Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, so much so that it has earned first place on the World Heritage List: 58 Unesco sites recognised as 'World Heritage', including parks, cities of art and small villages.
Since 2017, villages have been at the centre of the European and Italian political agenda: the aim is to enhance the country's historical, artistic and cultural heritage, especially small towns that risk being forgotten because of the progressive, inexorable depopulation in favour of large cities due to the lack of job opportunities and inadequate infrastructure.
This is how the 'Village Plan' was born.
THE NATIONAL VILLAGE PLAN
The 'Village Plan' is a national programme aimed at safeguarding the value of the historical, architectural and urban heritage of the historic centres of small towns and villages, with priority given to areas subject to greater seismic risk. Village attractiveness' is explicitly foreseen in the NRP (M1C3, investment no. 2.1) and has two lines of action:
• Line A: Pilot projects for the cultural, social and economic regeneration of neglected and abandoned villages
• Line B: Local projects for Cultural and Social Regeneration
The sums allocated amount to EUR 1,020 million, of which EUR 420 million for Line A and EUR 580 million for Line B.
These investments are complemented (ceiling of 20 million euro) by the 'Tourism of Roots' measure implemented by the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation.
The Village Plan aims at the cultural regeneration of small towns in different ways:
• restoration of the historical heritage
• creation of cultural services
• promotion of new tourist itineraries and guided tours Interventions that damage the historical, environmental and landscape heritage are not allowed.
This is because most of the villages covered by the National Plan are located within national and regional parks, which are in turn protected by the framework law on protected areas (Law 394/1991), which also provides for the restoration of rural settlements.
CONDITIONS OF ACCESS
The Village Attractiveness Initiative runs for six years: from 1 June 2021 to 30 June 2026.
Financial resources are allocated:
• the restoration and rehabilitation of the historical heritage and public spaces and the construction of small service infrastructures (€ 800 million)
• business support (estimated at 2,500, total ceiling € 200 million)
The selection of villages (250 according to the NRP) will be made on the basis of:
• appropriate territorial, economic and social criteria
• the project's ability to impact on tourist attractiveness and increase cultural participation
ENHANCEMENT OF ARCHITECTURE AND THE RURAL LANDSCAPE
The Village Plan is accompanied by the protection and enhancement of architecture and the rural landscape, also with a view to implementing the productive induced with positive effects on local economies.
The intervention is also spread over six years (from 1 June 2021 to 30 June 2026) and plans to support the restoration of some 3,930 architectural and rural landscape assets across the country through:
• the conservative restoration and functional recovery of agricultural settlements, buildings, artefacts and historical rural buildings, agricultural crops of historical interest and typical elements of architecture and the rural landscape
• the completion of a census of the built-up rural heritage and the implementation of national and regional information tools aimed at gathering knowledge on rural architecture and landscape, intervention methods and techniques, as well as on the transfer of good practices and a culture of re-use
The implementation of the first type of intervention is coordinated by the MIC, which allocates resources to local authorities on the basis of criteria to be defined jointly between MICs and between regions/municipalities.
Local authorities select grant applications by public call; they are responsible for disbursing resources and monitoring implementation.
Investments do not constitute State aid in this case either.
Among the measures envisaged to rehabilitate the rural landscape, we must not forget the support given to organic farming and traditional livestock breeding.
THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF LANDSCAPES OF HISTORICAL INTEREST
Following the entry into force of the European Landscape Convention, with Decree 17070/2012 the Mipaaf (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) established the National Register of Rural Landscapes of Historical Interest, Agricultural Practices and Traditional Knowledge (ONPR). The Register identifies and catalogues typical landscape elements and agricultural practices that have survived industrialisation. Entities interested in being entered in the Register must meet certain requirements laid down by the State-Regions Permanent Conference.
SEISMIC BONUS AND ECO BONUS
The NRP expressly includes among the investments those related to Ecobonus and Sismabonus up to 100% for energy efficiency and safety of buildings.
The measures indicated have the following aims.
• stimulating the construction sector
• achieving energy savings
• reduce emissions by 2030
• stimulating and developing local economies through the creation of new jobs in the construction sector and in the production of goods and services for housing with potential impact on the vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic Support is provided in the form of a tax deduction of 110 per cent of the costs incurred, available over a period of five years, and available to those wishing to carry out energy and earthquake-resistant renovations of residential buildings.
The NRP foresees the introduction of financial instruments such as credit assignment and prepayment to facilitate the initial investment.
THE MIBACT ANNOUNCEMENT
The Village Plan foreseen by the NRP complements the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MIBACT) call for projects for the cultural and social regeneration of small historical villages.
The eligible Italian municipalities meeting the demographic criterion (resident population up to 5,000) are estimated at 5,509.
In the case of aggregations of several municipalities (up to a maximum of three), each of them must have a historic village.
The MIC (Ministry of Culture) is responsible for the coordination and management of the intervention.
Resources will be allocated to the municipalities where the selected villages are located.
The business support action will be managed centrally by the MIC with the support of a management body.
Investments do not constitute State aid. EU Regulation 651/2014 makes explicit which categories of aid are compatible with the internal market.
THE VILLAGE CHARTER AND THE RELAUNCH OF TOURISM
The "Charter of the Villages" provides for the establishment of a "dedicated" inter-ministerial mission structure (Mibact, MIT, Mef) at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, with suitably trained staff, to coordinate and guide the regional technical units and municipal technical and financial units, which are also to be suitably trained for the objectives of these interventions.
INCENTIVES FOR FUTURE RESIDENTS
Contributions and facilities for living in villages vary from country to country. For example, Candela, a municipality in the province of Foggia, offers increasing incentives based on the size of the family unit to those who transfer their residence to the municipality:
• € 800 for singles
• € 1,200 for couples
• from € 1,500 to € 1,800 for three-member households
• more than € 2,000 for families of 4 to 5 members In Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the province of L'Aquila, a monthly grant of up to € 8,000 per year for three years is offered.
In Molise, an 'active residence income' of € 700 per month has been devised for people who move to a municipality in the region with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants and open a business.
The best known case is that of the 1 euro houses. The benefit is conditional on moving residence for a few years and on the purchaser renovating the property to improve urban decorum.
INCENTIVES FOR WORKERS
What incentives are there for those who want to work in a Village?
In the era of remote working many professionals can work wherever they want as long as they have a good network connection.
However, many workers, such as craftsmen, still need a physical location. Retailers and artisans starting, continuing or transferring their activity to a municipality with a population of less than 500 inhabitants are exempt from paying for the years 2022 and 2023 on the real estate owned and used for the economic activity.
The State, regions, autonomous provinces and local authorities may grant immovable property owned by them on loan to traders and craftsmen.
The bailment lasts for a maximum of years10; the bailer is obliged to carry out any maintenance work on the property, at his own expense, that is necessary to maintain the functionality of the property.