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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PROPERTY: Should you hire a renovation agency for your Italian home?

If you're renovating a home in Italy, will you need to pay a middleman to cut through the red tape and language barriers? Silvia Marchetti looks at the pros and cons.

PROPERTY: Should you hire a renovation agency for your Italian home?

The idea of snapping up a cheap, crumbling house in a picturesque Italian village may sound appealing – but doing so always comes with tedious paperwork and the hassle of renovation.

For this reason, a growing number of professional agencies have sprung up in Italy to cater to foreign buyers snapping up cheap homes amid the property frenzy.

In many of the Italian towns selling one-euro or cheap homes, there are now ‘restyle experts’ and agencies that offer renovation services handling everything that could become a nightmare: from dealing with the paperwork and fiscal issues to finding a notary for the deed, contracting an architect, surveyor, a building team and the right suppliers for the furniture.

They also handle the sometimes tricky task of reactivating utilities in properties that have been abandoned for decades.

I’ve travelled to many of these villages and looked at this side of the business, too. Hiring these ‘middle people’ comes with pros and cons, though the positive aspects can certainly outweigh the negatives – provided you’re careful to pick the right professionals. 

READ ALSO: Why Italians aren’t snatching up their country’s one-euro homes

These intermediaries are usually locals who have expertise in real estate and a good list of suppliers’ contacts. This allows them to deliver turnkey homes that were once just heaps of decaying rubble, sparing buyers time and money – particularly those living abroad, who then aren’t forced to fly over to Italy countless times a year to follow the work in progress.

I’ve met several buyers from abroad who purchased cheap homes sight unseen after merely looking at photos posted online by local authorities, but then had to book many expensive long-haul flights to hire the architect, get the paperwork done, and select the construction team (a few even got stuck here during Covid).

Thanks to their contacts the local agents can ensure fast-track renovations are completed within 2-4 months, which could prove very useful as the ‘superbonus’ frenzy in Italy has caused a builder shortage meaning many people renovating property now face long delays


Their all-inclusive commission usually starts at 5 percent of the total cost of a renovation, or at 2.500 euros per house independently from its cost and dimension. The fee also depends on the type of work being carried out, how tailored it is and whether there are any specific requirements, like installing an indoor elevator or having furniture pieces shipped from the mainland if it happens to be a Sicilian or Sardinian village. 

However, buyers must always be careful. It is highly recommended to make sure the local authorities know who these agents are and how reliable they are in delivering results.

Town halls can often suggest which local companies to contact, and this gives the renovation legitimacy in my view. In a small village, where everyone knows each other, when the town hall recommends an agency there’s always a certain degree of trust involved and agents know that their credibility is at stake (and also future commissions by more clients). 

Word of mouth among foreign buyers is a powerful tool; it can be positive or detrimental for the agency if a restyle isn’t done the right way, or with too many problems.

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

So it’s best to avoid agencies from another village, even if nearby, who come to you offering fast and super-cheap services, or local agencies that are not suggested by the mayor’s office. 

Then of course there can be other downsides, which largely depend on how ‘controlling’ and demanding the client is. 

For those not based in Italy full-time, the most important consideration is: how much can you trust these professionals to deliver what you expect, exactly how you want it, without having to be constantly on the ground? 

Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

Language can be a major obstacle. There are technical building terms that prove difficult to translate, and if the local agency doesn’t have English-speaking renovation professionals with a track record in following foreign clients it’s best to look for an intermediary with a greater language proficiency. 

I remember meeting an American couple once who got lost in translation with a village agent for days, and had to hire a translator just to hire the intermediary.

It’s always useful to ask for a ‘preventivo’ (quote) with VAT indication, considering roughly how much inflation could make the final cost go up. Buyers should also sign a contract with the exact timeframe of the works and delivery date of the new home, including penalties if there are delays on the part of the agency. 


But, even when there is complete trust, I think it is impossible to fully restyle an old home from a distance, contacting intermediaries by phone, emails, messages or video calls only. 

Details are key and there’s always something that could be misinterpreted. Buyers based overseas should still follow-up the renovation phases personally, perhaps with one or two flights per year to check all is going well and up to schedule.

Asking to see the costs so far undertaken midway through the restyle is useful to make sure there are no hidden costs or unexpected third parties involved – like buying the most expensive furniture or marble floor when not requested, or hiring a carpenter to build artisan beds.

While there is really no such thing as a hassle-free renovation, these agencies can ease the pressure and do most of the burdensome work – but buyers’ supervision will always be needed.

Read more in The Local’s Italian property section.