Demand surges for homes in the Italian countryside during lockdown

After two months stuck indoors under quarantine, a new survey shows that Italians are dreaming of an escape to the country as demand for rural properties has shot up.

Demand surges for homes in the Italian countryside during lockdown
A panoramic view shows the Langhe countryside near Alba, Piedmont. Photo: AFP

Estate agencies around Italy say that requests and online searches for country homes increased by 20 percent between February and April, according to a study published in the May issue of “Ville & Casali” magazine.

Spending eight weeks shut indoors in some of western Europe's smallest and most overcrowded apartments has apparently left many Italians rethinking their choice of living quarters.

While more than half of all people in Italy currently live in blocks of flats – a higher percentage than in neighbouring European countries – it seems that this could be about to change.

“This awareness has turned attention towards housing solutions that bring us back into contact with a rural model of living,” the magazine's editor, Giovanni Morelli, told Sky TG24.

He added that the sudden rise of “smart working”, or working remotely, under lockdown was a factor in the surge of people looking to get out of the city.

Photo: AFP

Monferrato and the Langhe were among the regions most popular with young couples, the study found, a factor “perhaps also driven by price differences per square metre with cities like Milan,” TG24 wrote.

Other popular areas among those dreaming of the good life included the Piacenza hills, the Emilian Apennines, and the Florentine hills or, at a higher price range, Chianti.

In Italy, rural homes have long been perceived as the preserve of retirees – as well as foreign second-home owners – but this may not be the case for much longer.

The survey highlighted a rising trend among young people (20 percent more than during the same period in 2019) hoping to move away from urban areas, the report said.

Italy has a large stock of older, often rural properties which have long proved difficult to sell in a market where apartments and new-build homes are more in demand.

There are also hopes that a move towards remote working and living outside of towns and cities could also mean that many of Italy's small, rural villages, famously at risk of becoming ghost towns and offering homes for sale for as little as one euro, will once again become attractive places to live for Italians.

Engineers and infrastructure experts currently looking at ways to reshape Italy following the pandemic believe people will be increasingly turning away from city life.


The National Council of Engineers (CNI) is one of many bodies to have sent the government proposals on how best to use infrastructure to reboot the country and shape it along different lines.

“Cities have proved fragile spaces in sanitary terms,” the council's head Armando Zambrano told AFP.

He suggested investment to encourage a return to the countryside, revitalising hundreds of abandoned towns across Italy, and improving internet connections to encourage working from home.

But it may take some time before we see whether the rise in searches will translate into increased sales of country homes – or whether it's just a form of escapism for people under lockdown in cramped apartments.

While estate agencies are now back open across the country as of May 4th, many house purchases remain on hold or delayed due to the impact of the shutdown.



Member comments

  1. Well, I confess to being one of the searchees:) ! It is a mix of dreaming, but also practical changes brought about by this crisis. With the closure of private asilo nido combined with capacity to work from home, we no longer have anything tying us to to the city, so thinking of finally making a long planned for move back, maybe back to region my husbands family has lived for generations. In our case, at some stage probably will result in an actual property sale sooner than we had otherwise planned.

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Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: ‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.