Northern Umbria beats Tuscany

The hunt is on for farmhouses between Val Tiberina and the Niccone Valley for 20 percent less. Leading the way are overseas investors with Hollywood stars
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Prices 15-20 percent cheaper than neighbouring Tuscany, a “sea” of green, great food and an increasingly international flavour. Northern Umbria, in the province of Perugia, is just waiting to be discovered, with a property boom expected to really take off in the next 5-10 years at the latest. “Demand fell slightly in the first six months of 2022 due to the uncertainty caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” concedes Marcello Bambagioni, President of the Umbrian branch of the Italian Federation of Professional Estate Agents (FIAIP), “but prices have remained stable and vendors appear more willing to accept reasonable offers. Gubbio and the surrounding hills are one of the most sought-after locations”. And so Ville&Casali decided to ask the northern Umbria regional experts based around Gubbio, Città di Castello and Umbertide, the latter being the administrative centre of the Niccone Valley. The region is becoming increasingly popular with Hollywood stars, particularly following the conversion of Castello di Reschio, in Lisciano Niccone, into a 50-farmhouse hotel, most of which have already been sold.

GUBBIO AND THE SURROUNDING AREA The most sought-after house? “A traditional Umbrian farmhouse with exposed beams, terracotta tiles, panoramic views and swimming pool far from the city lights and fairly isolated,” replies Michele Spaziani, BrokerOwner of Coldwell Banker of Perugia. “Most people are looking for a 300-400-square metre property spread over two floors with at least half a hectare of gardens. The most popular locations are San Martino in Colle and Monteluiano, leafy hamlets of Gubbio just fifteen minutes from the historic city centre. Prices range from €600,000 to €1 million, with most properties being sold to overseas investors from England, America, Canada and Luxembourg. Italian buyers, with a more modest budget of €300,000 to €400,000, are looking for smaller 200-300-square metre properties, fully renovated and with modern furnishings, but not necessarily with a pool”. There is also a considerable price difference between buying a farmhouse here compared to on Lake Trasimeno, for example. Spaziani continues: “Our hills are wilder, less populated and prices are up to 30 percent lower; we are close to Le Marche and the inland region of Montefeltro. It is therefore no coincidence that potential buyers from Trentino are even attracted to an entire village like San Martino in Colle, despite coming from a happy island like Trentino: here, quality of life is high and prices are low”. For those who instead want to experience the mystical charm of the stone city, “there are apartments for sale in the historic centre or on the outskirts,” explains Alessio Nardelli from Tecnocasa (tel. 075.9273032). “These properties are perfectly inhabitable but in need of modernisation, and are often located on the ground or first floor or may be former shops converted into residential units”. A 45-square metre historic property of this kind could cost from €55,000-€90,000 if fully renovated and modernised.

ALBERTO BURRI SELLS SECOND HOMES “Investors from northern Europe and as far afield as the United States, Japan and even Australia are flocking to Città di Castello to buy a farmhouse, even one in need of renovation, increasingly attracted by the Alberto Burri museum,” explains Linda Cesari, property consultant and owner of Welchome, which specialises in exclusive properties (www. welchome.net). The most sought-after property is a 300-450-square metre, 3-bedroom farmhouse with garden, swimming pool and views of the mid-high hills, perhaps with its own small oil production to sell abroad. “The most popular locations,” adds Cesari, are the Municipalities of Pietralunga (566 metres above sea level) and Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (688 metres) in the Upper Tiber Valley, an area that has yet to be truly discovered (“it lacks a bit of regional marketing that instead has been focussed on Assisi”) yet offers historic properties 10-15 percent cheaper than in Tuscany and has huge ‘regeneration’ potential. We are close to essential services (major airports like Rome, Ancona and Bologna are no more than an hour and a half to two hours’ drive) yet feel completely isolated”.
 

NICCONE VALLEY CASTLES AND RESORTS “The Niccone Valley is, for a number of reasons, one of Umbria’s most popular destinations among the well-to-do”, explains Luca Giovannelli, CEO of Casaitalia International. Investors come primarily from northern Europe, England and the United States, with a significant increase in American clients over the last two years, partly thanks to the strength of the dollar against the euro. As Giovannelli continues, “The valley has remained for the most part unspoilt, a natural border between Umbria and neighbouring Tuscany, which from the heart of Umbria leads directly to Lake Trasimeno, another highly sought-after destination partly because of its excellent transport links to Florence. It is therefore the ideal location for anyone in search of privacy and unspoilt views yet at the same time within easy reach of cities of art like Cortona and Perugia. The Niccone Valley is also awash with traditional farmhouses and historic buildings such as castles and forts that have their own unique charm and appeal, particularly for American clients. These properties, made of local sandstone, have remained pretty much unaltered over the years, in some cases over centuries, retaining the original materials that conservative renovations, often commissioned by overseas investors and undertaken by skilled local labour, have successfully enhanced. The most popular property is a 400-600-square metre country farmhouse with 2-4 hectares of land and swimming pool, for use as a second home but also as a supplementary income on the weekly holiday rental market.It represents the perfect solution for buyers from overseas who make use of the property for just a few weeks of the year, giving them a steady and substantial income to cover the annual management and maintenance costs of the property. In contrast, larger properties such as castles, monasteries and forts are ripe for conversion into boutique hotels aimed almost exclusively at the well-to-do international clientele”. However, James Stephens from Umbertide’s IPN would prefer to sell Polgeto Castle (13 million), which he has in his exclusive portfolio, to a private client rather than a hotel investor. He is the only estate agent to have such a property, which dates back to 1399, on his books, which he already sold years ago. This 2,300-square metre castle boasts a fully-renovated central wing and two towers, as well as 52 hectares of olive groves, a garden and a swimming pool. As the English-born estate agent explains, “We have sold all kinds of properties in the Niccone Valley in recent years, even the most isolated of 300-400-square metre villas and farmhouses with 2 hectares of land and swimming pool secluded in the hills a one-hour drive from the nearest urban centre, at prices ranging from €700,000 to €1.2 million. In contrast, Italians are looking for a small 100-150-square metre house in the country in the villages of Montone or Preggio for €200,000-300,000; prices are currently on the rise due to a lack of stock”. This is confirmed by Nick Ferrand, owner of Abode affiliated with Savills, who sold one of the last two-storey farmhouses in Lisciano Niccone to be renovated with a modern finish, measuring 500 square metres and boasting a swimming pool, 7 hectares of woodland and an orchard, to two Canadians for €1.2 million. “There is very little stock in the €250,000-€600,000 price range, whilst there is a little more available in the €1.2 million and above price bracket,” explains Ferrand. Overseas buyers choose the Niccone Valley to enjoy the Italian lifestyle and tend to favour exposed original beams and ancient terracotta; in short, traditional, original features in a contemporary home”. “The Niccone Valley is also in great demand thanks to the popularity of Hotel Castello di Reschio, whose farmhouse sale prices rival those of Tuscany,” comments Danilo Romolini, Sales Manager of Romolini Immobiliare estate agents, affiliated with Christie’s. “But in mystical Umbria, in its unspoilt countryside, it would be very difficult for a 500-square metre farmhouse renovated to a luxury finish with pool to sell for more than 4-5 million: it would simply be priced out of the market.

Published on Ville&Casali November 2022
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