Think of a Tuscan holiday home and you probably picture a rural hideaway set among vines. What has hardly registered with most British buyers is the region’s beautiful coastline, where pine-shaded beaches and tiny fishing villages with pastel-painted homes provide a deliciously understated, true taste of Italy.
The 250-mile Tuscan coast is where Italian holidaymakers go, especially to Monte Argentario, a green and densely wooded island 90 minutes from Rome airport. Linked to the mainland by road and two long sandbanks lined with family beach clubs, it’s where elegant Romans and millionaire industrialists have holiday homes hidden down steep, unmade roads.
Past occupations by Spanish and Neapolitan forces have left their architectural mark on Monte Argentario, while in places, the wild, rocky, largely unpopulated Mediterranean coastline feels more like Sardinia than Tuscany.
Argentario has two main towns, Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, both attractive ports with shops, restaurants and bars. Ercole is more exclusive and seasonal while friendly, workaday-pretty, unspoilt Porto Santo Stefano is where locals barter with fishermen — a place with a year-round life and marginally lower house prices, says local resident Elisa Biglia, of property agents Great Estate.
“Property prices on the Tuscan coast peak in exclusive Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio further north,” she adds.
“In Argentario they are about 20 per cent lower. The lifestyle is more laidback but totally Italian. Porto Santo Stefano has a daily food market selling fresh seafood, while crime is low and it’s easy to make a day trip to go exploring and shopping to Siena and Rome, or the islands of Corsica and Elba.”
A shortage of good medium-priced hotels on Argentario means rental properties are in high demand in the summer months. Typical rents range from £456 a week for a one-bedroom flat to £6,100 for a secluded detached villa with five or more bedrooms.
WHAT’S FOR SALE?
High above the boats moored in Porto Santo Stefano, a furnished three-bedroom modern flat with wide terraces and a small garden is £448,500 with Great Estate. It’s easy to lock and leave and weekly rentals could reach £1,140, says Biglia. The quiet location and wonderful sea views are appealing, though the steep uphill walk from the shops and late afternoon shadows might deter some buyers.
“Property on Monte Argentario is mixed, from small flats for £228,000 to detached villas from £910,000,” says Biglia. “The most expensive recent sale was Villa Feltrinelli which sold for £13.3 million to a Russian oligarch last year, half its pre-recession price tag.”
OUR SECRET: A FRIENDLY, UNDISCOVERED HOLIDAY SPOT
Emily Clark, Lucinda Frost, Francesca Gibbons and Stephanie McCracken, four 24 year-olds who share a Fulham flat, spent a week together in September in the apartment owned by Lucinda’s family on Monte Argentario.
They went to soak up the autumn sun by the pool, eat in the town — and chill. They flew to Pisa and then took a train directly to Orbetello opposite the island.
“My family bought the apartment in 2001 and we’ve been coming to Argentario every year since,” says Lucinda, who works for L’Oréal.
“Some days we do very little, others we have a day trip to Rome or Florence, visit Elba and the islands or hire a boat to explore the coast. Argentario is relaxed and friendly and still seems an undiscovered secret.”
Lucinda always heads for the Shangri-La jewellery shop in Porto Santo Stefano, and to Cala Piccola, her favourite beach.