(Granthshala) – With no crowds even before the pandemic, beautiful villages, proximity to Rome, access to ski slopes and incredible scenery, the Italian region of Abruzzo has a lot to offer as a destination.
All that has changed now. Abruzzo has finally joined the €1-house club, launching a new scheme in the picturesque town of Pratola Peligna.
Nestled in the Apennine Mountains, close to some of Italy’s best skiing pistes, it’s a secluded spot with a medieval district full of abandoned properties local authorities hope will soon have new life.
Like many other villages and towns selling cheap homes, Pratola Peligna has suffered a decline in population. In the 1930s, it had about 13,000 residents, but local officials say there are now only 7,000.
Some homes have already been bought and restored.
Courtesy Guerino Petrella
Many homes were left behind as families fled in search of a brighter future elsewhere. The dilapidated condition of their old homes has been exacerbated by several earthquakes over the years, including a powerful earthquake in 2009 that devastated the nearby city of L’Aquila.
Before launching the €1 sale, local authorities are mapping abandoned properties and trying to contact the old owners – a daunting task, says local councilor Paolo Di Baco.
“Our goal is to re-brighten them all and regain the beauty of the old center, even if it takes a while.”
Details and photos of houses considered up for sale are being uploaded regularly to the Protola Peligna Town Hall website. Some have already been bought.
Di Baco says that in order to expedite sales processes, new rules have been introduced to encourage buyers to rapidly restore their new residence within a maximum of three years.
The city is hoping to reverse a population trend.
Courtesy Paolo Di Baco
Unlike other cities running similar projects, Pratola Peligna will not require buyers to pay a deposit of up to €5,000 to guarantee that they will renovate their new home. Instead, if they fail to file a detailed plan of construction works within six months, they will face a €10,000 fine.
“It’s really in a worst-case scenario,” Di Baco says. “We just want to make sure buyers really follow through on their commitment and don’t just buy for €1 and then disappear.”
Mayor Antonella Di Nio wants things to go smoothly, but with certainty. She complains that in the past there have been people, including some foreigners, who snatched up a cheap crumbling home and then, apparently, disappeared into thin air.
“It spoils the picture and ends our efforts,” she says. “Especially with foreigners, it becomes impossible to track them around the world and force them to complete renovations. This is something we want to avoid at the moment.”
There are strict rules for older owners as well. Either they agree to renovate their family home to avoid a dangerous collapse, or they must hand over the property to the local authorities. Many have done so to avoid the burden and expense of maintaining fallen buildings.
“If in the meantime a roof collapses or a wall breaks down, posing a threat to public safety, the Town Hall intervenes to secure the building and pay for damages and repairs to the old owners, or their heirs. will do,” DiBacco says.
Buyers will not have to pay the deposit amount, but will face fines if they do not file a restoration plan.
Courtesy Paolo Di Baco
The abandoned stone houses of Pratola Peligna are nestled in its historic district, known as Schiavonia, where the streets are only wide enough for carriages of donkeys.
Some of the properties are in good shape, with elaborate stone decorations and fancy vaulted portals. Some are even equipped. But most are just ruins housing abandoned items.
They are all relatively small – about 70 square meters (750 sq ft) across two floors. Some have multiple wrought iron balconies, a cellar, and stairs leading to the front door. In the old days, houses were built in such a way that access to the houses was blocked by heavy snowfall.
Most of the city’s €1 buildings have two separate entrances – one main one and the other leading to an underground storage room down the street. Large houses also had an attic and a terrace where housewives washed linens and dried grains and beans.
In the olden days, families and animals lived in common places. It was a tight-knit community in which people looked out for each other, says Di Bacco.
Some of the buildings, which once belonged to the rural bourgeoisie, are still adorned with emblems and coats of arms on the walls and painted wooden doors.
Other dilapidated houses covered with moss have holes in their roofs and empty windows.
The areas occupied by Pratola Peligna are light-coloured, labyrinths of new houses connected to the old through a network of arched passageways.
The town overlooks an ancient valley that is crossed by rivers and surrounded by ski slopes and forests, once raided by pirates. Prehistoric fossils including the skeleton of a mammoth have been found in the area.
Trekking routes lead into the jungle of Majela National Park, which is still roamed by wolves and bears.
Carnivals and Fairs
The roofs of some houses have collapsed. Others still remain intact.
Courtesy Paolo Di Baco
It is said that Pratola was founded by furious tribes who refused to surrender to imperial Rome. The city’s name is derived from the Latin word “pratule”, meaning “vast cultivated meadow.” Once a thriving rural center under the rule of powerful bishops, its decline began when farmers could not survive on the fruits of their hard labor.
The so-called “Earth District” is the most ancient part of the city, surrounded by ruined walls and accessible by a stone portal bearing the image of a snake around a cross.
Its rural past is on display in a quaint peasant museum.
Some old traditions survive. A religious parade takes place during which the faithful go on their knees and pilgrims cross the mountains barefoot to celebrate the victory over the plague in 1456.
A picturesque carnival and food and artisan fairs attract day-trippers. Local specialties include special legume dishes called “cannellini” and “poverelli”. The Christmas menu includes seven different soups and spaghetti with trout sauce.
Local cakes include moon-shaped “cesio ripiano” (stuffed chickpeas) pastries, filled with chickpea cream, chocolate and candied fruit, and “pizzelle” waffles, traditionally prepared by housewives and chefs. , who compete in the cooking marathon once a year.
Pratola Peligna makes some of the region’s top wines such as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the pinks Serrasuolo and Trebbiano.
The popular skiing resorts of Roccaraso and Pescasseroli are nearby, while the town of Pescara on the Adriatic coast is relatively close by. The village of Sulmona, famous for its artisanal confetti, is only 9 kilometers (95.6 mi) away.
Credit : www.cnn.com