One of the words and phrases that many of us will want to consign to the history books at the end of 2021, along with “hands-face-space” and “you’re still on mute, Brian”, will be staycation. So as we prepare to travel abroad reasonably safely for the first time in a year or two, we’ve updated one of our perennial favourite articles, where to buy the perfect holiday home in Italy.
Another new feature of 2021 is that the British – like Americans, Australians and many others – are now “third country nationals” in Italy, able to stay there for 90 days in any 180 without any visa requirements.
For those buying a holiday home, whether for lovely long weekends away, to shelter from a nasty northern European winter or maybe even for rental income, Italy has a dizzying range of options. It’s not every country that offers beauty and affordability all the way from the Lakes in the north to Sicily in the south, from Venice in the east to Naples in the west. Moreover, there are (in normal times) international flights to over 24 Italian airports.
Here are 12 of my favourite places to own a holiday home in Italy. If you’re heading here on holiday this summer or autumn, maybe take a holiday home back with you!
Italy offers beautiful scenery, fabulous food, historic artworks and charming people that welcome you to join in with their cultural events.
Costa Smeralda, Sardinia
Costa Smeralda is a stretch of coast between Olbia and Palau in the region of Obia-Tempio, north-east Sardinia. It is famous for its turquoise and emerald water, fine-sand beaches and its glamorous reputation for attracting the jet-set.
The best beaches, which have been likened to those in the Caribbean, include Capriccioli, Principe, Liscia Ruja, Piccolo and Grande Pevero. Crystal clear waters and beautiful landscapes make it an enchanting place and a destination for luxury yachts and boats.
The beaches are backed by lush Mediterranean greenery and granite, with low level villas, golf courses and marinas perfectly integrated into the natural surroundings. History and culture go hand in hand with and sparkling nightlife in trendy clubs, small restaurants, bars and shops of Porto Cervo.
The cost of holiday accommodation is very high in July and August, offering the chance to rent out your property in high season for enough to finance your visits in quiter times.
How to get to Costa Smeralda: Budget airlines fly direct throughout the summer and “shoulder seasons”. We’re waiting to see which routes resume post-pandemic but expect some direct winter flights too. From Olbia you can get a bus which makes several stops. By road Porto Cervo is only about 30km and a pleasant car journey.
Holiday homes in Costa Smeralda: In Olbia area it is possible to buy small holiday apartments for as little as €60,000. Two-bedroom villas from €169,000. See homes in Sardinia here.
If you want a unique holiday home then how about a cave house on the edge of a ravine? The old part of Matera called the “Sassi” is a maze of iggledy piggledy houses and cave dwellings from the Paleolithic period (10th millennium BC). It has been suggested that it is possibly the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the world. How amazing is that?
The Sassi has been the back drop to several films due to its similarity to a biblical city. As you stroll the stone streets you are regularly treated to a view of the ravine or across the roof tops. Itb was awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO and European Capital of Culture for 2019.
Behind the Sassi is a large bustling town with shops, restaurants and piazzas. Only recently discovered by tourists, but quickly growing in popularity with tour groups Matera has a lot of potential as a top tourist destination and the surrounding countryside is truly beautiful with rolling hills and a pleasant drive takes you down to the sea.
Getting to Matera: You can reach Matera by train, car or coach from Bari. It take just over an hour to drive to Matera from Bari Airport in Apulia and much of the route is fast motorway. BA and just about every budget airline flies to Bari from the UK, with a flight time of three hours.
Brush up on your bargaining tactics with the hints and tips in our free Negotiation Guide.
Holiday homes in Matera: Prices vary greatly depending on location. Beyond the historic centre there is a modern residential area with apartment blocks. In the historic centre a one-bedroom apartment costs from €90,000 but a one-bedroom house in the Sassi zone will costs more like €250,000. You would need to come and look around and visit local agents to find the best location and price for a holiday home.
Having your own apartment in Florence offers the opportunity to live like a local during your holiday and get to know all the best places to buy fresh produce to prepare meals in your own equipped kitchen. Have you heard the ‘barrocci’ shouting to sell their fruit and vegetables outside the Sant’ Ambrogio Market or bought cheese and cured meat from inside?
