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Tiny Sicilian Town is Giving Homes Away—Literally

Property hunters and bargain hounds take note: If you're in the market for a Sicilian escape, the tiny town of Gangi has a deal for you. Act now and you could get a historic home for the low, low price of nothing at all (up to a nominal fee).

Gangi has been shrinking for centuries. Starting in the late 1800s, emigration from Sicily to America was heavily encouraged by agents for trans-Atlantic ocean liners. Between 1892 and 1924, about 1700 Gangi residents landed in New York, according to records at Ellis Island. Not huge numbers, but still a sizable portion of the dwindling population, which dropped to 16,000 by the 1950s and today hovers around just 7000.

The years of exodus left many old buildings empty and susceptible to degradation. The homes have a unique three-story structure, called pagglialore, that once housed donkeys on the ground floor, chickens and goats in the middle, and the farmer's family on the top. Now, town officials are trying to find owners to give these long-empty structures new life.

Gangi isn't the first Italian town to try to drum up residents for abandoned buildings with a can't-miss deal. A few years ago, the Sicilian town of Salemi announced plans to sell properties ruined in an earthquake many decades before for a single euro each; the offer never came to fruition. A similar initiative failed in Carrega Ligure, a town in the Piedmont region, after the local government learned that, by law, the municipal administration can only sell properties for market value—no less.

It's a poor track record, but steps have been taken to ensure no such fate befalls Gangi. The local government won't actually buy any of the empty homes outright, but will act as a mediator between buyers and sellers. And to ease potential new owners wary of the notorious Italian home-buying red-tape, there's a team in place to help streamline the process.

"The bureaucracy is what worries people most, but we don’t sell a house and leave people alone," Alessandro Cilibrasi, a local real estate agent who assists the municipality in the initiative, told the New York Times.

And besides, it's already working: More than 100 houses have been given away or sold for less than market prices. The majority of these have gone to Sicilians looking for a weekend getaway, or to other Italians. There are about 200 similar properties left on the market, with a sizable waiting list for interested owners.

“We don’t want people just because they have money,” Giuseppe Ferrarello, the mayor, said. “We want to know what you’re going to do with the houses.”

One of the things you have to do with the house is renovate—right away. The offer for the free homes [PDF] comes with a stipulation that buyers must begin renovations within a year of purchasing and complete the work within four years.

But in the end, Ferrarello is sure the work will be worth it, comparing the island's interior to Italy's famed great heart: “Umbria has nothing on Sicily."

[h/t New York Times]

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Peter P // Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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This Just In
This Gorgeous Town in the Swiss Alps Wants to Pay You $25,000 to Move There
Peter P // Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Peter P // Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If living in a fairy tale-like village in the Swiss Alps is like something out of a dream, then getting paid to do just that might be your fantasy life come true. But that’s exactly what the tiny town of Albinen, Switzerland is proposing. As The Independent reports, the town’s residents are getting set to vote on a proposal that would pay a family of four over $70,000 to commit to spending 10 years living there, as a way to bolster the dwindling population.

New residents will be eligible for grants of approximately $25,000 per adult and $10,000 per child for two kids. There are, of course, a few stipulations: new residents must be under the age of 45 and commit to making the town their permanent residence for at least 10 years. (If they leave before the allotted time frame, they’ll have to pay the money back.) They'll also have to choose to live in a home with a minimum price of $201,000.

Currently, the village is home to about 240 people, but that number is beginning to shrink, as longtime residents have chosen to move away. According to commune president Beat Jost, the recent relocation of three families in particular led to the loss of eight pupils at the local school, which forced its closure. While jobs in the village itself aren't plentiful, Albinen is close to several larger towns. And if you're game to do a bit of traveling, Geneva's only two hours away and Zurich is just about three hours.

The hope is that the promise of some cold hard cash, which could come in handy when it comes to purchasing a home in the town, can help to reverse this trend.

In a newsletter to residents detailing the proposal, the town noted that the program would be “an investment in the village’s future.”

[h/t: The Independent]

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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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