Living la dolce vita is easy in a country renowned for its varied landscapes, cultural heritage, excellent food and exuberant, friendly people. About 30 million tourists visit Italy every year but property buyers have been slower to follow, often because of fears over the notorious bureaucracy.
New airports served by low-cost airlines have helped to attract more buyers to Italy and house-hunters have become more adventurous. Tuscany remains a favourite but high prices have persuaded many to look to neighbouring Umbria and then beyond to the regions of Le Marche and Abruzzo.
The undeveloped south, once inaccessible from the UK, is attracting investors with flights into Puglia and Calabria, as are the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, the two largest in the Mediterranean Sea, where sailing, history and beaches make for a popular lifestyle choice.
Lake Maggiore, North Italy
Enjoy the panoramic views over Lake Maggiore from this top-floor two-bedroom apartment above Stresa. Complete with balcony and two terraces, this apartment has its own private tower and a lift to get you up there.
Price: €350,000 (£241,000)
Casa Travella (01322 660988)
The traditional stone hobbit-like houses found in Puglia, the heel of Italy, are known as trulli. Once regarded as peasant houses, eager property buyers are now snapping them up in their search for the authentic Italian experience. This beautifully restored trullo is in between Martina Franca and Mottola and offers three bedrooms and two living rooms spread over six cones and an adjoining lamia (another traditional stone building). There is a pool and 27,000sq ft of land with some of the olive trees that cover this part of Italy.
Price: €360,000 (£243,000)
Buy A House in Italy
La Vecchia Torre, Siena
Buy into the heart of ‘Chiantishire’ with this four-bedroom Tuscan farmhouse near Siena. La Vecchia Torre is one of eight elegantly restored properties on an 20-acre estate three miles from Buonconvento.
Price: €1.3 million (£876,000)
Knight Frank (020 7629 8171)
And one to Rent - La Preghiera, Umbria
La Preghiera in Umbria, a 30-minute drive from Perugia airport, is an 800-year-old ex-monastery with its own chapel, well-tended gardens stocked with lavender and oak trees, a large pool terrace and elegant interiors. It is owned by John and Lilliana Tunstill, who run it as a stylish and comfortable 11-bedroom guesthouse with separate four-bedroom house in the grounds.
“Umbria is known as the green heart of Italy and still provides the English dream of buying a holiday home in the middle of rural Italy,” says ex-Londoner John, who also sells property in this area. “Property prices have been rising annually by at least 10 per cent for 15 years. In 2006, prices in northern Umbria equalled those in parts of Tuscany for the first time.”
Sagras, or festivals, are an important part of life in Umbria, and so is food. Visitors go for the truffles, porcini mushrooms, pasta, olive oil, grappa and other wines, pecorino and ricotta cheese and nutmeg. And any guest who falls in love with living in Umbria can always tap into John’s long experience of selling property there.
Rates at La Preghiera for 2007 start at €150 (£100) a night, or E45 (£30) for large groups. A group can book the entire estate, sleeping up to 29 from €9,500 (£6,400) a week. Cookery courses can be arranged for half a day, one day or three days. Liliana organises popular shopping trips to the designer outlet stores near Florence 90 minutes away – The Mall has 42 shops, including Gucci, Armani and Prada.
(Italian language only)
Further information on La Preghiera: