Debt-ridden Italy hopes to raise £400million by selling off historic castle, palace… and an entire ISLAND off Venice

  • The £12.7million castle was built for Pope Francis III
  • Said to be haunted it was also used as a prison until 1989
  • Villa Mirabello, near Monza, was in the 18th century by Cardinal Durini
  • Island of San Giacomo was inhabited by monks in 1100s
  • Now in disrepair after being abandoned by army who had a base there

By Hannah Roberts In Rome


Never mind a place in the sun, if you’ve ever dreamed of owning your very own Italian castle, or an island in the Venetian lagoon, now’s the time.

As the cash-strapped Italian government attempts to tackle its deficit, the state is to sell off some of the family silver.

A haunted fortress and a cardinal’s trophy palace are among 50 historic properties for sale.

The Island of San Giacomo is currently in ruins after being abandoned by the army but the Italian government hopes a developer will see its potential as a luxury resort, and is hoping to find buyers for another 49 properties

The Island of San Giacomo is currently in ruins after being abandoned by the army but the Italian government hopes a developer will see its potential as a luxury resort, and is hoping to find buyers for another 49 properties

The move recalls 2012, when Greece was forced to sell off some its beautiful islands to foreign buyers, to chip away at its enormous debts.

The Italian government hope that the nation's treasures will be bought by private businesses and converted into hotels, restaurants and museums, bringing much needed employment and international investment.

 

The sale of the 50 properties will raise £424.8million, Minister for the Economy Fabrizio Saccomanni said.

The sale was approved as part of an emergency decree aimed at keeping Italy’s 2013 budget deficit within 3 % to avoid corrective action by Brussels. 

Orsini Castle, near Viterbo, was built for Pope Francis III and comes with a 15million euro price tag

Orsini Castle, near Viterbo, was built for Pope Francis III and can be yours for £12.7million

The medieval fortress sits above the feudal town of Soriano Nel Cimino

The medieval fortress sits above the feudal town of Soriano Nel Cimino

The former prison is said to be haunted and currently serves as an art gallery

The former prison is said to be haunted and currently serves as an art gallery

Prime minister Enrico Letta is planning to accompany the sales with further austerity measures worth £934million.

Another £1.27billion is to come from a second tranche of properties to be sold later on.

The idea was first mooted last year by Mario Monti, the technocrat who took over as Prime Minister in December 2011, when Silvio Berlusconi took public debt to unsustainable levels.

The ‘Kill Public Debt’ plan originally listed 350 properties but officials now deem that some assets, such as military airbases, are poorly suited for the commercial market.

The properties are to be marketed through a state-run fund who will advance the money to the Treasury, selling off the assets as buyers are found, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

The properties include Orsini Castle, which sits above its own feudal village near Viterbo, about 60miles from Rome. 

The medieval fort was built for Pope Nicholas III in the 1270s and has a £12.7million price tag.

Said to be haunted, it was used as a prison from the mid-19th century to 1989 and has since been an art gallery.

In Venice the properties on offer include the Island of San Giacomo in Palude, north-east of Murano.

Villa Mirabello features artistic frescoes and is set in parkland close to the highly-desirable Monza, near Milan

Villa Mirabello features artistic frescoes and is set in parkland close to the highly-desirable Monza, near Milan

The island was inhabited by monks and friars from the 11th century before it became a military base in the 1800s.

Since it was abandoned in 1961, it has fallen into ruin but could appeal to international investors as a luxury resort.

Other national treasures to go under the hammer include the 18th century palace, Villa Mirabello.

The frescoed villa, set in parkland near Monza, close to Milan, was built in the 18th century by Cardinal Durini, the Inquisitor of Malta.

Property expert Rupert Fawcett head of Knight Frank Italy said the scheme made ‘logical business sense.’

He said: ‘The reality is that any government in Europe is looking to raise funds where they can. The cost of running these properties can be huge and the sheer upkeep of them can be unmanageable.

‘If properties can be bought by private investors, restored to their former glory it’s good for everyone. It benefits local communities and puts some money in the state coffers.’  

Head of the Italian employers federation Confindustria, Giorgio Squinzi, said to cut the deficit Italy’s needed ‘drastic action'.

‘Continuing with the status quo our country will remain, at zero or low growth,' he said.

It is not the first time Italy has sold off assets. Last year a succession of lighthouses on the island of Sardinia were sold off to private businesses and converted into hotels, galleries, and museums.

The island’s autonomous government could no longer afford the cost of maintaining and restoring them.


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