An Italian city has announced it intends to sell off vacant properties for the nominal sum of €1 (85p) each.

Taranto, in the south of the country, hopes the move will reinvigorate its old town, which sits on an island between a lagoon and the open sea and is joined to the mainland by two bridges.

City leaders have been inspired by the actions of numerous small villages across Italy that have fought back against a tide of depopulation by selling houses for minimal sums.

In the 19th century Taranto’s island had a population of around 40,000, but that figure has now dipped below 3,000.

The city council intends to begin by offering five properties for sale and will expand the scheme if it proves successful, The Daily Telegraph reports.

“We’re drawing up a list of the council’s property assets,” Francesca Viggiano, the council officer in charge of heritage, told a local newspaper. “We’re aiming to take measures which will result in the repopulation and development of the Old City. We want to attract investment that will resuscitate the historic centre.”

New owners will be expected to meet the full cost of restoring their property, which could run into hundreds of thousands of euros. They will also have to commit to occupying the home, to stop speculators restoring them and selling them off for a quick profit.

Inquiries have apparently already been received from potential buyers in New York, Milan and Rome.