(CNN) – You wait a while for a house that is practically given to you, and then three come at once.
Yes, the € 1 house in Italy is back – and this time, up for grabs is a collection of houses in the southern region of Molise.
Castropignano – a village with ruins of a medieval castle, 140 miles southeast of Rome – is the newest community to offer abandoned buildings to newcomers.
However, unlike most schemes, which auction off dilapidated buildings from € 1, or $ 1.20, Castropignano does things differently.
There are about 100 abandoned buildings here, but rather than selling to the highest bidder, mayor Nicola Scapillati wants to match interested parties with the right house for them.
“The scheme here works a little differently,” he said.
“I am moving on two parallel lines, reaching out to potential buyers and existing owners at the same time, step by step, to make demand meet supply.
“I don’t want my town to be overrun by property raids or turned into the latest speculation housing deal.”
The village is located in the Apennine Mountains
In fact, instead of going through the authorities, Scapillati wants interested parties to email him directly.
“I welcome anyone looking to buy a new home here to email me directly (nicola.scapillati[AT]me.com) with a detailed plan of how they intend to change their style and what they want to do with the property – making it a home, B&B, shop, or craftsman shop.
“They should also list any requirements they may have, such as access for people with wheelchairs. The village is small and cars cannot pass narrow alleys and stairs.”
The more specific the request, the easier it is to find suitable housing and get in touch with the current owner.
“This is a targeted and tailored operation,” he added. “People need to know what they’re signing up for.”
So what’s the catch? Of course there are conditions. The buyer must renovate the property within three years of purchase and provide a guaranteed deposit of € 2,000 ($ 2,378), which will be returned upon completion of work.
Make the village safer
The owners have been told to renovate their abandoned home, or the council will take it away
The project was launched in October, when authorities notified owners of abandoned properties that if they didn’t renovate themselves, the city would take ownership for safety reasons.
So far, many owners have agreed to give up their property, because wanting to release the house will cost money to demolish.
Scapillati is confident that at least 50 people will join. Otherwise, the city council will take over the homes of those who don’t respond and put them on the market.
Meanwhile, dozens of interested people from Europe have contacted him, asking to buy a house. And he hopes that, with their help, the village will not only regain its joie de vivre, but also become safer.
“It pains me to see the beauty of our ancient historical center which is filled with houses that are collapsing, slowly decaying,” said the mayor.
“It’s sad and dangerous. Without renovation, these buildings are a threat. They can collapse at any time – it’s also a matter of keeping the village safe.”
Scapillati – whose family emigrated to work in Italy’s richer north – felt the pull of her adult origins. He is back on a mission to preserve the village’s architecture, hoping to keep their traditions going.
“I want to stop the descent of the track, keep the village fire alive. I am driven by passion and love for my hometown,” he said.
And while Castropignano isn’t a bustling place – it only has one restaurant, bar, pharmacy and a few B & Bs – he thinks it has a sleepy appeal.
“Here we have nothing extraordinary to offer except peace, silence, pristine nature, oxygen-rich air, beautiful scenery and excellent food, ideal for removing toxins from everyday stress. It’s not about life, all I have to say, but it is peaceful and simple “, he added.
Today, there are only 900 residents, down from 2,500 in the 1930s. After World War II, many families emigrated in search of a better future; then, from the 1960’s, young people began to move to big cities to study and find work.
Currently, 60% of the population is over 70 years old.
The starry past
‘Dodda’, or the annual dowry festival
But Scapillati wanted to restore a past glory when Castropignano became a thriving feudal center with craftsmen, merchants and travelers crossing Italy, protected by powerful dukes. In fact, this village was once famous for its shoemakers and shoemakers.
Situated on a rocky hilltop in Italy’s central Apennine mountains, Castropignano was built on top of the ancient settlement of the Samnites, the ancient Italians, who used them as defensive scouts against the Romans – who eventually defeated them.
