(CNN) – There is a place on the Italian island of Sicily where you are more likely to hear the American accent in its narrow streets instead of the local language.
Sambuka di Cecilia, which gained a reputation as one of the first places in the country to sell old houses for free, is becoming more like the Italian “Little America” when most Americans rushed to acquire bargaining properties. And breathe new life into the city.
By the time the second application deadline closed last November, the town hall had again been flooded with hundreds of requests from interested buyers. The houses were eventually auctioned for between 500 and € 7,000 ($ 540 and, 7,560) for the highest bidder.
Deputy Mayor Giuseppe Casioppo says almost all new buyers are from North America. Some people bought their home site invisible while others ignored the coveted travel restrictions and flew to take a look.
“Let’s say about 80% of the people who wrote to us, applied and participated in this second auction are either from the states or are Americans,” says Casioppo. “There’s a lot of interest from American buyers, and fortunately it’s not declining. The epidemic was a challenge in pulling these new sales, but we’re lucky. Everything went well.”
So what motivated these new buyers to take ownership of the deepest earthquake-damaged properties in Sicily? Surprisingly, many obviously didn’t want to just get a cut-price vacation retreat. They also want to help revitalize the village debate and its economy.
‘I’m giving it to him’
David Waters, an internet businessman from Idaho with a passion for Italian real estate, plans to renovate his newly acquired Sicilian dwellings through crowdfunding – and then give them away.
He bought two adjoining buildings with a winning bid of € 500 for each. They are located in the quietest corner of Sambuka, an ancient district where abandoned houses line the streets.
Waters describes himself as a fan of Italy’s One Euro Home project and says he wants to contribute to the betterment of dead, neglected communities.
“I wanted to create a way for incoming investors to support small communities like Sambuka in Sicily,” he says. “I want to make that possible for anyone who wants to make their dream of owning a part of Italian history come true.”
Waters says his crowdfunding campaign will provide reward levels for those who want to support the local community.
“I’ve bought two properties to start with a small crowdfunding campaign and move on to a higher campaign goal.”
He says donations and services will be offered to improve Sambuka’s parks, roads and infrastructure.
“We will engage the crowdfunding community as much as possible by empowering them to vote on what we offer in these community services,” says Waters.
Crowdfunding members will participate in the renovation and will also be given ticket codes, which will represent a chance to win their Sambuka property depending on what level they choose to participate in.
The prizes will be completed before the giveaways are awarded to the winners, who will be randomly selected by computer.
Although its two-story property needs a complete overhaul, Waters says he was fascinated by its location and view and wants to show people how such dilapidated homes can be transformed into “something gorgeous and great.”
One house is small, while the adjoining house is spread over 80 square meters and comes with seven rooms.
That is love
The draw of Italian cuisine is what pushed Arizona-based chef Daniel Patino, co-founder of a fresh food chain in the U.S., to take a big step forward and get a piece of La Dolce Vita.
Patino won the only available building with a three-story and spacious terrace – bidding just € 2,500 – and won. He did it all away from the US. A local Sambuka woman approached him through town hall and sent him video and photos of the property, which was enough to give Patino an idea of what he was bidding for.
“It’s more of an adventure,” he says. “Maybe gambling?”
“I saw a bid view invisible after seeing all the properties online, but this guy specifically talked to me. There was a small rustic patio outside. I couldn’t see what the inside was like because it was dangerous to walk inside.” So I think it will require a lot of remodeling. ”
Patino does not yet know exactly what he plans to do with it – whether to use it only as a holiday home or as an Italian branch of his food chain. For now, he says, it’s just a dream come true, and even walking in memory lane.
“I have always loved Italy. When I traveled early in my career as a professional chef, I discovered the Italian food culture and why food is so important to Italians.”
“I also learned what the Italian way of life is. It’s about living life, as we do in the states, not going at a hundred miles per hour. He enjoys peace, takes time to relax and is not always worried about work. He just The best. All the world. “
Patino says his wife wasn’t on board initially, telling him “you’re crazy, it can’t be real.”
Now that the property is his, he says he will see where he goes from here.
She might decide to make some of her fresh salads in Sambuka and adopt the American-style healthy food and homemade dressing at Antipasto ala Siciliana.
A safe haven for artists
Brigitte Dufour wants to turn two abandoned buildings into shelters for artists.
Courtesy Brigitte Dufour
Brigitte Dufour, a French-Canadian lawyer and founder of the human rights organization, bought two abandoned homes in the historic Saracene district – a small house for € 1,000 and a large house for € 5,850. She made both bids without looking at either.
“Just to be sure, I knew the competition was big so I thought bidding on two different houses would increase my chances of success,” she says.
Dufour says he wants to help the local community by providing space for artists from around the world to emerge from the crisis.
She says her small two-story, 50-square-meter (approximately 540 square feet) property will serve as the artist’s residence. It will be a place where artists can express themselves and “take a break from difficult environments and pressures in their home countries.”
“They can stay for two weeks or a whole month, and be inspired by the beauty of Sicily and Sambuka to create artwork that talks about gender issues, dignity, human rights. They can benefit by using a nice safe place.”
The property is in good condition with an outdoor space with a view of the green hills surrounding the terrace. Dufour likes the ancient Majolica tile painted floor, which, she says, gives the house a traditional feel. When she bought the place she saw an old braid of garlic hanging on the wall.
“It’s much better than I expected, not destruction,” she says. “Everyone was saying to me, ‘Oh, but you’re going to be ruined.’ Instead, it has good walls, but it needs some renovation. “
Dufour plans an eco-friendly restoration and will seek advice from ઘર 1 home buyers who have already rebuilt their homes.
Her second property, measuring 80 square meters (approximately 860 square feet), will serve as both private residence and extra space for incoming artists.
“I thought it would be best to have more than one house to bring in more artists, but then when I visited Sambuka after winning the bid I fell in love with the village and thought I could keep this second house for myself and my family.
“My kids in Canada and my family, especially my brother and sister, are really excited about this,” says Dufour, who especially loves the beach, which is 25-minutes from Sambuka.
If the artist’s residence needs more space, he will use other parts of the house for it, and if it is needed after the renovation, he will also welcome the artists.
The second building has a large open space which she says would be ideal for holding social events and exhibitions, with a high vault ceiling and a great panorama. Unlike the first floor, the second level requires extensive remodeling.
“I couldn’t see it because walking inside the room was dangerous,” she says. “It wasn’t clear how solid the floor was. But you can really feel that place.”