He visited Italy for the first time and bought a house within 24 hours

CNNA house purchase is often one of the trickiest life experiences to negotiate, requiring huge deliberations on location before spending weeks searching for the right property. Finding somewhere in another country is even more fraught with difficult decisions.

Unless, of course, you’re Paul Millet.

In which case, you land in Italy for the first time, and before the first day is done, you’ve bought yourself a beautiful old house with great views in the middle of southern Italy’s Basilicata region.

But Millet, a Los Angeles-based television editor, knew exactly what he was doing. The 54-year-old was lured to Italy by houses being sold for one euro, or just over a dollar. But he quickly realized that these came with a catch – the need to spend thousands to make them livable.

“I read an article on CNN about the one-euro properties being offered back in 2015 and my interest was definitely piqued,” he says. “I had been to various countries in the European Union on several occasions but never Italy, though it was on my list.

“I cannot express exactly why I was drawn to the idea of buying a one-euro property and renovating it, but it was something that captured my imagination.”

Instead, Millet turned his attention to other properties that, while more expensive because they were essentially all ready to move into, were still being sold at bargain prices.

For him, Latronico, a stunning cliff top village in Basilicata, was the perfect destination. The destination had sold only two homes priced at one euro and instead focused its efforts on cheaply offloading renovated or occupiable houses in order to revive its dwindling population.

After listing empty properties online via website https://casalatronico.eu/, liaising between old and prospective new owners, it’s so far sold 50 properties, mostly to American buyers.

Millet says that he began planning to travel to Italy to buy a house back in 2019, but was thwarted by Covid-19. He finally managed to visit in 2022 after attending a friend’s wedding in Ireland.

He picked Latronico because the locals running the house sales program seemed extremely responsive to his inquiries compared to other cheap-home towns he’d contacted prior to his trip.

“The prices of the houses were super-attractive, especially coming from the Los Angeles area, and the Latronico properties were for the most part in good shape.

“Unlike the one-euro programs, I was under no obligation to do anything with any house I purchased. Obviously, renovation and making the properties viable was the objective, but as a foreign buyer I could do with it what I wanted. I liked that,” says Millet.

A foothold for the future


The tailored property tour organized by officials in Latronico made him fall in love with the village and he was completely taken by its beauty and the warm reception from locals, he says.

“At the end of the day, I bought my place and began thinking about renovations and the future,” he adds.

Millet has no plans to make a permanent move to Latronico. For now he sees it has a bolt hole where he can slow down and unplug.

“I plan to come at least once a year to get away from it all,” he says. “The place will act as a foothold for future traveling around the EU. I’ll probably list it as a vacation rental for when I am not there to keep the place alive, and share it with family and friends.”

The one-bedroom, 60-square-meter house he bought cost 12,000 euros (just under $13,000). He expects to spend up to $35,000 on sprucing it up.

The property boasts a balcony, storage attic and a rooftop terrace with a “view to die for,” says Millet, describing the vista as the “cherry on top.”

Although the house is small, it has two basements which are being re-purposed, one featuring a cave which once housed livestock and the other an ancient bread oven built into the wall that still works.

Renovation work is almost complete.

“There was foundation work needed in the larger of the two basements,” Millet says. “I had a reinforced concrete floor installed and the electrical system was completely replaced.

“Since the larger basement is so sizable, I decided to turn it into a living space that will include an additional bedroom with a small adjoining sitting room that will also have a half bath and laundry facilities for the house.”

The house’s ancient, rough stone walls were whitewashed to brighten up the space. The new concrete floor was stained and sealed.

“It looks terrific. I just need to add the half-bath, do some additional cosmetic work and get furnishings and it will be done,” Millet adds.

Sunset cocktails


Millet has kept all the original vintage tiles and will add new modern accent tiles to dress it up. The house exterior will get a fresh coat of paint and he plans to tile both the rooftop terrace and the steps leading to the main entrance door.

He says he can’t wait to have friends enjoying sunset cocktails on the terrace and then dinner in the kitchen below afterwards.

Millet says he was captured by Latronico’s peacefulness, a stark contrast to hectic LA.

“It’s just such a slower lifestyle here,” he says. “My life in Los Angeles moves so fast. Work deadlines and obligations, and so many social things going on. I do enjoy my life there, but taking a moment to remove myself from that environment is very refreshing. Latronico will definitely help me relax.”

The village is so remote and off the beaten track that it doesn’t even show on some navigation apps. Millet says the map application on his mobile has very little idea about how to get around Latronico.

“Both times I’ve come, the maps app has not successfully led me to the Airbnb I’ve stayed in.  But I figured that out, obviously.”

When tech fails, locals have stepped in to make him feel at home.

“During my first visit, my Airbnb host met me at the place I was staying and then took me out for coffee at one of the local bars,” he says. “ She introduced me to the bartender and then an older retired gentleman approached and bought me my cappuccino with a big smile.

“Franca, my host, said it was his way of saying you’re welcome here. It was very endearing. That describes my first hour in Latronico.”

Millet is thrilled to have picked up local habits like southern Italy’s languorous and expansive lunches – a far cry from the quick, frugal salads of Los Angeles.

But he says he’s had no problem piling it up and stretching his waistline.

“That’s not too difficult to get used to. I just love just taking a break from the day. Even if your day is a relaxing one. So different from LA.”

Local help


There are however cons of staying in a sleepy Italian village, he says, but it depends on perspective.

“A remote village is just that… remote.  That’s a pro for someone looking to get away from it all in a beautiful setting, but a con for someone who wants the action of a larger city.

“Same thing in terms of activities. If someone wants to stay in a place where there’s a wealth of things to see and do, then a remote village is not necessarily for them. But for someone who wants to get away from the hassles of daily life, then a small village like Latronico is perfect.”

That said, he adds, Latronico is strategically located in a part of Italy where one can stay in a quiet village and drive to other areas with interesting sites and things to do, like Greek ruins and beaches.

Tackling the sale process without help on the ground isn’t a piece of cake, warns Millet, who also owns a condominium on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Navigating the logistics of buying the house was probably the main challenge. Since I don’t live in Italy, figuring out the negotiations and then, once the price was agreed upon, getting the transaction done was potentially an obstacle.”

He was supported throughout the entire process by the village’s housing platform founder, Latronico’s former deputy mayor, Vincenzo Castellano, who acts as an intermediary between foreign buyers and local sellers.

So, all in all, the negotiation was pretty painless and once the price was agreed upon. Millet signed a notarized power of attorney in the States to allow Castellano to act on his behalf in filing all the paperwork and project-manage the renovation.

Millet has advice for foreigners wishing to buy property in small villages: “Do your homework” and visit first, living like a local – even if just for one day.

“I’m the kind of person who really does a deep dive into anything I consider, so that came naturally for me. All the municipalities have different programs, so get an idea of what each involves. Know it will cost some money to get a home ready to go but it can be incredibly affordable and then you will have it to use as you see fit.”

Above all, he says, “Make sure the place speaks to you in person, that you love it.”