The catch? You have to turn the castles and convents into tourist facilities
The Italian government is handing out more than 100 historic buildings across the entire country, including farmhouses, inns, towers and castles, in a bid to encourage tourists to go off the beaten track and discover rural Italy.
A total of 103 sites all across the country is up for grabs, with those willing to take over the deeds required to commit to restoring the dilapidated buildings into tourist facilities.
Billed as ‘slow tourism’, the Italian government wants the historic sites turned into boutique hotels and restaurants to draw more visitors away from crowded cities. The project was developed by the State Property Agency and the Cultural Heritage Ministry, announced as part of Italy’s Strategic Tourist Plan.
The Castello di Montefiore in Marche is looking for a new owner [Agenzia del Demanio]
While all of the buildings on offer are in the Italian countryside, 44 of them are dotted along historic paths; both the Appian Way, an ancient route connecting Rome to Brindisi, and the Via Francigena, which brought pilgrims to the northern border, are included.
The remaining 59 buildings, including old schoolhouses, former convents, and military towers overlooking the sea, are located along several major cycle paths.
Applications are open for anyone wishing to apply, but only serious bids will be accepted; all applicants must present a proposal that clearly shows how the structures can be adapted into tourist facilities that will benefit the local communities.
The Italian government is specifically looking to attract younger bidders to the process, with entrepreneurs under the age of 40 eligible for an extra bonus. Successful applicants will receive a nine-year lease to the property, with the chance to extend it for a further nine years, while those with standout proposals will receive 50-year leases.
A property available in Spoleto, Umbria [Agenzia del Demanio]
The current phase of 100 properties is just a starting point, with a further 200 ready to be added to the list before the end of the year.
The Italian government has been working on ways to diversify the country’s tourism portfolio since 2016, after authorities in Venice, Florence, Pompeii, Rome and Capri all vowed to introduce measures to combat overcrowding.
The Venetian mayor Luigi Brugnaro has been particularly outspoken, criticising the annual 25m tourists to the canal city for ignoring traffic laws, bathing in historic fountains, and public urination.
In the last year, measures have been put in place to curb rent increases, cap tourist accommodation figures, and the city has even introduced two separate queues for its iconic water taxis, giving preferential treatment to residents.