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Inside the beautiful Italian town where houses are free

Would you live here? Image: Getty

Colourful buildings nestled in the hillside, cobblestoned streets and grazing animals. 

The Sicilian town of Cammarata sounds like a fairytale, but for the residents, it’s anything but. 

The picturesque spot has become the latest in a long line of Italian towns to offer houses for just over a dollar, or even for free, in a bid to draw people back to the largely abandoned towns. 

Cammarata mayor Vincenzo Giambrone told CNN Travel that he had spent the past three years persuading families leaving the town to hand over their empty homes to newcomers for free. 

“I can't stand to see this gorgeous, old historical center empty and turn into a ruin. It hurts me," 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."

The town is about 60 kilometres south-east of Palermo and sits at an elevation of around 1,000 metres. Sicily’s south-east is known for its slow pace of life.

Would you live here? Image: Getty

Cammarata itself is known for its thousands of balconies. 

“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," Giambrone said.

Would you live here? Image: Getty

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

Its surrounding hills were once used to train Olympic horses.  And it even snows in Cammarata, a rarity for Sicily.

Would you live here? Image: Getty

As it stands, there are around 12 buildings available with more to come. 

People who agree to take on the free homes must renovate the property within three years and pay a €5,000 (AU$8,033) deposit. This deposit is returned once the work is complete. 

Would you live here? Image: Getty

Young people with children are preferred – and will even score a €1,000 (AU$1,606) bonus, but all applicants will be considered. 

It’s not the first Italian town vying for new residents

If a Sicilian life isn’t what you’re after, the Campanian town of Zungoli is offering homes for just AU$1.62.

This region is known throughout history for its fine wine, described by the ancient Greeks as the best.

Then there’s Locana. Resting beside a stream, Locana is another fairytale town. 

Its mayor, Giovanni Bruno Mattiet, is offering families around €9,000 (AU$14,300) to move there for the three years. Again, people who did it must agree to refurbish the town. 

The southern Italian town of Molise is offering people  €700 (AU$1,120) to move there and start a new business. 

“If we had offered funding, it would have been yet another charity gesture,” Molise president Donato Toma told The Guardian.

“We wanted to do more; we wanted people to invest here. They can open any sort of activity: a bread shop, a stationery shop, a restaurant, anything. It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.”

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