Ever wanted to buy one of those $1 homes in Italy? A woman from Chicago just did

Meredith Tabbone now owns a home in Sambuca, Sicily.

SHARE Ever wanted to buy one of those $1 homes in Italy? A woman from Chicago just did
Meredith Tabbone stands in front of the house in Italy she bought in 2019 in an online auction.

Meredith Tabbone, who lives and works in downtown Chicago, stands in front of the house she bought earlier this year in Italy in an online auction.

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Perhaps you’ve seen one of those articles about buying a house in Italy for as little as $1.

And maybe your mind drifts to a stone palazzo, where you sit on your balcony, glass of Chianti in hand, listening to the lively chatter of the families passing below as the sun sinks toward a hilly horizon.

Then you come to your senses: What kind of schmuck do they think I am?

It turns out, the truth lies somewhere in between the extremes — at least in Meredith Tabbone’s case. Like plenty of Americans with Italian roots, the 40-year-old financial adviser, who lives downtown, has long wondered what it might be like to live in Italy.

The temptation to try it has increased in recent years, with Italian towns — often in less wealthy southern regions — offering property for next to nothing as a way to revive withering communities. In May, Tabbone found out hers was the winning bid on a house in Sambuca, Sicily, where her great-grandfather was born.

What she knew about her new home came from a single, slightly blurry image on a website. For all she knew, her property might have had an unobstructed view of a sewage treatment plant.

“I had zero idea,” she said.

She didn’t pay a dollar. That’s the starting bid on the “Municipality of Sambuca di Sicilia” website, which has 16 properties on offer. She bid about 5,500 euros (about $6,000) for the two-story home she selected, having no idea what others had bid. She later found out the next highest bid was about 2,000 euros (about $2,200), she said.

Tabbone, who clearly has an adventurous spirit, said she wasn’t particularly worried about what she’d find when she arrived in Sambuca — a town of about 6,000 people that’s some 20 minutes from the sea.

“I was excited,” said Tabbone, speaking on the telephone while on vacation in Zimbabwe. “I figured whatever it was, it could either be rebuilt or renovated.”

When she finally made the trip to Italy earlier this year — she’d been before, but never to Sicily — she said she was delighted by what she found. The home, sitting on top of old ruins, was built in the 1700s. And although it has no running water or electricity, it has tons of potential. It has two floors, homes on either side of it and it has some stables on the ground floor.

“There is actually still hay and hooks and ropes from, like, 100 years ago,” she said.

Tabbone, who is single with no kids, said she plans to buy the house next door, which will give her about 3,700 square feet in total. One day, she hopes to retire there. Under the terms of the sale, she said she’s required to renovate her home within three years of the purchase.

There is one problem: She speaks very little Italian.

“I’m learning right now,” she said.

To look at the one euro homes on offer in Sambuca, go to www.comune.sambucadisicilia.ag.it

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