Food, Travel and Tech

Airbnb in this idyllic Italian town for 3 months for free

Grottole, Italy

Looking for a change of pace? How about moving to an itty-bitty, historic hilltop town in the South of Italy?

Four people will live in Grottole, Italy for free this summer, thanks to Airbnb and local non-profit Wonder Grottole. They will become part of the local community and work as experience and home hosts for Airbnb.

How would you like to drop everything and move to Italy for three months?

"Our dream is to repopulate the historical centre," Silvio Donadio, one of the founders of Wonder Grottole, said in a written statement about the program, which was announced Tuesday. Currently only 300 people live in the town (located in the arch of Italy's "boot"), which has more than 600 empty homes, after many residents left in search of economic opportunity. "In ten years we'd like to see the village full of people from different cultures perfectly integrated with the local community."

Andrea Paoletti, one of the founders of Wonder Grottole.
Photo courtesy Airbnb

Applicants who are selected will have their travel expenses to and from Grottole covered by Airbnb and will get an Airbnb coupon to stay in a local accommodation, a spokesperson for Airbnb tells CNBC Make It. (One of the apartments where applicants will stay can be seen here, a spokesperson for Airbnb tells CNBC Make It, but the four selected won't all stay in the same accommodation.)

Those selected will be expected to work for the nonprofit, Wonder Grottole. In addition to hosting visitors, they will lead experiences, or events for visitors. Experiences in Grottole will including historic skills like vegetable farming, honey harvesting, pasta making and olive oil production.

"Visitors coming to Grottole will live in a quiet place, with slow living," says Vincenzo (no last name provided), the local olive oil producer, according to a written statement from Airbnb and Wonder Grottole. "There's no traffic, no chaos, no pollution, good food and above all welcoming people. People from abroad will bring a new energy to our village and they must be open to sharing their stories with us. We are good listeners."

Vincenzo, 21, and his father, Giuseppe, 54, are olive oil producers in Grottole. Vincenzo is a student at the University of Milan, but he returns home often to help with the olive oil business.
Photo courtesy Airbnb

The Grottole partnership is part of a larger collaboration between Airbnb and the Basilicata region of southern Italy, where Grottole is located. In June, Airbnb announced the Southern region of Italy won the Airbnb Community Tourism Programme, an effort to support sustainable tourism.

"At Airbnb, we believe that when travel is unique, authentic and local, everyone benefits. We know some of the best experiences are found beyond tourist hotspots — in the communities local residents call home," the travel company says on its website for the Community Tourism Program."

Rocco is the local hairdresser, saffron producer and beekeeper in Grottole, Italy. He's lived in the small town for 40 ears.
Photo courtesy Airbnb

Airbnb has faced criticism that the fast-growing tech travel company's popularity is ruining the authenticity of travel destinations and pricing out locals.

Sabbatical participants will not be paid a salary and proceeds from the events they lead will be reinvested into Wonder Grottole. And while the award recipients will have responsibilities to contribute to the town and project, they will also have time to relax and enjoy the countryside, an Airbnb spokesperson tells CNBC Make It. Award recipients will be paid back for "reasonable food expenses and other basic living costs" of up to a maximum of 900 euros ($1,022) per month when the receipts are received, a spokesperson for Airbnb tells CNBC Make It.

The sabbatical runs for three months from June to August 2019.

For rules, restrictions and the application go to and apply by February 17, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. Central European Time (5:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).

The winners will be announced on March 29.

As of Friday, Airbnb had received 75,000 applications from all corners of the globe, a spokesperson for Airbnb tells CNBC Make It.

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