Vacation Homes, ExPat/Retirement Communities & Joining an existing or abandoned village

Creating an ex-pat community or a cluster of vacation homes.

There are many ex-pat communities of retirees from Western countries living abroad; they want to find a place which is nice, safe, and less expensive than their home-country, so usually they move to less-developed countries.

Combining the description:  To connect up people from ‘developed’-countries across the world who would want to live in some foreign developing country.

They can be a pre-established group (like the Korean religious group which purchased an English village; or an ideological group etc), or those who do not know each other beforehand but have a common vision or goal. There can be a special section on the site for projects led by a specific person: a leader who wants a community, all to live in one building or a group of nearby homes etc.

So although the Group can be a community which was formed based on a religious or ideological reason, that is not necessary – the site enables people to find each other and acquire housing jointly without them having to be bonded in that way before or after.

One option is to merge two communities: an existing local community living in a village which is past its prime, where the young people have gone to the big city etc, and a community formed from retirees seeking a nice but inexpensive place to live with others like them. The retirees will live in the existing village homes, but in newly-built annexes or renovated sections. Providers can be mayors of such towns, local contractors, companies offering medical services abroad, firms offering financial and legal services to expats in that country, travel experts etc.

Another option: the Group can acquire an abandoned village:

Japan: http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/ruins-gallery/ghost-towns/  I corresponded with him, see below

http://abandonedjapan.tumblr.com/

http://jordymeow.com/best-haikyo-2013/

http://jordymeow.com/best-abandoned-places-2014/   I corresponded with him, see below

 

 

England; Spain (real estate company selling them!)

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/entire-british-village-left-untouched-7681563

http://www.literarynorfolk.co.uk/deserted_villages.htm

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/dad-buys-village-spain-39k-1912695

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ceciliarodriguez/2013/10/11/for-sale-your-european-dream-village/#1f015fc44b82

 

Real Estate company selling abandoned villages in rural Spain: http://www.abandonedvillages.com/

………….

Scottish and Irish abandoned villages:

Scotland:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2163246/Bonnie-view–need-improvement-Scottish-ghost-village-sale-abandonment.html

http://weburbanist.com/2013/12/11/haunted-highlands-7-abandoned-wonders-of-scotland/

https://www.facebook.com/AbandonedScotland

http://www.scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/heritage/pictures-scotlands-spooky-creepy-abandoned-4517700

https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/scotland/7-creepy-abandoned-places-in-scotland/

Ireland: modern suburban homes

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/11/irelands-suburban-ghost-towns_n_5481028.html

ITALY/France

Need engineers to certify safety, and security companies to arrange security, insurance companies etc.

http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/04/12/473905899/a-small-town-in-italy-embraces-migrants-and-is-reborn

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/what-does-the-evidence-show-about-the-real-story-of-oradour-sur-glane/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3068494/The-abandoned-beauty-Italy-s-20-000-ghost-towns-Stunning-pictures-ruined-villages-left-crumble-eerie-splendour-emigration-natural-calamities-pirate-raids-sent-locals-packing.html

……….

https://www.pinterest.com/lewisduckworth/abandonedderelict-buildings/

………

Ghost towns, Towns for sale; shrinking cities in Germany & Japan etc.

For groups to buy and refurbish.

 

I left out places that people would not feel safe in, unsafe locations in safe countries, and unsafe/unstable countries.

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/calif-ghost-town-sale-craigslist-towns-sale/story?id=20878063

 

http://www.curbed.com/tag/towns-for-sale

 

http://www.abandonedscotland.com/blog/

 

http://www.wxyz.com/news/damned-group-wants-to-buy-village-of-hell-michigan

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRZkSoBfZio Will a group of strangers who met through Twitter buy an abandoned Connecticut ghost town?

