It was meant to be a profitable fusion between Italy's abundant cultural heritage and the boundless possibilities of the internet – the online auction of richly historical state-owned properties to help reduce Italy's vast debts.
But it would seem that Italian officials have an inflated idea of the value of their nation's treasures in these cash-strapped times, because all but one of the properties have been withdrawn from sale after failing to attract sufficiently lucrative offers.
Not a single bid was received for the castle, at Gradisca d'Isonzo near the border with Slovenia. The offers for the convent in the southern city of Taranto and the island of Poveglia were rejected as derisory: no one apparently thought a 99-year lease on seven hectares (17 acres) of land off the Lido was worth more than €513,000 (£407,000). A local association of conservationists put in an even lower bid, of €472,000.
Italy hopes to raise more than €6bn over the next three years from the sale of another 40 historic properties and almost 500 others of lesser cultural value. The proceeds will go towards reducing the country's ever-growing public debt, which last year topped €2tn.
The failure of the inaugural auction, however, raises a string of questions about the methods used to value the properties and whether an online auction is really the best way in which to dispose of them? Unfortunately, the Guardian was unable to answer any of these questions on Friday.
A call to the government department that organised the sale met with a recorded message. It said the offices were closed and gave no indication of when they might reopen.
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