Just a few years ago, high tax bills prompted hundreds of Italians to offload or abandon their historic castles. But the overabundance of old villas and monasteries has apparently given the Italian government a new idea: To transform these sites into “slow travel” tourist magnets outfitted with spas, restaurants, and amenities for cyclists and religious pilgrims. The best part? They’re giving the buildings away for free.
That’s right. If you’ve ever dreamt of renovating a historic European ruin into a bustling B&B, now might be your chance. Italy is giving away 103 historic sites this year, with another 200 to be released by 2020. The buildings range from picturesque castles and fortified towers to 19th-century homes, railway stations, inns, and even a monastery or two.
Successful applicants will be given a nine-year contract to renovate the properties and run their businesses. The arrangements can then be extended another nine years. But if your plan to transform a site is really good, the Italian government can extend a 50-year lease.