Italy's best known tourist region is probably Tuscany, with the areas around Pisa, Siena and Florence being the first place many think of when looking for second homes. The blankets of countryside and quaint hilltop towns and villages throughout the region show what life was like in ages past – this area is truly the heart of Italy and the region is home to Chianti wine. However, high demand fuelled by the availability of cheap flights to Pisa, means that Tuscany is now every bit as expensive as it is lovely. However, the north of the region is considerably more affordable as it is often overlooked due to its mountainous setting.
Puglia and Le Marche
The up and coming regions of Le Marche and Puglia were, until recently, unknown by tourists. However, due to the efforts of the regional tourist board these areas have become increasingly popular. The region boasts the elegant towns of Urbino and Macerata, with Urbino recently being hailed as 'The ideal city of the Renaissance' and 'The Siena of Le Marche'.
The attractions of Puglia are year-round sunshine, a good variety of beaches, affordable house prices and a less tourist-orientated atmosphere, while low cost flights allow for easy access through Bari and Brindisi airports.
Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan.
Investors seeking rental potential should look to the larger cities, such as Rome, Florence, Venice or Milan. These areas symbolise Italy both in their spectacular historic architecture and in their fashionable shopping districts, which are considered to be some of the best in the world.
The Italian Lakes
The Alpine region around the lakes is a playground for many wealthy Italian second-home owners thanks to its proximity to Milan. This part of Italy boasts the romantic lakes of Como, Maggiore, Garda and Lugano, but also has a huge range of property available, from period villas to brand new apartments. The area attracts people of all ages, and there are a variety of year-round activities including water-sports, fishing, and skiing in the winter.
Sicily and Sardinia
It is also a good idea to consider Sicily and the increasingly fashionable Sardinia, both of which offer perfect climates, great beaches and their own cultural idiosyncrasies. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate. The island offers beautiful rural countryside to visitors stemming from its largely agricultural history and culture. Sardinia is second in size to Sicily and close to the French island of Corsica. Largely mountainous, the island does offer some coastal plains with beautiful beaches and opportunities to scuba dive, wind and kite surf.
For lower prices, the more adventurous buyer might consider Basilicata, although this is well and truly off the tourist map. The area is one of the poorer regions of Italy and leads a quiet understated lifestyle. It is worth noting that the south of Italy, in general, is considerably less affluent than the north; the service infrastructure is less reliable and local government corruption can be a problem. Unemployment is relatively high here too.
Situated near Tuscany, Umbria is a sleepy, verdant region dotted with medieval towns and castles. It is easily accessible and is often cited as a cheaper alternative to Tuscany, although prices here have also shot up in recent years. Property tends to be most expensive in the two main tourist towns, Orvieto and Assisi, and also in the south of the region. More reasonable prices can be found around Lake Trasimeno and further north around Citta Di Castello and Umbertide.