OUR CLIENTS' TESTIMONIALS

Cycling on the Euganean Hills or..........

Two years ago we had a holiday in The Euganean Hills. It was spring time and the hills were purple pink with the blossom of the Judas trees. The area is delightful with walks, views and vineyards all on one's doorstep. Padua, Vicenza, Verona and Venice are all quite close and accessible either by road or rail. I was particularly impressed at how the cyclists take over the area at the weekend pushing the motorist into low priority. I started to plan another holiday plotting cycle rides through the hills.

We had been investigating property in Italy for a while and when we had the resources it didn't take us long to settle on the Hills as our target area. I found a small advert for Properties in Italy in Italia! magazine, looked at the website and then fired off an e-mail with our wish list (including bike storage!). Andrea Redivo Zaglia responded almost immediately with a wealth of property information. A short while later he sent us details of an apartment right in the centre of the hills with the comment "I think this may be exactly what you are looking for". We met Andrea and the lawyer Massimiliano De Benetti (Max) in London at the La Dolce Vita exhibition. Both are charming, enthusiastic about the Euganean Hills and speak excellent English. We planned our property viewing trip to the Hills.

On a wonderful sunny afternoon in early April Andrea took us around 10 properties, the viewings interspersed with visits to trattorias and bars for sustenance. As Andrea had predicted the property he had already earmarked was the front runner. It commanded stunning views over hills and had footpaths and cycle trails starting in the hamlet. It is also situated opposite one of the region's leading wine producers! The property had been recently built and required final finishing including floors and bathrooms. This would allow us to finish it to our taste. It also had a discrete garage ideal for storing all kinds of bikes!

Within a week of our visit we had started the negotiations to acquire the apartment. Andrea and Max looked after every aspect of the negotiations and contract work. We made five more visits during the year and completed in early December. Andrea continually kept us up to date on the progress of the finishing work and assisted us during the visits. Each "business" trip actually felt more like a holiday and each time we were able to do a little sightseeing and explore the local restaurants.

We had done a lot of research into buying a property in Italy before launching into the project, scrutinising various books and websites to try and understand the mechanism of the purchase process. After meeting Andrea we never looked at them again! Now I wonder if Andrea knows some good bike shops............

Andrew Fox and Alison Ruff - December 2010

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

Giudecca island - Apartment with view!

You will know fairly soon after meeting Andrea Redivo Zaglia that he is both a serious and committed person. Having him on your side to navigate you through the unknown territory of buying property abroad is one of life's great strokes of good fortune. Together with the lawyer Massimilliano de Benetti my experience of finding the right property and purchasing it was made easy and dare I say it enjoyable. After lengthy consultation about the sort of property I was seeking, Andrea took careful notice and showed me a good number to consider, both he and I knew the right one when we saw it. With his fine attention to detail and prompt professionalism everything was taken care of, from being collected personally from the airport to advice on fixtures and fittings, and workmen to undertake alterations. There was never an unanswered email or late returned call, with Andrea he gives his clients everything. The legal journey was a smooth execution too, Maximilliano de Benetti is both personable and effective and I could not recommend this pair more highly.

Louisa - August 2010

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

Donald and Denise - Washington DC Today, Euganean Hills in our Future. ROAD TO FAEDO

