Tiny Esino Lario claimed all its assets were up for grabs – but it was working with a tech firm to raise awareness of issues facing villages 

In a full-page advert placed in almost all of Italy’s top newspapers, Esino Lario’s mayor, Pietro Pensa, lamented the reason for the mass sell-off: a lack of resources to fight the village’s depopulation.


Massimo Castelli, the national coordinator for small villages at the National Association of Italian Local Authorities, said he supported the bizarre deception.

“As representatives, we try to make the suffering of small villages come to the fore,” he says. “But this isn’t an issue the media like to cover – maybe they cover the colourful initiatives like houses sold for €1.

“It wasn’t a case of crying wolf – these areas are actually losing population because there are no jobs, schools close, services are cut.”

While Italy’s population has grown by 4 million since the 1990s, research shows that villages with fewer than 5,000 residents, which make up a fifth of Italy’s population and manage over half its territory, haemorrhaged some 675,000 residents. The trend is expected to speed up over the next decade.1


  • 1. Smaller local authorities are becoming craftier in their fight for resources and public attention. The houses for €1 scheme, for example, has become popular throughout the country. In Sicily, Sambuca is the latest village to sell abandoned properties starting at €1, while similar schemes have run in Ollolai, Sardinia; Casoli, in central Italy; and Borgomezzavalle, in the north.