The story quickly became viral, drawing worldwide interest, especially as other cities and villages from the northern Alps to sunny Sicily were trying to do the same.
Soon, some of these cities were found besieged by buyers. The mayors reported thousands of requests, crashed websites, invaded suspicious villages and locals broke out.
The silence of the wise men was interrupted by foreign voices and powerful journalists. Spider vaulted doors were unlocked for the first time in decades, as people lined up early in the morning to secure an Italian dolce casa house (home Sweet Home).
A year later, is everything dead? Have all the old houses collapsed?
Not exactly. It is still possible to get into the action.
Below, we've rounded up destinations that still offer opportunities for those who wish to commit to renovating a broken Italian home.
And if you're wondering how you get a slice of the action, here are some points:
For starters, if you don't know someone already on board and can advise you, it's worth checking out the official city websites for listings of available real estate and application form downloads.
Visiting the area to see what you really sign up to before closing the deal is a good move, though many buyers have grabbed their homes spectacularly.
If your application and your documents are approved, the city will contact you about the next steps.
But remember the catch: buyers must pay a guarantee of between 2,000 and 5,000 euros and commit to renovating the property within three years. Once the purchase transaction is completed and completed, the deposit is refunded.
Here are a number of destinations that will help you choose the right place.
Gangi is known as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Located in Sicily, near Palermo, this snail-shaped city was one of the first to sell € 1 homes in 2011 and is by far the most successful.
"We are really proud," says Mayor Giuseppe Ferrarello. "Over 160 collapsing homes have received a makeover thanks to the new owners and this has revived the private property market. The old center is shining again."
And it's not all sold out yet – about 15 free homes are still on the market.
The old houses, known as "Pagliarole", have two storeys and were built in 1800 to house animals on the lower floor and farm families above.
The houses all have two entrances: one overlooks the top of the hill, the other below. These are typical of such "bee-castles" that sit on the slopes.
Gangi is part of the club of Italy's most beautiful villages, an annual honor given to bucolic sites.
The village is of Greek origin and has a mysterious atmosphere – it is one of the two places in Europe where it is said that the Holy Spirit has appeared.
Another divine sight is that of the Etna volcano.
The streets of Ollolai host an annual carnival mascot.
Courtesy of Ollolai comune proloco
Located in the wild highlands of Barbagia on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, it is raised on a virgin piece of land where ancient agricultural traditions live.
The houses are made of gray granite rock, while the city walls are covered with shiny graffiti.
Fresh air, zero cloud and magnificent views have healing power, according to newcomers. In the autumn, an event known as doortes Apertas (open courtyards) sees stables and ancient taverns open to the public, offering crazy good wine, ham, cheese and some other delicacies.
In fact, this is a cheese kingdom, famous for its super Casu Fiore Sardo.
Cultural attractions include a hidden carnival with goat costumes and archaic rituals.
Mayor Efisio Arbau says the city has so far sold 10 homes. One has been transformed into a luxurious Dutch couple's B&B.
"The project of € 1 homes has caused a tourist boom and attracted regional investment," he says. "A modern revival is underway."
Bivona offers tax benefits to people who move there.
Bivona is the last Sicilian city to join the gang, offering tax breaks and reduced bureaucracy to anyone who wants to settle down.
Set in a rocky amphitheater in the heart of Sicani Hills Park, Bivona lives up to the Latin origin of the name "Bis-bona", which means twice as good or twice as beautiful – a reference to soil fertility and virgin nature.
Orange groves, peach trees, Arabic-style courtyards, exotic cuisine of sweet and sour preparations and gourmet religious festivals are among the attractions of new residents.
"We get hundreds of emails every day, so we create a multilingual service to help buyers," says councilwoman Angela Cannizzaro. "The locals are now full of hope, this beautiful city is worth a second life."
The houses will match as soon as all applications are weighed. Ten are currently available, but more are expected to be available.
Cammarata offers free houses.
Gianpiero La Palerma
Cammarata has perhaps the best deal, with homes being offered for free and the extra incentive of a € 1,000 baby bonus for newborns.
Situated in the wild of Sicily, it is known as "the city with 1,000 balconies to the east", as every window basks in spectacular sunsets.
The locals are proud to be extremely hospitable. The city's cuisine boasts dishes that include clover, lamb, sweet caponata and pine nuts with almonds, and sanguinaccio salami made with pig blood (believed to be aphrodisiac).
The city is known for the longevity of its citizens, credited with its mild climate and the fresh air of the Monte Cammarata natural reserve.
At present, there are still twelve vacant houses, with only two being purchased so far.
"I did my crusade," says Mayor Vincenzo Giambrone. "If the old owners do not show up to claim their downfall, I will expropriate all the empty buildings and land them on new entrants."
Zungoli had just made a makeover.
Zungoli is in a stellar location, close to Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Situated on a sandstone hill, it is a maze of caves and zigzags, circular streets linked by huge, uneven pebbly steps that swing from a magnificent castle.
Medieval bridges lead to a cluster of farmhouses with blue, pink, green and yellow pastel colors and dome-shaped classy mansions that accommodate approximately 1,000 people.
Inside the multilevel Byzantine caves that were once used as storerooms during the Crusades, caries-shaped Caciocavallo cheeses are now hanging for the season.
The countryside offers detox hiking trips along old shepherd paths.
Zungoli has just received a makeover with shiny new sidewalks, public LED lights and great Wi-Fi.
Thirty homes have been sold so far, but a third lot will start in January. "The wind of change is blowing, revitalizing the local rural economy and creating jobs," says Mayor Paolo Caruso.
Borgomezzavalle's offer brought new families.
Borgomezzavalle is the perfect alternative to the alpine rugged Sicily.
Located in Piedmont on the Swiss border, it is a triple deal: abandoned € 1 homes, € 1,000 for newborns and another € 2,000 for anyone wanting to start a business.
Despite being stuck in a canyon, the Borgomezzavalle enjoys sunlight all day, even in winter, thanks to the huge mirror on the opposite slope that reflects the rays.
It is a tiny jewel of 320 people.
The bright colors of houses with arched roofs, carved from the slope of the mountain, gather around regular paved squares with wooden benches and pots.
There are frescoes with frescoed terraces and rich loggias. Buildings for sale of € 1 include stone and stone houses, barns, stables and former farm and craft houses.
So far, however, five houses have been sold, mainly Italians and a group of monks.
"New families are moving in," says Deputy Mayor Stefano Bellotti. "A baby girl was born just the other day, it's worth celebrating. Her parents got the allowance."
Sambuca has a picturesque maze from the streets of Saracen.
Courtesy of Proloco / Cacioppo
Italy's top € 1 rally winner is Sambuca in Sicily. Having made headlines worldwide in January, ownership has been a waste.
Due to high demand, local authorities have decided to auction all 16 houses offered to the bidder with the highest bid up to € 25,000.
Only one house was given for € 1.
Unlike other cities that have negotiated deals between buyers and sellers, the local authorities here own all the buildings that were abandoned after the 1968 earthquake, so that they can easily reject the empty properties.
"We are living in a peaceful revolution," says Deputy Mayor Giuseppe Cacioppo. The real estate market has been upgraded with over 80 private sales and people are still flocking, demanding to buy more land, olive groves and vineyards.
The main bait of Sambuca is the picturesque labyrinth of the Saracen districts, the Belvedere where once there was an emir's palace and the rugged surrounding hills that produce high quality wine.
Local delicacies include snails and nipple cakes known as minne.
Nulvi is close to some of Sardinia's best beaches.
This Nulvi town of Sardinia has the luxury of being close to the beaches of Stintino and Asinara.
Primitive nuraghe stone altars mark the landscape, while the city has brilliant frescoes known as murales depicting rural and mystical scenes.
There are odd signs: a crumbling temple has become the main street of the city, its stone-built temple still above the passers-by's heads, and there is a sacred stone well where ancient tribes sacrificed to pagans of water.
"We have 9 properties for € 1 and soon they will all be sold out, but we will put more on the market as old buyers get rid of theirs," says local consultant Luigi Cuccureddu. "When the project started, locals thought it was a joke and a miracle if only one house was sold.
The Cantiano is located near Via Flaminia, one of Italy's oldest streets.
Crossing the border between Umbria and Marka in central Italy, Cadiano was founded by massive Italic tribes who were forced to bend their knees in Rome.
Due to its strategic location along the picturesque Via Flaminia, one of Italy's oldest routes, it was converted into a military settlement by the ancient Romans.
Two dilapidated former farms of € 1 located on the farmland have already been sold, but there are two historic buildings in the old center of the village.
One of them is an impressive, collapsing palace that needs € 120,000.
The Cantiano has a peculiar equine atmosphere. The local wood carvers were later turned into wild horse breeders on the Catria hills, creating bizarre horse shows and a horse meat-based kitchen with meatballs and roasted lambs, apparently a delicacy alongside visciolata, a sour cherry liqueur.
"We are close to Gubbio and Urbino, people are fascinated by our medieval square and easy life," says consultant Filippo Gentilotti.
Fabbriche in Vergemoli
The Fabbriche di Vergemoli is located in a secluded corner of Tuscany.
Now how about a free home in Tuscany near Lucca, Pistoia and the elegant Versilia coast?
It's not funny. This town is a cluster of villages that are scattered in the Unesco Alps protected forest, with scattered remnants of abandoned miners' houses covered by lush vegetation.
It is a jungle with stone walls and collapsing roofs. Many areas are easily reached on foot.
The difficult position has slowed down efforts to unload its properties.
"We started in 2006," says Mayor Michele Giannini. "It has taken years and so far only eight farms have been sold, but there are probably a hundred, and those interested in China, Russia and Brazil.
"The problems are the heirs of the old owners, who mainly live in the States, are difficult to identify."
As a degraded region, investors can claim up to 60% of renovation costs from the European Union.
Those who bid can enjoy pristine streams, ancient scenic bridges and a curious Grotta del Vento – or Wind Cave – where the gusts of wind make scary echoes.
Mousomeli's name comes from Latin as "Hill of Honey".
Maurizio di Maria, Common Musomeli
The city of Sicily Mussomeli has sold 125 homes for 1 euro. The other 50 are still available and there are many other "higher" buildings in better condition (but slightly more expensive).
"We are pushing the old owners to dispose of their properties so that they can deliver them to newcomers in an upcoming batch," says consultant Toti Nigrelli.
Mussomeli, surrounded by honeysuckles and eucalyptus, takes its name from the Latin Mons Melis, also known as "Hill of Money."
Local delicacies include honey coated guastedde buns and cuddureddi fried donuts with fried milk.
It has one of Italy's most impressive fortresses, called Enchanted Castle, which clings to a pointed rock as a spider.
The fertile green farmland is scattered with old sulfur mines, sanctuaries, Roman necropolises and traces of primitive settlements.