It is now August 2008. Exactly two years ago we discovered Properties In Italy on the internet. Today we own a vineyard in the Euganean Hills with an old stone farmhouse undergoing restoration. All this was made possible because of the passion and professionalism of Properties in Italy. This is our story. It can be yours, too. By August 2006, we had decided that we would stop just talking about moving to Italy and start the serious process of property hunting. Why Italy? Simply put, we had visited Italy on numerous occasions, and we always felt at home there with the people, the culture, the history, the scenery, the food and wine. We were always asking ourselves why we were leaving when it was time to return to the US. In case we only get one chance at life, we were going to make our goal of a "life more grounded" come true, and do so in Italy. Of course our family and friends listened to our plans and nodded with approval, but they figured it was just talk. We began our journey pro forma for the modern human - read some books, and a lot of internet time. We discovered that, as a foreigner and non-EU citizen, purchasing property in Italy can be complicated. Not nearly impossible like in some places in Europe, but not easy either. Our preference was not to purchase a modern apartment but something older and more rural with land, which is not what your routine Italian realtor seemed to advertise or specialize. There are lots of on-line property services plying their wares, making grand promises, but very few were appealing. Many are too slick and impersonal, focused only on the rich clients ready to plunk down a million dollars on a villa. Alas, we are not one of those clients. Having narrowed our search to the Veneto, we began searching for properties in some of the green valleys that we had previously visited. From somewhere I had read of the Euganean Hills, and it seemed just like what we were looking for. A quiet and verdant oasis not too far from the action in the Veneto art cities of Venice, Verona, Padua and Vicenza. We found the Property in Italy website through a simple web search. We started an email conversation with Andrea. In October 2006 we were visiting the area to see some of their property for sale. We didn't find our property on that first visit, but we did make some friends. By August 2006, we had decided that we would stop just talking about moving to Italy and start the serious process of property hunting. Why Italy? Simply put, we had visited Italy on numerous occasions, and we always felt at home there with the people, the culture, the history, the scenery, the food and wine. We were always asking ourselves why we were leaving when it was time to return to the US. In case we only get one chance at life, we were going to make our goal of a "life more grounded" come true, and do so in Italy. Of course our family and friends listened to our plans and nodded with approval, but they figured it was just talk. We began our journey pro forma for the modern human - read some books, and a lot of internet time. We discovered that, as a foreigner and non-EU citizen, purchasing property in Italy can be complicated. Not nearly impossible like in some places in Europe, but not easy either. Our preference was not to purchase a modern apartment but something older and more rural with land, which is not what your routine Italian realtor seemed to advertise or specialize. There are lots of on-line property services plying their wares, making grand promises, but very few were appealing. Many are too slick and impersonal, focused only on the rich clients ready to plunk down a million dollars on a villa. Alas, we are not one of those clients. Having narrowed our search to the Veneto, we began searching for properties in some of the green valleys that we had previously visited. From somewhere I had read of the Euganean Hills, and it seemed just like what we were looking for. A quiet and verdant oasis not too far from the action in the Veneto art cities of Venice, Verona, Padua and Vicenza. We found the Property in Italy website through a simple web search. We started an email conversation with Andrea. In October 2006 we were visiting the area to see some of their property for sale. We didn't find our property on that first visit, but we did make some friends. On this visit we met Beth and Nigel Walsh, who were using the Properties In Italy team to restore an old watch tower in the Hills, and they reinforced our confidence. Most of the construction and restoration of the Tower was accomplished while they are in the UK, and they assured us that they never felt uneasy about the quality of the work performed. In fact, they admitted that when they did get the chance to visit, they found that the quality was always better than they had dreamed. It wasn't until October 2007 that we finally concluded the purchase of our property. We decided to save our cash (from the sale of our house in the US) to start the restoration, and so needed an Italian bank loan for a mortgage. Not being EU citizens and not living in Europe proved to be problematic, but Max and Andrea made it happen. They filled out loan application paperwork for us. Max met appraisers at the property in the rain. It took a while, but it finally came together. Max handled all the business matters for us. All paperwork was completed in both Italian and English. We were lucky to be able to attend the celebratory party in June 2008 for the opening of the Tower. This meant that the same team, are now ready to tackle our little project in Faedo! In June we agreed to the terms of the work for 2008, and the project began shortly thereafter. A new foundation went down during June, and new walls and roof in July. The full restoration of the building and the vineyard will take a few years. We will complete phases and pay as we can afford to do so. Learning to do things the Italian way is part of the experience!

