Whether you restore an old property, buy one ready-restored or newly-built, you’re sure to delight in owning a home in Italy’s ‘premier’ region. Tuscany is rightly adored, and there’s no chance of such a special place falling from favour. All the things that make us love Tuscany are very well-protected, and set to last.
Stuffed full of exquisite paintings, sculptures and churches, Tuscany’s capital city is a magnet for lovers of art and architecture. Long adored by the British, Firenze has no shortage of British home-owners and full-time residents. Traffic-choked, crowded in summer, and hemmed in by industrial outskirts it may be, but there’s no denying Florence’s charm and beauty. Many ex-pats from various Western countries have succumbed and joined the city’s half a million inhabitants. Many others have recognized the potential profit in owning a second home here and renting it to holidaymakers. Visitors come to Florence almost year-round, and city-centre apartments are constantly in demand. Central one-bedroom apartments start at about €200,000, and two-beds at about €350,000. Prices drop as you move out of the centre, but so do holiday rental rates. You might expect as much as €1,000 per bedroom per week on a very central flat.
The lovely little city of Lucca and its surrounding countryside first came to the attention of foreign buyers about fifteen years ago. Since that time, property prices in the area have generally doubled. Yet despite this increase, homes round here are still good value. A two-bed property in Lucca itself might ask €250,000. North of Lucca, the low, leafy mountains of the Garfagnana and Lunigiana areas offer very good deals for property-hunters. You might find an unrestored farmhouse for as little as €60,000 and a restored home in one of the area’s many attractive villages for just €125,000. But these are starter prices. Note that the extreme north of Tuscany is within easy daytripping distance of Liguria’s coastal delights and the sophisticated charms of Emilia-Romagnan cities such as Parma.
Except for its modestly-priced southern stretch, Tuscany’s seaside is one of the region’s most costly areas. Whether the northern beaches are more attractive is a matter of taste, but they are certainly more populous. Viareggio is the biggest resort – a teeming place of faded grandeur where property costs are high. North of Viareggio the resort towns are backed by pretty mountains, and south of Viareggio by pinewoods. South of Livorno, the coast grows a bit scrubby and characterless, with lots of campsites dotted around. The southernmost third of Tuscany’s coast, meanwhile, is definitely worth more attention than it receives. This is a wild and unspoilt area with a distinct charm. And property here is certainly good value. Much costlier, and undeniably gorgeous, are the offshoots from Tuscany’s coast – the islands of Elba and Giglio, and the leafy peninsula of Monte Argentario.
Central Tuscany sees the rolling hills, arcing vineyards and zigzagging lines of cypress trees that form the popular British idea of Tuscany – indeed of Italy as a whole. The landscape is like the background of a Renaissance painting – and strict, sensible restrictions on building keep it looking that way. The triangle formed with Siena, San Gimignano and the Chianti hills at its three corners outlines the traditionally most popular area for foreign buyers in Tuscany. This includes the fabled ‘Chiantishire’, where large numbers of well-heeled foreign buyers have bought properties over the last forty years. Officially, this area has the world’s highest priced rural property. An old farmhouse needing restoration would set you back by at least €500,000, and a ready-restored one is likely to ask more than a million. If you can afford it, and you enjoy the company of fellow ex-pats as well as Italians, by all means buy here. The area is exquisitely beautiful. Demand for properties is still high in central Tuscany. The holiday rental prospects on a home here are very strong.
While certain stretches of Tuscany’s east are now fairly familiar to foreign buyers, other parts are only now being discovered and currently offer very good value for money. Many estate agents single out the Arezzo area as a good place to buy. The prosperous and lively city itself has reasonable prices, with two-bed apartments in and around town starting at about €150,000. Out in the surrounding countryside, meanwhile, you can pick up restored and unrestored homes from €100,000. Charming nearby Cortona and Montepulciano, both built on high and giving stunning views, are rather pricier – with central two-bedroom apartments asking about €300,000. This eastern stretch of Tuscany has an extremely attractive landscape, with stripy vineyards and so on. It has the added bonus of easy access to lovely Lake Trasimeno and, further east, the enchanting hilltowns of Umbria.
Tuscany grows increasingly wild and rugged as it inches south towards Lazio. The landscape isn’t strictly mountainous, but muscular and expansive. The population drops, and the geography throws up striking features like bald tufa outcrops, isolated high hills, sulphur springs and the drained coastal marshes of the Maremma. The south is probably Tuscany’s least-known stretch, and property prices down here are among the lowest in the region. Of towns in Tuscany’s south, rock-perched Pitigliano and spring-riddled Saturnia see a respectable number of visitors, Sorano and Sovana have notable Etruscan relics, and many other settlements simply offer a peaceful, handsome little place to settle down. Southern Tuscan roads are small, uncrowded, and few – perfect for a quiet life. The sea is never far way, nor is the delightful, crystal-clear Lake Bolsena just over the border in Lazio.