Of course, everyone has heard of Italy’s €1 home programs. But what if a city gave out dwellings for free? For individuals who desire to start a new life in Cammarata, the Sicilian town has pledged to waive the standard symbolic fee. With its daring bid for new residents, Cammarata made headlines throughout the world in 2019. There was only one issue. The local authorities were overwhelmed by the number of people who applied for the initiative. The project languished due to a lack of dedicated workers and then came Covid. There was not a single residence that was given away.

“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. “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 began to return home. One of them is Ornella Ancona, 28. She’d moved to the UK for the past five years after leaving Sicily about a decade ago to study and travel overseas.

However, she returned in January 2021. She said that the pandemic had drastically impacted our perspective on life, and it had made me wish to return to Sicily for a while. Moreover, she returned with the desire to re-establish a connection to the place and people from whence she originated. After such a difficult year, the peaceful location and the real warmth of the inhabitants have been the finest remedy.