Covid helps set off stampede for reasonable Italian homes
(CNN) – When the mayor of a sleepy Italian town announced he was selling houses that people could move into for less than the price of a used car, he thought he might get an offer or two.
“We were inundated with inquiries,” Gianfilippo Mignogna told CNN. “Many people have sent us touching letters asking why they would like to buy a house here and become part of our community, along with their photos to introduce who they are.
“Some had fascinating, intriguing personal stories tied to our territory and our migration history.”
News continues to flow in, says Mignogna. Writers, cooks, scientists, doctors, filmmakers, and ordinary families have all tried.
Biccari is the latest in a string of Italian towns and villages selling rundown old houses for a song in hopes of reversing the depopulation trends that threaten their very existence.
But while the city has partnered with others to launch homes in need of renovation for € 1 or just over a dollar, it bucked the trend by also easily offering ready-to-move homes for sale, starting at € 7,500 ($ 9,000 ).
Even if Covid restricts worldwide travel, Mayor Mignogna said the deal acted like a magnet for people who wanted to move to Italy. Some have been encouraged to contact the city because of the pandemic.
“A few foreigners who happened to be in Italy drove to the buildings,” he says. “I’ve put a team together to answer the emails. The properties will be online shortly.”
Among those who dreamed of a new life under the Apulian sun, drank great wine and indulged in delicious food were some applicants hoping to return to the community from which their families had emigrated.
Tony Colanardi says he already speaks the local dialect thanks to his father who emigrated from Biccari.
Tony Colanardi, who owns a paint company in Ontario, says his father was born in Biccari in 1938 and immigrated to Canada in the 1960s to start his own family.
Colanardi says he has never lost his roots and sees the deal with cheap houses as an opportunity to further connect with the city of his origins.
“We kept a lot of customs, including making a lot of groceries at home,” Colanardi told CNN. “We still make our own tomato passata, sausages and wine today.”
Colanardi even speaks a biccaric dialect that only locals understand and often visit the village. He says his children love Biccari – the food, the hiking, the history of the area – and every time he returns to the village he is thrilled to show them the true places of their grandfather’s stories.
“Biccari offers a nice, quiet lifestyle with beautiful scenery,” he says. “The climate is perfect for someone from Canada. As I approach retirement age, I want to spend some of my time in a place where the pace and people aren’t that fast.” are nice.”
Save the rural world
The Jannink family wants to help save rural communities.
The Dutch-born husband and wife Tom and Ellen Jannink own two businesses that focus on helping villages keep their communities livable. They have two children and hope to be able to buy a ready-to-move-in property in Biccari for leisure and work.
“We’re looking for a place where we can find peace and quiet,” Tom Jannink told CNN. “Space for our family in which we work and in which we can also receive guests.
“In this way we can share beautiful Italy with our large social and business network. And maybe entice more families to move to Biccari.”
Jannink says he has worked with communities in the Netherlands that are facing the same problems as Biccari and believes he has the knowledge and experience to help revitalize the city.
The family is interested in a second home in Biccari where they can work remotely for much of the year – increasingly an option due to the pandemic.
The Italian-Brazilian Eduardo Bergonzoni Junqueira from Sao Paulo also wants to help revitalize the dwindling local community.
His ancestors came from the Italian region of Tuscany. He and his wife Ana Carolina want to offer their scientific skills to improve the village. Junqueira is a laboratory technician, physiotherapist and has started her Masters in Neuroscience.
“I want to research and understand my Italian citizenship,” he says. “I plan to provide information technology services to support local agriculture and tourism and to strengthen the traditions of local society.
“Since my wife and I work in healthcare, another option is to validate our diplomas in Italy and offer our services to people in the area,” says Junqueira.
They are looking for a cheap renovated home rather than a 1 euro property to avoid the complexities of renovating.
“I like old houses and I just want a comfortable place that I can change depending on my family’s needs and in my free time.”
