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Saturday 30 August 2014

For sale: Italian alpine village for €245,000

Nick Squires

Published 06/07/2014 | 20:49

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Gran Paradiso Park

A picturesque village in the Italian Alps has been put up for sale on Ebay, with a starting price of just €245,000.

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There is just one catch - many of the 14 timber and stone houses and 50 outbuildings in the mountain village are in a state of abandonment and would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore.

One condition of the sale is that the houses must retain their distinctive architectural features and that they be restored according to local traditions.

The village, Calsazio, lies just outside the Gran Paradiso national park, a vast protected area of mountain peaks and valleys teeming with ibex, chamois and eagles.

It was originally a hunting reserve for King Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy, but was made Italy’s first national park in 1922.

The village has been put up for sale on Ebay by its few remaining inhabitants, who are hoping that a single buyer will come forward.

They have seen the population plummet as young people turn their backs on a life on the land and head for larger towns and cities in search of work.

The idea is to turn the village into a tourist attraction, converting its crumbling stone houses and barns into hotels or restaurants.

The owners point out that while blissfully quiet and remote, surrounded by unspoilt countryside, the village lies just 30 miles from Turin.

The sale - and hoped for redevelopment of the tiny village - is being assisted by UNCEM, the National Union of Mountain Communities, an organisation which represents Italy’s mountain villages.

More than 50 per cent of Italy is mountainous, with upland regions boasting a population of 10 million people, but the number is dwindling all the time.

“Calsazio would lend itself to being taken over by a private owner who could acquire all the buildings and redevelop them,” Marco Bussone, a representative of UNCEM in the Piedmont region, told La Repubblica newspaper.

“The owners contacted us about a year ago when we opened up a process to identify possible villages that could be revitalized throughout the entire Alpine area of Piedmont.

“The buildings have distinctive architectural styles which need to be preserved. We couldn’t allow sloppy restorations that don’t fit in with the local traditions, especially as the village is close to the national park.

We will provide a restoration master plan to whoever buys the village.”

The union has worked for years with experts from an institute of mountain architecture in Turin to conserve the unique character of similar Alpine villages.

The deadline for the online auction of the village is July 15.

“The dream is to revive these mountain villages, which too often are just abandoned,” he said.

Throughout the Italian Alps and along the spine of the Apennine mountains, villages lie deserted or with a tiny number of elderly inhabitants.

Many of their inhabitants left during the 19th century to seek new lives in the United States, Australia or South America, but the exodus continues as young people struggle to find work. Youth unemployment is now over 40 per cent.

Tourism has proved a salvation for some hamlets. Italy has pioneered the idea of the “albergo diffuse”, or spread-out hotel, in which entire villages are converted into boutique resorts.

There are now about 40 of these unusual establishments in Italy, with guests staying in different houses in the village and the reception and restaurant located in a central building.

But many more villages have simply been abandoned to wild goats and encroaching vegetation, a process exacerbated by Italy’s low birth rate and ageing population.

Telegraph.co.uk

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