Heavenly homes for sale in Italy

May 3rd, 2009 | by Ainsley |

If you are looking for a heavenly property in Italy, this might just be the answer to your prayers. There are around 5,000 churches, chapels and oratories in Italy ready to be converted into stunning homes, a study has found.

These spacious and bright historic buildings often radiate the architectural charm that Italy has become known for down the centuries.

These are almost exclusively in private ownership or owned by ecclesiastical institutions. Many, after being deconsecrated, have already been put to a variety of alternative uses such as commercial premises, staging artistic exhibitions and accommodation. But a large number of the rest that were kept for religious use remain in a state of disrepair due to the high costs of maintaining the structures.

In recent times there has been a greater examination of such buildings that, once deconsecrated, can be usefully and profitably preserved by being converted to civilian use – especially if they are in an advantageous location, according to Cescat, the research arm of Italian property group Assoedilizia.

Conversion of old churches, chapels and oratories to residential or commercial use is likely to require an amendment of current town planning laws. However, the provisional draft of new laws being proposed by Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi and expected to become nationwide law later in 2009 will mean such religious structures can undergo a change of use even without building works being carried out.

Cescat chief Achille Colombo Clerici said the current housing market conditions necessitated urgent steps to overcome the problem. Mr Clerici insisted: “In a period of imbalance in the housing sector, such as what we are experiencing in Italy today, our entire building heritage should be able to be used as necessary. We must not forget that in some cities on the planet, even cemeteries are inhabited.”

His sentiments are echoed by another leading Italian property group, Immobiliare.it. It too has discovered many privately owned churches that are no longer in use and are now increasingly making their way onto the real estate market. The company’s Carlo Giordano said: “A change of use and ownership can allow these unusual structures to endure the ravages of the centuries and mean they continue to have an important role for years to come.”

A great majority of these abandoned religious buildings are architectural gems just requiring some tender love and care to become the perfect home in Italy. For example, in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Tuscany, Homes and Villas Abroad is offering a 350sq m 18th century villa set in 25 acres of land that comes complete with a large, 250sq m stone house, a 160sq m two-storey building and a private chapel.

In the historic town of Volterra, further south in Tuscany, we are also offering a sprawling two-acre estate that comes with 106 acres of land and boasts a main villa, a chapel, hotel, small school and a mausoleum. The coast lies a short drive away.

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