Words by Carla Passino

From a protected islet to a bargain castle, many Italian heritage sites are up for sale on the international auctions giant

A chunk of Italy is for sale on Ebay. A couple of weeks ago, a private ad went up of the Italian site of the international auction colossus, selling a whole islet, l’isolotto della Paolina, just off the coast of the Isola d’Elba.
Named la Paolina because legend wants it to be one of the favourite sunbathing spots of Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, the islet is a tree-topped outcrop ringed by sapphire waters. Although it is privately owned, it forms part of the Tuscan archipelago national park and has historic as well and environmental importance, as it was once an Etruscan and Roman site.
First spotted by environmental group Legambiente, the Ebay ad caused an uproar in Italy. Legambiente asked for stricter protection—la Paolina is the second island in the archipelago to go up for sale in the last few years—and local politicians called for the islet to become public property.
But, as of today, the ad—or rather the ads, as there are two, with different price points—remain on Ebay, waiting for the islet to be sold to “nature lovers who respect the environment.” La Paolina, which cannot be built or farmed on, can be yours for €100,000 (at least according to one of the ads).
Beyond la Paolina, however, there are other, less controversial slices of Italy for sale on Ebay. A huge, crenellated castle in the Tuscan countryside, complete with waterfall, is up for €8m. For slightly less—only €6m—buyers can bag a 9th century stone castle and farmhouse in Montefeltro, both fully restored. And the eye cannot fail to be drawn to the early 20th century castle near Volterra, in Tuscany, which is apparently on the market for €0.01. Shame that, when you read the full ad, it quickly emerges it is price on application.
For a cut price castle, it is better to opt for the large, 13th century castle in Motta dei Conti, near Vercelli, which needs to be completely restored and is on the market at just €240,000—practically a steal.
And you don’t even have to worry about other bidders pushing the price up. In true Ebay style, all the properties are marked as “Buy it now”. But beware, they won’t be shipped—they are all labelled “collection only.”