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PROPERTY

Property: What can you buy for 500K around Italy?

Whether you're looking for a chic city apartment or a villa in the countryside, here are the Italian properties you could buy for less than 500K.

Property: What can you buy for 500K around Italy?
Room with a view: the four-bedroomed Casa Tranquilla in Marche could be yours for €449,000

Italy's diverse regions offer a very wide range of options for would-be property buyers. And of course, prices vary greatly, too.

While some of the highest prices are commanded in big cities like Rome or Milan, it may come as a surprise to find that some sought-after northern rural areas are just as expensive.

A map created by home search website Immobiliare.it shows how prices per square metre vary across Italy's regions. Screenshot: Immobiliare.it

The average price per square metre in the Val d'Aosta region is €2,993. At the other end of the scale, property in Molise sells for an average of €1,017 per square metre, according to the latest figures from home search website immobiliare.it.

To get an idea of what these variations look like in real terms, we've rounded up some of the best properties on the market across Italy for a budget of €500,000.

While you can find a wide variety of homes for sale in most regions, here are just a few examples of the most typical properties you could buy in different Italian regions for around the same price as the average one-bedroomed London flat.

Which would you choose?

Tuscany

Renovated farmhouse in Cortona, Tuscany: €450,000, 120sqm.

Photo: Romolini Immobiliare

Tuscany is famously pricier than many other regions due to its fame and desirability among second-home owners. But there are still sensible prices to be found – particularly in areas further from Florence, like Cortona in eastern Tuscany. The area is an expat favourite thanks to the “Under the Tuscan Sun” effect – Frances Meyes' legendary book was set in Cortona. But this also means there are now plenty of comfortable, characterful and well-renovated homes on the market.

This renovated five-bedroom stone farmhouse comes with five hectares of land. It also has a garden, pool, and even its own tiny chapel, along with views over the Val di Chiana. See the listing here.

Lake Como

Casa Linda apartment in Menaggio, Lake Como: €480.000, 60 sqm.

Photo: Gate-away.com

These enviable lakefront views are yours if you don't mind downsizing. Lake Como is unsurprisingly a very expensive area, but on the upside, properties here are stylish and usually kept in excellent condition.

Casa Linda is a one-bedroom lakeside holiday apartment with balcony and air conditoning. There's a sofa bed in the living room and a shared garden with direct access to the lake. See the listing here

Le Marche

Casa Tranquila, Loro Piceno, Marche. €449,000, 250 sqm.

Photo: Magic Marche

With its incredible rolling landscapes, proximity to both sea and mountains, and refreshing lack of mass tourism, Marche is a popular destination for foreign buyers looking for a slice of “authentic” Italian life. The region has a large number of characteristic properties for sale, both in need of renovation or being sold on by owners who have lovingly restored them. And many are incredibly good value for money.

One example is this 19th-century farmhouse, renovated to a high standard and with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It has been converted into two apartments and includes a pool, summer house, and even a piece of land with 25 olive trees. See the listing here

Puglia

Beach villa in Capitolo, Puglia: €480.000, 125sqm.

Photo: Gate-away.com

Puglia has a large number of luxury properties for sale. Lower-priced housing stock in this popular summer holiday region is often bought up by developers and turned into accomodation, leaving those looking for a low- to mid-priced property with fewer appealing options than you might find in other rural regions.

One interesting option is this modern, three-bedroomed villa. Located in the Monopoli area, it has a large, shaded outdoor area with jacuzzi and wooden decking, and an open-plan living area with plenty of natural light. See the listing here.

Rome

Apartment near Piazza del Grillo, Rome: €495.000. 113 sqm.

Photo: immobiliare.it

Can you imagine living right next to the Roman Forum? You could, for a price. This furnished, renovated one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a period building is for sale.

The agent suggests it as an investment or holiday let – the proliferation of which is one major reason why tiny apartments in the capital are so expensive. It should be noted that for apartments like these condominium fees usually apply – this time of €150.00 per month. See the listing here.

Milan

Studio apartment on Via San Gallo, Milan. € 495.000, 80 sqm.

Photo: immobiliare.it

Central Milan is one of the most expensive places to buy property in Italy. If you're looking for a chic city-centre apartment here, you can't get more central than this studio loft apartment in the old town, near the Duomo.

Made up of a main kitchen/living/bedroom, small hallway and bathroom, it has been recently renovated, with exposed beams and, importantly in an Italian apartment building, independently-controlled heating. The location and public transport links make even a small space like this hghly sought after. See the listing here.

Val D'Aosta

Apartment in Pré-Saint-Didier. €475.000, 60 sqm.

Photo: immobiliare.it

In Italy's most expensive region for property buyers, one option is this small but luxurious mountain retreat with priceless views. Part of a mountain cottage, the two-bedroom ground floor apartment has panoramic views and a small private lawn and terrace with views of Mont Blanc. See the full listing here.

Sicily

Villa in the Egadi Islands, Sicily. €500,000. 320 sqm.

Photo: Gate-away.com

Property in sunny Sicily is on the cheaper end of the scale and there are some real bargains to be had, often right by the sea. House prices in the south of Italy tend to be heavily negotiable and this property is no exception.

