Finding A Dream Home In Sicily

June 23rd, 2010 | by Ainsley |

It was once almost synonymous with the Mob. Now Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island, is turning itself into one of the key property in Italy hotspots.

One key factor behind the soaring popularity of property in Sicily is the island’s prices, which are in general not just infinitely less expensive than in Tuscany but among the most affordable in Italy.

Another has been the increased availability of properties on the Sicilian market. Until recently, they were in the main handed from parents to their offspring. But younger people are more willing to sell their family heirloom to make their own way elsewhere.

Bear in mind you would be hard pushed to come across deals to beat the the Euro 1 properties offered in Salemi, 70km south of Palermo, a few years ago after they were destroyed in a 1968 tremor. Nonetheless, just Euro 55,000 can get you a 70sq m fixer-upper if you are content to be a quarter of an hour by car from the coast. Expect to pay Euro 65,000 for a flat about a 10-minute stroll from the beach in places such as Calatabiano on the island’s east coast and near the highly sought-after resort of Taormina. If you insist on being a few yards from the beach, you might pay Euro 90,000 in nearby sites such as Giardini Naxos.

The rising popularity of sunny Sicily among real estate hunters and holidaymakers has also been fuelled by the setting up of new direct routes by low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair to its three coastal airports in Catania, Palermo and Trapani. A further airport is due to be inaugurated shortly in Ragusa. Furthermore a proposal has been unveiled for a Euro 6billion bridge connecting Sicily with Calabria on the mainland. By the way, dismiss the overstated spectre of the Mafia, which foreigners never come into contact with.

Stefania Russo, head of property specialists the Property Organiser, sums up Sicily’s appeal as she says: "It has always been a great holiday destination because of its sunny temperatures, rich history, spectacular landscape and affordable prices. Until a few years ago, there wasn’t a great selection of homes for sale except for in beach resorts because they tended to remain within families. Now a younger generation is less wedded to tradition. They are prepared to realise these assets to enable them to buy elsewhere themselves.

"It is quite straightforward to buy a three bedroom property in Sicily for less than Euro 225,000. Bear in mind some areas are expensive, such as Cefalu, Giardini Naxos and Taormina, but they offer superb rental returns given that they are tourist meccas almost all year round."

The majority of overseas buyers are still attracted to beach resorts such as Castellammare del Golfo, Marsala, Cefalu, Scopello and Trapani. Expect Euro 160,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in Cefalu. If you insist on a sea view, expect to pay Euro 220,000 either here or in nearby Castellammare.

Taormina is arguably the region’s most sought-after location for overseas buyers and consequently its most expensive. In comparison, properties Catania, 30 miles to the south can often be half the price. Top-end villas in and around Taormina often go for more than one million Euro. On the flip side letting potential is huge and Euro 12,000 a month is not unknown. Notwithstanding this cut-price deals can be had if you look around. Typically, a sea view property will come with a price tag of around Euro 300,000 while one 10 minutes away but without the view will cost some Euro 220,000-Euro 230,000.

Sicily has star quality in spades. Cinema Paradiso was filmed in Cefalu, while parts of George Clooney adventure Ocean’s Twelve were made in Castellammare del Golfo, further along Sicily’s northern coast. In addition a number of famous names have villas on the island, such as 1980s Brit singers Jim Kerr, Mick Hucknall and Peter Gabriel as well as designer Giorgio Armani, football manager Fabio Capello and French actor Gerard Depardieu.

Even going back in time the island had no shortage of famous fans, from D H Lawrence and Truman Capote to Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich. In the 1700s the poet Wolfgang Goethe called it "a land unutterably beautiful" while a century later Richard Wagner orchestrated his final opera, Parsifal, in its capital Palermo.

The island’s obvious attractions are its incomparable architecture and breathtaking scenery. Its centuries-old ruins are evidence of the series of civilisations that have ruled the roost across history: everyone from the Romans and Greeks to the Normans and Brits. Sicily can boast an unparalled natural beauty too, from its 620 miles of coasts that include mile upon mile of sandy beaches to its magnificent mountain ranges. Then again there aren’t many places where you can have an apartment overlooking Mount Etna, soaring 10,000ft above sea level.

Sicily is not just its mainland, it also has sun-drenched islands. Close to the northern shores are Vulcano, Stromboli and the remaining cluster of Aeolian Islands. Facing Sicily’s western shores are the Egadi Islands and Pantelleria and the Pelagie islands of Lampedusa and Linosa off the south coast are actually closer to the North African coast than Sicily.

All this and pretty much constant sunshine. Go on…you might just make some houseowner an offer he can’t refuseā€¦

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