Country House or Town House: The Best Places to Own an Italian Home (Part 2)
In the first part of this blog, we looked at the advantages of owning a country-style property in the valleys of Le Marche, Italy. Read on to see why owning a historical townhouse in a hilltop borgo (village), or small città (city) can bring just as much joy to any vacation (holiday) home owner.
Perched on the top of a hill and situated on the edge of a huge city wall, our rustic townhouse is Italian in every way. From its honey-coloured stone bricks to its terracotta roof tiles, it blends perfectly with the countless other Medieval homes that surround it.
Green window shutters frame each of our home’s nine windows, while narrow cobbled streets lead to and weave around it, each one creating a labyrinth of lanes that make up the centro storico, the historic centre of our adopted hometown, Force (pronounced For-cheh).
Our casa, like many others in the old hilltop towns of Le Marche, is three stories high, with an additional lower ground floor that consists of a large vaulted basement and garage. Built into the rock, it offers a cool sanctuary during the hot summers and remains warm during the region’s snowy winters.
Life in the centro storico is an experience that takes you far away from the rest of the world. If it weren’t for the parked cars and vespa’s, these towns would look almost identical to the era in which they were built. People are friendly and certainly welcomed us into the community, taking a genuine interest in what had made us buy a house in a small town and restore it, as appose to the numerous ex-pats that flock towards coastal homes. A trip to the local supermarket always took longer than planned, as we gave updates to the town’s residents on how our restoration works were progressing.
Due to their own height combined with the fact that these old cities are normally elevated well above sea level, townhouses usually offer fantastic views, be it of rows of terracotta rooftops and terraces, or in our case, an enormous valley 689 metres below us with a huge mountain range as a backdrop.
Stand on our balcony and look left to see the sea, or right for views of Force’s piazza and the Montagne Sibillini.
Our next door neighbours welcomed us the moment we arrived, and now cook huge six course lunches for us at a moment’s notice. In fact, we are rarely without dinner or coffee invitations from many of our neighbours and friends in our new town.
These small città are home to tight-knit communities who take pride in their homes, with balconies and doorways filled with brightly coloured flowers and the cleanest streets I have ever seen. Even the tiniest towns have numerous museums, galleries, antique shops and weekly markets where the residents gather. Many have tourist information offices and I’m always amazed at the amount of activities that are arranged – from motorcycling clubs to hiking, skiing and music groups. There is always something going on, and interesting people to meet, and during the feste season (more about the festivals here) all of them spring to life. They really have the work/life balance nailed.
One of the best things about buying in an old town is that many of the houses for sale are restoration projects, which offer you the chance to create the home you want. Italians may inherit numerous properties over their lifetime, each one coming with required yearly local taxes, utility bills, and some need maintenance and upkeep. Not wanting multiple money-pits on their hands, some of these are up for sale (if it were me I would be garnering money from the rental market but for most people, this is too much hassle), so the big win in this situation is that these homes can be bought for a great price. The seller is happy to have someone take the property off his or her hands, and the buyer can pick up a great investment.
One such example is the Restored Stable House – an 18th century converted stable that is now a two bedroomed house with a garden at the heart of a tiny hilltop town. The owner lives in Rome but lovingly restored it to make it vacation-ready, a buyer can literally move straight in. All it needs is some interior decorating, if primary colours aren’t your thing. Oh, and you won’t believe the price.
Townhouses that have been neglected and left empty for a number of years and require more work are available at pretty amazing prices, providing you are looking for a fixer-upper or a restoration project and willing to spend on this. These type of homes bring a great deal of satisfaction – we bought ours in a relatively run-down state, and enjoyed the challenge of bringing it back to its former glory. The good news is that you don’t need to be builders or designers or even have any knowledge of restoration to buy and restore a fixer upper, as we provide this service and do it all for you. After all, we’ve been there and done it, and our clients enjoy working with us and drawing on our own experience.
Casa Terrazza is a beautiful townhouse with so much potential to be an ideal vacation home, at not a huge extra cost or large scale work involved. Depending on your budget, the options in transforming this house into a modern vacation home are endless. And again, the price is unbelievable!
Life in a borgo or centro storico is a unique experience. You can literally walk to anywhere you need to go, be it the piazza for an espresso, the local frutta e verdure (grocers), or to the pharmacy or bakery. The beauty of Le Marche is that although it’s populated with a huge number of these hilltop towns and villages, many of them are only 30 – 40 minutes drive from the nearest beach. When we view a new property for sale to feature on our web site, we always try to make sure that it’s not too far from the beach as during the region’s hot summers, the best feeling in the world is to come back from the hustle and bustle of a day at the coast to the cooler mountain air and a quiet town to relax in.
For those of us who love a challenge, the Medieval Townhouse certainly provides that! Its rock-bottom price tag gives an indication of how much work and TLC it needs, but imagine the huge sense of satisfaction as you watch your ideas being brought to life in this home.
READ MORE: COUNTRY HOUSE OR BEACH HOUSE? PART TWO
Le Marche is abundant in opportunities in owning a vacation (holiday) home, whether it’s in the middle of the countryside surrounded by hills and mountains, or at the top of a hill looking down on these landscapes, the best thing about owning a casa in this region is the interaction with local people it offers and a more laid back life.
Now, that to me is living the real dolce vita.
READ MORE: BUYING PROPERTY IN ITALY