All eyes are on Italy's Lake Como this summer as the world's favourite bachelor, George Clooney, prepares to marry. The Hollywood star and London-based barrister Amal Alamuddin are expected to tie the knot in September at Villa Oleandra, Clooney's breathtakingly beautiful lakeside home in Laglio, which he bought in 2000 from the Heinz family.
Few people have done as much to endorse Lake Como as Gorgeous George — but this has always been one of Europe's elite second-home markets. It ranks with the Cote d'Azur as an A-plus destination, resilient enough to outlast any recession, where waterfront villas exchange hands for more than £30 million.
Loved up: George Clooney and fiancée Amal Alamuddin
"The appeal of Lake Como is easy to explain," says Giorgio Bonfiglio of Case di Campagna, part of estate agent Knight Frank's Italian network. "First, it is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful Italian landscapes. You don't see overbuilding and no new-build is allowed on empty land anywhere around the lake.
"Secondly, its position is fantastic, 45 minutes from Milan and the airport, within two hours of St Moritz and Lugano in Switzerland and Portofino on the Italian Riviera. Then there is the boating, the golf courses, and of course the excellent restaurants."
Prices have softened, particularly for apartments furthest from the water, down by up to 30 per cent on 2008 figures. Waterfront apartments are reduced by around 10 per cent while waterfront villas have held their value, says Bonfiglio.
"Waterfront properties carry a premium of up to 50 per cent but there are few that are truly waterfront because the road hugs the lake in many places," he adds. "Above the lake the air is fresher, which historically was what brought the Milanese here, to escape the stifling summer heat of the city."
The couple are expected to wed this summer at the Hollywood heart-throb’s Villa Oleandra, above, on Lake Como
Italian developer Angelo Majoochi has refurbished some of Lake Como's most exclusive and expensive villas, including one bought recently for £31 million. More affordably, he has two apartment developments for sale through Knight Frank.
Five minutes' drive from Bellagio, Lake Como's best-known town, on the east side, sits Bellagio Lake Resort. This is a low-level project of 35 apartments and townhouses directly on the lake. There is an attractive outdoor pool plus a pebble beach, a real rarity, in well-landscaped gardens. Prices for the one- to four-bedroom properties start from £250,600.
This is a quiet yet family-friendly resort, perfect for lock-up-and-leave owners where homes would rent from £240 a night. The lake is wide here, providing beautiful views of Comacina Island and across to the small village of Lenno. Owners can also purchase a berth on the floating pontoons at the front.
Even easier to reach at just 15 minutes from Como Town on the west shore and three miles from top hotel Villa d'Este, Como Lake Resort has 13 apartments in a ship-like building that hovers directly over the water.
This is a grown-up project of topquality finishes with a pool and fabulous modern boathouse with dry store facility in the basement.
Prices start from £1 million for a 1,400sqft apartment, with inside berths from £119,000. "It took five years to get permission to build these and they were only allowed because they were on the site of an existing boat builder's business," says developer Majoochi.
A historic home
Resale homes on Lake Como range from tiny apartments in tall townhouses to substantial villas with outside space — always highly valued.
Close to Bellagio in the small hamlet of San Giovanni, a two-bedroom apartment in a lovely waterfront villa dating from 1752 is £1.15 million through Knight Frank.
The apartment has high ceilings and a small private garden, but the standout feature shared by all 28 apartments on the site is the six hectares of level, waterfront gardens. A full-time gardener and a communal pool are included in the £2,400 annual service charge.
Knight Frank: knightfrank.com (0207 629 8171)
Cluttons Italy: cluttonsitaly.com