You Can Buy a $1 House in Sicily — Just Like This Sopranos-Turned-HGTV Star!

Italy is back at it again with what may become a tradition for its small, underpopulated towns: selling homes for €1. That’s about $1.18 and less than the price of an espresso.

If you missed out on snagging a bargain-priced home in the past, now’s your chance to try again. The town of Salemi in Sicily — just a 30- to 40-minute drive from the vineyards of Marsala — is the latest to launch a €1 home initiative.

Over the next month, a few-dozen dilapidated homes will go up for auction with a starting price of €1, CNN Travel reports. As with the other Italian villages that sold crumbling homes for these low prices, Salemi began this initiative as a way to revive the town. In 1968, an earthquake damaged large areas of Sicily’s Bellice Valley and at least 4,000 residents fled from Salemi. The town’s population numbers have never fully recovered, but Salemi's mayor, Domenico Venuti, hopes this initiative will help combat that. 

"Before launching the scheme we first had to recover the old parts of Salemi where the houses are located, upgrading infrastructures and services from roads to electric grids and sewage pipes,” Venuti told CNN Travel. “Now the town is ready for the next step.”

The homes for sale date back to the 1600s and are built with sandstone extracted from the nearby caves. Most of the homes require significant repairs, but those that are in relatively good shape are likely to sell for much more than the €1 price tag that will start the auction.

Keeping COVID concerns in mind (Salemi has about 30 cases right now), as well as travel restrictions, potential buyers don’t have to be physically present in Salemi to make an offer. They will, however, be required to send a detailed restyle plan to show they’re committed to renovating the property.

The renovation projects will be evaluated according to the urban impact. Those planning to convert one of the properties into a B&B or another type of business establishment with economic activity will receive extra points and tax credits. One buyer can purchase multiple homes, but all buyers must pay a deposit of €3,000 (about $3,545), which will be returned if the renovation is complete within three years.

To help buyers make their final decisions, photos will be available to view the properties, as well as maps of their locations, which are all within the ancient walls of the city center. Once the project goes live, they can also download application forms on the city council’s institutional website. 

Actress Lorraine Bracco, who starred in Goodfellas and The Sopranos, was one of the buyers who decided to take the plunge and purchase a $1 home in a different town in Sicily — Sambuca di Sicily — and she'll be documenting her entire experience in a new HGTV show, My Big Italian Adventure, premiering October 30.

The series follows the 66-year-old actress as she says “ciao” to a 1,075-square-foot, 200-year-old property in a hilltop town on the island, located just off the “toe” of Italy’s boot.

She quickly finds out her home is crumbling from the inside out (the walls, floors, and roof are all deteriorating) and has no electricity, running water, kitchen or bathrooms.

With the help of an architect, contractor, translator and several friends new and old, Bracco guts the home, overcoming challenges as she works to finish the renovations within the time frame stipulated by the town. Fans will watch as the actress turn the old house into a place she and her family can call their Italian retreat for years to come, honoring her family history along the way. 

My Big Italian Adventure premieres Friday, October 30, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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