For the first time in 90 years, the number of Italian citizens living in Italy has fallen to about 55 million.
In 2014-18 the number of Italian citizens resident in the country fell by 677,000.
Two factors are behind the decline, according to experts: a decrease in births, which is at an all-time low since the unification of Italy, and an increase in the migration of young people to other European countries in search of job opportunities. Nearly 157,000 people left the country in 2018.
Italy's population is expected to decline further in the next five years, the UN has said.
It ranks second – behind Japan – as the country with the greatest proportion of older people, with an estimated 168.7 over-65s for every 100 young people.
In an attempt to resuscitate these towns, several mayors, such as the one in Sutera, in the province of Caltanissetta in Sicily, have opened the doors of their vacant homes to asylum seekers who have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya.
Others, such as Sambuca, which are determined do anything it takes to survive, have adopted a strategy that has become fashionable in the south: sell, or practically give away, abandoned homes to anyone willing to move in. The symbolic price of a house is just €1.