Getting to know the real Italy
Italy has long enjoyed a reputation for being glamorous. There’s something about Italy that instantly evokes thoughts of stylish, well-dressed, people, sipping espressos at the local piazza or relaxing in a picturesque rural village, surrounded by olive groves. It’s, therefore, no great surprise that Italy is one of Europe’s most popular destinations for both overseas property seekers, and expats from around the world.
Rich in history and boasting picturesque, yet thriving cities, stunning rural scenery, fine wines, great cuisine, a decent climate, a much-lauded laid-back way of life, and even ski resorts, there is little doubt that those who spend time in Italy can rightly expect to enjoy a high-quality lifestyle.
From fashionable Milan, one of the world’s leading financial centres and home to some of the country’s finest architecture, to idyllic Tuscany, famous for its glorious landscapes, cultural and artistic heritage and culinary traditions, Italy is synonymous with beauty, luxury and good health.
At they say in Italy: La vita è bella (life is beautiful).
Property Market overview
The Italian philosophy around homeownership is somewhat different to that found in other European countries. Property is predominantly considered a home, rather than an investment, with Italian homeowners likely to remain in their properties for an average of 20 years before moving. As a result, property prices do not tend to see the extreme peaks and troughs seen in other EU countries. As such, Italy didn’t suffer as much as some of its European neighbours during the financial and property crises of the late noughties, partly as they weren’t exposed to over-development in the same way.
That said, Italian house prices slowly decreased in recent years, making it a great time to buy a home in Italy. Recent data shows that prices are now showing signs of levelling out in some regions, and are expected to rise nationwide throughout 2018 (according to the ISAT – Italy’s National Institute of Statistics).
Having a property in Italy has plenty of appeal; there is the stunning surroundings, wonderful historical sites, bustling cities offering fantastic food and drink, shopping heaven, ski resorts and, if you are that way inclined, a thriving nightlife. No surprise either, then, that Italy continues to appear on popular overseas property locations lists.
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Fun facts about Italy
- Almost four-fifths of Italy is either mountainous or hilly.
- There are two independent states located within Italy: The Republic of San Marino (25 square miles) and the Vatican City (just 108.7 acres).
- San Marino is the world’s oldest republic (it came into being in 301 AD), and holds the world’s oldest continuous constitution.
- Italy has more volcanoes than any other European country. Three major volcanoes (Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius) have all erupted in the last hundred years.
- From 1861 to 1985, more than 26 million people left Italy to seek a better life elsewhere. Many headed to the United States of America.
- The Italian language has more Latin words in it than any other Romance language, and its grammatical system remains similar to Latin. Latin remains the predominant language of Vatican City.
- The world’s longest land tunnel is the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, which proves a 22-mile railway link between Switzerland and Italy.
- Italy was one of the founding members of the European Union and is also a member of the Group of Eight (G8).
- The highest temperature ever recorded in Italy was 48.5oC in Catenanuova, Sicily on 10th August 1999. The coldest temperature was -49.6oC, recorded in Levico, Trentino on 10th February 2013.
Deciding on your preferred location and property type
When it comes to money and living standards, Italy has an obvious north-south divide, with southern areas generally much poorer and less developed than the Northern provinces – the major exception being the centrally located capital city, Rome. This divide also creates a clear difference in property prices, with house values in the northern regions tending to be far higher on average than their southern counterparts. Once again, Rome is the major exception to this rule.
There is not a wide range of different types of property available in Italy. Most apartments were built in the 1960s and 1970s and are all small and somewhat dated; you will need to be picky when it comes to what items you move over to Italy and how you finish the property. In contrast, you will generally find that standards are high when it comes to properties being in the correct working order, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about maintenance and upkeep. Again, this is far more likely to be the case in the north rather than the south. You should also be aware that amenities are limited and pretty expensive, so you will have to ensure you factor this into your overall property costs.
Outside of the major cities, English is not widely spoken, particularly by the older generation, so the quicker you can learn to converse in – or at least understand – Italian, the easier you will find home ownership in the country. This is particularly important for those who are planning to relocate to Italy on a permanent basis, especially if you plan to settle in a smaller, more rural town and are in need of employment.
Located in central Italy, rural Tuscany, and in particular its capital Florence, is one of the most popular regions in Italy for expats and foreign property buyers. The region boats a total population of some 4 million people, approximately 7 per cent of whom hail from overseas. With a mild year-round climate (although temperatures can get chilly outside of the coastal areas), numerous medieval towns and villages, and an abundance of olive groves and vineyards, Tuscany is where those who crave a ‘traditional’ Italian lifestyle will likely find themselves drawn to. While Florence is certainly the region’s most popular city for newcomers, it is also one of the most expensive areas in which to buy property. Therefore, you may be advised to look for a home in a rural area just outside the city, or check out one of Tuscany’s other major towns or cities, such as Pisa or Siena.
A map of Italy
Although officially classed as a southern region of Italy, geographically Abruzzo sits centrally, and enjoys an Adriatic Sea coastline to the east. Abruzzo is a largely rural area that boasts acres of unspoilt, rolling countryside and offers similar lifestyle aspects to those found in the far more popular regions of Umbria and Tuscany. While Abruzzo does have a sizable expat population, many of the foreigners who live in this region have tended to be those from the poorer nations of Eastern Europe and also North Africa. This is largely due to the region’s relatively low cost of living and the extremely low property prices that are still on offer there. However, as Abruzzo is a region which is still relatively untouched by tourism (although some of the coastal areas are becoming increasingly popular), those who buy as an investment may struggle to let their property out, if this is what they are hoping to do. Likewise, those who move there permanently may struggle to find work. People who struggle to converse fluently in Italian may also find it difficult to settle here – especially if they do need employment to bankroll their move. Some of the region’s major towns are L’Aquila, Chieti and Pescara.
In addition to these ten provinces, Canada also has three territories which are located in the cold, vast northern reaches of the country – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Unlike the provinces, the trio of territories are not governed by the Constitution Act of 1867 and are instead ruled by federal powers. Due to the climate and sparse, largely uninhabitable, landscapes they do not tend to be at all popular with newcomers, attracting only hundreds of new immigrants each year. Mining tends to be the key industry in the territories.