 

Go for your dreams. Ciao! - August 2008

Completion of the 2008 Renovation

It is now the end of November. Earlier this month we visited our project for the last time this year to conclude the contracted business associated with the renovation work for 2008. Lorenzo has done a wonderful job not only in the quality of the work, but also in that they were able to complete more than was originally planned for the contracted amount! That doesn't happen any more in the USA! The exterior stone work is fantastic. They found matching old stone for the new walls and re-pointed all the old stone walls to the point where it is hard to tell where the old walls end and the new walls begin. As you can see from the photos, the stone looks much different in different lighting. Were we once had rotting wood we now have hand-cut stone window sills and old wood beams over the windows. The Italians are true recyclers and they ensured that as many of the old roof tiles were cleaned and re-installed over the brand new bottom roof tiles. Next year matching stone will be added to the retaining walls and a pergola installed over the patio. Inside, all the old plaster and wooden beams are gone. They brought in old wood beams for both the second floor and the upper ceiling, and increased the building two feet in height. We have exposed old brick in the ceiling, interior doorways where none previously existed in the walls, and the beginnings of our new two-way fireplace. Inside is now ready for the services (electrical and plumbing), plaster, floors, stairs, and bathroom. This would get us to a “finished” house by Italian standards - our goal in 2009. There is much more to do, but the heavy work is now finished!

Donald e Denise - November 2008

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

In February 2010 we returned to the hills to see the completed work and to discuss the next steps. As usual, the finished work is first class. We discovered that our team made some cost trade-offs in completing the project to meet Italian habitability standards. It was far cheaper to have the electrician do all his work now rather than in phases, so all the electrical wiring for lights, phone, TV and ethernet was finished. They also completed the repointing of the exposed interior stone walls. On the other hand, the radiators were not yet ordered or installed. Also, the fireplace was not finished yet, but no rush. The plan in 2010 is, at the minimum, to lay down the downstairs ceramic tiles and upstairs wood floors, apply the final plaster on the walls, and finish the wooden stairs. Depending on the prices, 2010 will include the kitchen and finishing the fireplace. Max indicated that we should plan to return in June or July, which is what we did. We returned in June to coincide with a party Max planned for his father and nephew’s birthdays. We spent time with Andrea making some kitchen selections and with Max making final tile selections for the downstairs floor as well as bathroom. We also selected the wood for the upstairs floors - we chose an Italian wood called larice. In the Fall, the plan is to complete the installation of the tiles and wood floors. Before we came back in October, we iterated with the architect on how to integrate a nice tile border design into our living room floor. We finally decided just to have it line around the fireplace and the first step of the stairs. This delayed the ordering and delivery of the tile until we were there in October, but we got to unload our tiles off the truck while we were there. A rare opportunity for a (tiny) bit of our own sweat equity in the project!

We were very excited to see the wood floors installed when we arrived. We think it looks fabulous. The trim will be installed later. We discussed with the wood team how to handle the stairs. We agreed that they will tailor build larice wood pieces to cover the stair steps and the portions of the stair support that are visible. The architect suggested iron railings to complete the stairs. Max had the plumber and electricians on site while we were there so that we all could review the final design of the downstairs bath before they lay the final floor cement and plaster the walls. Lorenzo should have that done in the next month, then the wall tiles go up and the plumber puts in the appliances we want. We also selected the wall switches and plug covers for the entire house from the extensive options the electrician offered us. Lorenzo’s final wall plaster also looked great. It will be a nice base for paint, which we will apply someday, after we move in. Italian country houses traditionally have white walls, but we had selected some nice subtle earthy colors with Libby that we still intend to apply. Happy with the progress, we left to go home in mid-October. Next, Lorenzo will finish the downstairs bathroom floor and walls so that the tile can go in, then the bathroom appliances. Lorenzo will also finish the fireplace and lay the cement base outside for the patio. The tiles will be installed downstairs so that the kitchen team can get started over the winter. The architect is finishing the landscaping design for us so we can submit it for approval by the local commune. We agreed to a new low retaining wall that will stretch the length of the driveway as it wraps around part of the house. It will eventually be covered with stones. There will also be a part of the land leveled flat so we can use it for an outside cooking area.

