Since the last few decades, Italian rural towns – especially in the South, have started suffering from depopulation. Indeed, several people often move to big cities in northern Italy or abroad to study and to look for better opportunities. To contrast such phaenomenon, municipalities of Sicily, Calabria, and other southern regions, have launched the “1 Euro House” project. Basically, it is possible to buy old uninhabited houses of the villages for one euro provided that the purchaser renovates it.
My hometown Mussomeli, a village in the heart of Sicily, has joined the “1 Euro House” project as well. If you walk through the streets in its historic quarters, you can see several abandoned buildings. Sometimes, it seems to be in a ghost town. Fortunately, a lot of foreigners have found the project interesting and bought a house in the city centre. Some of them uses it only as a holiday house, others have really moved to Mussomeli. Every municipality has its own rules about the deposit system, number of architects or lawyers you must involve, or time in which you have to complete your renovations to avoid penalties. In Mussomeli, as you can renovate the interior as you like, but the façade must be kept as it originally would have been. Furthermore, the renovation must be completed within 3 years.
As I said, it is really great that so many foreigners have enthusiastically embraced the project. It is such an amazing opportunity for my hometown to be in contact with different cultures. Moreover, most of people who are buying houses for one euro do not want just live there. They have so many brilliant ideas to make the town be alive as it was in the past, when it was not so depopulated. They bring their culture and their own ideas, and this is such an enrichment for them and for us as well. For instance, there is Rubia, a Californian woman who would like to open an art gallery on the ground floor of one of her homes; Tonia form US who wants to open a vegan cafeteria; Danny, a well-known chef who recently launched “The Good Kitchen”, a charity initiative which I find amazing because it promotes inclusion, solidarity and it saves food that otherwise would be wasted.
Danny McCubbin is a digital consultant originally from Australia who had been living in London for several years. He worked with the famous chef Jamie Oliver, dealing with his digital, social media, and marketing platforms. Danny first visited Mussomeli in 2019, when he saw several houses on sale. However, due to covid-19 emergency and all the bureaucratic paper he had to fill, he could move to the town only in December 2020.
On the 30th of July of this year, he finally launched his project, called “The Good Kitchen”. The idea he had in mind could become real thanks to the support of many of his followers, who donated more than 24,000 £ to his crowdfunding campaign. The day “The Good Kitchen” was launched, Danny and some local volunteers had a celebration to thank all the people who helped out to set up the kitchen. Danny gave a little speech, saying “The Good Kitchen è vostra”, which means that the kitchen belongs to the inhabitants of Mussomeli, as he underlines on in Instagram profile. So, what is exactly “The Good Kitchen”? as I said, it is a project that tries to help those in need, such as lonely elderly people, families with financial disadvantages, kids with fewer opportunities. A few days ago, for instance, Danny cooked for the children that live in Casa Vanessa, a youth centre for children whose parents are not able to take care of them. Moreover, as he wrote on his personal blog, he has some projects for the future. The first is a sit down meal every Friday using surplus food for people who are marginalised.
Another project is dedicated to elderly people whose husband/wife passed away, whose sons and daughters do not live in Mussomeli anymore, or simply those who would like to enjoy a meal together with others. Danny also would like to bring food to old men and women who cannot leave their homes because of health issues.
What Danny is doing for our community is such a great thing. In fact, in a town with stagnant economy and increasing depopulation, those that cannot leave because they don’t want to or because they can’t – such as elderly, or people that cannot afford to pay a rent to move somewhere else, often are left behind, and might feel lonely.
Furthermore, “The Good Kitchen” is a great way to help the environment because it rescues food. Indeed, the food for cooking the meals is donated by supermarket or local farmers. It is food that otherwise would be wasted.
Thanks to Danny and other people who commit themselves, bringing their own ideas, “ghost towns” like Mussomeli could reborn one more time.