(CNN) – Ever dreamed of opening a craft store and settling down for good in an idyllic village in the deep south of Italy, where it’s hot almost all year round – and getting paid to do so?
For those willing to take the plunge, it may soon no longer be just a dream.
The region of Calabria plans to offer up to € 28,000 ($ 33,000) over a maximum of three years to people willing to relocate to sleepy villages with nearly 2,000 inhabitants in hopes of reversing years of population decline.
These include locations near the sea or on the mountain sides or both.
However, this is not money for nothing. To get the funds, new residents must also commit to starting a small business, either from scratch or by taking up pre-existing offers from specific professionals wanted by the cities.
There are also a few other catches.
Applicants must take up residence and ̵
It is hoped that the offer will attract proactive young people and millennials who are eager to work.
Gianluca Gallo, a regional adviser, tells CNN that the monthly income can range from € 1,000 to € 800 for two to three years. Alternatively, there may be a one-off funding to support the launch of a new commercial activity – be it a B&B, restaurant, bar, rural farm or shop.
“We are refining the technical details, the exact monthly amount and the duration of the funds, and whether we should also include slightly larger villages with up to 3,000 inhabitants,” he tells CNN. “We have so far had a huge interest from villages, and hopefully more will probably follow in the coming years if this first scheme works.”
Baptized as “active subsistence income”, the project aims to increase Calabria’s appeal as a place for “southern work” – the renamed southern Italian version of telework – explains Gianpietro Coppola, mayor of Altomonte, who contributed to the scheme.
He says it is a more targeted approach to reviving small communities than the one Euro-house sale that has recently made headlines.
“We want this to be an experiment with social inclusion. Draw people to live in the region, enjoy the surroundings, save up for unused urban locations such as conference halls and monasteries with high-speed internet. Unsafe tourism and the one euro houses are not the best ways to modernize The south of Italy, ”says Coppola.
The Molise region and the city of Candela in Puglia have adopted similar schemes in recent years as an alternative to selling crumbling homes for the price of an espresso.
Over 75% of Calabria’s cities – approx. 320 – currently has fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, leading to fears that some communities may die out completely in a few years unless regeneration takes place.
“The goal is to strengthen the local economy and breathe new life into small communities,” Gallo adds. “We want job demand to meet supply. That’s why we’ve asked villages to tell us what type of professionals they need to attract specific workers.”
As global travel resumes and Italy welcomes tourists again, visiting the region this summer can be a great way to get a feel for Calabrian village life.
Here is a list of the most picturesque places you might end up staying.
Civita stands on a cliff in Pollino National Park.
At first, even Italian speakers may feel a little lost here. The locals speak a strangely sounding Slavic dialect called Arbereshe.
The society was founded in the 1400s by Albanians fleeing the Turkish Empire.
This small village of almost 1,000 people, perched on a cliff in the wild national park of Pollino, once inhabited by bandits and outlaws, is what “authentic” Calabria is all about.
The Raganello Gorge, Italy’s largest gorge, is dotted with human cliffs.
A snake path goes down to “The Devil’s Bridge.” Ancient traditions, Byzantine rituals and peculiar foods live on.
Old houses are connected by circular narrow alleys called “wrinkles” and have frightening-looking chimneys that are believed to keep evil at bay.
Samo and Precacore
Precacore was abandoned after the earthquake, but comes back to life in the summer.
You get the thrill of living in two old villages at the same time here. Samo was founded by ancient Greeks looking for shelter in the hills, but not too far from the coast, making the village their “port”.
Time stands still.
In the morning, the smell of freshly baked bread and fresh cheese floats over the village as women leave their low-cut peasant stone houses with baskets of food on their heads, just like in the old days.
The best part of Samo is the sister-ghost village of Precacore, which rises right in front of the valley. From Samo’s largest piazza, a small winding road departs uphill to the abandoned district.
Locals fled after a series of earthquakes, but today Precacore is brought back from the grave and comes to life in the summer.
Hikers, tourists and descendants of former families flock here to admire the Greek-Byzantine ruins.
Renaissance palazzos give Aieta a Tuscan feel.
Boghi most beautiful of Italy
The village was founded on the ashes of a Greek settlement and is close to the cozy beaches of Maratea and Praia a Mare.
