Gangi, The Town That Gave Itself Away

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The Italian town of Gangi, built atop a small bump-like hill in an wooded valley in central Sicily, about 80 kilometers southeast of Palermo, looks like a giant tortoise shell. Less than two years ago, few people outside Italy had heard about it. Now people from all over Europe and as far away as Australia are vying each other for a piece of the town.

Regarded by many as one of the most beautiful in Italy, this 12th century town had a population of 16,000 in the 1950s. Today, there are just 7,000 left. People have been moving away from Gangi for more than a hundred years, lured by the ‘American dream’, thanks to some brilliant sales agent of trans-Atlantic ocean liners selling the prospects of a better life in America.


Photo credit: Michele Ursino/Flickr

Thousands of residents abandoned their homes, locally known as pagglialore, typical of this town. The tower-like structures were occupied by donkeys on the ground floor along with the paglia, or straw, chickens and goats on the middle floor, while the farmer’s family lived on top. Over the decades, many of these houses had became derelict.

In an effort to revitalize the town, without the associated expense, in 2014, the mayor decided to sell off these houses at the price of just one Euro. Many were given away for free. But there was a catch, of course. The buyer was required to draw up plans for renovation within a year of purchasing the house, and implement those within three years. The buyer also had to bear the expenses for the transfer of ownership, and pay all necessary fees and permits. As one hopeful Australian woman found out, this would cost her over $17,000 even before she started renovating her home.

Nevertheless, the houses were sold-off pretty quickly. As of June 2015, there was a lengthy waiting list, and the town was screening applicants based on what prospective buyers wished to do with the property.

“We don’t want people just because they have money,” Mr. Ferrarello, the mayor said. “We want to know what you’re going to do with the houses.”

One Florence-based firm, for instance, received two free houses and bought seven more, because they plan to create a 22-suite hotel out of them.

The scheme has worked well. There is a lot of interest in Gangi now and tourism is booming.

“We did this for our children, because we love our territory,” the mayor said. “And we want our children to stay here and not leave.”


Photo credit: The Sun


Photo credit: The Sun


Photo credit:


Photo credit:


Photo credit: The Sun


Photo credit: The Sun


Photo credit: The Sun


Photo credit: Trolvag/Panoramio


Photo credit: Trolvag/Panoramio


Photo credit: Trolvag/Panoramio


Photo credit: Magnus Nilsson/Flickr


Photo credit: kapa123/Flickr


Photo credit: SandroG9/Panoramio

Sources: NY Times / Business Insider / Esplora

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