 

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/san-francisco/14-incredible-abandoned-places-in-california

 

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/finding-aldea-engineers-artists-buying-abandoned-village-start-utopian-society-you-can-join-1542047

 

 

http://www.messynessychic.com/2014/10/24/for-sale-the-ghost-town-that-nobody-wanted/

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/03/11/abandoned-villages-_n_4941324.html

 

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/34205/south-dakota-ghost-town-now-owned-by-iglesia-ni-cristo

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2046933/Scenic-Wild-West-ghost-town-bought-Filipino-church-800k.html

 

Various towns mentioned: http://newamericamedia.org/2012/05/filipino-church-buys-south-dakota-town.php

 

Connecticut: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3096172/Will-group-strangers-met-Twitter-buy-abandoned-Connecticut-ghost-town-Historic-haunted-village-Johnsonville-goes-market.html

Seneca, on Craigslist: http://time.com/money/2941274/swett-south-dakota-entire-towns-for-sale/

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/12-towns-sale-pray-mont-auction-launches/story?id=16653510

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/swett-south-dakota-towns-sale/story?id=24365210

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2787324/Buy-Connecticut-ghost-town-picturesque-lake-views-goes-auction-starting-800-000.html

 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/20/germany-shrinking-cities-view-salzgitter

 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/danieldalton/urban-exploration-photography#.ihQaEz420

 

http://opacity.us/locations/region/de

 

http://www.fujitsu.com/jp/group/fri/en/column/message/2015/2015-06-30.html

 

http://gadling.com/2011/04/27/the-worlds-ten-creepiest-abandoned-cities/

                                                                   ………….

                                                                   Cemeteries

http://www.nuwireinvestor.com/articles/cemeteries-a-grave-business-52206.aspx Is a cemetery a viable option for undeveloped land?

 

https://www.reddit.com/r/business/comments/3i0i8a/thinking_about_buying_a_cemetery_business/

 

http://www.kijiji.ca/b-land-for-sale/ontario/cemetery/k0c641l9004 An unusual opportunity to acquire 15.7 acres of cemetery/burial site with detailed consent for 14,000 burial lots and gravesites, some with headstones

 

http://thecemeteryregistry.com/

http://www.gravesolutions.com/viewlistings/default.asp Search the largest online database of cemetery lots, burial plots, and mausoleums for sale
offered by private parties, cemeteries and through brokerage services.

http://www.cemeterygroup.org/  The CEMETERY GROUP is composed of a listing of “green cemeteries” in the United

States. We are in hopes that the concept of preserving parts of Planet Eden and nourishing the Earth with our mortal

remains will “take off” as it has in Britain where there are now 200 or more “green burial parks” in operation. Please

visit our friends at Funeral Consumer Alliance, NaturalBurial.orgCardboardCasket.com , NaturalFunerals.com ,

Forest of Memories, ObituariesHelp.org

….

michaeljohngrist

Michael John Grist  Born  in Manchester, The United Kingdom    Website  http://www.michaeljohngrist.com

Twitter  michaelgrist

GenreScience FictionFantasyHorror

Michael John Grist is a British author and ruins photographer who lives in London, UK. He writes dark and weird science fiction and fantasy books, such as the fantasy novel Ignifer’s Rise and the SF series The Ruins Sonata.

For 11 years he lived in Tokyo exploring Japan’s modern ruins, such as abandoned theme parks, military bases, and ghost towns, gaining millions of hits on this website with his photographs and stories.

The best of these adventures are now collected in his unique travel book Into the Ruins, which thriller bestseller Barry Eisler calls, “gorgeous, haunting, stunning.”

Now Michael enjoys working out in the gym, watching TV and movies, and of course writing stories and novels. He lives in London with his wife, and works as an academic English lecturer at university. (less)

Project to populate abandoned villages… saw your Japan photos… would you be interested in taking part in this (commercial) project?

Avi Rabinowitz <air1@nyu.edu>

Apr 13
 ….

 

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2016 19:14:29 +0300
Subject: re Project to populate abandoned villages… saw your Japan photos… would you be interested in taking part in this (commercial) project?
From: air1@nyu.edu
To: michaeljohngrist@hotmail.com

 

Hi, saw your posts re abandoned places in Japan, and I know you are currently living in the UK. I’m initiating a commercial website-based project to populateabandoned villages (not tourist ghost towns or dangerous sites) all over the world, including in the UK & Japan, you seem to be the the right type either to consult with or to involve in the project…. do you have any interest in this?