It is small but elegant. Homes with red tile roofs are grouped at the feet of a majestic fortress with panoramic loggia.
Renaissance palaces and opulent stone portals provide a glimpse of Tuscany in Calabria.
Eagles and wolves are in the forest. Hiking trails lead to the nearby villages of Papasidero, Laino Borgo and Laino castello.
Bova enjoys a fascinating view of the coast.
Legend has it that an Armenian queen built this village on a hill where cows grazed – hence the name that nods to the term “cattle” in Italian (bow).
Known as the region’s “natural balcony” for its fascinating coastal landscape, it is located right on the tip of Italy’s boot close to Sicily, in the heart of “Greek Calabria”, which flourished with settlers from ancient Greece.
Precious stone houses with elaborate portals lie beneath the cliffhanging ruins of a Norman castle.
As you stroll through the narrow alleys, you can still hear the clatter of old looms. Weaving tradition dates back millennia, and the unique fiber diet plant is still picked on top of the nearby Aspromonte Mountains.
Fresh goat milk is for sale every day. Ethnic music festivals, a Byzantine Easter celebration with fruit decorations and a picturesque carnival are top events.
Caccuri was once a fortress built to defend against pirate attacks.
Boghi most beautiful of Italy
This spectacular hill castle, built as a lookout point against pirate attacks, overlooks a maze of alleys, stone houses and small piazzas with private entrances.
For centuries, powerful feudal families ruled over the village, killing and poisoning each other.
Olive groves dot the hills and produce an extra virgin olive oil. Part of the fortress with high walls and a loggia tower hidden inside a cistern has been transformed into an elegant design resort.
Albidona’s territory stretches from the hillside to the coast.
Situated at an altitude of 850 meters, but with territory extending all the way to the sea, this community has an enclosed pine forest and a cozy beach with a Saracen tower.
It is close to the border with Basilicata and Puglia, making it an ideal place to visit all three regions and make the most of Pollino National Park and the warm sunny coastline.
With a 10-minute car ride, locals can hop downhill for a swim or uphill for a refreshing yoga or trekking trip.
Legend has it that it was founded by a blind seer fleeing from the burning Troy. The ruins of a crumbling castle overlook cherries, almonds and wild apple orchards. The terrain is made of the same things as the Ionian Sea in Greece.
Sant’Agata del Bianco
Sant’Agata del Bianco can be dated back to Byzantine times.
A rural vibe survives in this collection of humble farmhouses, where thick yellowish stone walls and painted green doors whip tourists back into the past.
The whole village and its rough cobbled streets have been nicely renovated. The local “Palmenti Route” trail takes a network of ancient wells carved into the rocky soil and once used to make wine.
They can be dated back to Greek and Byzantine times and are an outdoor story. Colorful murals show poems, faces of smiling children and people drinking at the bar.
Fun attractions include the Wine Museum and the Museum of “Lost Things”, which belong to the countryside.
Santa Severina is home to the oldest Byzantine monument in Calabria.
The most beautiful villages in Italy
This village rises on a tough cliff overlooking the Neto River. It is built in layers depending on wealth: palaces belonging to the richer families are at the top of the hill, the humble dwellings below, dug down into the rock.
There is a Greek and Hebrew district with palm trees.
The baptismal font here is the oldest Byzantine monument in Calabria, while the impressive well-kept castle has frescoed underground and stables.
Santa Severina is known for its oranges. Villagers are called Aranciaru, which means “orange eaters” in the local dialect. Oranges grown here are the pride of Calabria because of the fertile soil and extraordinary nutritional qualities. They are coveted in top restaurants and fruit shows.
San Donato di Ninea
The area around San Donato di Ninea is considered one of Europe’s largest game reserves.
San Donato Municipality
This charming village dates back to pre-Greek colonization and is located in the deepest area of Calabria’s Pollino National Park.
It is so remote and tucked away on the hills that almost no one outside Calabria knew it existed until the 1970s.
The view from high up on the peaks has the region’s two gardens: the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian.
This pristine and unspoilt location is home to many wildlife and is considered one of Italy’s largest game reserves.
Orchids grow along mountain trails where they relax to panoramic cabins. It is a chestnut sky with popular food fairs.