Bova enjoys a fascinating view of the coast. Italian villages will pay people to move to sleepy villages in hopes of reversing years of population decline. (Carmine verduci)
CALABRIA, ITALY – Have you always dreamed of opening a handicraft boutique and settling down for good in an idyllic village in the deep south of Italy, where it is warm most of the year – and getting paid for it?
For the brave, it can soon no longer be just a dream.
The Calabria region plans to offer up to 28,000 euros (33,000 US dollars) over a period of up to three years for people who want to relocate to sleepy villages with almost 2,000 inhabitants in order to reverse the year-long population decline.
This includes places near the sea or on mountain slopes, or both.
However, this is not free money. To receive the funds, new residents must also commit to starting a small business, either from scratch or by taking on pre-existing offerings from specific skilled workers that cities are looking for.
There are a few other catches.
Applicants must have a place of residence and – sorry boomers – be no longer than 40 years old. You must be ready to move to Calabria within 90 days of the successful application.
Hopefully the offer will attract proactive young people and millennials who are willing to work.
Gianluca Gallo, a regional councilor, tells CNN that monthly income could be in the range of 1,000 to 800 euros (about $ 1,100 to $ 900) for two to three years. Alternatively, there could be one-time funding to support the start of a new commercial activity – be it a guest house, restaurant, bar, rural farm, or shop.
“We are sharpening the technical details, the exact monthly amount and duration of the funds and whether we also include somewhat larger villages with up to 3,000 inhabitants,” he told CNN. “So far we have had a lot of interest from the villages and hopefully more will follow in the coming years if this first program works.”
The project, known as ‘Active Residency Income’, aims to make Calabria a more attractive place for ‘southern work’ – the renamed southern Italian version of remote work – explains Gianpietro Coppola, Mayor of Altomonte, who contributed to the program .
He says it’s a more focused approach to revitalizing small communities than the $ 1 home sales that recently hit the headlines.
“We want this to be an experiment in social inclusion. Attracting people to the region, enjoying the surroundings, spicing up unused city locations such as conference halls and monasteries with high-speed internet. Insecure tourism and the one-euro houses are not the best ways to polish up southern Italy, “says Coppola.
The “Active Residency Income” project – and the application process – are expected to start online in the next few weeks. The region has been working on it for months and has already provided more than 700,000 euros (approx. 820,000 US dollars) for the project.
The Molise region and the town of Candela in Puglia have launched similar programs in recent years to sell derelict houses for the price of an espresso.
Over 75% of Calabrian cities – around 320 – currently have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, leading to fears that some communities could become completely extinct in a few years if regeneration does not take place.
“The aim is to boost the local economy and breathe new life into small communities,” adds Gallo. “We want job demand to match supply. So we asked the villages to let us know what kind of skilled workers they are missing to attract certain workers.”
With global travel resuming and Italy welcoming tourists again, visiting the region this summer could be a great way to get a feel for Calabrian village life.
Here’s a roundup of the most picturesque places you could end up living.
At first, even Italian speakers may feel a little lost here. The locals speak a strange-sounding Slavic dialect called Arbereshe.
The community was founded in the 14th century by Albanians who fled the Turkish Empire.
Located on a rocky cliff in the wild Pollino National Park, once inhabited by bandits and outlaws, this small hamlet of barely 1,000 inhabitants is what “authentic” Calabria is all about.
The Raganello Gorge, Italy’s largest gorge, is dotted with human-like rocks.
A serpentine path leads down to the “Devil’s Bridge”. Old traditions, Byzantine rituals and special dishes live on.
Old houses are connected by circular narrow streets known as “folds” and have scary looking chimneys that are believed to keep evil at bay.
Samo and Precacore
You will experience the thrill of living here in two ancient hamlets at the same time. Samo was founded by ancient Greeks who took shelter on the hills, but not too far from the shore, and made the village their “port”.
Time stands still.
In the morning the scent of freshly baked bread and fresh cheese wafts over the village when the women leave their low rural stone houses with baskets full of groceries on their heads, as in the old days.
The best part of Samo is its sister ghost hamlet, Precacore, which rises right above the valley. From Samo’s main square, a small winding road leads uphill to the deserted district.
