A Short Salemi History

Ciao, you maybe new here or re-visiting…and as a lot of you faithful followers have been asking for updates on the Salemi regeneration project in Sicily, Italy, which offers some of the historic town centre properties at the nominal value of 1 euro…..be you a first time visitor or simply looking for recent news it is an appropriate time to give an update….further to very recent developments.

Back in the summer of 2008, the newly elected mayor of Salemi launched an adventurous regeneration project. Some history….The historic town centre of Salemi, devastated by an earthquake over 40 years ago had been pretty much abandoned. Many of the houses left as ruins. Local residents moved out to the Salemi new town and further afield and the old town centre became a ghost town. Slowly but surely some good hearted locals had renovated some of the historic palaces and old town houses on the narrow cobbled lanes of this hilltop town and life commenced to return to the picturesque old town centre.

Then one day, now over 4 years ago, a famous Italian TV art critic personality appeared as the new mayor, a very radical change for a traditional Sicilian town. He offered lots of new initiatives, from art & literature appreciation, regeneration, youth employment, local culinary awareness, historic values, debate, tourism, religion, museums and his internationally famous 1 euro house regeneration project. The latter an ingenious idea in that the local inward investment had reached its maximum but there was still a lot more to do to the old town to make it a true historic Mecca. So he decided to offer some of the old ruins at the nominal value of 1 euro to encourage international inward investment.

Since that day till now the 1 euro house regeneration project of Salemi continues. Yes admittedly there have been many administrative mountains to climb, in fact to date no one has had the chance to actually acquire one of these properties, but most of the preparation of the project is finally been concluded.

Over the past few years many people from all regions of the globe have been attracted to Salemi. It offers a unique beauty that only by visiting and staying here can be appreciated. The historic town centre is dominated by the Norman castle, numerous churches, cobbled narrow streets, local stone buildings, traditional architecture, charming squares, breath taking views across the valleys towards the seaside and most of all…..the genuine warm & hospitable locals, whom open their doors & hearts to welcome visitors.

Salemi was the first capital of Italy in 1860, if only for a few days. Here in Salemi, Garibaldi, from the town hall balcony in Piazza Dittatura, declared a united Italy on May 14  1860. Sicily dominated by many conquerors, over the centuries, have left their mark on Salemi, with global religions having their dedicated quarters of the old town, the Muslim, the Jewish and the Christian quarters, all living in harmony. In fact only recently has a project to build a mosque been discussed between the town’s administration and Qatar.

Salemi is undergoing many changes both socially and culturally. Cultural changes in Sicily often imply understanding and dealing with the old boy’s school & local business network, often referred to as the mafia. In fact the modern mayor has had a few issues with the so called mafia, but he showed them appreciation by creating a Mafia museum. An international, modern and challenging museum located in the old Jesuit’s buildings in the centre of Salemi.

For better or worse the current mayor after having completed many of his projects has decided to move on to pastures new and will be leaving prior to been able to see his visionary 1 euro house regeneration project start to become a reality.

Only time will now tell, when and if, the project will materialise the ex-mayor’s futuristic vision of a regenerated historic multi cultural Sicilian town.
I hope it will happen soon.
p.s. this is not the first time the mayor has threatened to leave, so who knows…. he may still be here in the future to make the town “an offer it cannot refuse”.

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