In an era of uncertainty, perhaps it’s no surprise that more urbanites are falling for the rustic charms of Italian country villas and villages close—but not too close—to major cities. From medieval hill towns to sun-soaked lakefronts, Italy’s bucolic borghi (villages) and case di campagna (country houses) are enjoying a real estate renaissance.
—by Kathy Passero
“People are running scared of the pandemic, hence the appeal of greener and more wide open spaces,” explains Mark Harvey, partner and department head for international residential real estate with Knight Frank in London. “Restrictions on our mobility, a shift away from traditional office work patterns, and underlying fear of further lockdowns have made people review their lifestyle and the appeal of country living.
“People are not only reflecting on their lifestyle but on the role real estate plays within it,” Harvey continues. “In an age of social and economic uncertainty, we have seen our clients reevaluate their investment allocation away from cash—and, increasingly, debt—and stock markets toward a primary residence or second home where lifelong memories are as important a consideration as capital protection and rental income.”
European buyers in the market for country homes over €10m are also drawn to Italy because of its flat tax, Harvey notes. (Any new resident to Italy can apply to pay a flat annual tax of €100,000 on all the income they earn from sources outside Italy, including inheritances.)
“People are not only reflecting on their lifestyle, but on the role real estate plays within it.” —Mark Harvey, Knight Frank
Most of Knight Frank’s clients, whether Italian or from elsewhere, buy a property in the Italian countryside as a second home. Once just for holidays, these homes are increasingly viewed as residences where owners will live and work part of the year.
Today the perfect iteration of getting away from it all combines ample room and opportunity for relaxation with the comfort of staying connected to society. In fact, most of today’s migration from city to country is concentrated around cities like Florence, Lucca, and Milan. People want relatively easy access (a 70-minute drive or less) to a city center, an international airport, a hospital, and healthcare providers. Proximity to villages with cultural events is also a plus, partly because it makes a property more appealing as a rental, which helps to alleviate the burden of costs and taxes.
The ideal country estate in Italy is “a traditional four-bedroom stone house on an elevated position with five acres of gently sloping land and far-reaching unspoiled views,” says Harvey. “It should be in good condition, with potential for a pool and to extend if necessary. An olive grove and kitchen garden are musts, as people look to reconnect with nature.”
With being able to work remotely a priority for many buyers, reliable broadband is as crucial as charm. Harvey’s advice for buyers dreaming of rural real estate in Italy? “Take your time, do your research, and speak to a reputable agency that will help you identify the most relevant properties and accompany you step by step through the process.”