For some, the prospect of buying a cheap home in Italy is a chance to leave their old life behind and start all over again.
But the latest town to offer tumbledown houses priced at just over a dollar wants buyers to bring it with them – encouraging families or groups of friends to buy multiple properties.
Bisaccia, a picturesque destination in Italy’s southern Campania region, is putting 90 dilapidated buildings on the market for one euro, joining other places across Italy trying to save dying communities by incentivizing people to move there.
Unlike other towns and villages offering deals for people committing to one-off renovations, Bisaccia’s officials say its tightly clustered architecture lends itself to more communal projects.
“We face a very particular situation here,” the town’s deputy mayor, Francesco Tartaglia, tells CNN Travel. “The abandoned [area] spreads throughout the most ancient part of the village. Forsaken houses are clustered together, one next to the other along the same roads. Some even share a common entrance.
“That’s why we welcome families, groups of friends, relatives, people who know each other or investors to join forces. We encourage them to buy more than just one house to actually have an impact and breathe new life.”
As is usual with Italian bargain home offers, buyers are expected to commit to renovating their newly acquired properties, but unlike in other towns, there’s no stated investment level or time frame to complete the work.
Bisaccia’s winning asset is that local authorities own all the empty houses abandoned years ago by residents who fled in search of a brighter future. In most other Italian towns offering one-euro homes, the transaction sometimes involves tricky dealings with the original owners.
“This stands as a guarantee that the disposal process will be speedy and smooth, we won’t need to chase descendants of old owners nor have any issues with third parties,” says Tartaglia.
The ‘genteel’ town
Sitting atop two gently rolling hills surrounded by a low forest, Bisaccia is a sleepy spot.
Once a thriving feudal center renowned for its wool-making and artisans, it has been hit hard by emigration. A series of severe earthquakes, the last one in 1980, accelerated its population decline.
“Bisaccia is dubbed the ‘genteel town’ because, despite the hardship, its people have always been respectable, welcoming, hard-working and resilient,” says Tartaglia. “Newcomers here are pampered and taken care of. We want this place to shine again.”
Locals have a reputation for being friendly and fun-loving people, who enjoy giving each other cute nicknames based on personal traits and tics.
But they’re also known for being fiery. Bisaccia’s residents descend from the Italic tribes of the Samnites which inhabited the surrounding hills and fought bitterly against Imperial Rome before capitulating.
Legend has it Bisaccia was built on the ashes of the Samnites’ mythological ancient city of Romulea.
The name “Bisaccia” is said to hail back to the Latin “vis” or “force.” Its coat of arms features two lions fighting.
Bronze Age caves and catacombs dot sheep and cow-grazing fields where wind energy is now produced. The opulent Princess Tomb and the archaeological museum are top highlights.
The town’s belvedere viewpoint offers a bucolic vista over sanctuaries and ruins of Roman villas.
Frozen in time
Some of Bisaccia’s quaint appeal comes from the eerie ambiance of forsaken spots that sit next to still-vibrant parts of town thronged with shops and families.
The abandoned ramshackle old farmer and shepherd dwellings, made of thick walls with huge jutting-out stones, are located in the town’s historical center, clustered at the feet of the overhanging medieval castle.
Thick grass has grown over unhinged doors, rusty staircases and broken windows. Forgotten objects and destroyed kitchens can still be found inside rooms stacked with heaps of debris.
A labyrinth of alleys made of huge, uneven moss-covered cobblestone steps connect a series of arcaded stone portals, adorned with vaults and tunnels with dangling ferns.
The newer blue, pink, green and yellow pastel-colored homes rise close to Baroque aristocratic palazzos with lavish façades and decorated balconies.
A new “diffuse hotel” scattered across several buildings in Bisaccia’s old center offers visitors an opportunity to get the feel of the town’s dead and alive vibe.