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This Small Town In Sicily is Giving Away Houses… For Free!

Historical Facts | May 10, 2016

Between 1892 and 1924, the small town of Gangi in Sicily lost about 1,700 of its residents to the American dream. People left the town in hope of finding better opportunities away from home. The houses they abandoned, some empty for generations, are now being given away for free.

So if you’re looking for a place you can call your own and the prospect of having one for free is something you can’t turn down, you’re in luck.

 
The town of Gangi itself has sent out press release with the title “FREE HOUSES IN GANGI,” stating that “in the town of Gangi there are old houses that will be granted for free of charge to those who request them.

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The homes in question are traditional tower-like structures, typical to the town. They are mostly three-story farm houses, many with panoramic views of Mount Etna.

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Requests from companies who want to transform the houses into hotels and from individuals for their own private use are both welcome.

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There’s a catch though, or catches it seems. Although the town, with its medieval charm, look picturesque, it is close to becoming a ghost town.

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Photo: Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

 
Since the first wave of emigration to America, hoards of Gangi residents followed suit and left for Argentina between the 1930s and 1940s. The town has been left in a slump, shrinking from a population of 16,000 in the 1950s to just about 7,000 today.

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And the free houses that are up for grabs, around 300 of them, are dilapidated and in need of major repairs, which should come as no shock considering they've been abandoned for generations.

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Those who get the free houses will have to shoulder the fees for the transfer of ownership, present a proposal for renovation within a year, and complete the planned renovation within three years.

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So that gives you four years to completely make your dream historic Sicilian house as presentable as possible.

Gangivecchio - The Abbey

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Already 100 houses have been given away, mostly to Sicilians in search of weekend homes.

A Florence-based investor got two free houses and planned to buy another seven for a 22-suite hotel he's proposing to open in the historic centre. There are also takers from around Europe, as well as one candidate from Abu Dhabi.

And I say “candidate” because for the remaining 200 houses, there is now a waiting list. However, Mr. Ferrarello, the mayor said, “We don’t want people just because they have money. We want to know what you’re going to do with the houses.” Hopefully the ones with the most creative and unique ideas will come out on top.

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