Write to me and I’ll send you more details…

 

Thanks!

 

Avi

……….

On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 10:58 PM, michael john grist<michaeljohngrist@hotmail.com> wrote:

Hi Avi,

I’m not sure I can help, but I am interested to know more. What do you mean by repopulate, and what is the purpose?

Cheers,
Michael.

 

Michael, hi

 

Great to hear back from you.

 

And yes, “populate abandoned villages” is rather vague 🙂  …..

 

Professionally I am a physicist https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLn_5Sx_ThgDGLVOal214TLTuWO2PA_xZt    https://wp.nyu.edu/avi_rabinowitz/ ……Now that I am moving towards completion of the editing of my lectures for the GR course on these sites, I’ve begun to focus on a more commercially-aimed venture.

 

The website I’m developing has two aspects: social-networking, to enable like-minded people to find each other in order to purchase something together (not to be ‘Friends’, to discuss general matters, share media etc), I’ll call them the ‘Group’. The other ‘side’ of the site is for the commercial ‘providers’ who will supply the Group with what they need. It is a general site with several applications.

 

One application is to assist people in forming self-build societies. They don’t need to know each other beforehand and don’t necessarily need to be friends after the joint project of  constructing their homes jointly – they can form a Group for the purpose of executing the project together without it needing to be a social act.

 

A somewhat-related application is to connect up people from across the world – probably in relatively-prosperous countries – who would want to live in some foreign country

The people can be a pre-established group (like the Korean religious group which purchased an English village, or an ideological group, or other), or those who do not know each other beforehand but have a common vision. .

For example, there are many ex-pat communities of retirees from Western countries living abroad; they want to find a place which is nice, safe, and less expensive than their home-country, so usually they move to less-developed countries. Some communities are formed based on a religious or ideological reason, but that is not necessary – the site enables people to find each other and acquire housing jointly without them having to be bonded in that way.

 

One application of the ex-pat idea is to have the Group move to a suitably-refurbished ex-abandoned town or extra-large Mansion or other structure, in Europe, the US, Japan and any other ‘developed-world’ location (meaning: the rule of law, personal security, adequate health care etc). For the retired-category I mentioned above, perhaps these ‘1st-world’ locations are sufficiently-inexpensive that the price of purchase + refurbishing plus cost of living are affordable to middle-income people with some savings and a pension, people who otherwise would seek only a non-Western land due to cost considerations.

 

The general mechanism is as follows: Through the social-network capability of the site, people can categorize themselves and the desired new home according to type, location etc, and then meet & chat with similar others in forums, and work towards forming a serious Group. When a suitable Group is formed, they can interact with the appropriate ‘providers’, who can be real estate agents, or land-owners, or municipalities etc (or for abandoned places, with engineers to determine safety etc), and a Group representative can visit the place.

The actual purchase would be through a reputable established financial firm acting via the site, which protects both the Group and the sellers. Some tiny percentage will go to the site.

 

There are many websites with articles about abandoned properties in Scotland, Ireland, England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia etc etc, as well as in Japan and various other countries.

I want to learn a lot more about the entire topic of abandoned places, suitability for re-population, local political, economic and other conditions etc, and it seems to me that someone like you would be a good contact to brainstorm with. And perhaps you have an interest in being involved somehow in this project.

 

Looking forward to your reply,

 

Avi

 

 

michael john grist <michaeljohngrist@hotmail.com>
Apr 15
to me

Hi Avi,

Thanks for going into detail- it sounds fascinating. Let me tell you what I know about abandoned villages in Japan, and why I think you’d be facing an uphill battle. The main thing to contend with is- why these places were first abandoned. There’s a couple of reasons, namely that they were mining towns whose mines ran out, and they were remote villages that got left behind in the general trend in Japan away from the countryside and into the cities.

I think all 3 or 4 of the abandoned villages I’ve been to fit into both categories. They are very remote, isolated places, without much by way of services, poorly served in some cases by roads that haven’t been maintained for decades. Some, like Ashiodozan, still have a few older inhabitants, and therefore will have working electric and running water. The bulk of the ones I’ve visited though are too old to have such things.

