From ancient castles, monasteries, convents and towers to old farmhouses, schools and inns, 103 of Italy’s historic buildings are being given away for free with one requirement: all takers will need to commit to transforming the properties into tourist facilities including hotels, restaurants or spas.
The scheme was announced by Italy’s State Property Agency (Agenzia del Demanio) and Ministry of Cultural Heritage as part of the country’s Strategic Plan for Tourism Development, which aims to relieve some of the overcrowding in Italy’s most popular destinations, while promoting tourism in the country’s more unsung, lesser-known areas.
Roberto Reggi from the State Property Agency said: ‘The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists. Interested parties will need to articulate clear proposals for how the properties will be restored as tourist facilities. The government is hoping to attract entrepreneurs, cooperatives and businesses consisting of those who are under 40 to the project. Successful applicants will be given an ‘Art Bonus’, available through a government scheme launched in 2015 which grants tax breaks on art-related charitable donations, such as for the maintenance and restoration of historic buildings.’
The new property owners will each be given a nine-year lease, with an option for it to be renewed for a further nine years, while those who demonstrate a more concrete restoration plan could be given a 50-year lease. It is unclear whether there is a limit to how many buildings can be claimed per owner. Applications must be submitted to the State Property Agency’s website by June 26. Following the initial batch of buildings offered this year, a further 200 will be made available over the next two years.
The historic sites are all found in ‘off-the-beaten track’ locations, from the north to the south, with 44 sites set along historic or religious walking paths, including the Appian Way (one of the oldest Roman roads connecting Rome to Brindisi in the south-east of Italy) and the Via Francigena (an ancient road and medieval pilgrimage route stretching from France to Rome). The remaining 59 sites are found along several of Italy’s cycling routes.
Some of the unique buildings on offer include the 13th-century Castello di Montefiore in the Marche region, built to defend Recanati against attacks from surrounding towns, and the Castello di Blera in Lazio (near Rome), an 11th-century cliffside medieval castle built by a noble family.
The Strategic Plan states that: ‘Tourism could be the engine for Italian economic growth if the country addresses the necessary efforts to bring to the surface this hidden potential. It offers valuable opportunities for adding value to Italian historic and artistic heritage…attracting new resources for their conservation and enhancement.’