“Happy and fulfilled”
Andres Jose Encerrado Manriquez hopes his research background will benefit the community.
Andres Jose Encerrado Manriquez
The reality of the coronavirus pandemic has led many people to reevaluate their lives, which has sparked their interest in Biccari.
Andres Jose Encerrado Manriquez, a physicist from Chihuahua, Mexico, wants to buy a ready-to-move house in Biccari to turn it into permanent residence.
There are no children around, but he and his wife have extended families who are also interested in spending time in Biccari. They also have four dogs, two rats, and a snake.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, life is too short to wait for our dreams to fall on our laps,” he says. “I learned this after both my father and my spouse’s father died last year due to Covid they received from doing their job in Mexico.
“We want to live a life where we feel happy and fulfilled, not just a life of survival and work to pay the next bills.”
When Encerrado Manriquez saw the original CNN story, he realized that the housing contract could help the couple live happy lives while also helping to revitalize a village full of culture and natural beauty.
If he manages to turn this into reality, he will seek to support the development of the cultural and artistic values of the tiny community of Biccari. He will say that he will use his physics degree to help protect the environment and use green energy for sustainability – something his father did on Mexico’s farms.
Andrew and Tamara Tiss want to swap rural US life for Italian land.
Biccari is the only village in the increasingly popular tourist destination of Apulia that offers cheap houses, which could be partly responsible for the great response from abroad. The region is known for its strong wines, extra virgin olive oil, delicious food and great locations.
In contrast to the island of Sicily, where many cities have offered house businesses worth € 1, Puglia is on the mainland and has a strategic location on the Adriatic coast. It faces Greece, Slovenia and Croatia.
The Tiss family of Poolesville, Maryland says they are also looking for an affordable Biccari vacation rental that will be drawn to the nearby beautiful Dauni Mountains Park and peaceful surroundings.
Although they already live in a rural area with an agricultural reserve, they are still looking for the idyllic tranquility of the village.
“We’re excited about the idea of buying a cheap home in Biccari that has been renovated if possible, and we’d like to buy the house as a vacation home for our family in the summer months,” said Andrew Tiss, a medical technician who works at Surgical Transplantation and cryopreservation will help.
Together with his wife Tamara, a lawyer with Italian blood, and their two daughters, they chose Biccari, also because it is near the Adriatic port of Brindisi, where they can get on a ferry to visit friends in Greece.
They look forward to traveling to Puglia and Tiss is ready to hop on a plane to see the properties if that speeds the process up.
“We both plan to learn some Italian before our first trip to Biccari,” says Tiss. “I have already been vaccinated against Covid and my wife and children will be waiting to be vaccinated before going abroad.”
The right place
Ernesto Quaranta says he and his wife Analia Diaz want to regain the lifestyle of their Italian grandfather.
Italian-Argentine film director Ernesto Quaranta and his Spanish wife, Analìa Diaz, interior designer and economics professor, hope that Biccari will offer them an escape from their hectic life in Buenos Aires.
They believe that buying a ready-to-move house could also help them further fuel transatlantic relations by using it as the headquarters of a cultural integration project.
When Quaranta’s grandfather came from the tiny village of Palata in nearby Molise, he felt the attraction to reconnect with his Italian origins and saw an opportunity to get closer to his hometown.
“It’s a way to relive my grandparents’ culture and world,” he says. “We love the tranquility and quality of life in Italy, far from the chaos and pollution that make it an ideal place for remote work.”
The couple are members of Argentina Per Il Mondo, an organization that unites Italian-Argentinians around the world. The agency already has an office in Biccari to help Argentines of Italian origin apply for Italian citizenship.
Quaranta and his wife plan to visit Biccari soon to pick a potential home in which to develop virtual reality documentaries about the relationships between the two communities.
“We are looking for a comfortable place to live, where we can continue our work, play sports, travel, enjoy nature and eat good Italian food,” he says. “We think Biccari could be the right place for us.”