Italian holiday homes: Which nationalities favour which coastal regions?

Which foreign nationals are looking to buy and rent homes on the Italian coast? And which areas do different nationalities prefer? New stats reveal some answers.

Italian holiday homes: Which nationalities favour which coastal regions?
Which nationality is most enchanted by Italy's famed Lampedusa island? Photo: AFP

While there are many property bargains to be had in Italy, prices are notably higher in coastal areas. Not only do many Italians own a second home by the sea, but these areas are of course very popular with overseas holiday home buyers.

And different parts of the country are often popular with different nationalities.
Based on website visits from June-September, the real estate portal Idealista has reported the areas that are most popular among holidaymakers from different countries, whether they are looking to buy or rent.
The Covid-19 crisis does not appear to have slowed down the international property market in Italy, with some property experts instead reporting increased demand in some areas – mainly thought to be speculative interest from foreign investors.
In fact, 16 percent of visits to the Idealista website in summer this year were from foreign locations – mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
But with the international second-home market remaining relatively stable, the hoped-for bargains are few and far between.
“Coastal areas, mainly tourism-oriented, have suffered the impact of Covid more severely due to mobility restrictions, which prevented the arrival of millions of tourists this summer,” Idealista writes, “But even so, prices have not dropped substantially as many expected in early March.”
Still, from the number of searches, it seems that relatively high prices along the coast don't seem to be putting off would-be buyers looking for their place in the sun.
Here's a look at the nationalities showing the most interest in Italian property, and the areas they want to relocate to.
The map created by Idealista clearly shows the two nationalties most interested in buying a second home in Italy: Americans and Germans.
This may not come as a surprise, particularly if you know that German tourists make up by far the biggest percentage of visitors to Italy – in normal years at least – at around 13 percent.
US nationals account for around three percent of tourism to Italy, and British and French visitors one and two percent respectively.
The vast majority of foreigners searching for property in Tuscany were from Germany and the US; Idealista writes.
The particularly expensive area of Forte dei Marmi (6,884 euros/m2) came from the US, while Monte Argentario (4,336 euros/m2) was another American favourite.
Germans appear to prefer Castiglione della Pescaia (4,549 euros/m2), and also completely dominated searches for homes on the Tuscan islands of Giglio and Elba. 
On the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, German buyers again dominate the market in remote and coastal areas, while Americans appear to be more interested in the cities, Idealista writes.
Sardinia is particularly popular with German buyers, especially the provinces of Alghero and Stintino.
In Sicily, house hunters from the United States were most interested in Lampedusa, Taormina, San Vito Lo Capo and Favignana.
In Liguria in the north, things vary a little more.
While Germans and Americans still dominate the searches, Swiss residents prefer some areas including Finale Ligure (4,190 euro/m2) and the towns closest to the French border are the most popular with French citizens.
Germans meanwhile go for areas such as Alassio (5,413 euros/m2) and Americans search most often in Santa Margherita Ligure (4,890 euros/m2).
Americans usually make up the vast majority of visitors to the Amalfi coast, so it's not surprising to find that they also top the rankings for home searches in this area,
US buyers prefer Positano, Amalfi, Praiano,Sorrento and Capri. 
Meanwhile, most foreign buyers searching for property on the island of Ischia come from Germany.
Further south, the region of Puglia offers lower property prices.
The wild Gargano area is preferred by German visitors, who account for most searches in Peschici (€1,475/m2) and Vieste (€1,644/m2). 
Germans also cominate searches in some areas further south in the region: Gallipoli (€1,652/m2) and Ostuni (€1,527/m2). 
Most demand for homes in the “white city” of Otranto (1,965 euros/m2) comes from Switzerland, while the region's most famous tourist town, Polignano a Mare, (€2,173/m2) is particularly popular among Americans.

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How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

Buying a cheap home to renovate in Italy sounds like the dream, but it can quickly turn nightmarish amid restrictions, red tape, and bickering relatives. Silvia Marchetti explains some of the most unexpected pitfalls and how to avoid them.

