Put an Italian spin on your Zillow addiction.
Have you ever dreamed of buying a beautiful house in Italy but were scared away by the high prices? Well, you should know that not all properties are as expensive as you might think. Yes, there are the famous one euro houses, but it turns out those aren’t really as cheap as you think, once you account for all the renovations, and they’re usually in remote locations. But, there are also hidden gems scattered across the peninsula, both in coastal areas near the sunny beaches and in picturesque hilltop villages that are worth going on a treasure hunt for. They’re usually small, cozy, simple old houses located in historical centers where you have everything you might possibly need nearby: bars, supermarkets, shops, and restaurants. Best of all, they’re moderately priced and, unlike most of the one euro houses, they’re habitable.
So here’s a pick of the most stunning turnkey homes in the most gorgeous settings for the least possible amount of money. But don’t expect castles. Some are incredibly cheap, others very affordable. A few might need just a minimum restyle, that really depends on your personal needs and tastes. Buying a house in Italy doesn’t require residency. The buyer will simply have a superb vacation home to enjoy during holidays, or for use for months at a time. They could even decide to take the next step and become a resident of the place, turning the property into their first home which translates into zero property taxes.
The super cheap houses are mostly in the southern and central regions, mainly Sicily, in offbeat, quiet spots far from the maddening crowds where local authorities and private citizens have joined forces to recover pretty empty buildings in perfect shape.
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In the historical district of the town of Troina, and for as low as 25,000 euros, you can snatch a multi-level building of 100 square meters with six bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus a balcony with great views of the sheep-grazing fields and the pristine Nebrodi mountains. Even though Troina is located in an inner, wild area of Sicily, the great thing about owning a house on this island-region is that the coast is just a one-hour car drive away no matter where you are. And Troina has the advantage of being surrounded by thick forests and is close to the foott of the majestic Etna volcano, ideal for nature lovers and trekking amateurs. The frequent eruptions of the “Giant,” as locals call it, with smoke rising from the crater are a frequent view from the village houses.
Another great six-bedroom, four-floor building of 140 square meters here sells for 30,000 euros and it even comes with a garage which is rare in old villages. During the summer months, the alleys may get crowded with seasonal tourists and not knowing where to park your car can be a nuisance. This second house is also located in Troina’s ancient neighborhood right in front of a piazza dating back to the 1700s and has pastel-color and light cream painted walls, with two panoramic balconies and old painted majolica tile floors. There’s a rural vibe. In the past these dwellings used to belong to peasant and farmer families who often kept their donkeys, sheep, and cows on the ground floor, using them as stables.
Great deals can be found in Racalmuto, another town in rural Sicily. Popular for its traditional horse races up the staircase of a church, Racalmuto has a unique location close to the Valley of the Temples’ archaeological site and to Porto Empedocle where ferry boats depart for the mesmerizing islands of Linosa and Lampedusa. Starting at 15,000 euros there are old multi-floor buildings on sale located in the ancient district, each with a panoramic balcony over winding cobbled alleys. But the best deal is in Racalmuto’s countryside, where there’s a 100-square-meter villa with old stones jutting out of reddish walls selling at 50,000 euros. It comes with a patch of land dotted with pine trees, a veranda great for evening drinks, a barbecue and oven spot for Sunday brunches, and a large patio ideal for soaking in the Sicilian sun rays.
Sicily’s city of Marsala, famous for its world-famous sweet-tasting wine and salt pans, is located along the western coast and has an elegant allure. Ferry boats depart from here to reach the pristine Egadi archipelago and the remote island of Pantelleria. There are many beautiful housing deals here as well, as low as 25,000 euros for an apartment in the old district surrounded by cafés and ice-cream shops.
Hopping over to mainland Italy, the region of Molise is considered to be the country’s best-kept secret. Dubbed “the Wild Tuscany,” traditions live on and you can still feel the sleepy vibe of the good old rural days when families lived off their orchards and herds. In this region, surrounded by the Apennine mountain range (which is great for skiing), fresh oxygen-rich air, and green pastures, is the tiny village of Castropignano. Here, you’ll find an ancient fully-accessorized cozy stone dwelling on sale for 30,000 euros. It’s hidden in a maze of silent narrow alleys at the feet of an overhanging crumbling fortress and features wooden ceilings with a big old fireplace where shepherd families used to get together at dinner after a hard day’s work and enjoy frugal meals. Now in that same spot, in front of a crackling fire, you can indulge in tasty grilled sausages with a glass of local red wine.
If you’re not on a tight budget and are looking for a unique property on Castropignano’s main piazza there’s a huge, 400-square-meter aristocratic mansion, fully furnished, dating back to the 1700s with private parking, dwellings for housekeepers, and ornate ancient stone portals. The price is 80,000 euros, which is fairly reasonable given that the historical building is in perfect shape, just recently refurbished. And you could even cash in by turning it into a B&B. However, even buying it as a private holiday retreat could still be a decent investment. Castropignano, ideal for an unplugged stay is close to the border with other top Italian regions such as Abruzzo and Campania, while the beaches of the Adriatic coast are just 43 miles away.
You’d be surprised to find alluring deals in typically expensive locations, too. We all know that buying a house in Puglia is quite pricy, particularly in the southern tip of Salento dubbed “Italy’s Maldives” for its pristine, tropical-like beaches. Ostuni is one of the most beautiful spots in this area, a prehistoric coastal fishing village called “the White Citadel” for its dazzling white-washed dwellings and twisted alleys that shine in the sunlight. Right in the heart of its historical district, you can snatch a typical, elegantly restyled cozy stone loft for 50,000 euros featuring white walls accented with pinkish rocks and brick arched ceilings.
There are also some great bargain homes in superb spots for mountain lovers and city addicts. In the Alpine village of Cesana Torinese in the Piedmont region, close to the border with France, a small traditional wooden cottage with great views of the snow-capped peaks is for sale for 36,000 euros. Skiing amateurs will be able to choose each day a different location where to flex muscles on panoramic slopes. And in the royal city of Turin, the first capital of Italy’s kingdom in the 1800s, an elegant attic apartment with two stone balconies and a cellar sells for 47,000 euros.
So perhaps as soon as COVID has abated and global travel resumes you might want to seriously look into buying that long-coveted house in Italy and actually start planning your property hunt across the boot. Good luck!