Welcome to la dolce vita. Tuscany is the region most associated with the quintessential Italian countryside. It is nothing if not evocative: the birthplace of the Renaissance, the land of Michelangelo and Botticelli. Its hill towns are strewn with olive groves, cypress trees and vineyards.
Tuscany conjures up not just another age but another era entirely, a classic landscape in a timeless setting of mountains and sea. Here fantasies are reality--at least when it comes to real estate. Those looking for a home with a provenance find it centuries-old villas, farmhouses and actual medieval castles with amenities spanning the ages, from ancient frescos to modern helipads. Strict laws ensure restoration work is in keeping with local character and traditions. Hobby Tuscan vineyard estates are also available, giving grape enthusiasts a chance to bottle their own private-label wines.
Florence, Pisa and Siena are the region’s cultural centers. Florence offers pied á terre apartments close to the city’s cathedral, the magnificent Duomo, as well as prime estates in the outskirt hilltop communities of Fiesole and Settignano. Between Florence and medieval Siena is Chianti Hills. With its vineyards yielding famous dry red wine, rural properties here are always in demand. Some of Tuscany’s most expensive homes are in seaside locales like the islands of Elba and Giglio in the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the lush Monte Argentario peninsula. Other exclusive sea town resorts are Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi.
Italy is a country where homeownership is a priority. About 80 percent of residences are owner-occupied. There are no restrictions on international ownership. Dutch, U.S. and especially British buyers are well represented in this part of Italy, the latter so much so that the region has come to be dubbed “Chiantishire.” Russians are also making their presence known. The Guardian newspaper came up with its own playful moniker: “Ruscany.”