Lonely Planet Writer

How you could become the owner of a historical Italian property...without paying a penny

We thought our dreams of moving to Italy were over after last week’s announcement that too many people had enquired about being paid to move to a small village in the countryside. Thankfully, the Italian government have now announced they’re giving away historic properties all over the country for free. Time to start planning your move again!

Puglia Barletta Villa Bonelli Via Francigena
This Italian villa could be yours, if you restore it. Image by Agenzia del Demanio

The property giveaway consists of 103 sites in total and they all have unique historical value, such as castles, monasteries, convents or old schoolhouses. To be in with a chance of getting one, you will need to submit a full plan on how you want to restore and transform it into a tourist attraction or facility.

While the properties are in a state of disrepair and somewhat off-the-beaten track, they’re not totally isolated either. Many are along some of Italy’s cycling routes, while others are connected to pilgrimage route Via Francigena and the Appian Way.

Italy, Lazio, Roma, Rome, Via Appia Antica
A lot of the free historical sites are along the ancient Appian Way. Image by Andrea Pistolesi

The State Property Agency is particularly targeting young entrepreneurs or co-operatives. Successful applicants will be granted a nine year lease, with an option to renew afterwards. If your plan is particularly impressive, you may even be offered a 50 year lease.

“The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists”, Roberto Reggi from the State Property Agency told The Local. “The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector.”

The announcement is part of Italy’s Strategic Plan for Tourism Development which wants to boost tourism to quieter regions and take some of the pressure off overcrowded hotspots like Venice and Rome. This year 103 properties will be up for grabs with further plans to release another 200 to the public over the next two years. You can browse through the full list of properties online.

EMILIA ROMAGNA_MODENA_ VIGNOLA CICLOPISTA SOLE_Ex Macello Vignola
Can you imagine welcoming visitors to this Italian getaway? Image by Agenzia del Demanio

Italy is one of the most culturally rich countries in the world but with great treasures to protect, comes great responsibility…and often a hefty price tag. In the last ten years, the government has come up with new and innovative ways to continue to protect its history while battling austerity.

In recent years, the restoration of Rome’s most famous landmarks have been part-funded by luxury brands like Fendi, Tod and Bulgari, while last week it was announced that a telecommunications company would sponsor a €6 million restoration of the Mauseoleum of Augustus.