In November we iterated on the fireplace design with Paolo Zampieri the architect now working with the Properties In Italy team. We went with the smallest design in order to conserve space in the living room and kitchen. Italians would have gone for the biggest one possible, but being Americans we are more concerned about living space. Lorenzo finished the fireplace in December! The tiling of the walls and shower in the downstairs bath will be finished in February 2011, so that installation of the kitchen will be done by the time we next visit in March. We are also shipping household goods, hopefully to arrive when we are there, with the hope that we will be posting photos of a more finished looking home when we return in April.

2010 photos

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

2009 -2011 Renovation works

Since it would be a while before the 2009 phase started up, we decided it would be prudent to find some help back in the U.S. for designing the interior of the house. Doing so would avoid potential translation or communication problems on the detail work. We could have a master plan generated in the U.S., give it to the Italian team, and then negotiate from that depending on costs or particular Italian practicalities for which we are not familiar. We were particularly concerned about maximizing storage space, as well as having thought through eventual electrical requirements before plaster goes up. Through contacts we made at a home design expo in Virginia, we were introduced to Libby Langdon from New York City. A former actress and model, Libby now concentrates on interior design. She has projects across the country, and had just released a book dealing with small spaces - perfect! She was excited to participate. Over the winter we worked with her and finally we sent off the design binder to Italy in February. In March 2009, Libby accompanied us to the Hills and met the team. She led us on a furious week of decision making on everything from floor materials to light fixtures. At this point, we were not especially price constrained; we figured that would come later. We left the director of works with all the details of our dream design so he could get cost estimates and incorporate all these ideas into his blueprints and work plan. Meanwhile, to our surprise, the Italian bank on the Vicenza Army Post (through which we have our mortgage) was willing to give us a restoration loan to finish the building work. This was during the banking crisis of 2008-2009, but Italian banks were less affected due to the conservative real estate practices in Italy. This loan would speed up the work, as things would not need to be done piecemeal as our monies accumulated. As with many things Italian, when it comes to wheels turning and getting new appraisals and approvals, it wasn’t until August that the credit was in place. With Max’s help (using a Power of Attorney) he got us the equivalent of a construction loan. The challenge will be getting the minimum done to be considered “finished” given the credit limit. In September, Lorenzo completed the external retaining walls. A quick trip in September to the Hills to meet with Max was extremely helpful in finalizing the work plan for the year. To no surprise, we needed to scale down or delay a few of our design elements to fit the budget. While there, Lorenzo was installing the old hand hewn wood boards to form the visible part of the downstairs ceiling. Even more rustic than we had imagined!

We visited again in late October. During our week there, we saw Lorenzo install the door thresholds of local quarried stone, followed by the laying of the layers to complete the ground flooring in preparation for tile next year. We also saw all the vines removed around the house - about half of the vineyard in total. By the end of this phase of work in January, the upstairs floor will be put down, stairs put up, doors and windows put on, and the master bathroom tile and fixtures installed.

While there in November, Andrea told us that a Romanian newspaper wanted to include our story in an upcoming article on property in Italy. They had found this website via Andrea’s website. We said yes, and the result is found in the photo album section - only useful if you can read Romanian!

