Fancy owning a historic Italian building for free? Now you can. Old houses, inns, farmhouses, monasteries and ancient castles are all up for grabs – and you won't have to pay a penny.

In total, 103 sites are available, dotted across the country from north to south.

But there is a catch. Anyone who decides to take one of the buildings must renovate and transform them into tourist hotspots such as hotels, restaurants, or spas.

The State Property Agency and Ministry of Cultural Heritage announced the project as part of Italy's Strategic Tourist Plan, aimed at relieving some of the strain on the country's most popular and overcrowded areas and promoting lesser-explored destinations.

Parts of Italy, especially cities such as Venice, have struggled in recent years with growing tourist numbers and it is hoped that these measures may help to spread tourism around the country.

"The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector," Roberto Reggi, of the state property agency, told The Local. "The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists."

Many of the historic sites are located near to the famous Appian Way, the Roman road connecting the capital with Brindisi on the southern coast.

After the initial 100 properties this year, a further 200 are set to be included in the project over the next two years.

Italy has turned to the public to help restore its historic sites before. Over the past two years, the ''Lighthouse Project'' has seen the Italian government auction off around 30 historic lighthouses to investors in return for converting them into hotels and tourist facilities.