If you've seen the ads for €1 houses, you've likely seen them.
Faded, crumbling beauties, their heyday long gone. There are dozens of towns like these in Calabria, and throughout Italy, that have seen a sharp decline in population, which has turned these villages into near ghost towns.
The Haunting Beauty of Badolato
I recently visited Badolato for the second time. At first glance, it's a gorgeous village, with buildings cascading down the hill. But upon closer inspection, you notice the many abandoned buildings. The silence.
On my first visit, an older Italian woman stopped to chat with me. She told me people had left the town because there was no work. They went to the seaside towns, like where I live, or to bigger cities for work opportunities.
I saw the same thing in the French village of Saorge, where the image of a rusty swingset outside an abandoned mountain home continues to haunt me.
The advent of highways and technology made opportunity-seeking villagers leave. Can you blame them? The question is: what's to become of these endangered species?
The Future of the Mountain Village
I hate to say it, but tourism may be the salvation of tiny towns like Badolato. There are houses (albeit crumbling) for sale for as little as €15,000. Foreigners from other countries see this as an opportunity to have a vacation home in Italy, so they snap them up, remodel them, and pour a little money into the local economy.
I'm not sure how locals feel about this. Sure, it's great to have the houses fixed up and inhabited, at least part of the year, but what about the flood of tourism? I can't answer that.
I asked myself whether I would ever live in a town like Badolato. After all, I'm a digital nomad, so where I live doesn't impact my work. But for me, I want access to shops and supermarkets, and towns like these simply don't have much to offer.
There is a group in Badolato called Badolato Slow Village that seems to be proud of the town's heritage and events. I don't know much about them, but I believe it's groups like these that have a real opportunity to share their piece of Italy with people on social media, and hopefully encourage them to visit.
It's my fear that villages like this will crumble away and fade into oblivion. Let's do what we can to support them. On your next trip to Italy, get off the beaten path and see what life is really like for those who live in these mountain villages.