The Italian region of Molise, a wild, beautiful but overlooked area that lies east of Rome, has announced it will pay people more than $27,000 to settle in one of 106 underpopulated villages in an effort to prevent their communities from dying.
Anyone who takes up the offer will receive 700 euros a month (about $770) for up to three years to help them settle in an area known for its green pastures, olive groves and snowy mountaintops.
There’s a catch — they’ll also have to commit to starting a small business, in order to contribute to the local economy.
“I want my region to undergo a renaissance and avoid its authentic villages turning into ghost towns,” Antonio Tedeschi, a regional councilor who came up with the idea, tells CNN Travel. “We need to safeguard our roots.”
Young people and couples with children are particularly encouraged to apply to the scheme, which is to be officially launched on September 16.
“The goal is to breathe new life and revamp the local economy,” he says. “Newcomers are free to kick-start anything they please in order to get our financial support: a small inn, restaurant, bar, B&B, a tiny rural farm, artisan boutique, library or shop selling local gourmet excellences.”
Thousands of people have left Molise in recent years. Official statistics say the number of people living there has fallen by almost 9,000 since 2014, pushing the region’s population to just 305,000.
Now one of Italy’s most depopulated regions, 106 of its 136 towns have fewer than 2,000 residents.
Visit the Italian National Tourist Agency to learn more and apply.