Fancy living la vita meravigliosa? Italy is giving away its ancient castles for free

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Anna Brech
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Imagine this.

Instead of being rudely awaken by the bin men on a cold, murky morning before battling the crowds on the tube, you arise to the mellow stone confines of your very own Italian castle.

No concrete jungle on the horizon, but hazy labyrinths of olive groves and hillside as far as the eye can see, broken up by pops of bougainvillea and fragrant pine trees.

In the distance, the soothing chime of medieval bells replaces a soundscape of blaring traffic.

That’s how we envisage life to be if we took up the Italian government’s new scheme to give away hundreds of its historic buildings that have fallen into a state of disrepair.

Under its so-called “strategic tourist plan”, the powers that be are offering up a delectable clutch of ancient castles, monasteries and towers for free to save them from ruin.

As you may expect, there is a catch to this apparently dream scenario.

Prospective owners would need to have a plan to renovate the property they move into, in a way that draws visitors to the area. 

For instance, they may launch a boutique, luxury hotel lined with duck-egg blue shutters and geraniums (OK that’s our personal vision but we’re rolling with it).

Or they may turn their pad into a paying attraction, that guests get to visit as part of a regional excursion.

"The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector," Roberto Reggi from the State Property Agency told The Local.

"The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists."

The sites up for grabs are all in remote areas of Italy on hiking or cycling trails, and far from the crowd-pleasing draws of Florence, Venice and the Amalfi.

They would require extensive renovation.

But if watching multiple episodes of Grand Designs has taught us anything, it’s that our makeover ambitions really are within reach.

We just need Kevin McCloud on the sidelines to cheer us on and speak a bit of Italian…

Applicants must submit a clear plan for the building they’re interested in to the State Property Agency by June 26. The government is particularly interested in luring entrepreneurs from the under-40s bracket.

To find out more and apply, click here.

La dolce vita, here we come...

Photos: iStock


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.