The Samnites built forts and settlements in the surrounding countryside. In the valley below the village, next to the ruins of an ancient Roman villa is a large stone monument built by the Samnites. Half an hour to the south are the magnificent ruins of Saepinum, a city founded by the Samnites and later taken over by the Romans, whose city walls, theaters, and temples still exist.
This is the deepest part of Molise, an Italian region largely unknown to tourists, situated east of Lazio and between Abruzzo and Puglia on the southern Adriatic coast.
The lack of visitors has helped preserve its rural authenticity, making Molise one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
Castropignano’s abandoned house is located in the historical center, atop a roofless medieval castle – it was bombed during the war and much of its stone was used to build the house which is now for sale.
A maze of winding and cobbled alleys, gargoyle-covered arches and passageways, connecting the castle to the upper layers of the village settlement.
Another group of homes for sale is in the cliff-top hamlet of Roccaspromonte, perched on a high cliff two miles away. Nearby is the Santuario della Madonna del Peschio, a ruined forest church now open with the sky as its roof and oaks as its walls.
The nuts and bolts
One resident said the stones “live” here
So what’s up for grabs? Scapillati said that most of the buildings for sale were in decent condition, although they had doors that didn’t bend, peeled off paint and were partially covered with vegetation.
He argues that the complete renovation will start from around € 30,000-40,000 ($ 35,000-48,000). Italian taxpayers get a tax credit for eco-friendly and anti-seismic jobs.
But there is a lot of potential. The architecture is a juxtaposition of style – an ornate rich portal at the entrance to a simple cottage. And many houses have a see-through panoramic view of the Biferno river that flows through the valley.
Cecilia Vampa, a retiree from Rome who fell in love with Castropignano during her college days, has renovated several residences here. He said the rock was alive.
“There is poetry woven into it by sculpting it, through art and hard work. These stones tell a story, I fell in love with them. They arouse emotions.”
Vampa said he likes a simple community that is closely knit and welcoming to locals. In Castropignano, he said, he had found “the rural peace lost from his youth.”
Ghosts and parades
Molise is one of the most pristine regions of Italy
Even today, the village seems to have gone back to its previous era. In the past, families would sleep upstairs while the kitchen and living room were on the second floor. Pets such as chickens and donkeys – the only means of transportation – are kept in cages on the ground floor.
Ancient herding trails for moving livestock between summer and winter pastures across villages – still used today for moving sheep and grazing cows, as well as bicycle tours, on foot, and on horseback.
And every summer, the villagers celebrate “Dodda” – the re-enactment of a custom whereby young girls getting married offer their dowries to their husbands. Women ready to tie the knot parade the streets in traditional white robes carrying baskets of linen, blankets and other bridal items made by their grandmothers. It is a symbolic gesture believed to bring good luck.
There is even a spooky story about a magical forest filled with dwarves and fairies who sing sad songs in the middle of the night.
Gastro food and beach retreats
Tremiti Island is within the reach of the village
Enit Photo Archive
Today, it is food that will persuade those on the fence to move to Castropignano. Local specialties include sausage soppressata stuffed with lard, cold cuts of meat and cotenna (pork rind) – said to give it an edge thanks to its fresh air.
Cavatelli is a pasta in the form of threads served with a pork sauce sauce, while ‘mbaniccia is a special soup cooked with corn “pizza” (stale slices of bread). The specialty cheese in the area is caciocavallo oozy, which is tied in a knot and strung from a rope, giving it a distinctive teardrop shape.
Premium black and white truffles are found in the surrounding countryside, while local vineyards produce Molise’s most famous red wine, Tintilia.
Have a sweet tooth? Get ready to indulge in savory jams, a Christmas cake filled with candied fruit called Pigna, and almond and honey biscuits for dipping in the wine.
Day trips to Rome and Naples are possible, as Castropignano lies between the two. The hotel is also within reach of the famous beaches on the Adriatic coast, as well as the snow-capped mountains of the Campitello Maltese ski resort. Ferries to the unspoiled island of Tremiti – a hotspot for Italian tourists – leave from Termoli, an hour’s drive.