(CNN) – Italy’s cities have scrambled to launch smart schemes aimed at attracting new residents to revive their fortunes in recent years.
From dilapidated homes selling for just over a dollar, to ready-to-move-in homes at discounted prices, there has been a frenzy of competition.
The picturesque town of Presicce, in the sunny region of Puglia, is the latest to enter the game with a tantalizing offer. Officials say they will pay people up to 30,000 euros (roughly $30,000) to buy an empty home and take up residence there.
Even better, the homes for sale as part of the operation have a price of around 25,000 euros. Like other cheap properties for sale in Italy, they have long been abandoned by their original owners.
And as an added bonus, the location is incredible, surrounded by the nature of the Salento area at the heel of Italy’s boot and close to the powdery beaches and turquoise waters of Santa Maria di Leuca.
Authorities in Presicce hope the cash incentive offer will breathe new life into their depopulated town, where the number of newborns is decreasing every year.
“In the historic center there are many empty houses built before 1991 that we would like to see alive again with new residents,” councilor Alfredo Palese told CNN. “It’s a shame to witness how our old neighborhoods full of history, wonderful architecture and art are slowly being emptied.”
“We will offer up to €30,000 to people who want to move here and buy one of these derelict homes,” he says. “The total funding will be split in two: it will be used partly for the purchase of an old house and partly for remodeling, if necessary.”
A tale of two towns
Presicce merged with the nearby town of Acquarica in 2019.
Palese says a 2019 merger with an adjacent community to create the larger town of Presicce-Acquarica has left him with additional money to ensure the project can continue for years to come.
“After the merger, in accordance with Italian law, our wider territory will be blessed with more public funds, approximately 1,000,000 euros per year for several years, which we intend to invest in revitalizing the old quarter,” says Palese .
Together, Presicce and Acquarica now have about 9,000 inhabitants, but only half of the population lives in the older part of the community.
The council has already launched other programs to attract more residents, such as tax benefits for the creation of new business activities and baby bonuses for families with children.
To qualify for the €30,000 incentive, buyers must reside in Presicce and purchase one of a selection of properties built before 1991, which have been mapped by the authorities.
According to Palese, housing prices start at 500 euros per square meter. About 25,000 euros should be enough to secure a 50 square meter home that needed some repairs.
The properties for sale are located in the oldest part of the city.
Presicce traces its history back to the Middle Ages, when settlements spread around a Saracen fortress built by monks who dug crypts and underground olive mills as a refuge for survivors of pirate raids.
Gaining a reputation as Puglia’s “city of green gold” for its lush olive groves that produce premium extra virgin olive oil, it flourished during the Renaissance as a prosperous fiefdom also known for its fine wine, cheeses and trade of cattle
Many inhabitants lived underground, digging caves in the rocky terrain of Presicce.
Beneath the main squares and luxurious Baroque palaces lies a network of 23 secret chambers and olive mills in which farmers, known as trappethe spent months during the harvest season, pressing olives in stone mills pushed by donkeys.
Many historic buildings have private access to underground chambers where massive mills still stand. Guided tours of the underground city are a tourist highlight.
In the old quarter, wide and elegant streets are crossed by narrow alleys. Majestic golden buildings with wrought iron balconies and inner courtyards mingle with simple white dwellings.
An underground olive mill.
There are palaces, chapels and votive columns with frescoes built by the rich rural bourgeoisie out of red-white rock.
The short old man (old courtyards) are typical houses located in two picturesque neighborhoods of the old town called Corciuli and Padreterno with private gardens, underground mills, citrus trees and exotic plants.
The Presicce countryside offers the best of rural Puglia with ancient solitary domed stone chapels, Byzantine crypts, olive groves with massive twisted tree trunks, purple dry stone walls and fortifications. Masseria rural farms where peasant families used to live under the protection of powerful lords to escape pirate attacks.
Parties and food
The houses for sale start at around 25,000 euros.
Hiking and biking trails meander through a bucolic landscape dotted with fields of sheep grazing and abandoned stone forts. The unspoilt coast of Salento, which stretches between the coastal locations of Gallipoli and Santa Maria di Leuca, is just a stone’s throw away.
In addition to tours of the underground oil mills and olive oil parties and food tastings, attractions include a museum of peasant civilization, which displays objects from the past.
There are annual festivals with popular music from Salentina, dances, ancient crafts and food fairs.
Presicce’s fried fish delights, linked to the cult of Saint Andrew, are a gourmand specialty, along with the iconic handmade pastas, orecchiette and strascinate. Other local delicacies include pittule yeast dough pancakes filled with shrimp, cod, vegetables or feta. in the pizzaiolawith olives, capers and cherry tomatoes.