If you’ve been confused in deciding what to do with your life, then an Italian town might have the answer for you. Or, if you’ve ever dreamed of starting a family in a rural landscape, then this is also for you. The Italian town of Locana, a picturesque Alpine commune in the mountainous Piedmont region, has been struggling with a steady decline in their population. In a last ditch effort to combat the dwindling population and bring the town back to its former glory, couples are being offered up to $10,000 (£7,645) over three years to make Locana their home.
Locana, a town located in the Italian Alps, will pay you $10,000 over three years to move there—but the catch is that you have to have at least one child.
The town is one of many in rural Italy that has seen its population age and decline in recent decades. About a century ago, the town had over 7,000 residents living and owning businesses. Within 100 years, that number was significantly reduced to less than 1,500. According to People magazine, the birth rate is extremely low, estimated to an average of 10 births a year, while death rate is an average of 40 per year.
After noticing the steady decline in population, the town decided that the only solution is to pay foreigners to move in and start their own family.
Giovanni Bruno Mattiet, Locana’s mayor, has made the offer in the hopes of saving the community. Giovanni first made a plea to local Italians and foreigners who are already living in Italy. However, his plea went unnoticed, so Giovanni was forced to extend his invitation to non-Italians living abroad as well.
Today, the town is extending its invitation to non residents from all over the world who wish to live in peace and raise their children in a beautiful environment. In the last decade or two, the number of young couples and children have decreased, which has resulted in local restaurants, businesses, amenities and schools to be shut down. In a statement, the mayor explained:
“Our population has shrunk from 7,000 residents in the early 1900’s to barely 1,500 as people left looking for a job at Turin’s big factories. Our school each year faces the risk of shutting down due to few pupils. I can’t allow this to happen.”
Today, Locana is mostly called “ghost towns” by neighboring places, since there are now 139 villages with fewer than 150 residents.
“We’re looking to draw mostly young people and professionals who work remotely or are willing to start an activity here,” he says. “There are dozens of closed shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques just waiting for new people to run them.”
The town may be small but it’s wealthy, thanks to the clean hydroelectric energy it sells to Italy’s state. Locana’s territory spreads across 132 square kilometers of the Gran Paradiso mountain reserve, offering fresh air and outdoor activities like ice-skating, fishing, trekking, rock climbing, swimming, soccer and tennis.
Locana also has chestnut forests, solitary chapels, abandoned lodges, dairy farms, mills and copper mines that are desperately waiting to be reopened. There are also two minuscule ghost hamlets, but since they have been abandoned for decades, they are only accessible by foot on mule paths covered by overgrown cherry shrubs.
“Locana offers a healthy lifestyle, great food and folklore fairs all-year round”, says Giovanni.
A little farther north, on the Swiss frontier, the mayor of Borgomezzavalle is also making the same offer.
To revitalize a population that’s dwindled to barely 320 residents, Alberto Preioni is not only selling abandoned mountain cottages for just €1 — just over $1 — he’s also paying all newcomers who are starting a family.
“This town was created in 2016 with the fusion of two neighboring villages which were disappearing,” he tells CNN Travel. “We’ve got tons of money to invest but we need kids and youth.
“That’s why I’m offering €1,000 for each newborn and another €2,000 to anyone willing to start a business and register for VAT.”
Locana’s territory spreads across 51 square miles (132 sq km) in the snowy peaks of the Gran Paradiso mountain reserve, and houses that are built within the stunning mountain town are made of stone and wood with typical pointed tile roofs and frescoed walls covered with flowers.
Old bridges cross clear streams as the valleys and chestnut forests, solitary chapels, abandoned lodges, crumbling dairy farms, mills and copper mines stand in need of refurbishment. According to CNN, the local taxes are also very low and the town’s mayor also promises free public transport to all students.
While this all seems too good to be true, CNN also reports that the offer is far more complicated than it looks and local property regulations are often tangled up in bizarre legalities. Apart from that, the locals have mixed feelings or attitudes towards foreign incomers and are sometimes unpredictable. According to Andrea Ungari, contemporary history professor at Rome’s top LUISS University, shoring up communities with an influx of foreigners will fail to address the issues that caused people to desert the towns in the first place.
“It’s OK in the short run, foreigners love Italy’s beauty and crave for an eternal holiday in a sunny spot,” he says. “But in the long run, even they need upgraded infrastructures, good and nearby hospitals and efficient services; especially retirees. You need a long-term plan to develop the local territory and keep people there.”
Andrea Ungari also explains that while the idea sounds too good, the strategy is unlikely to gain traction in Italy’s current political climate.