Occupying the north-west corner of Italy, Liguria is the Italian neighbour to the French Riviera. A narrow region of coastline and mountain, with the Cinque Terre and the atmospheric old city of Genoa, it has lots to entice those looking to purchase real estate in Italy.
Drive along the French Riviera, through Monte Carlo and into Italy and you hit Liguria. This long, narrow region snakes around the north-west coast of Italy, and squeezes in between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the mountains. And Liguria has lots to entice those looking to buy real estate in Italy.
So why buy property in Liguria? Many reasons. It has one of Italy’s most fascinating cities, the ancient port of Genoa; it has a group of the most picturesque seaside villages you’re likely to see in the Cinque Terre; the town of San Remo offers a flavour of old-fashioned Riviera pizzazz; and it has Portofino — an Italian version of the jetset town of St Tropez. It also has precipitous slopes lushly clad with vines and olives and an extraordinary quantity of good beaches … Liguria is, after all, mostly coast.
Head up into the hills of the Apennines and the Maritime Alps, and you’ll find isolated mountain hamlets with properties prime for restoration. Like much of Italy, the mountain villages of Liguria have depopulated over the past century, and you can find abandoned houses ideal for transforming into your dream home. Plus, in Liguria, you can head from your mountain home to the beach in an hour or so.
The coastline is referred to as the Ligurian Riviera, and offers an affordable alternative to buying a home on the French side of the border. Monaco and Nice may be out of your budget when purchasing a home, but San Remo, Albenga and Noli are probably not. And, to the connoisseur, the Italian side has more variety, more varied landscapes, and cities that are more culturally and architecturally interesting than on the blander French Riviera. Albenga and Noli have each maintained their medieval centro storico while the Cinque Terre are world famous for their beauty. Wedged into the rugged folds of the Levantine Riviera east of Genoa, they are a stunning sight, gazing down upon the blue waters of the Gulf of Genoa.
And in the centre of the region lies the city of Genoa. This is a marvellous old town, first settled by the ancient Ligurians (reputedly from Greece: the archetypal Ligurian today is slight, olive skinned and black haired) in pre-Christian times. Invaded by Normans, Saracens, Lombards and Napoleon (to name but a few), Genoa resulted as a glorious mish-mash of language, cuisine and architectural styles. Fallen on hard times during the 20th century, Genoa has had enormous investment, especially in the old port area, since 1992 and the 500th anniversary of Columbus, scion of the city. A revitalised Genoa has a little of the Marseilles about it — a slightly rakish port, but swiftly improving and appreciating in value. Buying property in Genoa should prove a great investment for the future.
A big plus for those buying property is that Liguria has the moderate climate of a coastal region backed by mountains — mild winters and none of the sultriness of a Lombardy summer for instance. Those mountains mean it rains a lot of course (though British visitors won’t find things particularly wet) and the upside of this is that Liguria has a lush and colourful coast, ablaze with Mediterranean shrubs and flowers.
Recent properties of interest to anyone buying real estate in Liguria, include a one-bedroom holiday apartment in San Remo at just €90,000, with a full view of San Remo to the east and the French coast to the west, and just along from the French border and Nice Airport. Heading along the coast to Imperia, you could snap up a three-bedroom house, arranged over three floors, with two bathrooms and hillside views over the town. Set in a huge 500m² garden, this village house was on the market for €210,000. Property in Genoa itself costs between €1000 and €2500 per square metre, but there is lots of distressed real estate in Genoa ripe for refurbishment. If you find yourself planning a trip to Liguria, you could do worse than visit ahotelinitaly.com for online reservation of a wide range of hotels in Genoa, La Spezia and the rest of Liguria.
Keep an eye out for those development properties. Italians love new real estate but often aren’t so keen on doing up abandoned farmhouses, and the mountains behind Genoa can prove rich pickings for anyone looking to buy real estate in Liguria. Comparisons are important here. With its proximity to central Europe, property prices in Liguria will be higher than some other Italian regions, but they are much lower than on the French Riviera. Holiday properties in Levanto and San Remo may fetch a premium, but they are very good bets for holiday lets for much of the year.
Liguria is famed for being the home of pesto, the delicious basil, pine nut, oil and garlic paste that flavours so many Italian dishes. Meat is traditionally rare — this mountainous region has limited pasture and doesn’t lend itself to rearing animals. Where animals are used, they aren’t wasted, with every scrap being employed (a characteristic of parsimonious Ligurian cooking). Stuffed calf’s stomach may not whet your appetite — though it’s not so different to haggis really — but it is quite delicious, filled with ricotta, turnip, pistachios, tongue … whatever. With so much coastline it’s unsurprising that fresh fish and seafood form the central ingredients of the ‘cucina profumata’ (fragrant food) that typifies this Italian region. Chickpea flatbread (farinata) and focaccia bread are served alongside.
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