I am to HGTV as The Husband is to MSNBC. I DVR at least seven HGTV series, but I love them all. This cable channel may not be your thing, but I still urge you to check out the fab My Big Italian Adventure.
It features Lorraine Bracco, star of Goodfellas (1990), The Sopranos (1999-2007), and Rizzoli & Isles (2010-16), with that distinct husky voice and Brooklyn accent, she has been nominated for an Academy Award, four Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In what is more of a tourism advertisement than an actual real estate opportunity, there are houses in Italy, where property owned by municipalities want to get rid of them so as not to pay taxes and levies. These are crumbling properties that need major renovations, and you can own one for one euro ($1.30). The Case1euro.it project is not a joke.
The properties are given as donations to the municipalities to sell for one euro. In some cases, the municipal administrations are guarantors for the owners of such properties. Of course, there are commitments that buyer must undertake: You must have plans for restructuring and re-evaluation of your house within 365 days of purchase. Once all permits are granted, works must start within two months. Besides the one euro, you must pay a thousand euros to an escrow account that is refunded after three years.
On My Big Italian Adventure, Bracco travels to the tiny hilltop town of Sambuca di Sicilia to meet up with an architect, a contractor (the delightful Piero Verardo) and a translator, where she remodels a 200-year-old, 1,075-square-foot home that she purchased for one euro. Her renovation budget was considerably more than her purchase price.
The mayor of Sambuca joined the one-euro program to help sell the town’s vacant homes quickly and inexpensively. The goal was to encourage families to return to the rural oasis, but the catch is that renovation on the homes must be completed within three years of purchase. It also drove social-media chatter and attention to the town.
”I’ll be truthful: I was very cheeky. When I wrote to the mayor, I wrote that I was an Italian-American actress and I was really interested in getting one of the one euro houses. And I did mention that I could get HGTV to come with me and cover it.”
It turns out that Rizzoli & Isles is a big hit in Italy because Sasha Alexander, who plays Isles (Bracco plays her mother in all 105 episodes) is married to Italian director Edoardo Ponti, the son of producer Carlo Ponti and Sophia Loren.
Bracco is of Sicilian heritage, and although she had filmed several times in Italy, she had never visited the country’s largest island.
”I had to send that one euro from my bank and wire transfer it into a municipality bank account over there, which cost me $30! And from that I should have known I was getting myself into a lot of trouble.”
Bracco’s centuries-old home had no electricity, running water, kitchen or bathrooms and needed to be gutted due to its deteriorating floors, crumbling walls and dilapidated roof.
Like me, Bracco is a big fan of HGTV and it occurred to her that this project would be a fun renovation show.
“Little did I know that there were 16 houses and there were 100,000 emails from people all over the world for these homes.”
Bracco got her house and now owns of a little piece of property in Sambuca. She says the houses she looked at were “shitholes”.
“Nobody in their right mind would have bought this. But, you know, you had to have that adventurous spirit and I sadly have that.“
The show has just three episodes, and I found it funny and fresh. Because of COVID-19, I cannot travel, and the show serves as a travelogue of Sicily and a rather exciting renovation show. The people of Sambuca are so sweet, the town so gorgeous I had a just a little tear fall at the end of the final installment.