When it comes to buying the land, if your buyers are indeed interested in building in such locations, I think you’d face problems. My understanding of a lot of this land is that these are toxic assets that big banks are unable to sell. Perhaps it comes down to arcane accounting- but as long as they don’t sell the assets, they don’t need to truly account for the huge depreciation they’ve undergone, and therefore take the actual loss. I don’t know this for sure- but I’ve read about it (in books like Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr).

This probably exhausts my knowledge in this area. There may be issues with whether the Japanese government will allow foreigners to buy up land, especially in bulk the way I think you’re suggesting, but I’m not very knowledgeable about that. It would probably be hard for the people who want to settle there to fit in to Japan’s homogenous culture, especially in the rural areas you’re thinking of where the in-group mentality is strongest.

So that exhausts my general knowledge in this area too. I hope it’s useful, and sorry it isn’t more encouraging.

All the best,
Michael Grist.

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2016 23:54:26 +0300
Subject: Project to populate abandoned villages… saw your Japan photos… would you be interested in taking part in this (commercial) project?

 

Avi Rabinowitz <air1@nyu.edu>
Apr 15
to michael

Michael, hi!

 

So nice to hear back from you, and thanks for the kind words about the idea of the project.

 

 

What you said about “why these places were first abandoned” reminds me of several websites I saw on related matters- I had collected some links (just reading the titles/link-text is enough to get the idea) and placed them on my website under the following heading:

Free land in various countries (and why it’s free!)      

free land in Canada to counter devitalization   ; land-for-free ;   4-places-where-land-is-free

five-places-where-land-is-free  ;  free-land-in-kansas/  ; 7-Towns-Where-Land-is-Free.

Why-will-nobody-move-to-Pitcairn-the-Pacific-island-with-free-land.

canadian-towns ;   Russia:    NO RUSH: PIONEER TOWN GETS FEW TAKERS FOR FREE LAND   . .. . .

🙂    🙂

 

And so one certainly must investigate each situation on its own and compute the advantages and disadvantages….

I haven’t read Dogs and Demons but as a tenant my close experience in NYC with real estate people and landlords, and from what I hear about banks and financial institutions, makes me sure that one cannot trust any of these….

 

Your points about Japaneses culture and especially rural Japan are certainly valid – I have read that many Japanese who spent some years abroad are considered gaijin; certainlyJapanese are not the most receptive to foreigners moving in en masse, and there have been many incidents with US soldiers stationed there etc …. but on the other hand they have a declining population and though their robots can do some of the work they will not need homes…..so someone should be living there…. and perhaps this project can even help the increasing numbers of elderly helpless Japanese whose children are finding it difficult to fully manage the expenses of their care …

 

As to Japan specifically, perhaps retired academics or even retired Japanese Americans are suited to ‘re-populating abandoned but habitable villages’ (despite their somewhat Gaijin status…)? Re their numbers, according to Wikipedia:”Japanese Americans were among the three largest Asian American ethnic communities during the 20th century, but since the 2000 census, they have declined in number to constitute the sixth largest Asian American group at around 1.3 million, including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity.”

 

But again, this idea is meant for places like France, Italy, the UK etc where there are many abandoned or semi-abandoned places.

And not just abandoned places – there are many villages which are declining, and perhaps Groups can relocate to such a declining but still-populated Europeanvillage, and live in suitably-expanded dwellings as paying-guests of the locals; this will also be a great economic boon to the local community. However I don’t know whether or not this is feasible.

 

And the overall project is about much more than just villages….

 

I liked the acumen of your analysis – perhaps I can send you more information about the project as a whole, including the websites I set up provisionally, and you could provide me with some further insight about the project as a whole. And if you see some place in the overall project that you think you can contribute to in return for eventual salary/bonus or consulting fees, I would be interested in speaking to you further about that.

