Umbria: homes from £165,000 for buyers looking for the real Italy

Rustic, green Umbria is stepping out of Tuscany’s shadow...
The landlocked region of Umbria in the centre of Italy is forever fated to be compared with Tuscany, its neighbour to the west. Yet with beautiful stone houses in perfect countryside, medieval hilltop villages and sheer Apennine peaks, Umbria can easily stand alone.
 
It appeals to buyers looking for the real Italy — somewhere where the neighbours probably won’t speak English, but will share armfuls of lemons fresh from their trees.
 
Jeroen Macco, of Special Umbria, says: “The Umbrian lifestyle is less developed than that of Tuscany, more local and even greener, and its property prices are generally lower.”
 
Macco and partner Rob Landeweerd have built up a strong rental and sales company, offering homes from Lake Trasimeno south to Orvieto across both sides of the Tuscan-Umbrian border.
 
Through Pure International, they sell generous plots and homes from £165,000 up to £1.44 million, offering full project management of new-build homes and renovations of ruins. In the past seven years, they have completed 25 projects for international clients.
 
Houses featuring gardens with scented walls of jasmine and paths of lavender are hidden down strade bianche — gravelly white roads lined with pine trees and silver olive groves. Beyond lies some of Europe’s most idyllic countryside — high hills and wide valleys punctuated with vines and forests.
 
The most beautiful homes on their books are ones where they were heavily involved in renovations. Landeweerd’s deft design skills mix high street brands such as Ikea and Zara Home with high-end designers — Missoni is a favourite.
 
They employ a skilled team of carpenters and blacksmiths and use a Farrow & Ball-inspired palette of moody greys and soft blues. This, along with pale terracotta floor tiles and modern furniture custom-made in Puglia, keeps interiors refreshingly simple to ensure those wondrous views take centre stage.
 
 
Two of my favourite rental properties are Podere Masale, south of Todi, and Casa Posabile, close to Lake Trasimeno, both recent renovations of spacious five- or six-bedroom stone homes.
 
The latter is owned by a London-based family and has a large farmhouse kitchen, fabulous gardens and pools, and an indoor made-to-order children’s soft-play area.

“Owners can bank on rental returns of up to six per cent,” says Macco. “Sixteen weeks’ annual rental is realistic, though we have one owner who regularly gets 26 weeks.
 
“The best properties have a cosy, familiar feel, are within two or three miles of a town or good village and, of course, have wonderful rural views. Umbria is all about the views.”

Hilltop retreat
Pure International is selling several homes in Piegaro, 35 minutes from the university town of Perugia and 15 miles from Chiusi, where high-speed trains connect to Rome in 90 minutes.
 
Casale Orizzonte is a lovely four-bedroom house with a pool and lavender-filled gardens on a hilltop for £563,000, private but not remote.
 
Nearby, a 1,670sq ft two-bedroom garden apartment — one of four homes in a two-storey stone building erected in 2012 — is priced at £249,600. The light, open-plan apartment shares a large pool and rents of up to £1,300 weekly, with annual service charges of £2,170.
 
A smaller, two-bedroom duplex apartment, with a private garden and delightful pergola, is £213,500, with the opportunity to buy the furniture that’s there for £18,000.
 
 
‘We bought farmhouse on honeymoon’
Amanda Cherry, a 37-year-old HR director from west London, and her husband, Ian, were on honeymoon in Italy when a property in an estate agent’s window caught their eye. It was a 500-year-old farmhouse close to Lake Trasimeno needing a lot of work. They bought it.
 
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Living la dolce vita: Amanda Cherry and husband Ian with their children Kitty, Zander and Charlie
 
“People thought we were mad because we couldn’t really afford it,” says Amanda. “We had crazy ideas about doing a grand design with it, but didn’t have the skill, money or nerve, so the house sat there for seven years, a bit of a white elephant.”
 
Last year, they decided to renovate Casa Posabile. After 11 months of hard work they now have a beautiful five-bedroom family home to enjoy with their children Kitty, Zander and Charlie, aged six, three and one.
 
They employed Special Umbria to manage renovations, using local builders. The finished home is child-friendly, hugely comfortable and modern — perfect for large groups of families and friends.
 
“We need to recoup some of our costs, so will let it through most of the summer,” says Amanda. “But it’s wonderful here in April and October,
so we don’t mind coming then.” 

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