Twelve families found living in Italian palace for €5 a month

The Italian Court of Audit is investigating how 12 families came to be living in the grounds of a Bourbon palace in southern Italy for a peppercorn rent.

Twelve families found living in Italian palace for €5 a month
Houses were rented in the grounds of an Italian Unesco site for as little as €5 a month. Photo: Wikimedia

Since the 1990s, the families have been renting the homes belonging to the local authorities for between just €5 and €15 a month.

They were also exempt from paying gas and electricity bills. 

The properties are located a stone's throw from the Royal Botanical Gardens in the grounds of the Palace of Caserta, an 18th Bourbon mansion near Naples, which is often dubbed 'the Italian Versailles' as it was inspired by France's Palace of Versailles.

Over the past two decades the families, believed to be ex-employees of the palace and their descendants, have been free to roam the fountain-filled grounds of the Unesco World Heritage site which stretches for some 120 hectares.

The Court of Audit is now investigating how they received such favourable rates, opening a probe into possible “abuse of office”, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

The families were issued with eviction notices, but only one family has left, a spokerperson for the palace told the newspaper.

The spokesperson was unavailable for comment when contacted by The Local.

The eviction notices were issued before Italy’s Culture Ministry hired Tomasso Felicori to take over as director of the palace last year as part of its aim to revive the country’s cultural treasures.

Felicori, who recently received an unusual complaint from trade unions – that he “worked too hard” – made a statement on Facebook about the remaining lodgers.

“All the tenants have legal contracts on questionable terms,” he wrote. 

“They were served with an eviction notice by my predecessor and if they haven't done so already they should get ready to leave.”

The latest revelations come less than a month after an investigation exposed hundreds of properties in Rome, owned the authorities, that were being rented at rock bottom prices, costing the city some €100 million in lost revenue.

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Half of big city households in Germany ‘spend over 30 percent of income on rent’

While the rental burden on households has dropped overall over the past two decades, people living in the major cities are still spending a big chunk of their income on rents - with the poorest among the hardest hit.

Half of big city households in Germany 'spend over 30 percent of income on rent'
Newly constructed housing in Frankfurt. Photo: dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Almost half of the roughly 8.4 million households with a rental apartment in a major German city spend more than 30 percent of their net income on rent, according to a new study funded by the trade union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation.

Roughly a quarter of households have to spend at least 40 percent of their income on their Warmmiete (rent including heating costs) and ancillary costs, the study found, while just under 12 percent of metropolitan households spent more than half of their income on rent.

The findings were based on an analysis of the 2018 micro census carried out by researchers from Humboldt University Berlin.

Their analysis also showed that the financial burden of rents on tenants has declined in recent years due to the fact that, even among residents of major cities, incomes have risen faster than housing costs.

Overall, tenants spent some 29.6 percent of their income on rent in 2018, down from 31.2 percent in 2001.

Increased construction activity has at best only slightly improved the housing shortage in recent years, the Böckler Foundation stressed, referring to the study.

There is a particular shortage of small and inexpensive apartments, the supply of which has dropped significantly in recent years, the foundation said.

The Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) has also concluded that rents now place slightly less burden on households overall in comparison with a few years ago.

According to its data, in 2019 just under 14 percent of the population (around 11.4 million people) lived in households that were financially overburdened by high housing costs. The overburden ratio has dropped somewhat since 2014.


Destatis considers households to be overburdened if they spend more than 40 percent of their disposable income on housing costs – which includes both rents and mortgages.