Romanian magazine.jpg

In February 2010 we returned to the hills to see the completed work and to discuss the next steps. As usual, the finished work is first class. We discovered that our team made some cost trade-offs in completing the project to meet Italian habitability standards. It was far cheaper to have the electrician do all his work now rather than in phases, so all the electrical wiring for lights, phone, TV and ethernet was finished. They also completed the repointing of the exposed interior stone walls. On the other hand, the radiators were not yet ordered or installed. Also, the fireplace was not finished yet, but no rush. The plan in 2010 is, at the minimum, to lay down the downstairs ceramic tiles and upstairs wood floors, apply the final plaster on the walls, and finish the wooden stairs. Depending on the prices, 2010 will include the kitchen and finishing the fireplace. Max indicated that we should plan to return in June or July, which is what we did. We returned in June to coincide with a party Max planned for his father and nephew’s birthdays. We spent time with Andrea making some kitchen selections and with Max making final tile selections for the downstairs floor as well as bathroom. We also selected the wood for the upstairs floors - we chose an Italian wood called larice. In the Fall, the plan is to complete the installation of the tiles and wood floors. Before we came back in October, we iterated with the architect on how to integrate a nice tile border design into our living room floor. We finally decided just to have it line around the fireplace and the first step of the stairs. This delayed the ordering and delivery of the tile until we were there in October, but we got to unload our tiles off the truck while we were there. A rare opportunity for a (tiny) bit of our own sweat equity in the project!

We were very excited to see the wood floors installed when we arrived. We think it looks fabulous. The trim will be installed later. We discussed with the wood team how to handle the stairs. We agreed that they will tailor build larice wood pieces to cover the stair steps and the portions of the stair support that are visible. The architect suggested iron railings to complete the stairs. Max had the plumber and electricians on site while we were there so that we all could review the final design of the downstairs bath before they lay the final floor cement and plaster the walls. Lorenzo should have that done in the next month, then the wall tiles go up and the plumber puts in the appliances we want. We also selected the wall switches and plug covers for the entire house from the extensive options the electrician offered us. Lorenzo’s final wall plaster also looked great. It will be a nice base for paint, which we will apply someday, after we move in. Italian country houses traditionally have white walls, but we had selected some nice subtle earthy colors with Libby that we still intend to apply. Happy with the progress, we left to go home in mid-October. Next, Lorenzo will finish the downstairs bathroom floor and walls so that the tile can go in, then the bathroom appliances. Lorenzo will also finish the fireplace and lay the cement base outside for the patio. The tiles will be installed downstairs so that the kitchen team can get started over the winter. The architect is finishing the landscaping design for us so we can submit it for approval by the local commune. We agreed to a new low retaining wall that will stretch the length of the driveway as it wraps around part of the house. It will eventually be covered with stones. There will also be a part of the land leveled flat so we can use it for an outside cooking area.

In November we iterated on the fireplace design with Paolo Zampieri the architect now working with the Properties In Italy team. We went with the smallest design in order to conserve space in the living room and kitchen. Italians would have gone for the biggest one possible, but being Americans we are more concerned about living space. Lorenzo finished the fireplace in December! The tiling of the walls and shower in the downstairs bath will be finished in February 2011, so that installation of the kitchen will be done by the time we next visit in March. We are also shipping household goods, hopefully to arrive when we are there, with the hope that we will be posting photos of a more finished looking home when we return in April.

2010-2011 photos

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

Our visit (31 March - 9 April) was tremendously satisfying. The kitchen was complete, and the downstairs bathroom was functional. Check out the 2011 photo album! The kitchen came out looking just the way we wanted - cool colors to offset the dark woods. The bathroom tile looked even better than we remembered it would. The carpentry also had the insect screens installed in all the windows and doors, which we did not expect yet. Even though we spent the first three days of our visit scrubbing and cleaning the house, we were able to spend our first night there on April 3rd! The days were sunny and unseasonably warm (70s F) but the nights cool (50F). It was fantastic to lay in the cool night with the windows open, listening to the quiet except for the running water in the stream next to the house and the chiming bells from the Faedo church. In the morning it was roosters crowing and hens clucking next door. Actually, there always seem to be dogs barking somewhere in the distance, at all times. We like to speculate that they are chasing away the wild boar, but they are probably just discussing the weather. During our week we purchased a washer and dryer and had them delivered to the house. We also ordered some lights, as all we have now are exposed bulbs hanging on walls. The plan is for the lights to be installed during our next visit. The W/D will be hooked up too. We also finalized the landscape plans with Paolo Zampieri, who then submitted the permissions. This work will not begin until 2012. Unfortunately, the downer for the week was the late delivery of our household goods. They didn’t get to the house until Saturday morning at 8AM. Since we had a 2PM flight out of Venice that day, all we could do was see that everything arrived safely and was placed in the house. Check out the “Moving Household Goods” photo album to see rooms full of boxes.

