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For sale at 1 euro each: 20 historic hilltop homes in Sicilian sunshine

Date

Nick Squires

Bargain: The hilltop town of Gangi, Sicily, where homes are being sold for €1 each.

Bargain: The hilltop town of Gangi, Sicily, where homes are being sold for €1 each. Photo: iStock

It's yours for less than the price of a cup of coffee - a historic house in a terracotta-tiled hill town in Italy.

In fact for the price of a full English breakfast, you could snap up half a dozen of them.

A town in Sicily which has endured decades of population decline and neglect has come up with a novel, and seemingly too-good-to-refuse, offer: it is selling off empty homes for just one euro each. That is  $1.43 at today's exchange rate.

Gangi is a hilltop town set amid the rolling wheat fields and wooded valleys of central Sicily, about an hour's drive south of the picturesque holiday resort of Cefalu, and with views of the active volcano Mt Etna.

Founded in the 12th century, it boasts a castle and access to hiking trails in the surrounding countryside.

The local council wants to sell about 20 houses, many of them derelict, which were bequeathed by locals who had neither the money nor the will to renovate them.

The bargain-basement prices come with a few conditions, none of which are very onerous or particularly costly.

Buyers must pay a €5000 ($7200) guarantee to the local council to ensure they renovate the properties, rather than just leave them empty. The money will be redeemed once the homes are restored.

Owners have five years in which to bring the houses up to a habitable standard. Most of them are in a state of disrepair, if not derelict, with the cost of renovating them estimated at about €35,000.

Buyers would have to pay the legal costs associated with the purchase - estimated at about €6,000 per property, depending on its taxable value.

Gangi's council first launched the unusual initiative a couple of years ago, but, with none of the councillors speaking English, it received barely any attention and achieved few results.

Now the village of 7000 people has turned to Marie Wester, an English-speaking, Swedish property consultant who lives in Sicily, to help market the deal.

Through a newsletter she sends out to clients, she has already had interest from four British couples as well as Swedes, Americans and Russians.

"The people of Gangi want to attract foreigners to the town because they want to bring in new life," Ms Wester told London's The Daily Telegraph. "Since I got involved in the sale, there has been massive interest. I think it's a good deal."

After living in Italy for seven years, Ms Wester has a shrewd idea of what local builders would charge to undertake the renovation of the properties, all of which are in the historic centre of Gangi.

"The houses need new roofs and floors, you'd need to put in electricity, water and sewerage and re-plaster them at the end of it all. I reckon it would cost about €35,000 per property.

"The only downside I can think of is that the village is not near the coast, but it a lovely mediaeval town, it's very clean and well-kept and the people are friendly."

Two of the houses were bought last week by an expatriate Italian businessman and his Russian wife, who are based in Abu Dhabi.

"They fell in love with our village, with the tranquillity and the clean air," said Giuseppe Ferrarello, the mayor. "We've received more than 100 telephone calls from Italy and abroad. We are ready to welcome more people."

Gangi may be in the same province as Corleone, the town made notorious for its Mafia links by The Godfather books and films, but foreign buyers need have no fear of Cosa Nostra.

"The Mafia exists, of course, but they are operating at a different level - they are interested in multi-million euro construction projects, not restorations like this," said Ms Wester. "Some people think that if you come here you'll see them walking down the street with guns, but it's not like that."

Telegraph, London

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