(CNN) – When Italian cities began offering homes for sale for a little more than $ 1, they inspired legions of dreamers to bet moving to a remote corner of Italy.
Although spending a few thousand extra dollars to renovate the property is usually part of the deal, it is sweetened by the prospect of new life in a beautiful place in a beautiful country.
And then the corona virus attacks, plunging the world into a crisis, with Italy among the worst affected countries.
So what happens when you are quarantined in a destroyed house in a remote village where you can barely speak the language and can’t go home to your loved ones? Does life quickly become a nightmare?
Perhaps surprisingly given the difficulties that followed, the answer seems to be no.
CNN spoke to several people who bought several Italian houses that were offered cheaply by cities that wanted to reverse the downward trend in population.
We find they feel excited and excited to complete renovating their property and making their Italian dream come true.
Apart from the unexpected turn of events, it seems that being stuck in Italy has not been a negative experience.
And the viral crisis has made them better appreciate the beauty of Italian rural villages – such that some are looking to invest in cheaper properties.
Mussomeli is located on a hilltop in Sicily.
Salvatore Catalano, Comune Mussolemi
Miami-based artist Alvaro Solorzano is currently trapped in Mussomeli, a beautiful city on the southern island of Sicily where last year he bought two cheap properties – one of which cost only one euro, or a little more than a dollar.
In March he arrived with his wife, son and daughter boyfriend to start renovating the house. The other three returned to Miami and Solorzano would follow them a few weeks later, but then the flight was canceled.
“I forgot the time. We came here together and I ended up living alone in Mussomeli, without furniture, only a bed and TV, and no one to talk to,” he told CNN. “That’s the most difficult thing. If my wife or my son were with me, it would be different.”
One of the Solorzano properties in Mussomeli.
Solorzano had lived in the B&B, but when it was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, he was forced to move to two of his dilapidated properties, which were almost habitable.
Since then, he has spent time watching TV, learning Italian, going to the supermarket (“the most beautiful part of the day”) and talking on the phone with his family. Little by little, he took advantage of the situation by repairing and painting the walls of the house.
“I do small things but it helps me use the time, so when my son and his girlfriend return home they will be ready,” he said. “Luckily the hardware store in the city is always open and I’m very glad we bought two properties and not just one euro house because we don’t have water or electricity.”
Alvaro Solorzano from Miami said the locals had made his forced stay in Mussomeli a pleasant experience.
Maurizio Di Maria, Comune Mussomeli
Despite initial difficulties, he said his new neighbors helped him throughout the trials.
“The first two nights were terrible,” he said. “It was cold, I slept with my jacket on my pajamas but then the neighbors were great. I can’t complain. They gave me a heater and even offered blankets, which I have, but I can use their internet.”
“They kept checking on me, bringing me lots of food for Easter which took me three days to eat. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Solorzano was brought an Easter cake by his neighbor.
Mussomeli, surrounded by honeysuckle and eucalyptus trees, boasts one of the most amazing fortresses in Italy, known as the Enchanted Castle, which clings like a spider on a pointed stone.
Lush green agricultural land is filled with old sulfur mines, holy sites, Roman necropolis and traces of primitive settlements.
The name of the city means “Bukit Madu” in Latin.
But for Solorzano, the most beautiful places in this place are the friendly inhabitants.
“They are amazing, I know everyone by name,” he said. “There is Mario, the man who delivers bread. I have no words to describe how grateful I am to have them and do not know how I can pay them for everything they do.”
Initially strict restrictions had abated in Italy, allowing him to take a walk, but at first it was difficult, he admitted, because there was nothing that could be done. “It’s terrible, just staying at home, I feel like I’m in prison sometimes.”
Solorzano said he now knew everyone by his name.
Now he is happy to be able to chat with the locals and walk to Mussomeli’s point of view, where he can sit on a bench and enjoy the fresh air and panoramic views of the mountains.
As a painter, Solorzano said he would love to do some art, but because of the lock he could not find a palette or canvas.
Solorzano wants to buy another property in Mussomeli.
Maurizio Di Maria, Comune Mussomeli
“I worked hard to try to return home, but the flight I recently ordered has also been canceled so I really don’t know when I will return to America,” he said. “I want to go back before Father’s Day in June. I’ve missed so many celebrations that I can do with my family.”
The Sicilian Quarantine Solorzano made him love Mussomeli even more. The ordeal, rather than killing enthusiasm for the one-euro adventure of his home, has sparked a desire to buy the third abandoned building.
“I like this city and its people, even if they don’t know you, they help you. It’s like being in another world. You don’t get this in the United States.”
Caught in Tuscany
The Brazilian racer, Douglas Roque, is pictured here with his cousin, trapped in Tuscany during an Italian lockdown.
Brazilian businessman Douglas Roque is another dilapidated home buyer whose enthusiasm to start a new life has been damaged by coronavirus.
Roque was at Fabbriche in Vergemoli, Tuscany, overseeing the renovation of a one-euro farmhouse when the lockout occurred and his flight back home was canceled.
Together with his Brazilian-Italian friend Alberto Da Lio, both from Sao Paulo, both are also in the city to oversee the potential of buying the entire area left for other Brazilian buyers.
If they could not stay in the Da Lio family home near Venice, with the hotels in Vergemoli closed and the residences left completely uninhabitable, they would have nowhere to go, Roque said.
Roque, on the right, is pictured here with the mayor of Fabbriche di Vergermoli, Michele Giannini.
Fabbriche di Vergemoli is a group of hamlets scattered in the Apuan Alps protected forest registered at UNESCO. The area was filled with ruins of abandoned miners who were flooded with vegetation. Many areas can be reached just on foot.
Roque’s dilapidated three-story field, which is furnished with a forgotten chest of wine and old wine casks, is located in the Dogana neighborhood, where a stream of pure water flows under a beautiful ancient bridge.
“I will start a restyle and then everything is blocked,” Roque said. “It was terrible, our return flight was canceled and we had a problem with the Brazilian consulate.
“I came here in February to pursue a renovation of my house, all the documents are finished, I am ready to go but cannot continue. And my family is in Brazil, where the virus cases have increased. I am worried for them and they are worried for me. ”
A piece of perfection
Roque also tried to buy other houses in the villages for fellow Brazilians.
Courtesy of Douglas Roque
The two friends also had to deal with the consequences of a prolonged stay: the complexity of monthly credit card limits and changes in seasonal clothing when they arrived in winter and now it was almost spring (fortunately, they found some lighter holes at Da Lio’s).
While he waits for global air traffic to continue, Roque wants to set foot again in Vergemoli as soon as Italian authorities lift restrictions on movement between regions – a move expected in early June.
“So far I have tried working on my project online, contacting construction companies and establishing relationships with buyers, friends and other Brazilian relatives who are interested in buying property in Vergemoli but cannot travel now. I hope to finish everything soon.”
Roque said he chose Vergemoli from all places in Italy to buy a one-euro house because, in spite of everything that happened, it remained a dream destination.
“Tuscany is a remarkable area and the historic and artistic cities are nearby. It’s the perfect place.”