A stunning Italian region is offering new residents €25,000 to live in its deserted villages after all of its young people moved away.
Molise, situated between the peaks of the Apennine ridge and the Adriatic coast, is famed for its national parks through which ancient trails weave their way.
But despite the glorious surroundings the population has declined by more than 9,000 since 2014 and not a single child was born in nine of its towns last year.
President Donato Toma announced every village with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants in his territory will offer €700 (£620, $770) per month for three years to newcomers who promise to open a business.
The glorious village of Scapoli, noted for its international bagpiping festival each year, had a population of just 758 in 2011. After the Great War, the village had a population of more than 1,400
The town of Termoli on the Adriatic coast – it is a favourite tourist spot for Italian families, with a historic fishing port
The stunning beach and the walls around the old town Termoli on Molise’s Adriatic coast
Molise, situated between the peaks of the Apennine ridge and the Adriatic coast, (pictured on a map) is famed for its national parks through which ancient trails weave their way
The second smallest region in Italy, Molise has a population of 305,000.
It is divided between two provinces, Campobasso and Isernia.
The region is steeped in the history of the ancient Samnite tribes which ruled before the Romans, from around 600BC to 300BC.
After Roman rule, Molise was part of the Lombard duchy of Benvento, but it frequently changed feudal owners.
Molise’s capital, Campobasso, is famed for the Manforte Castle and its old medieval walls.
Termoli on the Adriatic, also of Campobasso province, is renowned for the colourful fishermen’s houses which dot the shoreline and is a popular holiday destination for Italian families.
Isernia is the mountainous province and home to the national park which straddles the border between Abruzzo, as well as two ski resorts at Campitello Matese and Capracotta.
It is famous for its ancient trails, or ‘tratturi’, through which shepherds have guided their livestock for centuries.
Toma told the Guardian: ‘They can open any sort of activity: a bread shop, a stationery shop, a restaurant, anything. It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.’
In addition, he promised each of the little towns will be granted €10,000 (£9,000, $11,000) every month to help improve its infrastructure and for cultural activities.
Molise is not alone, in fact all of Italy is suffering from under-population, with the number of Italian citizens declining from 2014-18 by 677,000.
The number of Italian citizens in the country is at it lowest in 90 years at 55 million.
Molise is not the first Italian region to try to grow its population in this way.
In 2017, the northwestern village of Bormida offered over £1,600 ($2,000) to those willing to move there. At the time there were just 394 inhabitants.
And earlier this year, Mussomeli, in Sicily, was offering under £2 ($2.50) for abandoned homes, as long as buyers made renovations.
Italy is just one of many European countries suffering from an ageing populace.
The beautiful San Silvestro church, built between two rocks in the village of Bagnoli del Trigno in Molise – it has a population of just over 700
Pietrabbondante, with a total population of just 735, was first inhabited by the Samnites
The President of Molise said: ‘They can open any sort of activity: a bread shop, a stationery shop, a restaurant, anything. It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.’ (pictured: the town of Termoli, Molise)
Vineyards close to Castropignano in Molise, famous for its 14th century castle, it has a population of just over 900
While the continent’s numbers are expected to rise from 511 million in 2016 to 520 million in 2070, the working-age population will decrease massively by 41 million over the same period.
Earlier this year, the tiny Greek island of Antikythira nestled between Crete and Kythira announced plans to pay new inhabitants £450 ($550) per month, as well as providing free houses and food.
The only condition made by the Bishop of Kythera and Monemvasia was that the new residents be from young families, with the hopes of employing fishermen, farmers, builders and bakers.
Earlier this year, the tiny Greek island of Antikythira (pictured) nestled between Crete and Kythira announced plans to pay new inhabitants £450 ($550) per month, as well as providing free houses and food
in Switzerland the village of Monti Sciaga (pictured) said it would offer picturesque mountainside houses for just 82p ($1) to revitalise its old stone properties
And in Switzerland, a village said it would offer picturesque mountainside houses for just 82p ($1) to revitalise its old stone properties.
The crumbling homes of Monti Sciaga in the Italian-speaking province of Ticino are surrounded by alpine trees and have breathtaking views over Lake Maggiore.
The only condition for prospective buyers of the old homes – known as ‘rustici’ – is they would be required to fully rebuild and renovate their properties.