Looking for a home? One Sicilian town is making an offer that is hard to refuse

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Sicilian Town Tells Outsiders: Take Our Homes. Please.
The historic center of Gangi, a Sicilian town where abandoned houses are being given away. Its population, once about 16,000, is down to about 7,000.
Sicilian Town Tells Outsiders: Take Our Homes. Please.
The historic center of Gangi, a Sicilian town where abandoned houses are being given away. Its population, once about 16,000, is down to about 7,000.

Looking for a home? One Sicilian town is making an offer that is hard to refuse: It is giving away houses.

There is a catch, naturally. The properties in Gangi, a picturesque central town that straddles the Madonie Mountains, are generally dilapidated, some abandoned generations ago.

The structures give new meaning to the term “fixer-upper,” and anyone who acquires one of the properties has just four years to restore it and make it livable.

But the offer has already lured dozens of holiday home hunters from around the world, and Gangi’s novel approach to revival has brought fresh opportunities to local builders and tradesmen while energizing tourism.

“For our Sicilian mentality, Gangi was considered to be too far from the sea” to be attractive for tourism, said Giuseppe Ferrarello, the mayor of the town, which lies on a windy, stomach-rattling road between Palermo and Catania.

The housing initiative, he said, instead “set in motion a mechanism that was previously unthinkable for a city in the center of Sicily,” where towns have shrunk in tandem with the region’s dwindling economic prospects.

Gangi had a population of about 16,000 in the 1950s, the mayor said. Today it is home to about 7,000. []

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