Your apartment may even have a roof terrace or balcony with beautiful views across the red roof tops, where you can escape the bustle of the streets with a glass of wine. Being right in the city you can beat the day trippers and enjoy all the Renaissance treasures without the crowds. On a week day you can be one of the first through the door of the Uffizi gallery, Pitti Palace, Duomo and Galleria dell’Accademia.
There is so much to admire, you need numerous holidays here to be able to see everything. You can also arrange your visits to coincide with the many events throughout the year, such as the town’s Saint’s day on 24th June, which includes processions, boat races and fireworks.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,221
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom city apartments from €135,000, but expect to pay over €350,000 for a good location. Detached three-bedroom houses in the surrounding countryside from €450,000.
Getting here: Arrive at Florence central train station in about 70 mins by coach or train from Pisa airport and 20 mins coach from Florence airport. Driving a hire car from Pisa takes about 1hr 30mins. Ryanair, Easyjet and BA fly to Pisa. BA also fly London City to Florence and Vueling fly from Gatwick.
Italian Lakes, Lombardy
One of Italy’s most popular holiday destinations for breath taking views and enjoying the great outdoors, has to be the Italian Lakes. There is a great selection of villas, houses, and apartments on offer, from lake side luxury to hillside stone houses with panoramic views. Lakes Como, Garda, and Maggiore are the most popular, but whichever you choose you will find stunning scenery and incredible outdoor activities. Water sports, cycling, hiking and tennis are among the most popular pursuits and there are a number of good golf courses and ski resorts within easy reach.
The Lakes are easily accessible by air and have a year-round appeal for holiday homebuyers. You could even combine a shopping trip to Milan on the way to your Lakeside home. Lake Como is very fashionable, well who wouldn’t want George and Amal Clooney as neighbours? Maggiore is elegant and similarly priced, while Garda is great for outdoor activities. Iseo and Orta are less well known so you might pick up a bargain here.
Annual hours of sunshine: 1,914
July is the hottest month in Lake Como with an average temperature of 22°C (72°F) and the coldest is January at 4°C (39°F)
The currency markets are constantly moving. Find out how to protect your money from suddenly dropping exchange rates in the Property Buyers’ Guide to Currency.
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom lake view apartments from €80,000 Detached houses from €108,000.
Getting here: Milan Bergamo Airport and Verona serve the Lakes and towns in the area. Milan Malpensa Airport is less than 2 hours by car from Lake Como, taxi companies quote 1hr 20 mins and it’s about an hour by train with a change at Saronna. Ryanair, FLYbe, easyJet and BA fly to Malpensa Airport.
Lake Como is very fashionable, well who wouldn’t want George and Amal Clooney as neighbours
This pretty whitewashed hill top town offers quaint little streets to explore with many quality restaurants, bars and gift shops. Throughout the year there are various cultural events and live music. Apartments in the historic part of town with views to the sea are most convenient for enjoying the evening entertainment.
Although lacking parking facilities you have plenty of restaurants and bars on your doorstep. The coast is just 10 minutes’ drive away and can be reached by bus. The countryside around the town offers an opportunity to buy small villas and Trulli, often in their own olive grove. These simple countryside homes make perfect summer getaways and are very affordable. As the Puglia region boasts 500 miles of coastline there are plenty of natural beaches to discover.
As a popular tourist town with a year-round expat community you should have no problem finding someone to keep an eye on your home while you are away and could even rent it out to tourists. Summers are hot and long and having mild winters, it is also perfect for winter breaks.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,557
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom apartments from €60,000. Detached 1 bedroom countryside villas from €59,000, 2 bedrooms from €98,000.
Getting here: Nearest airports: Brindisi (35 minutes by car) Bari (1 hr 20 mins) Train from Brindisi to Ostuni takes 22 minutes, with short bus connections from airport to Brindisi centre and from Ostuni station into town. Ryanair and easyJet fly to both airports.