Locals fled after a series of tremors, but today Precacore was dragged from the grave and comes to life in the summer.
Hikers, tourists and descendants of former families flock here to admire the Greco-Byzantine ruins.
Founded on the ashes of a Greek settlement, the village is close to the cozy beaches of Maratea and Praia a Mare.
It’s small but elegant. Residential houses with red tile roofs are grouped at the foot of a majestic fortress with a panoramic loggia.
Renaissance palaces and magnificent stone portals offer an insight into Tuscany in Calabria.
Eagles and wolves populate the forests. Trekking routes lead to the nearby villages of Papasidero, Laino Borgo and Laino Castello.
Legend has it that an Armenian queen built this village on a hill where cows grazed – hence the name, which refers to the term “cattle” in Italian (bue).
Known as the region’s “natural balcony” for the fascinating coastal landscape, it sits right at the top of the Italian boot near Sicily, in the heart of “Greek Calabria” that flourished from settlers from ancient Greece.
Noble stone houses with ornate portals are located under the steeply sloping ruins of a Norman castle.
While strolling through the narrow streets you can still hear the clatter of old looms. The weaving tradition goes back thousands of years and the unique fiber broom plant is still picked on the peaks of the nearby Aspromonte Mountains.
Fresh goat milk is sold every day. Ethnic music festivals, a Byzantine Easter festival with fruit decorations and a picturesque carnival are top events.
This spectacular hilltop castle, built as a vantage point against pirate raids, overlooks a maze of alleys, stone houses and tiny squares with private entrances.
For centuries, powerful feudal families ruled the village, killing and poisoning each other.
Olive groves line the hills and produce a premium extra virgin olive oil. Part of the fortress with high walls and a loggia tower hidden in a cistern has been transformed into an elegant designer resort.
Located at an altitude of 850 meters, but with an area that extends to the sea, this municipality enjoys an enclosed pine forest and a cozy beach with a Saracen tower.
It is close to the border with Basilicata and Puglia, which makes it an ideal place to explore all three regions and get the most out of Pollino National Park and the warm sunshine coast.
With a 10-minute drive, locals can hop downhill for a swim or uphill for a refreshing yoga or trekking session.
According to legend, it was founded by a blind seer who fled from burning Troy. The ruins of a ruined castle overlook cherry, almond and wild apple plantations. The terrain consists of the same material as that of the Ionian Sea in Greece.
Sant’Agata del Bianco
A rural feel remains in this cluster of humble farmhouses, where thick yellowish stone walls and painted green doors take tourists back in time.
The entire village and its rough cobblestone streets have been neatly redesigned. The local hiking trail “Palmenti Route” leads through a network of old wells that were dug into the rocky ground and were once used to make wine.
These date from Greek and Byzantine times and are a piece of open-air history. Colorful wall paintings show verses of poetry, faces of smiling children and people drinking at the bar.
Interesting attractions include the Wine Museum and the Museum of the “Lost Things” of the Rural World.
This village rises on a tufa cliff overlooking the Neto River. It is built in layers according to wealth: the palazzi of the richer families stand on the top of the hill, the modest apartments below are dug into the rock.
There is a Greek and a Hebrew quarter with palm trees.
The baptistery here is the oldest Byzantine monument in Calabria, while the impressive, well-preserved castle features underground frescoes and stables.
Santa Severina is known for its oranges. The villagers are called Aranciaru, which means “orange eater” in the local dialect. The oranges grown here are the pride of Calabria because of the fertile soil and exceptional nutritional values. They are popular in top restaurants and fruit shows.
San Donato di Ninea
This charming village dates back to before the Greek colonization and is located in the deepest part of the Pollino National Park in Calabria.
It’s so remote and hidden in the hills that hardly anyone outside Calabria knew it existed until the 1970s.
The view from high up on the peaks sweeps over the region’s two seas: the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian.
This pristine and untouched place is home to many wild animals and plants and is considered one of the top wilderness reserves in Italy.
Orchids grow on mountain paths that meander to lookout huts. It is a chestnut paradise with popular food fairs.
Keep an eye on the region’s website for news on the project