Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 16:52 UK

Sicily mayor offers bargain homes

A scene from a small town in Sicily
London too expensive? How about a home in small-town Sicily

A small town in western Sicily has come up with a revolutionary solution to solve its property problems.

They are offering houses in the town, which sits between two rivers, for just a single euro (81 pence; $1.44).

The idea is the brainchild of mayor Vittorio Sgarbi, convinced it is the only way to revitalise its crumbling historic heart.

Most of the villas were damaged by an earthquake 40 years ago and since then, much of the local population moved out.

"There are 3,700 houses owned by the council, almost all in the old town, that are in danger of falling down - of crumbling and dying," Mr Sgarbi explained.


There is a catch - those who buy will be obliged to sympathetically renovate the old houses without changing their style within two years at some significant cost.

Mr Sgarbi initially offered the houses free of charge, to residents of Salemi who agreed to do the renovations.

But then, keen to raise awareness of his cause, he gave the first to football boss Jose Mourinho's new employer, Massimo Moratti, chairman of Inter Milan.

"We're thinking of people who have the sensibility and economic resources to embark on this adventure," Mr Sgarbi said.

"In exchange for a token payment of one euro we will offer them one of these houses and ask that they undertake to restore them within two years while respecting their original characteristics."

A former art critic, who once defined himself as an anarchist, Mr Sgarbi was a senior official in the culture ministry during a previous government led by current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Among those said to be keen is former Genesis star Peter Gabriel.

Mr Sgarbi is delighted by the level of interest, saying: "We have had a lot of interest and people are already booking up to come down here".

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