Ski resorts of Turin
West of Turin is a network of ski resorts known as the “Milky Way”, offering a great variety of slopes and valleys, over a relatively small area. This means you don’t necessarily need to buy a property in a large famous resort in order to have access to superb, diverse slopes. In the Province of Turin (Torino), you can look forward to 614 kilometres of slopes and the ski resorts are served by 122 ski lifts. The most well-equipped ski resorts include Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx, which are popular with foreigners.
If you are looking for rental income, these resorts offer the most regular returns, as foreigners are more inclined to book further in advance and for longer stays. Two-bedroom ski apartments close to the lifts or a ski bus are most popular. The 2006 Olympics were held in Turin and looking to the future Turin and Milan are exploring a potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, which will undoubtedly create even greater interest in the area.
Annual hours of sunshine: 1,885
Ski season: Approximately the first week of December until Easter
Holiday home prices: two-bed apartments from €169,000, detached houses from €300,000.
Getting here: Sauze d’Oulx is one of the easiest ski resorts to get to in the Alps. The motorway linking Turin with Lyon runs along the valley floor below Sauze. It takes less than 1hr15mins to drive from Turin airport. Airlines that operate a regular service from the UK are British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Blue Air. There is also a train station in Oulx.
Tuscany continues to be the most popular region to buy a holiday home, with it’s laid back atmosphere, historic sites, medieval villages, rolling hills and vineyards. As Pisa is the most popular Tuscan airport to fly to from the UK the area around Lucca has become a very convenient location to have a holiday home.
Located just north of Pisa, the city of Lucca has a charming historic centre surrounded by large town walls. This 2.5 mile city wall is of great importance to the people of the city, who spend their leisure time strolling, doing sport and socialising in the shade of its ancient trees. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, is where the ancient Roman Forum once stood and is a jewel in Lucca’s crown. Home to cosy restaurants and the workshops of painters and artists, apartments in surrounding streets are a convenient stroll away.
Tuscany continues to be the most popular region to buy a holiday home.
Lucca was the birthplace of the world-famous opera composer, Giacomo Puccini, and music still plays a big part in the town, especially during the music festival in July. For a holiday home location out of town head to Garfagnana, Lunigiana or Bagni di Luca, where you’ll find green valleys, mountains and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,273
Holiday home prices: three-bedroom apartments from €240,000, detached countryside houses from €245,000.
Getting here: Pisa Galileo Galilei International Airport has an adjoining railway station and is only 20 minutes’ train ride from Lucca city. 35 minutes by car. Ryanair, Easyjet and BA fly into Pisa.
A holiday home in Venice is something truly unique. Where else can you step out of your door and straight into a boat on a canal. More than a hundred islands form the city, grouped together in districts, with tiny canals, alleyways and bridges linking them tightly together. Having a holiday home here will allow you to enjoy the sights at the quietest times of day. Venice at Sunrise and sunset is just magical. As well as gazing at St Mark’s Square, the Doges Palace, the Basilica and the Rialto bridge, there are so many other areas to discover, where you can join the locals for a coffee at a waterside café or buy fresh fish from the market.
There are many museums and art galleries to explore and plenty of beautiful restaurants for romantic meals. Property in the best locations can be very pricey, but rental returns are good and the rental season lasts 30-40 weeks a year.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,036
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom apartments from €190,000, three-bedroom canal front houses from €535,000.
Getting here: BA and easyJet fly to Venice Marco Polo airport. From Marco Polo Airport the cheapest transport option into Venice is the public water ferries (40-80 minutes). Water taxis are more expensive but take about 30 minutes. Treviso airport is further away and takes about 70 minutes on the bus into Piazzale Roma. Ryanair fly to Treviso.
Why not split the cost and double the fun of holiday home-ownership in Italy by buying with family members? Read our new guide, Buying Abroad with Family.
