These Italian towns in Molise will pay you $27,000 to move there

When Italian villages began selling houses for $1, it seemed too good to be true. But the latest offer from Italy is enough to make even that deal look like a ripoff.

The region of Molise, a wild, beautiful but overlooked area that lies east of Rome, has announced it will pay people more than $27,000 to settle in one of 106 underpopulated villages in an effort to prevent their communities from dying.

Anyone who takes up the offer will receive 700 euros a month (about $770) for up to three years to help them settle in an area known for its green pastures, olive groves and snowy mountaintops.

There’s a catch — they’ll also have to commit to starting a small business, in order to contribute to the local economy.

“I want my region to undergo a renaissance and avoid its authentic villages turning into ghost towns,” Antonio Tedeschi, a regional councilor who came up with the idea, tells CNN Travel. “We need to safeguard our roots.”

Young people and couples with children are particularly encouraged to apply to the scheme, which is to be officially launched on September 16.

Tedeschi, who was born in the small Molise village of Filignano — home to barely 700 residents — says he knows what it means to see old traditions and historical places fall into oblivion and wants to stop the decline in its tracks.

Depopulation crisis

“The goal is to breathe new life and revamp the local economy,” he says. “Newcomers are free to kick-start anything they please in order to get our financial support: a small inn, restaurant, bar, B<><><><><><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><><><><><><>&B, a tiny rural farm, artisan boutique, library or shop selling local gourmet excellences.”/ppThousands of people have left Molise in recent years. Official statistics say the number of people living there has fallen by almost 9,000 since 2014, pushing the region’s population to just 305,000./ppNow one of Italy’s most depopulated regions, 106 of its 136 towns have fewer than 2,000 residents./ppMany communities across Italy are at risk of being lost as younger people migrate to bigger towns and cities — or abroad — in search of work as Italy’s fragile economy struggles to support its more remote, rural areas./ppRecently, there’s been a spate of villages from the northern Alps to the southern vineyards of Sicily, virtually giving away homes to anyone willing to spend the money on renovating them to move in./ppMolise’s offer has the potential to be the most lucrative yet for anyone willing to take the plunge./ppSo what exactly can applicants expect if they take the plunge? Here’s a look at some of the most picturesque villages among those inviting people to move in./ppFornelli/ppFornelli is known as the City of Oil because of the olive groves dotting a landscape that also harbors premium truffles and species of endangered legumes./ppNominated for the 2019’s Italy’s Most Beautiful Town contest, it has a medieval center that was once protected by a drawbridge and is now a web of narrow alleys and arched entrances./ppSeven towers are incorporated in the town’s defensive walls, within which cars and even motorcycles are banned, making it peaceful and unpolluted./ppPesche/ppClinging to the rocky cliff side of Mount San Marco, this village takes its name from the Italian word empietre/em, meaning “rocks.”/ppThe white-yellowish stone dwellings at the feet of a majestic castle contrast with the green-brownish stones covered in lush vegetation that cover the landscape./ppIsolation has preserved the village from centuries of Barbarian raids and the doorways of homes and aristocratic buildings are adorned with weird stone images./ppRiccia/ppOne of the high spots of the year in Riccia is a picturesque grape festival that celebrates the end of the emvendemmia/em or harvest and attracts wine lovers from across Italy./ppThe event sees floats decorated with grapes parade through the cobbled streets as actors hand out gourmet treats./ppRiccia, clustered at the feet of a cylindrical tower, is part of an élite club uniting Italy’s “authentic villages” where traditions and ancient recipes survive./ppMolise’s premium amaro liqueur is made with special herbs found in the nearby woods./ppCapracotta and Campitello Matese /ppThese villages are for ski lovers./ppOne of the attractions of Molise, Italy’s second smallest region, is that it has everything in one place: sea, lakes, forests and even the Apennine mountain range./ppCapracotta and Campitello Matese are the region’s top winter sports resorts, pulling in snowboarders and cross-country amateurs./ppSkiing pistes aren’t as long nor as steep as those found in the Alps, but there’s the added attraction of thick woodlands where wild animals still live, including bears./ppPietrabbondante and Sepino/ppIt’s hard to believe, but Molise rivals Rome or Pompeii for ancient architecture and archeological attractions./ppThe two small villages of Pietrabbondante and Sepino both contain the secret, largely unknown ruins of once-glorious citadels./ppA large chunk of Molise used to lie within the kingdom of the fiery Samnite tribes who refused to bend the knee to Ancient Rome but were eventually slaughtered./ppPietrabbondante’s archeological area, close to the town and set at an altitude of 1,000 meters, has a spellbinding view over Molise’s rugged hills and features a sanctuary and several temples./ppSaepinum, or Sepino’s ruins, is incredibly well preserved with statues of imprisoned barbarians greeting visitors at the entrance./ppSan Giovanni in Galdo/ppGrazing sheep, cows and buffalo dot the bucolic landscape here./ppIt’s still possible to spot forgotten dusty trails winding up the mountains and the ruins of a majestic Italic temple built in the third century BCE./ppSan Giovanni in Galdo is located near one of Molise’s main routes used by shepherds to move their livestock between low and high pastures./ppThe old town, dubbed Morrutto or “broken walls” in local dialect, is a maze of caves and underground chambers./ppOld festivals survive such as the performances of the Zig-zaghini folklore group, which enacts something known as the “anti-jinx dance.”/ppCastel San Vincenzo/ppThe clear waters of its blue lake makes Castel San Vincenzo one of Molise’s most visited towns by day-trippers./ppSet in the Alta Valle del Volturno, it’s known as the Valley of Faith, because monks and pilgrims have, for centuries, come here for meditation and prayer./ppToday the nearby stunning abbey of San Vincenzo Al Volturno lures soul-searching travelers craving an unplugged stay and artists in need of inspiration./ppDuronia /ppThe village, dating back to pre-Roman times, is a collection of pastel-coloured peasant houses connected by staircases and nestled at the feet of an overhanging fortress./ppThe town’s symbol is a huge stone cross. Its belvedere piazza offers a unique panorama of surrounding meadows dotted with the ruins of Samnite towers./ppDuronia is popular for guided trekking tours along rural routes./ppThe foodie Scattone festival celebrates an iconic pasta dish made with red wine and pepper that’s said to offer strength and ward off influenza./ppemEditor’s note: An earlier version of the map on this story misidentified the location of Molise. This has been corrected./em/p