Year round residents are mostly agriculturists and the land is clay, not great for growing. The small villages have lost population for decades, Riace managed to reverse that trend, a classic case of taking lemons and making lemonade.
The mayor took in a shipload of hungry, sick, desperate Kurdish refugees who washed up on the beach, and tried to help them. Being entrepreneurial, he got others (Germans, I think) to fund the effort and created a new "industry" for his dying village - refugee rehabilitation.
He housed them in the abandoned houses, which he then paid them to fix up. The Kurds are mostly gone, having learned Italian, perhaps a trade, and something about being a "European." Now the current refugees in residence are a mix of Africans and Pakistanis.
Our tour group, mostly Trump-hating liberals, should have thought the whole enterprise wonderfully uplifting and holy. Actually, a fair number wondered what doing make-work jobs and living in an ancient village would teach third-world migrants, how they would fare after leaving Riace.
In a region of clay, a logical occupation is potter. The village teaches some to be potters but I have to wonder if there will be a market for so much tourist kitsch.
As is typical with help-the-poor schemes, the main beneficiaries are the villagers who created employment for themselves as professional refugee-enablers. In his own way the mayor is a self-invented hero not unlike the founder of the Grameen Bank which makes loans to the poor.
The mayor of Riace is somewhat famous and in-demand as a speaker, like that bank founder. Perhaps his motives were pure, perhaps self-serving, I cannot say.