 

Thanks again,

 

Avi

………………………………

Jordy Meow

Project to populate abandoned but still-habitable villages … [note the added qualifier 🙂 ]
Hi, saw your posts re abandoned places in Japan. I’m initiating a commercial website-based project to populate abandoned villages (not tourist ghost towns or dangerous sites) all over the world, including in your original home, France, and Japan. You seem to be the the right type either to consult with or to involve in the project…. do you have any interest in this?
Write to me and I’ll send you more details…

On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 7:40 AM, Jordy Meow <jordy@meow.fr> wrote:

Hello,

 

Yes, you can tell me a bit more 😉

It’s a very difficult subject though, especially that Japanese government is really involved into this.

 

Cheers,

Jordy.

 

On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 1:16 AM, air1@nyu.edu <sent-via@smugmug.com>wrote:

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Avi Rabinowitz <air1@nyu.edu>
Apr 14
to Jordy

Jordy, hi

 

Great to hear back from you.

 

Of course “populate abandoned villages” is rather vague 🙂 and even.adding ‘habitable’ to that makes it only slightly clearer   …. and yes, the Japanese are not the most receptive to foreigners moving in en masse, and there have been many incidents with US soldiers stationed there etc …. but on the other hand they have a declining population and though their robots can do some of the work they will not need homes…..so someone should be living there…. and perhaps this project can even help the increasing numbers of elderly helpless Japanese whose children are finding it difficult to fully manage the expenses of their care …

 

However, this project is not only about Japan, and not only about ‘abandonedvillages’, so I’ll explain much more fully below, starting with a tiny bit about me.

 

Professionally I am a physicist https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLn_5Sx_ThgDGLVOal214TLTuWO2PA_xZt    https://wp.nyu.edu/avi_rabinowitz/ , did my PhD at NYU……but now that I am moving towards completion of a major project (editing the videos of my lectures for the GR course on these sites) I’ve begun to focus on a more commercially-aimed venture, completely unrelated to physics.

 

The website I’m developing is meant for all countries, and eventually is meant to be available in all major languages.

It has two intertwined aspects: One ‘side’ of the site is a type of social-networking, to enable like-minded people to find each other and form a Group in order to make a major purchase together (not to be ‘Friends’, to discuss general matters, share media etc). The other ‘side’ of the site is for the commercial ‘providers’ who will supply the Group with what they need.

 

It is a general site with several applications.

 

One application is to housing. For example, the site will assist people in forming self-build societies like those in the UK, Germany and elsewhere. They don’t need to know each other beforehand and don’t necessarily need to be friends after the project of constructing their homes jointly; they can form a Group for the purpose of executing the project together without it needing to be a ‘social’ act.

 

A somewhat-related application is to connect up people from across the world – probably in relatively-prosperous countries – who would want to live in some foreign country. They can be a pre-established group (like the Korean religious group which purchased an English village; or an ideological group etc), or those who do not know each other beforehand but have a common vision or goal.

For example, there are many ex-pat communities of retirees from Western countries living abroad; they want to find a place which is nice, safe, and less expensive than their home-country, so usually they move to less-developed countries.

So although the Group can be a community which was formed based on a religious or ideological reason, that is not necessary – the site enables people to find each other and acquire housing jointly without them having to be bonded in that way before or after.

 

One application of the ex-pat idea is to have the Group move to a suitably-refurbished ex-abandoned town or extra-large Mansion or other structure, in Europe, the US, Japan and any other ‘developed-world’ location (meaning: the rule of law, personal security, adequate health care etc). For the retired-category I mentioned above, perhaps these ‘1st-world’ locations are sufficiently-inexpensive that the price of purchase + refurbishing plus cost of living are affordable to middle-income people with some savings and a pension, people who otherwise would seek only a non-Western land due to cost considerations. (Another possibility is that these would be the Group’s ‘summer homes’).

 

As to Japan specifically, perhaps retired academics or even retired Japanese Americans are suited to ‘re-populating abandoned but habitable villages’ (despite their somewhat Gaijin status…)? Re their numbers, according to Wikipedia:”Japanese Americans were among the three largest Asian American ethnic communities during the 20th century, but since the 2000 census, they have declined in number to constitute the sixth largest Asian American group at around 1.3 million, including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity.”

