Summer in the Italian Countryside: How to Buy a Villa for $1.11

living in Italy
Graeme Maclean under Creative Commons

Ever dreamed of owning your own home in the Italian countryside? You might have your chance. Homes in three Italian towns are up for sale for as low as one Euro (which comes to $1.11 in U.S. currency) apiece.

Mayors of these towns, including Gangi (located in Sicily), Carrega Ligure (in Piedmont) and Lecce nei Marsi (in Abruzzi) are concerned about the lack of residents in their towns and the number of people leaving, both to find better employment opportunities in other parts of Italy or even to resettle overseas. To recruit new residents, they’re offering up abandoned homes for ridiculously low prices — and some are even free.

If tranquil small-town Italian life is for you, a low-priced (or free) home in one of these towns may just be a great fit. Enjoy gorgeous scenery and stunning natural beauty, brush up on your Italian and soak in the rich history of the area from your own spot in the countryside. Interested? Here’s what you need to know.

Location, Location, Location

Where exactly is your potential new home? The three towns all have different characters, features and attractions.

Gangi, Sicily

This town boasts views of Mount Etna and was even used in Baaria, a film that received Golden Globe nominations in 2009.

In Gangi, most of the homes up for sale are two stories tall, and many of them were built in the 1800s. These homes formerly housed farmers and peasant families. Many of these properties require extensive work, though some houses that require a bit less work are for sale for 100 Euros ($111). Nearly 100 houses in need of more extensive work are on the market for a single Euro (about $1.11)

Carrega Ligure, Piedmont

In Carrega Ligure, low-priced homes are dispersed across five valleys, and many of them used to host monks, farmers and shepherds. These remote valleys get quite chilly in the winter, though, since the homes are located at an average elevation of around 5,200 feet. Some of these homes even date back to the 11th century. Thick stone walls help keep out the winter’s chill in many of these properties.

Lecce nei Marsi , Abruzzi

If woodlands are your thing, check out one of the homes for sale in Lecce nei Marsi, which is located near plenty of forests. It’s in the Abruzzi Park, near a 600-year-old beechwood forest that may soon be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What’s the Catch?

While purchasing an Italian home for the price of a cup of gas station coffee may seem like a dream come true, there are a couple of drawbacks.

Home Improvement

Yes, they’re cheap, but keep in mind that these homes are not ready to live in. Most of these homes are in need of some serious TLC and many were abandoned decades ago. That means that you’ll need to be ready to invest some time and money into renovating them and turning them into liveable and enjoyable spaces.

Renovation and maintenance costs could run well into the five figures (or beyond), so be prepared for those expenses. One source estimates each one of these homes would need about $28,000 worth of work before it was in decent, liveable shape. However, even at $28,000, these countryside homes would be a steal if your dream is to experience rural Italian living.

Travel Costs

Another obstacle for some buyers is the fact that the homes are located in Italy. Many people aren’t ready to pick up and move to Italy for the prospect of a cheap home.

Some may wish to purchase and renovate a home to use for vacations. However, flights from New York to Rome are listed at about $1,100-1,200 this summer, so taking the family to the Italian villa for a week could be quite pricey, even if the home itself was a good deal. And be sure to keep in mind additional transportation costs since you would likely have to rent a car to reach these destinations.

Work Prospects

Job opportunities are scarce, which is part of the reason many of the original occupants abandoned their homes. Moving to one of these towns may not be a good idea if you’re hoping to settle and find a job nearby. But if you have your own source of income and dreams of Italy, one of these towns may be perfect for you.

One digital nomad, Andrew Kirschner, spent three months living and working in Italy, though he didn’t purchase any property while he was there. He was able to stay for 90 days on a tourist visa, freelancing for U.S. and Australian companies from abroad. It’s always a good idea to check out an area and spend some time there before committing to a real estate purchase to make sure it’s really the right place for you.

Internet Connection

However, Andrew did run into some difficulties finding adequate Internet service while in Italy. “Internet was definitely a tricky thing,” he said. “The image of sitting at an Italian cafe and working all day while I people watched was quickly debunked. Most Italian coffee shops have you in and then out — most of the time there isn’t even a place to sit unless you’re going to order food.”

He tried working in libraries with free Internet, but he found the connections unreliable and very slow. He ended up doing most of his work from the AirBnB apartment he was renting in Florence. However, that didn’t solve all connectivity problems. “More times than I would have liked, the Internet was just not working and I’d have to take a break and come back to it later.”

And that was in Florence, a major city — these small towns likely won’t be up to the standards you might expect from home. But if you’re a flexible entrepreneur with who doesn’t rely on a constant wi-fi connection, you might find a remote villa the perfect creative retreat.

How Do You Fix Up These Homes?

Need inspiration to renovate a crumbling, centuries-old home into a liveable and interesting space? Check out the work of Daniele Kihlgren, a developer who transformed hermit caves and old farming homes into beautiful resorts. Of course, he spent a good amount of money on his enterprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to spend top dollar.

Be sure to check into taxes, rules on owning foreign property, annual costs and other expenses and regulations before making a purchase. Here’s a look at the steps involved in the process; the author notes that purchasing a home in Italy isn’t much more difficult than buying one in the U.S. Of course, the site also recommends hiring a good Consulente immobiliare (real estate agent) along with a good Notario (lawyer/notary) to provide detailed information and counsel on the specific steps that would apply to your situation. You’ll also need to obtain a Codice fiscale (Italian tax identification number) to go through the process. This database of local realtors can get you started on your journey to owning an Italian home.

If you have the cash and time to invest in renovation work, buying a home in the Italian countryside may be a great deal for you.

Your Turn: What do you think of the mayors’ strategy? Would you want one of these old Italian homes?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.