An island home for free with strings attached

Cammarata, a community in the Province of Agrigento on the beautiful island of Sicily in Italy, is trying to boost its dwindling population by offering deserted homes for free.

However, as the late Welsh poet Ted Hughes, wrote: “Nothing is free. Everything has to be paid for.”

Cammarata Mayor Vincenzo Giambrone told CNN Travel it “hurts” to see gorgeous, old homes being abandoned in his home town.

Giambrone has spent the last three years trying to convince owners who have abandoned their family homes to hand over the keys to their empty buildings to newcomers for free.

“I can’t stand to see this gorgeous, old historical centre empty and turn into a ruin,” Giambrone said.

“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.”

Giambrone said there are about a dozen empty stone buildings available at present and “more to come shortly.”

And with at least 100 other abandoned homes, all located in Cammarata’s most ancient part, with the potential for renovation, Giambrone has high hopes for the free houses.

“Now new buyers can finally step in to secure these crumbly walls and revive the historical area,” Giambrone said.

Cammarata Scilly Italy

The strings attached are that buyers must commit to renovating the property within three years of the purchase and pay a 5,000 euro (US$4,300) deposit, which will be returned once building renovation is finished. They will also need to present a clear refurbishment proposal for the property in question.

Young couples with children will receive priority if they submit a development application and couples who move there and go on to have a baby receive a 1,000 euro bonus.

New owners can transform the multi-story buildings into a private house, bed & breakfast accomodation, a hotel, shops or a restaurant.

Giambrone wants to see the town of Cammarata “go back to being a lively, vibrant place” and ensures potential buyers from other countries will be welcomed with open arms.

Enzo Li Gregni, head of the Cammarata tourist board and a part time tourist guide, said Cammarata was a “unique location.”

“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,” said Gregni.

“When the volcano erupts, we see the sciara red lava flow and the rising smoke.”

If you are wondering about the temperatures. It is the last month of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and the low is 9C, with a high of 14C.

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