Countryside homes new trend in Val di Noto

In contrast, in the historic old towns of the baroque cities, buildings ripe for holiday home conversion are in great demand. Restoration properties are highly sought-after
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After the Baroque splendour of the historic old town, new investors are targeting the countryside and almond groves that slope towards the sea and which have remained unchanged for centuries. Purchasing farms that have been abandoned for decades is the new ambitious business venture of architects and the core business of estate agents, who are nevertheless keeping an eye on the turnover of the historic old town. Here, properties have now all been sold but it is still highly coveted by those wishing to establish a boutique hotel. Ville&Casali has investigated this new trend, gathering the opinions of those involved. Noto, like Marrakesh, when was it chic for some Italians to own a traditional Moroccan riad in which to spend their holidays? This may be why Italy Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the world’s biggest luxury property brokers and estate agents, chose to open its tenth Italian office in Noto. Officially opened in February 2021 in the Piazza Municipio (Town Hall Square) overlooking the cathedral, it already boasts a portfolio of 38 Sicilian properties, ranging from historic estates and relais de charme to beachfront villas, castles and wineries, twelve of which are in Noto itself. Diletta Giorgolo Spinola, Italy Sotheby's International Realty Head of Sales, is satisfied. “Our portfolio encapsulates the main reasons for the growing popularity with prestigious foreign investors of this Baroque city, artfully restored and with very good transport links to Catania International Airport. Wealthy foreigners who are taking advantage of the flat tax introduced by the Italian government in 2017. Sicily has long been in the sights of high-end investors, but the “Manifesta” contemporary art and culture event held recently in Palermo, and its resulting media coverage, really gave the trend a push. The Sicilian dream, driven by exceptional quality of life and unparalleled food and wine, did the rest. A new chapter of South working has begun in the last year, characterised by the possibility of working remotely under a sky of African colours, perhaps with a view of the sea that laps Italy’s most southerly coastline. While the most sought-after properties over the last year have been those that benefit from wide open spaces, both in the countryside and by the sea, the historic old town of Noto is also thriving”. Over the last three years, the Home Sud Home agency has taken it upon itself to map the countryside between Noto and Palazzolo Acreide, tracing the owners of many abandoned properties that have now become so highly sought-after by the international cultured elite. As Corrado Scarnato explains, “Photographers, collectors and art historians have chosen to establish prestigious and classy homes in this very countryside”. 

 

Davide Dimartina, owner of the agency Embrace Sicily, confirms this trend. “After the historic old town, the countryside is also highly coveted by investors from Noto and further afield”, he explains to Ville&Casali. Especially for second homes with the option to build a swimming pool, agricultural land with a buildability index that has remained at 100 square metres per hectare since 1990 is particularly in demand. There has been talk about revising the urban General Plan (PRG) for at least 4 years now, but this is how things are at the moment. And then there is the coast, the seaside resorts like Lido di Noto, where buildings dating back to the 1960s are ubiquitous. These are often quite modest properties that may be of interest to locals but not to overseas investors”. According to Angelo Spicuglia, owner of Noto’s Mondialcasa agency, the historic old town has lost some of its former appeal. “Because COVID has reawakened people’s desire for open spaces, foreign investors are primarily targeting the countryside and the coast. Having said that, Baroque houses in the historic old town that benefit from a panoramic terrace or patio have all been sold. The French have bought almost the entire housing stock over the past few years. After the city’s investment boom that lasted until 2016, the only available remaining stock consists of small apartments with a single balcony at most. Properties in need of renovation are still a bargain, being sold for as low as €500 per square metre.” In contrast, the agency Perez & Smith specialises in versatile city properties like boutique hotels, the new frontier for Italian investors in particular. Fabio Perez is enthusiastic about this demand for hotels, arguing that, “this is a sign that Noto is growing, not that it ever stopped”. If we shed the spotlight on the Province of Ragusa and the city and municipality of Modica in particular, an analysis conducted by Ramsay Gilderdale from the agency Modicasa found that the vast majority of investors are looking for houses in the countryside with a sea view. A good deal can be done at €300 per square metre for large properties that require extensive restoration, often in Quartarella or Frigintini. For those who want to conduct business in Noto, the countryside is also proving to be a winner. This is according to Corrado Morano from the estate agents Oikos, who explains how interest has also grown for villas ripe for conversion into holiday homes. The Modica-based estate agents Prima Classe Immobiliare are targeting a different market. Girolamo Giannone has seen a surge in demand for Noto’s historic old town, particularly for small properties with planning approval to create a roof terrace. Prices for such properties range from €800 to €1,100 per square metre.