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23 stunning photos I took in Sicily that show why it should be the next place on your bucket list

Published by Business Insider on Sat, 12 Oct 2019

I recently visited three towns in Sicily that were selling homes for as little as $1 on a writing assignment.I got to see places on the island that tourists would never normally visit, and I was bowled over by the natural beauty.I also reached the conclusion that Sicily is an under-the-radar gem, and that you should go now before everyone else cottons on.I'm no professional photographer, but these are some of the best pictures I managed to capture during my time reporting from Sicily.Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.In July, I traveled to Sicily to report on the various towns that are selling homes for as little as $1 in a bid to revive their economies that are suffering from the effects of depopulation.I got to travel a lot around the Mediterannean island to areas that are seldom explored by touristsand I was bowled over by its natural beauty. While the $1 homes won't be winning any pageants, the towns that they inhabited were overflowing with rustic Italian charm, good food, and good wine.Despite its many assets, Sicily still flies under many travelers' radars. In 2018, tourists spent just over 15 million nights on the islandin comparison, tourists spent just over 69 million nights in Veneto, the region that houses Venice, in the same year. As a result, the prices in Sicily are low, the beaches relatively quiet, and plane tickets are often inexpensive, meaning thatby my calculationsnow is the time to go.I'm by no means a professional photographer, but below are some of the best pictures I managed to capture during my time reporting from Sicily.I started my journey in Sambuca, a small town with just a few thousand residents that's $1 home scheme has received some of the most widespread media attention since CNN Travel caught wind of it in January.Source: CNN Travel.Read more: I stayed in one of Italy's ghost towns that's selling off homes for $1, and I was treated like royaltyThe sidewalks here were lined with vibrant orange trees.My B&B was situated right by the Terrazo Belvedere ' an observation deck that I had entirely to myself.It boasted stunning views of the rolling Sicilian hills.A nearby restaurant, too, offered sunset views from its terrace but was practically deserted.Sambuca was nominated in the 2016 Italy's Most Beautiful Towns contest, and it's easy to see why when wandering through the town's historic Arab quarter, which is filled with tunnels and winding little side streets.The town, like all of those I visited in Sicily, was home to a few beautiful old churches. Its largest, Chiesa del Carmine, was built in 1530.The people that had remained in Sambuca were part of an ageing population that mostly seemed to be retired. It wasn't uncommon to see a gaggle of residents sat in chairs in the street during the middle of a workday.This is probably my favourite photo that I captured in Sicily ' I had to do so on my iPhone after leaving my SLR at the B&B. The subject, like many of Sambuca's residents, was passing the hours from his porch, watching the world go by.Though they may have been few in number, the Sambucans were overwhelmingly friendly. One of my highlights was being invited into a woman's grand home for coffee ' she had the most incredible garden filled with stonework and ornaments.Finally, I got a chance to see what could be made of these $1 homes, and this rooftop terrace offered a pretty strong argument for investing.The second town on my list was called Mussomeli, which is notable for its imposing hilltop Castello Mafredonico, built in 1370.The castle was opened up especially for my visit, which was fortuitous because the views from the top were breathtaking.With the exception of just a few houses, I loved that this view hadn't changed in the centuries weathered by the castle.Mussomeli, like Sambuca, boasted a number of ornate churches such as the Santuario Madonna dei Miracoli, built in the 16th century. Legend has it that a paralytic was once miraculously cured on the ground which the church is now built on.Source: Virtual Sicily.I stopped off at the home of Bert Vanbellingen, one of the town's new Belgian residents who had bought one of its $1 homes. His terrace complete with a staggering Sicilian vista was a prime example of what these homes could become if shown a little love and care.Read more: Meet the Americans, Brits, and Europeans flocking to Italy's rural ghost towns to buy abandoned, dilapidated homes for $1Mussomeli sprawled out beneath his balcony.From Bert's road, I spotted what looked like the perfect pool home to shelter from the oppressive summer heat.Finally, I moved on to the ancient village of Cammarata in the Province of Agrigento.Like Mussomeli, Cammarata's most distinguishing monument was its castle, which was built in the 13th century by the family of Cammarata. I was struck by how integrated it was with the rest of the houses; rising suddenly out of an innocuous side street.The streets themselves were almost a parody of what you'd expect from rural Sicily. This apartment even had a pulley system to deliver items from the road straight up to the top of the building.Cammarata borders the much newer San Giovanni Gemini ' the two towns are literally one street apart at the border. However, I was told that a proposal to merge the two towns into one was met with fierce opposition.All the towns I visited had one feature in common: they were all built on hills, which is a common feature of historic settlements as it served a defensive purpose against invasions. What it means in the 21st century is that every house has a view like this. If that's not reason enough to put Sicily on your bucket list, I don't know what is.Read more of Tom Murray's $1 home coverage here.
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