(CNN) – After numerous Italian communities tried to revive their declining populations by selling dilapidated homes for just over a dollar, a city came up with a new approach.
Teora, a beautiful destination located in the southern region of Campania, hopes to attract potential residents by offering to pay for their rent if they move.
While offers for the € 1 home have been hugely successful across Italy, with Sicilian cities south to the northern Alps attracting new residents to invest in extensive renovations, it is feared that those who buy there will only buy cheap holiday homes instead of settling.
Teora thinks that his plan will work better.
He says he will pay the new arrivals € 150 per month (about $ 162) for the cost of renting an empty house there over the course of two years, or he will offer them € 5,000 to buy one on their own.
Hopes of restocking
Teora’s population declined significantly after an earthquake in 1980.
Michele Notaro / Municipality of Teora
The socket? Buyers will have to reside in Teora for at least three years and must already have at least one child at the time of the request.
“I don’t believe in selling empty houses for € 1, which doesn’t encourage people to stay in the city,” said Stefano Farina, mayor of Teora, at CNN.
“They only come a few months a year as holidaymakers. It is not the solution. But taking up residence and enrolling children in the local school gives new life.”
According to Farina, the population of the city has dropped dramatically after an 1980 earthquake, which caused serious damage to Teora and nearby Lioni and which has never fully recovered.
“Two children were born [in Teora] every year against 20 elderly people who die, “he explains.” We barely dropped to 1,500 residents. After the terrible earthquake many young people fled.
“I want to reverse this negative trend. Children are our future, new families will be the building blocks of our declining community, so we encourage those with more children to apply.”
Teora could have the advantage over Italian city companions when it comes to transfer costs.
Currently a rental here can only cost € 200 a month, while the 100 square meter houses are on the market for only € 30,000.
This means that those who choose to rent one of the properties may end up paying only € 50 a month.
Meanwhile, the final cost of a home would drop to around € 25,000 with the mayor’s gift of € 5,000 – less than the amount that € 1 home buyers invested in restyling their dilapidated properties.
The available houses are all in good condition, as they have been rebuilt from scratch after the earthquake – some even have furniture.
The city also offers to waive school fees and local taxes for local services.
“So far two Italian families have settled and one from Brazil with Italian roots,” adds Farina. “They even brought grandparents with them.”
He hopes that many more will follow suit. But what can Teora offer that other Italian cities cannot?
Located in the deepest corner of the wild area of Irpinia Campania, the idyllic town is located at the foot of Monte Cresta del Gallo.
The hilly and verdant landscape of Teora was once inhabited by the Samnites, an ancient Italic tribe who opposed the dominion of ancient Rome.
Its name derives from the Latin word “tugurium”, which means “a hut made of stone and straw”.
The Fiumicello tributary of the Ofanto river is one of its panoramic highlights, and the area also hosts various trekking routes that wind along ancient shepherd’s paths.
The city plans to pay new arrivals € 150 per month for the cost of renting an empty house here.
Michele Notaro / Municipality of Teora
“The beauty of our land has nothing to envy to Umbria or Tuscany,” says Farina.
“It is the most fascinating and unspoiled part of Irpinia, known as” the green lung “for its lush vegetation and pure oxygen.”
“The chirping birds wake you up in the morning while at night, the foxes run away under the benches where the old people sit.”
Trees and bougainvillea line the steep stone steps here, along with lush gardens, where older locals gather while children play after school.
Its winding streets connect various homes, many of which are decorated in shades of red, purple, yellow and pink, with balconies and terraces overlooking the surrounding countryside.
The Belvedere square, which preserves a medieval city wall, offers a breathtaking view of the area.
Despite the damage caused by the earthquake, an amphitheater, fountains, a water mill and an ancient church with an outdoor altar are still standing, along with decorated columns and arches.
The stone portals of ancient noble residences adorned with floral coats of arms and lion statues offer a glimpse of the city’s past.
Only a few original houses were recovered after the disaster, while the temporary relief homes built were transformed into attractive summer cottages.
Today many houses are not occupied. In fact, there are almost 100 empty buildings looking for new occupants.
“This is the problem. We have too many new, but empty houses, which are a burden for private owners who now live abroad,” says Farina.
Buyers will have to take up residence for at least three years and must already have at least one child.
Michele Notaro / Municipality of Teora
One thing is certain, those who decide to buy or rent these forgotten houses will not fail to have fun.
Here the party is not only a favorite pastime, but the city also has a long romantic serenade tradition in which resident women receive a beautiful serenade at least once in their lifetime.
There is also an annual summer festival of love songs where couples recall the balcony scene of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
“Serenata is more than a song, it’s our way of being. We are lively people who like to play and make fun of us,” says Farina, before describing how locals regularly tell stories of spirits that sit on people’s stomachs at night and make wishes come true.
The local carnival, rooted in the Dionysian pagan rites, is also a great event.
During the Li Squacqualacchiun parade (which translates to “unkempt” or “unkempt”) hooded revelers run around the bonfires, before knocking on people’s doors with sticks covered with pine needles and then doing tricks.
Legend has it that the farmers hid behind the masks and asked their leaders for food and / or a piece of provolone.
If they had been refused, the peasants would have attacked their master or smashed their door.
The city also organizes a playful event that tells the day when Teora became the Italian capital for only 24 hours in 1936, when the dictator Benito Mussolini chose it as a strategic sighting place.
Here an actor plays the part of an old man who was blessed with longevity and a pension after being run over by Mussolini’s car.
Teora is located near the sea, with Paestum, known for its enchanting beaches and wonderful archaeological wonders, located just an hour’s drive away.
The Cilento National Park, the Amalfi Coast and the neighboring regions of Puglia and Basilicata are nearby.
Both Mussomeli in Sicily and Zungoli in Campania offer cheap houses for sale.
As for the cuisine, the specialty of the city is tomacella, a primordial hamburger made of pork entrails with grated cheese and horseradish stuffed inside a net and rounded with bread. The annual Teora fair attracts pig lovers from all over southern Italy thanks to the charm of the tomacella.
There is also Cavatielli, a twisted hand-made short pasta, as well as fusilli in the shape of a small iron crochet hook – both are served with fresh tomato sauce.
In the meantime, the famous Lu bucatini con u boos is prepared with pieces of fried pork and empty spaghetti that whistle when they are drunk.
Those who really want to throw themselves into local food traditions may be eager to take part in the ritual of eating the village of San Martino potato pizza pie when a coin is mixed with the pizza dough.
The lucky person who finds it in his slice comes to rule the table for a whole day, ordering what they want.
While the population of Teora may have declined significantly in the past 30 years or so, the remaining establishments have a simple lifestyle, demonstrating a remarkable stamina despite the many difficulties.
In fact, the symbol of the city, a bull, was a Samnite “totemic” symbol for strength, loyalty and sacrifice.
“The earthquake left a deep scar, but we learned to rise from the ashes with pride,” adds Farina. “That’s why we need to be creative and find new ways to get people into our community.”
For more information on the properties available, contact the Teora municipality office at [email protected]
Silvia Marchetti is a freelance journalist based in Rome. He writes about finance, economics, travel and culture for a wide range of media including MNI News, Newsweek and The Guardian.