Escape from the city: These are the 21 cheapest Italian provinces to move to
With a growing number of people reportedly looking to move out of the city, here's a look at the cheapest places to buy a house in Italy.
Published: 31 August 2020 11:22 CEST Updated: 10 September 2020 13:11 CEST
The province of Asti, Piedmont, is among the cheapest places to live in Italy. Photo: AFP
Italian estate agents continue to report rising demand for larger homes with outdoor spaces, as the coronavirus lockdown and the rise of remote working has changed many buyers’ priorities.
If you’re among those turning their backs on cramped city life and looking for a more spacious Italian home, you may be wondering where to start your search and which areas offer the best value for money.
Unsurprisingly things get cheaper the further you are from large cities, according to data from property listings website idealista.
“Far from metropolitan cities it is much easier to find more spacious apartments or even villas with gardens at much lower prices than in urban centers such as Rome and Milan,Bologna, Florence or Turin,” Idealista writes in a new report mapping.the 21 Italian provinces have an average selling price per square meter under 1000 euros.
So where should bargain-hunters start looking?
Southern provinces feature heavily, with five in Sicily alone where homes sell for under 1,000 euros per square metre on average: Caltanissetta, Enna, Agrigento, Ragusa and Syracuse.
But the cheapest province in the country isn’t in the south at all: the picturesque province of Biella, Piedmont, was found to have the lowest average price per square metre at just 650 euros.
Three other Piedmontese provinces also feature in the list: Vercelli, Alessandria, and Asti.
The map below shows the 21 cheapest provinces according to Idealista.
The list also features four provinces in rural Calabria, and two in Molise.
The popular southern summer holiday region of Puglia scraped just one entry, with prices in the southern province of Lecce averaging 985.19 euros per square metre.
Meanwhile there were two entries in Rome's Lazio region: Rieti and Frosinone.
As a former entrepreneur in his professional life, he said he’s “used to getting things done”, owning five companies and selling three.
But conquering Italian property renovation is his biggest challenge to date: “Never in my life have I had so many complications as I’ve had with this house,” he told us.
The earthquake-damaged barn. Photo: Davide Fionda
“In the beginning, I knew exactly what I needed and the costs to carry out the project. My mother was, and is still, living in the United States: the project started when she was approached by her godson, who is a geometra (civil engineer), to help her rebuild this barn.
“I started with what I could control. I sat down with an architect and we created a design. I did research on furniture and fixtures. But then the problems started,” Davide said.
His mother wanted a simple design: an open plan house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the mountains, spanning two floors – a ground floor and a first floor for the bedrooms.
When they went to look at the progress in 2004, he said they were “horrified” at what they saw.
“Instead of windows across the front as we asked for, with views of the spectacular Gran Sasso mountains, he took the entire view with two hallways for entering the property and for the bathroom. The bedrooms upstairs were unusable,” he added.
Davide describes himself as “not a typical Italian”, at two metres in height ,and says he always looks for suitable showers and beds when visiting Italy.
It was one of the reasons building his own home was so attractive, as he could custom-make it to fit his needs.
But when they viewed the build, he discovered the first floor had ceilings of just one metre and 40 centimetres – not liveable for most people, never mind someone with Davide’s towering frame.
The results didn’t match the renovation plans that had been filed with the comune (town hall) – they wouldn’t have been approved otherwise, as Davide discovered Italian regulations deemed this height of ceiling in a bedroom uninhabitable.
He said he grew up with the geometra and knew him well, saying they were “best friends”. However, on raising the problems with him, Davide said the building professional “refused to fix the house”, adding, “he took my mother’s money and built a house with no bedrooms”.
He said his mother decided to stop construction after spending almost $100,000 on a house that they “could not live in”, adding that they “returned many times over the years to see the shell of the building that we thought we were going to call our home”.
Faced with a stalled project and unsure what to do next, Davide tried to sell the property but got nowhere. He said the “market wasn’t right” for selling it, so he considered his options for fixing the botched renovations to date.
His Italian property project has been stalled for over two decades. Photo: Davide Fionda
Then, eventually, in January of this year he decided “he was sick of looking at it and it was time to act”.
He intended to use Italy’s Bonus ristrutturazioni (Renovation bonus), which allows homeowners to apply for a 50 percent tax reduction on carrying out renovation work.
On asking for professional opinions on whether the house qualified for this bonus, he said he asked five different people and got five different answers.
In the end, he discovered it was eligible and so he could, in theory, proceed with his latest plans.
The aim is to create his mother’s original vision – an open plan space with huge windows overlooking the mountains and bedrooms on the first floor – but habitable this time.
Since the beginning of this year, however, Davide has been stuck and hasn’t made progress.
Setbacks have included trying to get a permit to renovate the house, which has proved difficult since the first geometra reportedly didn’t update the changes to the building.
This thorny issue goes back to exactly who owned the house, as Davide told us it had been sectioned off and parts of the house were owned by various members of the family.
The building headaches roll on for Davide. Photo by Martin Dalsgaard on Unsplash
“Italian law makes you want to rip your hair out,” he said.
Getting the deed in his name has been a huge obstacle in itself, as his mother wasn’t the sole owner and some parts of the land that belonged to her were never recorded.
It’s meant months of waiting while archives have been searched and deeds have been drawn up and transferred, made all the trickier by coordinating it all from thousands of miles away.
Plus, the house category was never changed to a residential one, listed previously as farmland and therefore illegal to live in.
It’s just more unexpected bureaucracy for a project that seems to have no end.
“It has been months and months of all these twists and turns, it’s so frustrating,” he told us.
“This has been a 25-year nightmare,” he added.
A partly restored, but unliveable barn for Davide now. Photo: Davaide Fionda.
Although Davide had originally planned to sort out the more practical parts of the project by the end of May, with a ticket booked to Italy to choose the windows, he’s still stuck in the paperwork part and can’t move forward.
“Nothing has happened since January. Three or four times I said, ‘screw this’. But it’s not in my DNA to give up,” he said.
Although he has a strong will, the house has taken its toll on him.
“Every time we go, this house stares us in the face and it’s upsetting. Family always ask us, ‘when are you going to finish the house?’ It’s a real source of heartache,” he told us.
From this point, he hopes the paperwork will be completed by August and then he can meet with the contractors to get the process started.
That in itself was a tall order, due to the construction demand and shortage of building companies Italy is currently experiencing.