We’ve written about one euro Sicilian homes, and it’s certainly one of the most affordable parts of Italy. Yet Sicily is not only one of Italy’s best beach destinations it also has some very pretty towns and impressive historical sites. Cefalu is a charming town with a hive of medieval streets, a mosaic-adorned cathedral and some fine sandy beaches. The seafront promenade is popular for the passeggiata (evening stroll) and if you walk down to the port in the morning you will see fishermen maintaining their boats, mending their nets and selling the day’s catch. The town caters for all the needs of the summer tourist with many fish restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops selling local handicrafts.
Buy an apartment in the heart of the historic centre, to enjoy the busy holiday atmosphere or look along the coast and up into the hills for beautiful villas with elevated sea views.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,591
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom apartments from 180,000, three-bedroom villa on the outskirts from €290,000.
Getting here: Ryanair, easyJet and BA fly to Palermo. Driving time from Palermo airport to Cefalu is under 1 hour 30 mins. Regular buses run from Palermo airport into Palermo central train station (1 hour). Train to Cefalu (1 hour) Palermo to Cefalu by bus (1 hour).
Sicily is not only one of Italy’s best beach destinations it also has some very pretty towns and impressive historical sites.
Town houses in pretty hill top villages and farmhouses surrounded by beautiful countryside make for very relaxing holidays. The holiday homes available around the Perugia province are full of character stone features and the area is authentic Italian. It’s even possible to buy apartments within large country houses with communal pools and gardens. Being close to Tuscany and on a train line between Florence and Rome this part of Umbria is becoming increasingly popular and yet property prices are still very reasonable. Until Ed Sheeran bought a home here many people hadn’t heard of the area around Lake Trasimeno. Around the lake you can find beaches, swimming pools, tennis courts and even a golf course.
Annual hours of sunshine: 1,951
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom apartments from €45,000, detached houses from €42,000.
Getting here: Ryanair fly to Umbria International Airport. From the airport it is less than 25 minutes by shuttle bus into central Perugia, 20 minutes by car. Perugia is also on the Rome to Florence train line.
The Liguria region is most famous for the pretty coastal villages of The Cinque Terre. This beautiful area can be out of the price range of most holiday home buyers, but along the coast a little in the province of Savona there are more affordable apartments in holiday complexes with shared pools.
The coastline offers expansive sandy beaches, rocky promontories and seaside towns. As well as Savona and Albenga other towns include Alassio with its sandy beaches; Loano and its artistic fountains; Pietra Ligure with its monumental square; Finale Ligure and its palm-lined seafront; Varigotti with its historic centre of colourful houses right on the waterfront; and Spotorno which boasts a modern marina. Eight further towns have been listed among the most beautiful in Italy. There are plenty of sports opportunities available including scuba diving, surfing, sailing, walking, horse riding and mountain biking.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,218
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom apartments from €191,000. Detached houses from €450,000 near the coast, considerably cheaper inland.
Getting here: Ryanair and British airways fly to Genoa Airport in just over 2 hours. From here it is less than 45 minutes by car and 1 hr 20 minutes by train to Savona.
Bologna has not yet been discovered by many holiday homebuyers, but is certainly tipped to become an up and coming area. The travel guide Lonely Planets named the region of Emilia-Romagna as the top place to visit in Europe in 2018, with one of the main attractions of the area being the food. Try the amazing Ragù in Bologna; prosciutto in Parma; balsamic vinegar in Modena and the regions famous parmigiano reggiano (Parmesan cheese). There is even the world’s largest culinary theme park in Bologna FICO Eataly World.
Ryanair obviously have a lot of faith in the areas growing popularity as they now run flights to Bologna from Stansted, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester and summer flights to the beach resort of Rimini. As Florence is less than a 2-hour drive south from Bologna, the area between the two may be a good place to look for a holiday home. From Bologna you can also reach the coast at Rimini in less than an hour and a half.
Annual hours of sunshine: 2,040
Holiday home prices: One-bedroom apartments in Bologna from €220,000, but less than €100,000 in nearby villages. Detached two-bedroom houses in Emilia-Romagna countryside from €140,000.
Getting here: Guglielmo Marconi International Airport is a 20 minute bus ride from Bologna train station. Many flight options from the UK with Ryanair, easyJet and British airways.