 

But again, this idea is meant for places like France, Italy, the UK etc where there are many abandoned or semi-abandoned places. Groups can relocate to a declining but still-populated European village, and live in suitably-expanded dwellings as paying-guests of the locals; this will also be a great economic boon to the local community.

 

The general mechanism for the overall Housing project (not specifically forvillages) is as follows: Through the social-network capability of the site, people can categorize themselves and the desired new home according to type, location etc, and then meet & chat with similar others in forums, and work towards forming a serious Group. When a suitable Group is formed, they can interact with the appropriate ‘providers’, who can be real estate agents, or land-owners, or municipalities etc (or for abandoned places, with engineers to determine safety etc), and a Group representative can visit the place.

The actual purchase would be through a reputable established financial firm acting via the site, which protects both the Group and the sellers. Some tiny percentage will go to the site.

 

There are many websites with articles about abandoned properties in Scotland, Ireland, England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia etc etc, as well as in Japan and various other countries.

I want to learn a lot more about the entire topic of abandoned places, suitability for re-population, local political, economic and other conditions etc, and it seems to me that someone like you would be a good contact to brainstorm with, especially as you are also into software engineering. And perhaps you have an interest in being involved somehow in this project.

 

Looking forward to your reply,

 

Avi

 

….

Vertical Village: Will a group of strangers who met through Twitter buy an abandoned Connecticut ghost town?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRZkSoBfZio

Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Will a group of strangers who met through Twitter buy an abandoned Connecticut ghost town?

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRZkSoBfZio&authuser=0

Will a group of str angers who met through Twitter buy an abandoned Connecticut ghost town?

 

..

Vertical Village: SIlvia Marchetti re abandoned villages in Italy. Also see articles by Louise Naudé and others

 

I tried to reach her, so far unsuccessfully:

Silvia Marchetti  Giornalista – Ufficio Stampa  Italy

 

Current 1.      Gruppo Mondadori,   Pigola Communications, Media Key
Previous 1.      Cultura e Culture, www.allaradio.org,www.alcinema.org
Education 1.      Università di Bologna / University of Bologna

Silvia Marchetti is a Rome-based freelance reporter and writer. She covers finance, economics, travel and culture for a wide range of media. Silvia has a master degree in journalism, speaks four languages fluently and has lived abroad most of her life. The views expressed in this 

does SEO and web editing: 

Skills

 


From Newsweek: Coming to the Rescue of Italy’s Ghost Towns

IN THE MAGAZINE 

BY SILVIA MARCHETTION 9/7/15 AT 7:29 PM

Italy’s Santo Stefano is a jet-black volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, in an atoll near Rome. From the days of the Bourbons up to 1965, it was considered Italy’s Alcatraz—a centuries-old prison packed with anarchists, revolutionaries, criminals, bandits and political dissidents. Today, it’s deserted.

Visitors still come to Santo Stefano, but they must first walk along a steep, rocky pathway flanked by prickly shrubs and hungry mosquitoes. The prison is now a crumbling horseshoe-shaped fortress at the top of the rocks. Nearby, its village’s colonial villa is also still largely intact but certainly decaying, along with the jail’s offices, bars, shops and a field where inmates once played soccer with guards. Any surrounding gardens and fields are long dead, consumed by the encroaching wilderness that threatens to swallow the village in slow motion.

Santo Stefano is one of over 6,000 ghost villagesin varying states of disrepair that dot Italy’s coasts and countryside. And even that staggering number may soon increase, as another 15,000 towns are currently on the verge of totalabandonment due to financial instability, emigration and natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. Though Italy boasts 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most of any country in the world, keeping up its artistic heritage—especially during an economic downturn—has proven a nearly impossible task for the Italian government.

Help could be on the way, in the unlikely form of rich businessmen with a preservationist bent. Though Santo Stefano’s prison is owned by the Italian state (which has been shopping for an investor to build a resort on the land), the surrounding village belongs to Orazio Ciardo , a Neapolitan businessman who has launched an ambitious (and somewhat bizarre) project to resuscitate the island. His plan involves creating a nude-friendly resort that will take advantage of the town’s natural surroundings and require only minor additions—like a platform carved out of volcanic rock for sunbathing and an area for sleeping tents. The primary goal is to maintain and recast, not replace, the island’s wild natural beauty.

