No, that is not a joke. Or should we say...non e un scherzo?
The Italian government really is giving away castles (and a whole bunch of other historic sites of significance) for free! There is a catch, of course. You won't get the place outright free and clear - but you will get a 9 year lease, as long as you promise to turn the monastery, farmhouse, castle etc into a tourist destination.
This is all part of the Italian government's ongoing plan to encourage the many millions who visit the country in search of la dolce vita to go somewhere other than the overcrowded obvious attractions like Rome and Venice. Instead, they're hoping that by giving away these properties for "free" they will encourage the development of attractive places to visit elsewhere in the boot-shaped land.
Intrigued? Your proposal to redevelop that 11th century cliffside palazzo (real) as boutique hotel is due by the middle of June.
In bocca al lupo!