(CNN) – The global pandemic has halted many travel experiences, including the rush to hijack Italian homes at affordable prices, but now that restrictions are appearing in some places, a domestic one-dollar bonanza seems to be returning to the country.
And the deals seem to be better than ever.
Cinquefrondi, a community in the southern region of Calabria, calls itself a “village without Covid” after waking up to the devastation of the virus and hopes its status will sweeten the appeal of the homes it markets at 1 euro or just over a dollar.
The goal, as in other destinations that offer similar offers, is to reverse the depopulation trend caused by younger people leaving in search of work. In Cinquefrondi, Mayor Michele Conia considered the task so serious that he gave it the code name: “Operation Beauty.”
“Finding new owners for the many abandoned houses we have is a key part of Operation Beauty [mission] that I launched for the recovery of degraded, lost parts of the city, “Conia told CNN.
“I grew up in Germany where my parents immigrated, and then I came back to save my country. Too many people have fled here for decades, leaving behind empty houses. We can’t resign.”
Although surrounded by the natural beauty of the depleted Aspromonte National Park and overlooking the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts, the urban landscape of Cinquefrondi is flooded with apartment ruins, Conia says.
“We rise between refreshing hills and two warm seas. A pristine river flows nearby and the beaches are only a 15 minute drive away. But the whole neighborhood in my town lies deserted, with empty houses that are also unstable and risky.”
Like many Italian villages and towns, Cinquefrondi also suffered from depopulation.
Across the country, Italy began opening its borders to visitors after making significant progress in reducing infection.
Here the housing business works a little differently compared to other cheap offers in Italy.
While all other cities that sell houses for one euro require an advance of up to 5,000 euros ($ 5,635) which the buyer deducts if he does not renovate the house within three years, Cinquefrondi only asks for an annual insurance fee of 250 euros until the works are completed,
The city hopes it can entice people to stay in cheap houses.
The new owners are only subject to a fine of 20,000 euros if they do not complete the reconstruction within three years. In other cities that offer similar schemes, new customers typically perform work ahead of schedule, within one to two years.
“We are just looking for some kind of security after the new buyer surrenders to the project. The cost of insurance is very low and the cost of accommodation here is from 10,000 to 20,000 euros, given that the apartments are comfortable [and] small ‘.
The available one-euro houses are approximately 40-50 square meters wide, a size that shortens renovation time. They are located in the historic ancient part of Cinquefrondi. Some even have a small balcony with a view.
Cinquefrondi is also known as the “city of shutters” because it breaks through the junction between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts of Calabria in the trunk of an Italian trunk. It has a stunning view of the UNESCO-listed Aeolian Islands, easily accessible from a nearby port.
The city sits between two seas in the toes of an Italian boot.
Its unusual name in Italian means “five villages,” referring to early settlements of Greek and Byzantine origin that were united into one community during the Middle Ages. Remains of the old city fortification can be seen in the arched streets.
Cinquefrondi endured natural disasters and foreign invasions, but survived through the centuries, protected from pirate incursions by its elevation above the sea.
Great traces of past civilizations are everywhere. Ancient Greek words survive in the local dialect and in the names of places, streets and arches.
‘The Last Greeks’
Its history dates back centuries.
Cinquefrondi was a strategic outpost during Greek expansion during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, and was later colonized by other conquerors. City elders still use old Spanish and French expressions while talking.
The bucolic landscape of olive groves is covered with the ruins of Greek fortresses, a strategic ancient Greek road built to connect two seas, a Roman villa, ruined monasteries and pagan temples.
The locals proudly call themselves the “last Greeks”.
“It’s a land of cultural pollution and intercivilization,” Conia says. “Melting pot. We welcome people. The door to my office is always open to anyone knocking.”
The city has recently experienced some improvements in its infrastructure. Roads, piazzas, old fountains, public parks, and even the church have been neatly restored and painted with rainbow colors.
One restored neighborhood known as the “Future Hamlet” now hosts social and cultural events, while a symbolic “staircase of law” is there to remind visitors that locals have accepted the rule of law in a country often plagued by crime and robbery.
The wild Aspromonte National Park offers stunning hiking trails through dry riverbeds, fossil peaks and cavities where Italian outlaws hid.
The mayor of Cinquefrondi says the city has avoided all Covid-19 cases.
The houses currently on the market for one euro once belonged to farmers, shepherds, artisans and carpenters. There are currently a dozen of them available, but there are more than 50 vacant apartments that Conia plans to hand over to the new owners.
“If we receive high demand, I can explain all the other buildings that have been empty for decades and the old owners are nowhere to be found.”
Completely renovated houses are also available at low prices.
A thorn in the side of the people
The colorful “staircase of law” symbolizes that locals have embraced the rule of law in a region often plagued by crime.
Cinquefrondi is a sleepy, non-working place unknown to most Italians. The old abandoned neighborhoods are partly covered with lush vegetation.
The city is a labyrinth of layered streets and pastel-colored houses connected by narrow streets, arched passages and spirally uneven stone steps on which protrude pieces of the collapsed walls of the old city center.
On its walls grow flowers, ferns, moss and tiny palms, green window frames, unblemished wooden doors and balconies of forgotten houses. On its populated streets, rusty aristocratic portals are placed next to sheets and clothes to dry in the sun.
The city is surrounded by bucols.
Unusual folklore and picturesque festivals are among the plus points of Cinquefrondi.
The key event is a religious procession of so-called barefoot “spinach” or “men of thorns”, dedicated to St. Roch, who wear huge bell-shaped bundles on their heads that symbolize the crowns of thorns that make them look like walking trees.
Macabre funeral events were held at the end of the local picturesque Carnival to say goodbye to the festival.
At the annual festival, locals dress up in unusual bell-shaped bundles of branches.
Fun is guaranteed, Conia assures. Food fairs and festivals are held throughout the summer. There is a special event every night.
There are agricultural fairs that offer creative cooking of potato and sweet pepper dishes, craft fairs with handmade chairs and pots, and hunter’s fairs where guests are offered juicy lunches with pork.
It’s a foodie paradise.
Among Cinquefrondi’s top gourmet specialties are spicy, reddish nduja salami made from tons of chili peppers, soppressata cold dry sausage with huge chunks of fat and a special type of pasta called struncatura made from leftover wheat and flour served with olives and minced meat and breadcrumbs.
Desserts include zeppola donuts made with potatoes and sugar, and hand-twisted bisatole nacatole.
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