Idyllic Italian village wants to pay you to live there

The untouched medieval town of Candela was once known as “Little Naples” for its vibrant streets filled with tourists and vendors in the Sixties - ©redcarpett - stock.adobe.com

An idyllic town in the southern Italian region of Puglia, surrounded by green hills and forest, is offering to pay people (including foreigners) up to €2,000 (£1,792) to move there. 

The mayor of Candela wants to reverse the declining fortunes of his town, once known as "Little Naples" for its crowded streets, which has seen its population plummet from more than 8,000 to just 2,700 today.

The town is offering €800 [£716] for singles, €1,200 [£1,075] for couples, €1,500 [£1,344] to €1,800 [£1,613] for three-member families, and over €2,000 for families of four to five people who are willing to up sticks and embrace la dolce vita, CNN Travel reports.

"I work each day with passion and commitment to bring Candela back to its ancient splendour," said mayor Nicola Gatta. "Up until the 1960s, travellers called it 'Nap'licchie' [Little Naples], for it streets full of wayfarers, tourists, merchants and screaming vendors."

Those days are long gone. Candela's young residents have increasingly sought work and opportunities elsewhere and it now risks becoming another of Italy's numerous ghost towns – so authorities were inspired to take drastic action. 

New residents must live permanently in the village, rent a house, and have a salary of at least €7,500 (£6,723) per year, explained Stefano Bascianelli, a deputy to Nicola Gatta. "We don't want people flocking here thinking they get to live off the town hall's revenues, all new residents must work and have an income", he said.

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The city is also considering offering tax credits on waste disposal, bills and nurseries to its new residents.

Six families from the north of Italy are reported to have already moved into the town, while five others have applied for the scheme. But it is open to foreigners, too. 

The picturesque town is dotted by white houses with wraparound terraces, Baroque buildings and churches (where ceremonies for the town’s few births - and more frequent funerals - take place), as well as quaint alleys, including the 35cm-wide Trasonna - which is claimed to be the narrowest alley in Italy.

Seaside towns like Vieste are easy to reach Credit: and.one - Fotolia

"It's a quiet and simple lifestyle. No crowds, easy to move around, no traffic nor smog", Francesco Delvecchio, a current resident who moved to Candela from another part of Puglia before the launch of the latest measure, told CNN.

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"We're right at the crossroads of three gorgeous Italian regions: Campania, Basilicata and Molise, with all the wonders each offers at hand." Puglia’s beaches are a short drive from the town, too.

Mr Bascianelli added: "Life quality rocks here. We haven't had one crime in 20 years."

The town has received a major facelift in recent months, with public funds thrown into the rebuilding of old palazzos, streets and piazzas, which are now open for guided tours, as well as the hosting of local activities and events, such as bonfires and folklore festivals, to uphold its historic traditions.

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Candela’s summer attractions include a food and wine tasting trail through its historical heart, showcasing local highlights such as orecchiette, Puglia’s famous handmade ear-shaped pasta, which is typically served with game ragù of wild boar, hare or pheasant. Other local specialities include ciammaruche (snails) and tender asparagus. 

Orecchiette, Puglia’s famous handmade ear-shaped short pasta, which is served with game ragù of wild boar, hare or pheasant in Candela Credit: AP

Horseback tours along the Tratturo Regio route, which connects the village to the coastal town of Pescasseroli in Abruzzo, are also popular. 

It isn’t the first time Italy has taken unusual measures in a bid to boost its failing towns. Earlier this year the country announced it is giving away 103 of its historic buildings for free, with one catch - all takers will need to commit to transforming the properties into tourist facilities including hotels, restaurants or spas.

Earlier this year, Italy announced it is giving away 103 of its historic buildings for free (including Casa Cantoniera, pictured) Credit: AGENZIA DEL DEMANIO (STATE PROPERTY AGENCY)