‘We bought a cheap Italian home and added an elevator’


(CNN) — Buyers from all around the world have been snapping up dilapidated Italian homes at rock bottom prices over the past few years as numerous depopulated towns and villages attempt to revive their dwindling communities by offering property bargains.

While the prospect of substantial structural upgrades, along with the red tape often involved in purchasing a home in a foreign country, might be off putting to some, others have jumped at the chance.

Of course, each buyer will have a different vision for their new renovation project. Some opt to keep things as simple as possible, focusing on making the house livable again, while keeping costs down.

And there are also those who decide to go all out.

Massoud Ahmadi and Shelley Spencer, the first to complete renovations on an abandoned home in the Italian town of Sambuca di Sicilia, fall into the latter category.

Italian hideaway

Massoud Ahmadi and Shelley Spencer bought an abandoned  home in Italian town Sambuca di Sicilia back in 2019.

Massoud Ahmadi and Shelley Spencer bought an abandoned home in Italian town Sambuca di Sicilia back in 2019.

Silvia Marchetti

The couple, from Montgomery County in the US state of Maryland, were among those who snapped up a historical dwelling in Sambuca, situated deep in the heart of Sicily, after local authorities put 16 abandoned homes up for auction with prices starting at a symbolic one euro — roughly $1.

Ahmadi and Spencer were already interested in buying a property in Italy, and had been considering looking in the Sicilian region when they read about the scheme on CNN back in 2019.

“It was love at first sight,” Spencer tells CNN. “Sambuca is very clean, with nice old stone pavements reminiscent of those in [Washington, D.C. neighborhood] Georgetown and the street lights at night are very romantic.”

They were thrilled when they learned that their €10,150 (around $10,372) bid for a 100-square-meter palazzo had been accepted, and quickly got to work on giving the property a dramatic facelift.

Two years later, and well ahead of the three-year deadline implemented by local authorities, their Italian hideaway is complete.

Ahmadi and Spencer, who both work in global development projects, spent around $250,000 transforming the dilapidated property into a lavish home, which they say looks “like a Renaissance house.”

They plan to split their time between the US and Italy, spending around half of the year in their two-bedroom home, along with their daughter and grandchildren.

The renovated house features beautiful marble bathrooms, but its stand out feature is undoubtedly an indoor elevator that the couple use to whiz up and down its three levels.

So what made them decide to have an elevator, complete with a security camera and phone, installed in the property?

Elevator addition

The couple had an indoor elevator fitted inside their 100-square meter palazzo.

The couple had an indoor elevator fitted inside their 100-square meter palazzo.

Massoud Ahmadi

“We want to get older here, do yoga each day and sip coffee out on the terrace with a view of the misty lake,” explains Spencer.

“So we thought it would be great to feel as comfortable as possible by bypassing all those narrow steps, and not having to go up and down four windy staircases several times per day.”

While a quarter of a million dollars might seem like a hefty sum to spend on a project of this…



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