The man who bought an entire village in Italy

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(CNN) – Italy has sold hundreds of dilapidated homes in recent years, thanks to plans to attract new residents, starting a wave of revival for rural communities.

For one man, buying a home was not enough. He bought the whole village.

Scottish businessman Cecidio de Siaca has just completed the renovation of Borgo i Siaca, a rural village in the 1500s, and is historically named after his family.

It is located in the wild, rugged region of Siocearia, between Rome and Naples, at the foot of the town of Pikinisco.

“At the turn of the 20th century, my grandparents Cecidio and Marietta left the village in search of a better future,” de Ciaca told CNN. “They left their hometown and went to Scotland, which was forgotten for half a century.

“It was a haunted place. I started recovering from it more than 10 years ago. It was a huge task but now it’s finally alive.”

After being tempted by nostalgia for his ancestral land, and managing his finances as a lawyer and consultant, de Siyaka left his family behind and decided to return to improve his local economy.

"It was a haunted place," Says Cecidio de Siaka of his ancestral village.

“It was a haunted place,” says Cecidio de Siaca, from his ancestral village.

Sylvia Marchetti

A cluster of formerly dilapidated peasant stone houses, barn and cracked doors and a windowless storage room with unstable steps, the village now has neatly re-styled pastel buildings with circular panoramic paths overlooking the green hills.

It hosts a wine canteen, a conference room, a library and two suites to accommodate guests aspiring for an unplugged Bucolic stay. The vineyards of the estate grow the grapes of Matura, the previously lost variety has been recovered.

De Siyaka was born in the fishing village of Kokenzi, outside Edinburgh, but says he has always had a deep love for his homeland.

“My family has never lost touch with his roots,” he says. “Every summer, as a child, my parents would bring me here to visit our relatives. Decided to start a life mission.Family Borgo [village]”

140 former owners

De Siyaka's family migrated from the village at the end of the last century.

De Siyaka’s family migrated from the village at the end of the last century.

Cesidio de Ciacca

The first step was to locate the 140 property owners of all 30-hectare village estates – a lengthy and complicated process made more difficult by the fact that relocation had scattered them around the world.

De Siyaka says, “The village was divided and divided among many heirs, who often had only one corner of a house, a small piece of pasture, forest or farmland, or just an olive tree.”

According to Italian law of the Napoleonic age, ownership of property is given not to the eldest heir, but to each child instead. In multiple generations, which can break the occupation in many families.

The last inhabitant of the village, De Siyaka, was a distant great aunt who died in 1969. Over the next 50 years, the already dilapidated village crumbled further – creeping forest-like vegetation on the walls and gates.

Remains of his earlier life can still be seen everywhere, including wine flasks and nails, which were used to hang the sausage to dry. When excavations for renovation finally began, old spoons, coins, and religious amulets were found.

De Siyaka says he needed to acquire the entire village to begin restoration work because of the complex jigsaw puzzle he owned.

“I just had a sub-unit of my family,” he says. “It took me years to buy back all the shares. Every small owner was offered a price at the market price of the land, even if the parcel of land was not worth it, so they all had the same offer.”

The local land and church registry helped identify many of the owners, but de Ciaca’s genealogy was possible, he says, as communities in the area are still close to families and neighbors.

“So a first cousin knew a second degree cousin and so much more, like a chain. Mainly by mouth and memory,” he says. “Also the immigrant community in Edinburgh, where a lot of people migrated, helped me find it.”

Di Ciaccia had to work hard to persuade many relatives to give up their share of the village. Although they had no use for the property, they were reluctant to sell it for emotional reasons.

Although he did not disclose the details of how much he invested, De Ciasia admits that significant amounts have been spent on reviving the village, with most of the money going to reconstruction.

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“Oh! I don’t even want to think about it,” he says. “Certainly too. It was a crazy initiative. The sub-units were not expensive. It was a restoration that cost a lot.”

Second birth

Before its fall, Borgo di Siyaka was a thriving microcosm with a total of 60 people living in small dwellings of barely 50 square meters – a total of about six families.

As part of the restoration, the old dwellings have been renovated with their ceiling-high ovens and fireplaces. They are now used for pizza parties and summer gatherings. Antique furniture adorns each room.

Borgo Di Ciacca also celebrates local culinary traditions. During seminars and events, dinners and aperitives, guests are served delicious foods such as pecorino lamb cheese, black pig lord (animals roam freely in the estate), goat cheese ricotta and a plate of seasoned ham.

“It all started as a hobby, then I realized I needed to make this dream of mine a sustainable business,” says De Ciaca. “When my daughter Sophia decided to quit her corporate job and take care of the vineyards, I turned Borgo into a rural farm producing honey, jam, wine and extra virgin olive oil, and started environmentally conscious activities.”

The 2,500-square-meter village now hosts a small cultural center and conference rooms for educational, food and agricultural study meetings. There is also a canteen with wine-tasting spots and a kitchen for cooking lessons. Borgo has underfloor heating and powerful Wi-Fi throughout.

Since its first harvest in 2017, its wine has won three international silver awards and is now exported abroad.

The Bucolic marathon is held in the spring, with people running up and down the vineyards and then resting on small pizzas where villagers met to chat in the evenings after working in the fields.

A “social garden” with fresh produce has been created, bringing groups of children together for lessons on rural life, when the Gastronomy School begins this year.

“I haven’t changed the interior rooms, I have kept the original decor and the rural atmosphere with sharp stone walls and old thick wooden doors with metal bolts,” says De Ciacia. “The different colors of the dwellings are the same as how they were originally painted. Each color represents a different period.”

However, tracking 140 relatives was a piece of cake compared to the dealings with the Italian bureaucracy, De Ciaca says, acknowledging that the paper is hopeless. While he is in Scotland he has hired local youth to oversee his business.

When the epidemic broke out, De Siaca found himself trapped in the village, claiming that its polluted air and radar location were God’s property. With his wife, son, daughter and grandchildren, he now spends most of the year in his ancestral home.

Mysterious atmosphere

Cesdio Di Ciacca now lives in the village with his family.

Cesdio Di Ciacca now lives in the village with his family.

Cesidio de Ciacca

The landscape around the village is littered with abbeys, monasteries and famous pilgrimage sites for the view of the Virgin Mary.

“For thousands of years it has been the site of a physical path because of its fresh water, fresh air and fertile fields,” says De Siyaka. “Prehistoric men chose it as their home and many saints returned to this valley of faith from St. Thomas of Aquina to St. Benedict. It is magical.”

During the Middle Ages Siocearia was a crossroads of shepherds, hermits and saints. It was the structure of Dominico Foucault, Italy’s most wanted outlaw, in the 1800s. Then a series of migrations and natural disasters squeezed the local population. Today it is one of the best-kept secrets in Italy.

It is the village where De Siyaka’s father, Johnny, was born before his mother and father took him north to Scotland, where they started an ice cream business.

He has been with his family for over 500 years, and is interested in reviving her as the only surviving heir, de Ciaca wants to secure her future.

He says, “I want this village to be a major hub for all Italian-Scottish people abroad who want to come back and reunite with their roots, and maybe even help their homeland by starting activities and development opportunities.” , ”He says.

There are also plans to open an agri-food academy in the village, but so far the epidemic has slowed the schedule, and partnerships with European universities on how to preserve and adhere to rural traditions are about to begin.

Someone who has succeeded in persuading 140 people to offload a small piece of their property to make a big project should not be too difficult.

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