Italy, with its plethora of beautiful and history-rich cities, is a hugely popular tourist destination. But the throngs of visitors who flood into hotspots like Rome, Venice and Milan can make life pretty unpleasant for locals. Crowds are thick, and the intense traffic is slowly wearing down cultural heritage sites.
To alleviate pressure on the country’s most visited destinations, Italian officials have come up with an innovative plan, The Local reports. The State Property Agency and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage are giving away 103 unused historic buildings, in the hopes of drawing visitors to less-traveled parts of Italy.
Sadly, the offer is not catered to casual history enthusiasts hoping to score a crumbling Italian castle. Officials intend for the properties to get scooped up by developers and entrepreneurs, who are required to transform the abandoned buildings into restaurants, hotels, spas and other tourist-friendly spaces.
The available sites are located at a distance from densely populated tourist attractions. Some properties can be found on ancient paths—like the Appian Way, a Roman road dating as far back as 312 BC, and the Via Francigena, a centuries-old pilgrimage route. Others are situated on modern-day cycling paths. Roberto Reggi of the State Property Agency tells The Local that the goal of the project is to “promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector"—or in other words, to encourage visitors to seek out authentic experiences in unique destinations.
Among the properties on offer are castles, defense towers, villas, farmhouses and former convents. Enterprising property flippers might opt for the Castello di Blera in Lazio, which was built on a cliffside during the 11th century, or the 13th-century Castello di Montefiore, which protected the town of Recanati from enemy attacks.
As Carrie Goldberg writes in Town & Country, potential owners are required to submit a detailed proposal outlining their vision before they can receive a heritage site free of charge. Those who make the grade will secure the rights to their property for nine years, with an option to extend the contract for another nine years.
If it is successful, the initiative will not only give some breathing room to Italy’s most-trafficked spaces, but also encourage the restoration of a bevy of dilapidated cultural sites. Plus, visitors will get the chance to experience parts of the country that might not otherwise have been on their radar. Everybody wins.