The €1 housing schemes in Italy are well-known. What if, on the other hand, the city provided free housing? For people who want to start a new life in the city, Cammarata has promised to waive the standard symbolic fee. With its bold bid for new residents, the Sicilian village of Cammarata made world headlines in 2019. There was only one issue. The number of people that applied for the project was overwhelming. The project failed due to a lack of dedicated personnel and then came Covid. There were no homes that were handed away for free.

“Thanks to all the publicity, we had a lot of requests,” says Giuseppe Mangiapane, the mayor of Cammarata, who entered office in the middle of the pandemic in October 2020. He also adds, “Cammarata is a stunning town — it’s like the panoramic terrace of inland Sicily because you can admire all the marvels of the island — even Etna’s eruptions, many miles away, from here. Anyone who comes falls in love immediately. However, unfortunately, the pandemic starting the same year as the project was launching, blocked everything.” However, as the virus spread, something else began to happen. The younger generation of Cammarata returned home. One of them is Ornella Ancona, 28. After leaving Sicily a decade ago to study and travel abroad, she’d spent the last five years in the United Kingdom.

In January 2021, she did, however, return. She felt that the outbreak had altered her perspective on life. It had also kindle her interest in returning to Sicily for a while. She also returned with a desire to re-establish bonds with the people and places she left behind. The peaceful surroundings and genuine warmth of the villagers have been her best medicine after such a trying year.