An earthquake devastated the Sicilian village of Salemi in 1968, killing 200 people and reducing thousands of buildings to rubble. Down the hill, a modern city sprung up in the village’s place, but the historical center has been a ghost town ever since. Except for a few dozen habitable villas, the ruins are frozen in time: tattered curtains hang on broken windows and rusty table legs protrude from heaps of rubble.
Now Salemi is taking an unusual step to reincarnate the old town: it is giving the dilapidated villas away. The city’s new mayor is offering 3,000 of the villas for the bargain-basement price of €1 a piece. The catch? The new owners have two years to renovate, staying true to each building’s original characteristics and, when possible, using the area’s local artisans, masons and builders.