtyards, palm gardens and arcaded entrances”) that are lying empty. Just waiting for a buyer. And indeed you don’t need a lot of money for these houses. The city hall owns all the houses for sale and they are selling them cheap: indeed, you can buy one for €1.  Furthermore you can make the purchase right away since the council is not an intermediary but the vendor. There is a catch of course, you must commit o refurbishing the property within three years (hurrah! Say local tradesmen) and you will need to provide a €5,000 security deposit. However, even with these conditions, the bargain does seem surprisingly good.

The question will be whether anyone wants to buy property in rural-Sicily. Presumably people don’t want to live in Sambuca because there aren’t the economic opportunities that can be found elsewhere. Will this mean that developers will be buying these properties? Or will they become rural second homes for urban Italians? Does the council mind as long as the owners are paying rates? Will that save the town? One wonders. But still, it does sound a wonderful deal. If the DID starts to come from Sicily in the future then you’ll know why…

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