Buy into stability with a well-placed Tuscan property

THERE have been many pretenders to the throne of Italian property gold, but the fact is that Tuscany is still the place everyone wants to be. The downside to any oversubscribed spot is inflated prices, but the upside, in the case of Toscana, is an extremely stable, not to mention lucrative investment – and proximity to some of the best wine, cheese and tomatoes in the world.

The Wealth Report 2009, a collaboration between Citi Private Bank and Knight Frank, named its top worldwide locations and sectors considered sound investments for the future. Number six in the list of Top Ten “New Horizons” is Northern Tuscany. “An improvement in infrastructure means that Northern Tuscany is increasingly accessible and the area to the North of Lucca, the Garfagnana Valley, is undoubtedly worth considering as an alternative to the more traditional areas in the south,” it said.

Garfagnana is a wonderful playground of cuisine, medieval castles, and hilltop villages, with proximity to the coast and mountains (in winter, the ski resorts of Abetone and Cimone are handy). Another relatively undiscovered hotspot in northern Tuscany is the Valdera area – both Italian newspapers La Repubblica and La Nazione pointed out last month that more and more people from the UK are now discovering this area as an alternative to “Chiantishire”. It’s a good base for exploring Tuscany as it’s close to the cultural cities and towns of Pisa, Florence, Lucca, San Gimignano and Volterra, and is home to lovely spa towns, such as Casciana Terme.

Getting the right property in Tuscany can be such a cash cow – particularly in unstable economic times – that a fund has been launched to take advantage of investors’ desire to invest in stable property markets. The Vikare Tuscan Property Fund (www.vikareinvestments. com) will acquire, develop and sell residential properties in Tuscany with a particular focus on the “undiscovered areas” of the region. The fund is attracting cash and pension investments from all over the UK as well as a large number of Italian investors and sovereign wealth funds.

Paul Hudson, the Italy-based consultant for property experts The Property Finders (, says that prices in Tuscany are stable and bring returns, but that it is not a speculative market. “We expected prices in Tuscany to bottom out as they did in London. But they stayed stable. By the end of 2008, sellers were preferring to take property off the market than drop the price dramatically – sellers in Italy weren’t behaving in the same way as in the UK. If you buy a Tuscan property, or invest around northern lakes and Venice, you’ll stay stable throughout a crisis. However. this is not a speculative market: you won’t lose money and you’ll make a small return over the years. But you need to buy the house because you want to enjoy it.”

As for up and coming areas of Tuscany, Hudson rates Marenna, where he says “prices are a lot lower than is typical between Florence and Siena. It’s wilder and nearer to the coast, and hasn’t attracted all the attention of the Brits in Chianti. Italians are starting to buy in the area for holiday homes and there is quite a lot of potential for investment in the future. A good rule of thumb is: buy where the Italians buy.”

A 550 sq. m. five bedroom villa in the Valdera region with over 512 acres of landscaped gardens and lush forest, a small lake and two ponds. A beautiful restoration makes this country house special.
Contact: Alfa Immobiliare,

A restored 18th century villa five minutes’ walk from the centre of Barga, this idyllic country house has three independent apartments, mature gardens and a swimming pool in a peaceful panoramic position. The private entrance and large garden terrace are added
Contact: Knight Frank on 020 76298171,

High in the olive terraces overlooking the ancient walled city of Lucca, Campitino sits the outermost edge of the tiny village of Pieve di Brancoli. Two stone houses joined by wisteria-covered trellises share courtyards, gardens and a tiled swimming pool make this a stunning home.
Contact: Knight Frank on 020 76298171,

Price: €1.25m
Just 30 minutes from Pisa Airport and 50 minutes from Florence, this magnificent restored palazzo sits in the heart of a small village community away from main roads but with very easy access to other major centers such as Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano.
Contact: Alfa Immobiliare,

Price onā€ˆapplication
Set in the valleys of the Colline Piacentine, south of Piacenza, with 18 hectares of pasture and woodlands. Fully restored, with 280 sq. m. of living space and an additional 180 sq. m. in the barn, which has views of the neaby medieval borgo (pictured).

Five minutes from Volterra, with Pisa Airport just 55 minutes away, this 2,659 sq. ft. four bedroom, three bathroom villa has a beautiful swimming pool, vegetation and even
outbuildings in good order.
Contact: Knight Frank on 020 76298171,