Not only does the central Italian region boast the Renaissance delights of Florence and Lucca, and the striking hill towns of Siena and San Gimignano, but its green folds of luscious countryside and lunchtime stops among the vines make Tuscany the most ideal spot for easy living.
This unrivalled lifestyle has enticed British house hunters to the region for several generations. Britons started buying in Tuscany around 50 years ago – well before the UK became a member of the EU. With the turmoil of Brexit still on everyone’s minds, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that 48m tourists visited Italy last year alone and that the country is Europe’s second most visited tourist destination for overseas visitors, according to data from Eurostat.
Besides, some buyers will always be attracted to Tuscany’s charming lifestyle, whatever the value of the pound and whether we’re part of the EU or not.
But don’t be fooled by the region’s dreamy lifestyle – such timeless appeal is practical as well as aesthetic. Tuscany has both good rail and road connections, as well as direct flights to the UK – from Florence and Pisa in the region itself, and Rome and Genoa to the south and northwest respectively. The combination of this easy access, serene beauty and around 40% of the world’s art treasures make it many people’s preferred region for a second home.
The latest statistics from Italian property portal Gate-Away.com show that more than 14% of UK inquiries for homes in Italy last year were for Tuscany, beating Abruzzo (12%), Puglia (11%) and Liguria (10%).
Gate-Away.com’s Simone Rossi explains: “Tuscany remains the most sought-after region for Britons in search of a second home in Italy. While across Italy the average value of properties they request is €300,000, in Tuscany, it is €330,000.”
For buyers prepared to shop around, there is value to be found in the region. While a home in Tuscany’s prime Chianti area averages €380,000, the average price of a home in the less well-known location of Lunigiana is just €110,000. Although this price reflects the fact that many properties in Lunigiana need some restoration work, it does highlight the value on offer.
A typical British budget ranges from €60,000-€200,000, reports Geoff Dixon, of HouseInTuscany.com. And while the region does boast some pricey luxury villas, there are still some great options for buyers with smaller budgets.
“There are big differences in Tuscany; all areas are not the same,” he says. “For example, the countryside around Lucca is more exclusive and expensive than land around Pescia or in the Garfagnana hills, and homes in the seaside resorts of Forte dei Marmi or Viareggio are two or three times the cost of a home in Tirrenia, close to Pisa.”
As a guide, Linda Travella, of CasaTravella.com, explains that Tuscan home searches fall into four price brackets. Firstly, buyers with budgets below €100,000 tend to look around Bagni di Lucca. Those looking to pay less than €200,000 focus on the northeasterm region, including towns such as Poppi. If you have up to €350,000, you’re likely to look further west around Volterra, while those with budgets above €400,000 usually consider prime Tuscany.
So which area is best for you?
Northern and eastern Tuscany
Travella believes that northern Tuscany represents “the first and best value” in the region. Its access through the Pisa airport is excellent, while its local attractions include beaches, mountains, and authentic villages and towns.
The area’s centrepiece is the beautiful Lucca, with its 16th century ramparts and white marble Romanesque Duomo.
“Look around Bagni di Lucca, Barga and some parts of Lunigiana,” Travella recommends. “For some, the countryside in this region is not typical Tuscany, but clients can find great value for money with properties from around €50,000.”
The Garfagnana valley, north of Lucca, is a great option – it boasts rugged hillsides, marble quarries and forests with views towards the snow-capped Apuan Alps. Although it is very different to the gentle valleys of southern Tuscany, it has its own unique beauty and plenty of things to do.
Skiiers can head to the slopes of Abetone, which are just 70 minutes away, while foodies will enjoy the elegance of Portofino to the west, with its wild boar, truffles and hearty pastas.
For a huge 85% of Rossi’s buyers, the dream is a detached house with land. Rupert Fawcett, of KnightFrank.com, agrees that the Garfagnana valley offers good value.
Central Tuscany, which is home to rolling landscapes of olive groves, vineyards and cypress tress, is unsurprisingly one of the most expensive areas to buy in. Those with tight budgets will struggle to buy in the so-called Golden Triangle, which sits north of Siena and south of Florence. However, Travella’s solution is to focus on Volterra, which is within close proximity of Pisa airport in Lajatico.
The 250-mile long Tuscan coast is hugely popular with Italians, but is often overlooked by British buyers, who concentrate on the region’s rural charms. The upmarket resorts of Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio top the price list, followed by Monte Argentario, a green and densely-wooded peninsula in the southern Maremma region, with the town of Porto Santo Stefano once named the Italian Saint-Tropez. Prices are around 20% lower there, but elegant waterfront villas still go for several million euros.
Further south on the Maremma, Talamone is a small fishing village with sandy beaches, pine forests and a harbour overlooked by a 13th century fortress.
Along the coast, and also in cities, buyers often choose apartments, says Rossi, potentially because property prices in both locations are generally above regional averages.
Have you got your heart set on Tuscany? Wherever you decide to buy a holiday home in the popular Italian haven, remember to use a specialist insurance provider to protect your asset.
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