We returned in August to unpack and organize. We ended up doing more cleaning too. And we did some painting on the walls where the radiators will be going this fall. We also picked up the light fixtures and had them installed while we were there. So the trip was again mostly work. But the progress this year has been very clear and rewarding. The house is clean and organized, so the next time we come (December) we will have time to enjoy ourselves. It is very gratifying to finally have light fixtures - especially outside - no more stumbling across a construction zone in the dark with a flashlight! The other news is that our permissions came through while we were there in August. We now have one year to start the outside works and four more years to finish. We’ll see what the future exchange rates dictate what we can afford to do. Our strong preference is to get the patio and driveway done first. This would cut down on all the dust that gets tracked or blown into the house, and also means that we wouldn’t have to keep squeezing our rental car between obstacles in the construction zone around the house. In September, Andrea worked with Italia Telecom to arrange for the extension of a line from the nearby pole under the road to the house. Lorenzo will dig a line from the road to the house. This work will be done by the time we arrive in December. It will be great to finally have landline phone service at the house as mobile service is basically zero. Stay tuned for updates.....

Stay tuned for updates.....or visit the web site Road to Faedo

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

From Israel to 'Judeca'!

I want to share with you the incredible experience I had during the 6 months process of buying an apartment in Giudecca, Venice. It was an amazing experience because against all the incertitudes, fears and insecurities accompanying the purchase of a property abroad, the process itself was very 'smooth', clear, quick and without any unexpected developments. All this was possible due to the high professional competence of Andrea Redivo Zaglia, the owner and manager of ''Properties in Italy''. From the first 'internet – contacts' till the final stage Andrea proved his efficiency, his reliability and a great knowledge of different aspects concerning the act of purchase. It's difficult to describe in a few words Andrea's genuine gentleness, patience and willingness to help no matter what - to understand a specific issue or to buy furniture at Ikea's. As I mentioned to Andrea himself, it was indeed my luck to find him and so the theoretical and improbable thought of buying an apartment in Venice from the far away Israel – became a reality. My appreciation goes also to the constructive collaboration between Andrea and the lawyer De Benetti, collaboration that facilitated enormously all the procedures. To this excellent team – my whole-hearted gratitude!

