Sicillian Serenade Property


Bathed in breathtaking scenery and a civilised distance from the tourism hum of the Italian mainland, the offshore idyll for a Sicillian Serenade Property. James Sinclair reports.

Kate Moss and long-limbed rocker Jamie Hince managed a discrete honeymoon in Sicily in 2010 in the exclusive hilltop town of Erice. The rumour mill has since brought with it a fresh wave of interest for the sun-kissed island of Sicily: a glistening getaway bathed in Baroque charms, only now with a growing roll call of celebrities and lesser mortals smitten by its wholesome charms. As property markets go, the island has followed a similar trajectory in terms of increased buyer interest. In general however, the Italian contingent still largely outnumber European and international visitors, a state-of-play, which points to a healthy market for property, and a local confidence in the island as a second-home destination.

Drifting contentedly off the toe of Italy and separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina, Sicily makes a great rags-to-riches tale-a past beset by poverty and the infiltration of the Cosa Nostra (mafia), leading many Sicilians to skip town in search of a better life. Decades later, pump prime government funding is giving the island a new lease of life. The cost of living remains a fraction of islands such as Crete and Greece, and mainland hotspots like Tuscany and Umbria. But the island also has increasing appeal to investors keen to get in on the ground level and turn a profit through rentals, a spike in interest fuelled by the introduction of no frills flights from the UK into Palermo, Catania and Trapani, a step-change in access, which has led to a three-fold increase in visitor numbers in the past four years.

An island that doesn’t stint on looks, inland boasts its share of rolling hills, craggy mountains and vineyards, with the brooding (but harmless) Mount Etna dominating the skyline, while the coast has its share of unspoilt, sandy beaches. “Quality leisure facilities are being discretely added,” explains local agent Anthony Steading, “but you won’t get formulaic tourism blurring national identity. Sicilians remain tremendously proud of their heritage, so while there’s a growing awareness of the need to change planning attitudes and policy, market saturation is unlikely to become an issue.”

Investment wise, the island is best understood as a series of micro markets, with some areas starting to hot up while others tick over. “Prices have risen by an average of 10-12 per cent in the last three years,” confirms property consultant James Riding, “almost doubling per sqm in the southeast around Ragusa and Siracusa, but still well under value in the less accessible south.” Along the west coast, served by flights into Palermo, towns like Erice, Marsala and Trapani are seen as emerging investment opportunities, in particular, bagli, (former wine warehouses), that ape traditional Tuscan hilltop villas only for considerably less money. Those with a budget of £800,000 will find plenty to choose from in the estate line, but renovations projects are also in ready supply – vintage farm estates and rustic villas in characterful locations such as Modica and Ragusa ready for the taking at £350,000.

If a mini-me offshore idyll is your ultimate fantasy, then the Aeolian Islands to the north, of which Lipari is the largest, have a choice selection of hilltop mansions, many sporting annex accommodation, ideal for guest house conversions. Real Estate Modena is marketing a stunning hilltop property, Villa Casali on Salina the greenest of the Aeolian Islands consisting of two independent ultra-luxury apartments surrounded by terraces, a Mediterranean garden and circular pool for £1.2m. The good life has arrived.

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