Italian village offering free holidays receives over 8,000 applications

San Giovanni in Galdo, a tiny hilltop commune located in the region of Molise in southern Italy, is said to have been overwhelmed with interest from tourists after it announced that it was offering free holidays.

The village offered free week-long stays in one of three empty homes in the village as part of a campaign called “Give yourself Molise”, in response to a New York Times feature that named the Molise region as one of the 52 places to visit in 2020.

Just 40 free holidays were available between July and September as part of the pilot project – and travel was not included.

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Friends of the Morrutto, the cultural association behind the project, said the aim, during this year of “zero tourism”, was to give people “a real holiday at no cost with a very specific purpose: to give new life to the small and unknown towns of Molise and to let Italian and foreign visitors discover them”.

Guests wouldn’t have to worry about anything, “except to discover the beauties of Molise, its history and its food and wine.”

It added: “Those who choose to accept this ‘bet’ will discover a country with an excellent quality of life, where everything is still marked by the nature that surrounds the village, a village that is located among other things in a strategic position, 40 minutes from the sea and from the mountains, two hours from Rome and Naples.”

It seems its sales pitch did the trick.

Since launching the project in June, the organisers have received over 8,000 applications from around the world, The Telegraph reports.

Stefano Trotta, one of the organisers, said: “We did not expect such a response. We had about 70 requests from Kazakhstan, some from remote Russian towns… from all over the world really.”

Applications for 2020 are now closed, but organisers hope that in future the scheme will be adopted by other villages in the area where there is often no holiday accommodation but plenty of empty homes due to depopulation.

Italy has created multiple viral campaigns to promote its lesser known regions in recent years.

Its popular €1 homes scheme has generated huge interest for regions that have long suffered from depopulation as people move away from villages to find work in towns and cities.

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