This vast, stately villa on the sun-soaked Egadi islands is four kilometres from the beach. It has five bedrooms, a large pool, several terraces, and 2000 square metres of garden filled with exotic fruit trees. There's a a gazebo, a pizza oven, and even a bowling green, because who doesn't need one of those? See the listing here.

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PROPERTY

PROPERTY: Why buyers need to watch out for Italy’s conservation rules

Old Italian homes featuring frescoes, loggias or ancient cellars are appealing, but such buildings are often protected by Italy’s cultural heritage authority - meaning lots of red tape for owners, as Silvia Marchetti explains.

PROPERTY: Why buyers need to watch out for Italy's conservation rules

Italy is dotted with gorgeous hilltop villages full of centuries-old homes for sale complete with characteristic features. But many people don’t realise that these buildings, even if they’re abandoned or decaying, often fall under restrictions (vincoli) enforced by Italy’s ‘art authorities’, known as the sovraintendenza belle arti.

Due to the artistic and historic value of these buildings, they’re considered a part of the national heritage. This is usually because they date back to medieval and Renaissance times, or because they feature frescoed walls, emblazoned vaults or entrance portals with coats of arms. 

READ ALSO: How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

Italy has the most UNESCO-listed cities in the world, and here these vincoli are even more binding. Many buildings in Rome have entrance portals sculpted by Renaissance masters which are ‘off-limits’ even if they’re in need of repair. 

It is a widespread way of protecting Italy’s heritage, and yet awareness of the risks buyers face if their property happens to be ‘supervised’ are often hidden, and are especially unknown to foreigners.

In almost every old rural village there are private houses and palazzos with ancient loggias, decorated ceilings and lavish stone columns, and even simple former farmers’ dwellings with ancient cellars, over which the art authorities have the final say on renovation work, even small upgrades like adding an extra room or pulling down a wall.

READ ALSO: Charming or boring – What do Italians think of life in the old town?

Giovanna Rosetta Fraire was forced to give up her dream of buying a portion of a two-floor 1700s building in the village of Civita Castellana, in Lazio, because it needed upgrades but the frescoed walls, ceilings, decorated fireplaces and elegant entrance were ‘vincolati’ (under restrictions).

“It was a historic building with an artistic value. The peeling façade needed a makeover but it was still the original color dating back centuries so we couldn’t paint over it,” she explains.

“The rusty wrought-iron balconies were made in the 18th century while the location was in the heart of the historical center, right in front of the Gothic cathedral, so any change to the building would have affected the scenery, too.”

Fraire only found out about these rules by chance, just before signing the purchase deed, thanks to a tip from a local resident.

According to Italian law, fixes to similar buildings of value need to be coordinated and approved by the sovrintendenza, which seldom allows any changes to the exterior and only minimal ones inside crumbled rooms, for instance those struck by an earthquake.

Usually the structure of a ‘vincolata’ building cannot be modified at all: walls cannot be pulled down, nor a room expanded or divided in two.

And when old homes are embedded within the fortified medieval walls or share a wall with a castle or fortress it is even more complicated. 

Civita Castellana. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

Cesidio Diciacca bought a former abbot’s lodgings dating from the 1700s, embedded within the rampart in the village of Picinisco, north of Naples, 

He contacted the local belle arti before restyling it to find out whether there were any restrictions, which is always the best thing to do. Unearthing an updated map of your property from the catasto (land registry) is also useful. 

“The belle arti stopped all external changes as we are in the centro storico,” he says. “The only external fix allowed was to remove the top level of the guard tower which was ugly and out of place, and we had issues also placing solar panels. 

“The whole of the centro storico of Picinisco and neighboring hill towns are protected in some way which is both good and bad as it prevents necessary work of modernisation.”

It should be a matter of striking the right balance between preservation and valorization of old properties, but this is rarely the case in Italy when art authorities are involved. 

Cesidio Diciacca’s house in Picinisco. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

Giovanna Rossi owns a tiny dwelling in the picturesque Tuscan village of Pitigliano, where old homes are cropped on a high plateau and carved from the tuff rock. 

Like most other villages in the area, Pitigliano has Etruscan roots and many dwellings come with pagan caves considered by authorities to be monuments of anthropological interest, a bit like Matera’s.

“I have this stunning underground canteen accessible from my kitchen but cannot change it in any way to make it habitable, it’s a pity. I just show it to friends and keep wine bottles in it,” she says. 

Even private gardens and patches of land, set within or close to ’archaic’ protected parks where Etruscan or Ancient Roman tombs and ruins have been unearthed, have archaeological vincoli and cannot be modified without the necessary green lights.

These are ‘vincolati’ by authorities unless there are specific geological permits which allow the construction of a swimming pool, a gazebo or tiny cottage, following land surveys proving the spot is clear of historic finds. 

That’s without mentioning that when a Roman sarcophagus or column pops out buried in your backyard, you must tell the belle arti at once or face fines, and potential seizure. 

Other European countries have similar rules, like Historic England’s listed buildings, but these seem to create restrictions to a lesser degree compared to Italy’s huge and sometimes cumbersome heritage.

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