- By Bill Bonner
About a year ago, we learned that a town in Sicily was giving away houses - for free. It was a hill town, in the interior, but Sicily is a small place; it was not too far from the coast or from big cities.
We quickly dispatched one of our researchers. He reported that the free house deal was real. A small town was desperate to stop the depopulation trend that was emptying central Sicily of people. Houses had been abandoned as owners died or moved to the city. Rather than continue to pay the taxes, owners simply turned them over to the city government. What was the city to do with them? One town - we can’t remember the name of it - decided to give them away.
Our reporter got back to us with an opinion: the free houses were probably not the best deal. They required too much renovation. But the town - in fact, almost all of Sicily’s small towns - had plenty of houses that were in decent shape and could be bought for very little money.
We had a chance to visit one of those small towns on our drive from Agrigento to Syracuse. Piazza Armerina is in the hills, not too far from Enna, said to be one of the prettiest in the country, and about 2 hours from the coast. At its center, on top of the hill, is a large church built of brown stone, with a plaza in front. From there, narrow streets spiraled down the hill, revealing small squares, restaurants, balconies festooned with drying laundry and all the paraphernalia of small town Sicilian life.
Our subject for the last few days has been how to live better for less money.
In fact, we have taken it as a challenge to find ways to live on $500 a month.
So far, the consensus of readers is that living in a used motor home in a Walmart parking lot is not better, and maybe not even possible. We don’t disagree. But what about living in Piazza Armerina?
It would not be for everyone. But it might work for some....
We must sign off...we are rushing to catch a ship.
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Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.