Several towns and villages in Italy are in the midst of an existential battle for their futures.
You’ve probably heard about Candela, the Italian town that paid people to live there (and seems to have done it successfully). Then there’s Grottole, the fairytale southern Italian village that will soon be home to four Airbnb-sponsored temporary citizens.
And in a bid to attract new residents, Sambuca, a Sicilian town, is selling homes for less than the cost of an espresso – provided the new owner refurbishes their house for at least €15,000.
And now another one can be added to the list.
The small, rustic, northern-Italian town of Locana is working hard to bring some spark back to its community.
Its mayor, Giovanni Bruno Mattiet, is offering families around the world up to €9,000, or the equivalent of AU $14,300, over the span of three years to move there and breathe new life into the town.
Every year, Locana, which has a population of less than 1,500, sees 40 deaths – but just 10 births. Now, Mattiet is sounding the alarm before the small village is another name on the growing list of 139 ‘ghost towns’ in Italy that have less than 150 residents.
What’s the catch?
Families have to already at least one child as well as a minimum annual salary of €6,000, which is designed to help keep schools open.
And in such a sleepy town, there’s little guarantee you’ll be able to find a job to support yourself, let alone a small family, unless you or your partner (or both) have jobs you can do remotely.
Italy’s also known for having tough red tape to battle through when it comes to local property regulation.
“We’re looking to draw mostly young people and professionals who work remotely or are willing to start an activity here,” he told CNN Travel.
“There are dozens of closed shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques just waiting for new people to run them.”
So where exactly is it?
The small Alpine village is nestled in Piedmont, a mountainous northwestern region in Italy that sits on the border between France and Switzerland.
Tourists and residents here would be frolicking among flowery meadows and chestnut forests against the backdrop of snow-peaked mountains of the Grand paradiso mountain reserve.
In such a picturesque village, some of the main pastimes at Locana are outdoor activities like rock climbing, ice-skating, trekking, fishing, swimming, soccer, and tennis.
It’s small, but wealthy: Locana sells clean hydroelectric energy to Italy, according to CNN Travel.
The mayor was initially offering the deal to just Italians or foreigners already living in Italy, but now he’s so desperate that he’s extending it to non-Italians abroad.
“Our population has shrunk from 7,000 residents in the early 1900s to barely 1,500 as people left looking for a job at Turin’s big factories,” he said.
“Our school each year faces the risk of shutting down due to few pupils. I can’t allow this to happen.”
Will these incentives work?
Rome-based LUISS University contemporary history professor Andrea Ungari said that an influx of foreigners wouldn’t address the issues that are prompting locals to leave in the first place.
“It’s OK in the short run, foreigners love Italy’s beauty and crave for an eternal holiday in a sunny spot,” he said.
“But in the long run, even they need upgraded infrastructures, good and nearby hospitals, efficient services, especially retirees.
“You need a long-term plan to develop the local territory and keep people there.”
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