There's a premium attached to waterside living that doesn't only apply to coastal property. Many of Europe's rivers and lakes are property hotspots, attracting second-home buyers eager for a calming view and a good choice of water-themed activities.
In the best locations, the good view, along with extras such as a private mooring, can push up prices significantly. "On Lake Como, unobstructed lake views can command 40 per cent more," says Robert Green of Cluttons Resorts (020 7584 3050). "In some cases the real value is in the land rather than the building."
Italy has its own Lake District
Lake Como is the most popular of the four major lakes in Italy's elegant lake district, where a winning combination of glistening deep water, towering mountains and intimate villages creates the ideal spot to linger over a glass of prosecco. Como's popularity is boosted by its star quality and the well-documented purchase by actor George Clooney of a palatial pad in Laglio on its favoured, sunnier western shore. Milan's three airports are within an hour and winter skiing is an easy day trip away.
One-bedroom apartments in a restored 1800s building in Faggetto Lario, with communal pool and panoramic views over Lake Como, are £191,350 through Pure International. Cluttons Resorts is selling a development of 26 one- to three-bedroom apartments at Residenza del Lago above Bellano from £330,500. The hillside development with views across the lake to Menaggio has a private leisure club, underground parking and an outdoor pool, all designed to appeal to potential rental clients.
Linda Travella of Casa Travella says that a lake view is a must for the majority of her clients. "Buyers who live close to the water are often boat enthusiasts, or enjoy windsurfing and sailing," she says. "Others buy above the lakes to enjoy even better views and more tranquillity."
On more affordable Lake Maggiore, Casa Travella has property from £147,860 for a two-bedroom apartment in a period villa above Stresa, and a three-bedroom apartment at Baveno with private beach and mooring for £260,925.
Also on Maggiore, a one-bedroom lake-front modern apartment for £391,380 and a carefully restored three-bedroom period apartment for £956,725, are both available through Jackson-Stops & Staff.
Tuscany and Umbria
Further south, on the Tuscan-Umbrian border, shallow Lake Trasimeno offers sailing, canoeing and windsurfing within an easy day trip of the Renaissance artworks of Florence and Siena. The lake is 30 minutes from Perugia airport, served from Stansted by Ryanair.
Roger Coombes of Cluttons Italy tips the north and east hills for the best lake views. He has property for sale overlooking the lake, from £104,370 for an unrestored town house, to £6.96 million for a 14-bedroom stone castle close to Cortona. A restored three-bedroom stone farmhouse near Panicale is for sale for £774,000.
Little-known Lake Montedoglio, 90 minutes from Florence, also provides plenty of water sports. Aylesford has a fully restored borgo (small village) with two farmhouses and barns, providing 10 bedrooms, for £1.63 million - the company's International Italian consultant Gemma Bruce says it would be nearer £2.6 million in Tuscany's prime Chianti region.
A lazy river in France
Renovated mill houses make large, picturesque homes. France's rivers provide plenty for sale. In Indre-et-Loire in central western France, Winkworth has a six-bedroom 17th-century stone mill house with more than 20 acres at £834,960.
In Touraine, close to a TGV station, it is selling three linked medieval mill houses with more than 15 acres of land for £1.1 million.
In the Camargue National Park in southern France, one hour west of Marseille, Domaine des Flamants Rose (through terresensleaseback.com; 020 7471 4681) is an eco-friendly off-plan project of 93 one- to three-bedroom cottages on the banks of the Rhone Delta. On completion in 2013 the site will have a natural pool, tennis courts, spa and sauna, children's club and restaurants.
Prices start from £119,160, including parking and furniture, but excluding VAT. Owners who let their property through the local management company are exempt from VAT and receive a guaranteed rental income of 4.98 per cent.
*Pure International: pureintl.com; 020 3031 2860
*Cluttons Italy: cluttonsitaly.com; 00 39 075 845 0100
*Casa Travella: casatravella.com; 01322 660988
*Jackson-Stops & Staff: jacksonstops.co.uk/international; 020 7828 7387
*Aylesford: aylesford.com; 020 7349 5100
*Winkworth France: winkworth.fr; 020 8576 5582