I keep getting sent various copies of the same story concerning the Italian government’s announcement that it is giving away historic castles for free.
As someone who has great experience with the machinations of the Italian government I have only one thing to say:
Are you interested in buying the Sydney harbor bridge?
Let’s take a look at this too good to be true proposal.
If you’ve ever dreamed of owning, say, a 13th-century castle or Venetian island, then now is your chance. In an attempt to lure tourists away from overcrowded—and often overwhelmed—city centers across the country, Italy is giving away 103 historic sites for free.
Can you spot the fake news hidden in the quote? No? Okay, obviously you’re not that experienced with blatant fraud. Let’s add another piece to the puzzle.
Successful applicants will then be granted a nine or 50 year lease for the property on the basis that they then invest money, restructure, renovate and run it efficiently.
The fake news is the part where they say that you become a property owner. What you become is a property caretaker, working for free, and even worse, having to commit large amounts of your money to improve and then upkeep properties that successive Italian governments have seen no value in doing themselves.
And that’s because there is no value there, at all. These places are literally in the middle of nowhere. An island in the Venetian lagoon? Are you kidding me? There are hundreds of islands in the Venetian lagoon which are entirely deserted due to the fact that you have to arrive by boat. Do you think that the government is going to divert its ferry service just because you were stupid enough to take on a 9 year lease?
I know, I know. You’re pitching for the 50 year lease. Come over here and sit down; let me make it easy for you.
Nobody is going to get a 50 year lease. Perhaps the ruined farmhouse sitting by the railway tracks, but that will just be for show to lure in the other suckers. You’ll get a 9 year lease, and at the end of it when you have spent all of your money then the government will unceremoniously turf you out without even a pat on the bottom for all your hard work and money that you invested.
And don’t forget that in order to renovate your castle you will still have to do it under the onerous heritage laws, not to mention the tax regime where running a B&B will make you liable for a series of different tax structures, (not all of which are called taxes in order to try and hide them), that cumulatively add up to just under 70% tax on every cent that you will earn. Have fun with that, I know that I did.
The heritage laws are the real kicker here. The people who stand to benefit from this the most are the local licensed craftsmen whose services you will have to employ in order to bring your farmhouse back to an historical standard. Just so you can have a vague understanding of what you’re in for, the local council fees and regulations for putting in a new window in Northern Italy run to just over €3000. To put that in some sort of perspective, the average monthly take home wage in those parts is around €800 a month.
And the cost of those charming and garrulous local craftsmen? Hoo boy, are you gonna get stung. I really can’t be bothered doing it but I bet that if you mark all of the properties being offered on a map and then compare those points with the local employment rates for craftsmen, you just might discover that all of those spots are in a spot of bother, and this is the government’s brilliant way of alleviating the problem for the next 9 years.
By the way, when I said brilliant, I really meant brilliant. There’s nothing like getting clueless foreigners to spend all of their savings propping up your overpriced and under worked local tradesmen so they can live in the style to which they are accustomed.
Perhaps we can learn from that. But what am I thinking? We don’t possess that kind of smarts. Our version of the local craftsmen benefiting from the influx of foreigners and their money are university administrators.
At least Italians have some style.