If you've ever dreamed of taking up residence in an Italian castle but don't have the deep pockets required, a new scheme by the Italian government may be of interest. It's handing out longterm leases to 103 castles, villas, and other historic buildings free of charge – providing you're willing to roll up your sleeves and do some DIY.

Tourism in Italy is often focused on familiar hotspots like Venice and Rome, but the country's new Strategic Tourist Plan aims to introduce visitors to less well-trodden areas. The idea is to promote "slow tourism," or cycling, walking, and the like.

There are a total of 103 properties up for grabs this year and another 200 planned over the next two years. They're located all over Italy in various stages of dilapidation. Many are still very picturesque though and include villas, castles, inns, farmhouses and other buildings.

Standout properties include Serramazzoni's Torre della Bastiglia, a 12th Century tower erected to support the Castle of Monfestino; Torre Angellara in Salerno, a 15th Century military building that was part of Italy's coastal defenses; and Fortilizio dei Mulini, a medieval fort in Spoleto

Before you go packing a drill and phrasebook however, you'll first need to fill out an online application (follow the source link below). You'll also need to commit to renovating a site into a tourist-friendly facility like a hotel, restaurant, or spa. Duties will include promoting local walking tours, cycling, and such. Under 40's are preferred, and the offer is only open until June 26th.

Those given the nod will be granted an initial nine-year period to work on their project, with further nine-year chunks of time then doled out. Up to 50 years is also possible in some cases.

The question remains as to whether the scheme is open to non-Italian citizens. Judging from our rudimentary attempts to translate the Italian text with Google Translate, we'd guess that's the case, though an English-language version of the terms and conditions is on the way, so all should become clearer soon.

Source: Agenzia del Demanio (in Italian) via Curbed

View gallery - 9 images