(CNN) – When Italian cities began offering homes for sale for just over $ 1, they inspired legions of dreamers to take the risk of moving to a remote corner of Italy.
While spending a few thousand dollars more to renovate the property is usually part of the deal, it has been softened by the prospect of a new life in an idyllic location in a beautiful country.
And then the coronavirus struck, plunging the world into crisis, with Italy among the countries most affected.
So what happens when you are quarantined in a ruined house in an isolated village where you barely speak the language and cannot go home to your loved ones? Is life quickly becoming a nightmare?
Perhaps, given the difficulties that followed, the answer seems to be no.
CNN spoke with a few people who bought some of the Italian homes offered at low prices by cities wishing to reverse the declining population trend.
We found them optimistic and eager to complete the renovation of their property and to realize their Italian dream.
Despite the unexpected turn of events, it seems that the blockage in Italy was not such a negative experience after all.
And the virus crisis has made them appreciate even more the beauty of Italian rural villages – so much so that some seek to invest in cheaper properties.
Mussomeli is located on a hill in Sicily.
Salvatore Catalano, Mussolemi municipality
Miami-based artist Alvaro Solorzano is currently stuck in Mussomeli, a quaint town on the southern island of Sicily, where he bought two cheap properties last year – one of which cost only ‘a euro or just over a dollar.
In March, he arrived with his wife, son, and girlfriend to start renovating the houses. The other three returned to Miami and Solorzano was to follow them a few weeks later, but his flight was later canceled.
“I lost track of time. We came here together and I ended up living in my forties in Mussomeli on my own, with no furniture, just a bed and a television, and no one to talk to,” he says. there at CNN. “It was the most difficult thing. If my wife or son had been with me, it would have been different.”
One of Solorzano’s properties in Mussomeli.
Solorzano had stayed in a B&B, but when it closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, he was forced to move to the less run-down of his two properties, which was roughly habitable.
Since then, he’s been killing time watching TV, learning Italian, going to the supermarket (“the best part of the day”) and talking on the phone with his family. Little by little, he made the most of the situation by repairing and painting the walls of the house.
“I did little things but it helped me use my time, so when my son and his girlfriend come back, their house will be ready,” he says. “Fortunately, the hardware store in the city has always been open and I am very happy to have bought two properties and not just a one euro house because it has neither water nor electricity.”
Alvaro Solorzano of Miami says that local residents made his forced stay at Mussomeli an enjoyable experience.
Maurizio Di Maria, commune Mussomeli
Despite an initial ordeal, he says that his new neighbors helped him throughout the ordeal.
“The first two nights were terrible,” he says. “It was cold, I slept with my jacket on my pajamas but the neighbors were great. I can’t complain. They gave me radiators and even offered blankets, which I had, but I could use their internet. ”
“They kept monitoring me, brought me tons of food for Easter, which took me three days to eat. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Solorzano received Easter cakes from his neighbors.
Mussomeli, surrounded by honeysuckle and eucalyptus, has one of the most breathtaking fortresses in Italy, known as the enchanted castle, which hangs like a spider on a sharp rock.
Fertile green farmland is dotted with old sulfur mines, shrines, Roman necropolises, and traces of primitive settlements.
The name of the city means “honey hill” in Latin.
But for Solorzano the sweetest attractions of the place are its welcoming residents.
“They are wonderful, I know everyone by name,” he says. “There is Mario, the guy who delivers the bread. I have no words to describe how grateful I am for having them and I don’t know how I could ever repay them for everything they did . ”
At first, the severe restrictions eased in Italy, allowing him to walk around, but at first it was difficult, he admits, because there was nothing to do. “It was terrible, just staying at home, I sometimes wanted to be in prison.”
Real Estate Empire
Solorzano says he now knows everyone by name.
Now he loves being able to chat with the locals and take a stroll to the Mussomeli viewpoint, where he can sit on a bench and enjoy the fresh air and mountain views.
As a painter, Solorzano says he would have liked to make art, but due to the lockup, he could not find a palette or canvas.
Solorzano wants to buy another property in Mussomeli.
Maurizio Di Maria, commune Mussomeli
“I’m working hard to get home, but a flight I recently booked has also been canceled, so I really don’t know when I’ll be back in the United States,” he said. “I want to be back before Father’s Day in June. I have already missed so many festivities that I could have celebrated with my family.”
Solorzano’s Sicilian quarantine made him love Mussomeli even more. The ordeal, instead of having killed the enthusiasm for its adventure of a euro house, fueled the desire to buy a third abandoned building.
“I love this city and the people, even if they don’t know you, they help you. It’s like you are in another world. You don’t get that in the United States.”
Trapped in Tuscany
Brazilian Douglas Roque, pictured here with his cousin, was stuck in Tuscany during the foreclosure of Italy.
Brazilian businessman Douglas Roque is another dilapidated home buyer whose enthusiasm for starting a new life has not been hindered by the coronavirus.
Roque was in Fabbriche di Vergemoli, Tuscany, to oversee the renovation of a one-euro farmhouse when the lockout struck and his return flight was canceled.
With his Brazilian-Italian friend Alberto Da Lio, both from Sao Paulo, the two were also in town to oversee the potential purchase of an entirely abandoned area for other Brazilian buyers.
If they hadn’t been able to stay in Da Lio’s family home near Venice, with closed hotels in Vergemoli and an abandoned house that was totally uninhabitable, they would have had nowhere to go, says Roque.
Roque, on the right, is represented here with the mayor of Fabbriche di Vergermoli, Michele Giannini.
Fabbriche di Vergemoli is a group of hamlets scattered in the protected forest of the Apuan Alps listed as World Heritage by UNESCO. The area is dotted with ruins of abandoned miners’ homes overgrown with vegetation. Many areas are only accessible by foot.
Roque’s dilapidated three-story farmhouse, which includes a chestnut cellar and forgotten old wine barrels, is located in the Dogana district, where a pristine stream flows under an ancient picturesque bridge.
“I was about to start the restyle, then everything was blocked,” says Roque. “It was terrible, our return flight was canceled and we had problems with the Brazilian consulate.
“I came here in February to continue renovating my house, all the paperwork was finished, I was ready to go but I could not continue. And my family is in Brazil, where the virus has increased. I’m worried about them and they are worried about me. ”
Piece of perfection
Roque also tries to buy other houses in the villages for Brazilian compatriots.
Courtesy of Douglas Roque
The two friends also had to deal with the consequences of an extended stay: the hassle of monthly credit card limits and seasonal clothing changes when they arrived in winter and it’s now almost spring (luckily, they found lighter gafrments at Da Lio).
While waiting for the resumption of world air traffic, Roque is impatient to set foot in Vergemoli as soon as the Italian authorities lift the restrictions on movement between regions – a decision expected in early June.
“During all this time, I tried to work on my project online, by contacting construction companies and liaising with other Brazilian buyers, friends and relatives interested in buying a property in Vergemoli but who cannot not travel now. I hope to finalize everything soon. ” ”
Roque says that he chose Vergemoli from all the places in Italy to buy a house for one euro because, despite everything that has happened, it remains a dream destination.
“Tuscany is a wonderful region and the great historical and artistic cities are nearby. It is the perfect place.”