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

With so many Italian towns offloading cheap old properties for sale, lots of people have been tempted by the chance to buy a fixer-upper in a sunny, rural area and live in the perfect idyll. And most are oblivious at first of what risks the purchase might entail. 

The older the properties are, the more potential traps along the way.

READ ALSO: The Italian towns launching alternatives to one-euro homes

There have been several villages in Italy eager to sell €1 and cheap homes that have had to give up on their plans once hidden issues came to light.

Back in 2014, the towns of Carrega Ligure, in Piedmont, and Lecce nei Marsi, in Abruzzo, tried hard to sell their old properties off at a bargain price but just couldn’t get past Italy’s labyrinthine red tape, hellish property restrictions, and scores of bickering relatives.

Both towns’ mayors found themselves chasing after the many heirs of unknown property owners who had emigrated in the 1800s. All existing relatives, who technically owned small parcels of the same house (whether they knew it or not), had to all agree on the sale.

Under Italian law, over time and generations a property ‘pulverizes’ into many little shares depending on how many heirs are involved (if one single heir is not named).

You can end up in a situation where you agree with two owners that you’ll buy their old house, and then one day another five knock at your door saying they never gave their consent, nullifying your purchase. So it’s always best to check beforehand the local land registry to see exactly who, and how many, are the owners, and where they are. 


In Carrega Ligure and Lecce nei Marsi, families had long ago migrated across the world and the many heirs to some properties were impossible to track down.

But there were also other obstacles.

“We wanted to start the renovation project by selling dilapidated one euro houses, and then move on to cheap ones, but the tax office would not agree on the price – saying that the old properties had a greater value, that they weren’t classified as abandoned buildings but as perfectly livable houses in good shape”, says Lecce nei Marsi mayor Augusto Barile. 

This meant buyers would have ended up spending tons of money in property sale taxes.

“Even if these were just small houses, potential property taxes start at €700, and could have been much higher,” he explains.

“This would have been a nightmare for any buyer finding out about this at a later stage, after the purchase”.

Barile says the town hall had not made a prior agreement with the tax office to reclassify and ‘downgrade’ the value of the old buildings, which also required an update of the land registry. 

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

Council officials in the village of Carrega Ligure faced a wall of red tape when they tried to sell off abandoned properties. Credit: Comune di Carrega Ligure

Several potential buyers I spoke to back then said that when they found out about the tax office’s involvement by word of mouth (mostly thanks to village gossip at the bar while sipping an espresso), they fled immediately without even taking a look at the houses. 

The best advice in this case is to pay a visit to the local tax bureau ahead of any formal purchase deal and make sure that the old, dilapidated house you want to buy is actually ‘accatastata’ (registered) as such, or you might end up paying the same property sale taxes as you would on a new home. Hiring a tax lawyer or legal expert could be of huge help.

In Carrega Ligure, where old shepherds’ and farmers’ homes are scattered across 11 districts connecting various valleys, a few abandoned homes located near pristine woods came with a nice patch of land – which turned out to be another huge problem.

Old estates often cannot be disposed of due to ‘vincoli’ – limitations – either of environmental or historic nature, that do not allow the property to be sold, or simply due to territorial boundaries that have changed over time, particularly if the original families haven’t lived there for a long time.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s cheap homes frenzy is changing rural villages

In Carrega Ligure it turned out that “a few dwellings located in the most ancient district couldn’t be sold because of hydrogeological risks. State law forbade rebuilding them from scratch, as floods and mudslides had hit the area in the past”, says Carrega Ligure mayor Luca Silvestri.

Meanwhile, other properties were located within or close to the protected mountain park area where the village districts spread, and where there are strict rules against building to preserve the surroundings.

Another issue was that a few old homes came with a patch of land which was quite distant, on the opposite side of the hill, says Silvestri, making it inconvenient for buyers looking for a house with a back garden.

In this case, checking territorial maps, and speaking to competent bodies such as park authorities if there are ‘green restrictions’ in place, can spare future nuisances.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.