It wasnt crying wolf: sale of whole Italian village revealed as PR hoax

Tiny Esino Lario claimed all its assets were up for grabs but it was actually working with a tech firm to raise awareness of issues facing villages

Last month a mountain village in northern Italy put all its assets up for sale. A website advertised that everything must go.


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Street signs started at 1,250. A pilgrimage site cost around 600,000, with a 15% discount applied. The town hall was a bit cheaper 200,000. Benches came at 280 each, but with an enticing three-for-two promotion.

In a full-page advert placed in almost all of Italys top newspapers, Esino Larios mayor, Pietro Pensa, lamented the reason for the mass sell-off: a lack of resources to fight the villages depopulation.

Sadly, we no longer have the resources to fight against problems bigger than us, he said. I have decided [] to sell the most symbolic places of Esino Lario.

The initiative attracted widespread national media coverage and scores of potential buyers. But on the day sales supposedly began online, something about the website looked off. Prospective customers were unable to purchase anything instead, they were redirected to a page asking them to share pictures of the items on social media. The sale was fake news.

The Esino Lario sale was publicised in national newspapers and had its own website

Esino Lario wasnt even struggling it had attracted resources through events and volunteering schemes, and its population of 745 had dropped only slightly since the turn of the century.

The mystery was addressed at a press conference in Milan later that day. In fact, the sell-off turned out to be a PR campaign by a local tech company specialising in broadband for remote villages.

The company teamed up with the Esino Lario council to raise awareness about the depopulation of rural areas, while also obtaining publicity for its new scheme for villages.


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Massimo Castelli, the national coordinator for small villages at the National Association of Italian Local Authorities, said he supported the bizarre deception.

As representatives, we try to make the suffering of small villages come to the fore, he says. But this isnt an issue the media like to cover maybe they cover the colourful initiatives like houses sold for 1.

It wasnt a case of crying wolf these areas are actually losing population because there are no jobs, schools close, services are cut.

While Italys population has grown by 4 million since the 1990s, research shows that villages with fewer than 5,000 residents, which make up a fifth of Italys population and manage over half its territory, haemorrhaged some 675,000 residents. The trend is expected to speed up over the next decade.

Smaller local authorities are becoming craftier in their fight for resources and public attention. The houses for 1 scheme, for example, has become popular throughout the country. In Sicily, Sambuca is the latest village to sell abandoned properties starting at 1, while similar schemes have run in Ollolai, Sardinia; Casoli, in central Italy; and Borgomezzavalle, in the north.

Sambuca was able to lure potential buyers from the UK, Dubai, Panama and Russia.

Sambuca has sold abandoned homes for 1. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

In Esino Larios case, the campaign brought about unprecedented media coverage, with national TV crews descending on the village. The tech company says the mayor joined the campaign voluntarily to raise awareness about the issue, without receiving any direct compensation.

Esino Larios administration has not answered the Guardians interview requests.

The approach involves plenty of tricks that might not be part of a mayors typical job description shooting videos, extravagant initiatives and exaggerations that play to the medias weaknesses but Castelli, the coordinator, is convinced it pays dividends and makes the public more aware of the issues facing villages.

He is himself no stranger to provocation. Earlier this year, he gave a speech in the Italian parliament wearing a black armband, symbolising his mourning for the death of small villages.

Because there was that provocation, I got rounds of applause, he says. And mine was the only speech of the session that made it into the national newscast.


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Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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