Ciardo is one of about 10 visionary businessmen who have spent the last decade-plus snatching up crumbling historic villages and trying to give them a second life. Though they all have different approaches, their common goal is to help refashion Italy’s historic past to fit into its present.

Hotelier Paolo Galante purchased the ancient Roman village Foro Appio in the 1990s. Though most recently a way station for travelers on the Grand Tour, it had long been a stop for officials and citizens traversing the Appian Way, the Roman Empire’s only highway connecting Rome to Capua. It had a short life as a medieval cheese-making hub, but by the 1900s it had beenabandoned. “When I first got here, all I found was a heap of broken stones and dusty pillars covered by a thick forest,” Galante tells Newsweek. “But despite the mass of ruins, I sensed this place was packed with history and that there was something precious and sacred buried underneath.”

According to Scripture, Foro Appio was where Saint Paul gathered his earliest Christian followers. The legendary Roman lyric poet Horace also stayed here on a trip that stuck with him enough that he wrote about it in one of his Satires. Galante says the area’s history was instantly recognizable: “There were old stone pavings and bits of Roman vases sticking out of the ground. I’ve always loved history and archaeology, and I knew it was a valuable site.”

Along with his brother Maurizio, a fashion and interior designer, Galante spent nearly two decades building a luxury four-star hotel called Foro Appio Mansio, which now boasts 35 elegant rooms that coexist with the town’s preserved historical layout. The construction unearthed parts of the original Roman highway, which now runs through the village on which the resort sits and is used as a walkway for guests. Vases, amphoras, statuettes and majolicas jut out of the plastered walls, and what was once an old marketplace where travelers tied up their horses has been repurposed as an open-air cocktail lounge. In all, almost 80 percent of the main building’s original architecture, last refurbished in the 1700s by famed Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier, has been preserved.

“Recovering this Roman hamlet means exploiting its tourist potential but also revamping the local economy, mainly based on agriculture and cattle-breeding, by creating new jobs,” says Galante. “People used to live in the village, and now something from that life is coming back. It’s no longer a ghost town. I have employed dozens of people, and the hotel is constantly overbooked.”

Hotels and resorts aren’t the only option for revitalizing Italian ghost towns. Borgo Castelluccio, a small village in the rugged Abruzzi hills, saw its population dwindle to nothing in the early 1900s, after a series of earthquakes terrified the locals, who abandoned it. Enter Italian-German entrepreneur Michael Filtzinger, who determined that the town—full of crumbly medieval buildings—could have a fruitful new purpose as a getaway for German families who could purchase the refurbished structures as vacation homes in the sunny region. And, like his peers who also work to bring ghost towns back to life, Filtzinger has been primarily concerned with preserving the area’s history. “In 1986, my father purchased these ruins formerly inhabited by wolves, bandits, prostitutes and partisans fighting fascism,” says Filtzinger. “I worked 10 years rebuilding this village, spending over 4 million euros on materials. So it wasn’t profit that moved me, but the allure of history and art, and my deep passion for both.”

Two other businessmen in the Abruzzo region have done almost the same thing by these rescuing disaster-hit towns. Simone Mariani is restyling the village of Borgo Rocchetta—where, until the 1950s, shepherds used to live in cliffside, vertical houses without roads or electricity—into modern homes that nod to the town’s history without blighting its environment. On an even grander scale, Swedish-Italian real estate heir Daniele Kihlgren began purchasing ghost towns in Abruzzo a decade ago and has so far amassed over 10 of them. One of these, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, has been turned into a luxury resort that, like Galante’s Foro Appio, is spread out over the town’s excavated historical center.

Though it’s unlikely Italy’s government will be able to afford preserving most of these historic towns anytime soon, perhaps it’s better that they’re finding new life—and new ways to interact with modernity—in the hands of their unlikely heroes.

 

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