With the Adriatic coast on one side and the Apennine mountains on the other, San Giovanni in Galdo is a pretty typical Italian hamlet. One of dozens of pretty medieval villages in the Campobasso hills in the Molise region of southern Italy, its ancient cobbled streets are almost untouched by industrialisation – and home to just 553 residents.
It’s the ideal place to escape to when modern life gets a bit much, and not least because it’s now offering tourists the chance to enjoy a week-long holiday in the village completely free of charge.
Founded by local residents in 2013 with the aim of revitalising the village, cultural organisation the Amici del Morrutto started offering free trips to tourists last July as a way to kickstart tourism to Molise during a particularly hard year for the region.
Named Regalati il Molise, or ‘Give Yourself Molise’, the scheme allowed tourists to stay in three old houses in the village that had been left empty for years thanks to depopulation, with local farmers and producers coming together to offer produce for guests’ meals (and other villagers hosting them for dinner). With 40 free holidays on offer between July and October last year, the Amici del Morrutto were predictably inundated with requests, with thousands coming in each day from Italy and much further afield.
Making headlines across Europe – and with some city-dwelling guests even enquiring about relocating to the rural idyll – the scheme has been such a success that the village has now decided to keep it going indefinitely. Amici del Morrutto also hopes that its pilot initiative will lead to the creation of a hospitality network throughout Molise, making use of yet more uninhabited houses in nearby villages to promote slow and sustainable tourism to the area.
So, fancy a free week sipping vino in the Italian countryside? Of course you do. Applications can be made via a form on the Amici del Morrutto website. You might want to brush up on your Italian first, though. In bocca al lupo!
Or if you’re looking for a permanent change of scenery? Another beautiful Italian village is selling houses for just €1.