Lydia - Israel - October 2009

laguna from Giudecca.jpg
Giudecca at sunset.jpg

A Venetian flirtation…


It began, as most great loves do, with a flirtation. We had a three day stopover in Venice before heading off for a week in Tuscany. Having never been to Venice, let alone Italy before, I had no idea if three days, or three hours were sufficient to "see" Venice. By pure chance and luck, we rented a lovely canalside apartment in Dorsoduro called Ca' San Sebastiano that provided the perfect backdrop to what ended up being a memorable and happy holiday weekend. But it just wasn't enough. As we packed to leave, I felt as if we somehow hadn't had enough time with la Serenissima. The mystery and unbelievable beauty of this unique and incredible city had only been barely touched. Upon our return back to the States after our Italian vacation, I wrote to the owner of the apartment where we had stayed in Venice to thank him for his hospitality. Of several different places we had stayed during our Italian holiday, the apartment in Venice had really made an impression with us, and I wanted to compliment the owner on his lovely home. I ended the email with a somewhat casual and spontaneous "Please keep us in mind if you should ever want to sell..." The truth is we had been considering buying property overseas for about a year, but hadn't really committed to where that might be. We'd thought of England, Scotland, even Poland where we had family, but the idea of actually buying property outside of our home country (or for that matter in a language we understood) had always just seemed too daunting, too impossible. So the idea, the dream, stayed where those sort of dreams do, hiding behind reality and the every day routine of our non-holiday life. When Mr. Willis, the owner of Ca' San Sebastiano, responded to my email, he mentioned that while he had no plans to sell his beautiful apartment any time soon (as he had recently bought and restored it), he believed there was one nearby for sale. He gave me the contact information for Andrea of Properties in Italy and suggested I write to him to inquire. I remember my first thought to this suggestion was how I couldn't possibly follow-up on the idea. We had just returned from two weeks in Italy. If there had been an opportunity for finding something there, surely I had just missed it. Still, I couldn't resist the temptation to visit the Properties in Italy web site for a peek. I spent a couple hours looking through the properties they had on offer and reading the stories of other clients who had found their dream homes through the help of Andrea and his team of partners. Thoughts of Venice and our too-brief visit there kept niggling at me, prompting me to send off an email to Andrea, introducing myself and inquiring about the service he provided. Who knew? Maybe someday, years later, I could return… I remember telling Andrea in that email that I was in no hurry to purchase any particular property. That I even expected it would take months or years to find my perfect property, if it even existed. In the meantime, I intended to check around elsewhere; Tuscany (which we had also enjoyed), the UK where we had spent many holidays before, even further afield. Andrea responded promptly and professionally and his email answered a lot of questions, making the idea of buying property overseas seem a little more achievable. He sent me information about this particular apartment that was, as it turns out, just adjacent to and in the same building as Ca' San Sebastiano, the place where we had stayed on holiday. In the meantime, David (Willis), Ca' San Sebastiano's owner, provided assurances about his own recent experience purchasing his property in Venice and working with Andrea, Massimiliano, and Properties in Italy. I combed the internet looking through different properties, not just the one Andrea had recommended. But from 4,000 miles away and only photos on the internet, it was impossible to tell what I was looking at, where anything was located. I asked endless questions of Andrea and with each response from him, the possibility grew more and more tangible until I finally had to decide if I was going to abandon the idea altogether, or take a chance on it. I knew if I didn't go to at least see the property (and others), I would always wonder if I should have. So I returned to Italy and to Venice little more than a month after I had left before. Andrea spent the day with me showing me different properties available in the area near where we'd stayed, including the one he'd first recommended to me. It was a wonderful location, in a quiet part of Dorsoduro not far away from the popular areas of Campo Santa Margherita and the Accademia. It had a private courtyard and boat mooring, two bedrooms and even a fireplace, but it would need quite a bit of renovation to bring my idea of what the apartment should be like in terms of renting it out when I wasn't in Venice to fruition. Andrea assured me he had the very best people to handle the task, no matter how grand or small I chose. I went home to the States to decide if I really wanted to make an offer on the property. I kept telling myself I must be crazy even as I talked it over with my family, weighting the pros and cons. Finally throwing caution to the wind, we made an offer to buy the property.

Apartment before the works

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

There was a little back and forth of negotiation but I set in my mind a figure that if we could not agree upon it, I would simply tell myself this property, this time, wasn't meant to be. It was at this point we first met the inimitable Massimiliano, who handled all of the negotiation and legalities of making a purchase offer. Max was both adept and professional and took us skillfully through the process by way of a flurry of emails and faxes, finally delivering us the good news that the seller had accepted our offer. That "crazy" dream we'd had suddenly became a reality. I took another trip back to Venice in late November to sign the paperwork (which Max painstakingly translated for me), and walked me through a whirlwind process that ended up with me holding a set of keys in my hands. I was duly baptized by Venice the very day after taking ownership of the apartment during the worst acqua alta in over 30 years (but it did NOT, as Andrea had repeatedly assured me, rise high enough to flood the apartment).

Apartment after the works

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

The renovations were agreed upon and I am thrilled to tell you that my family spent the first weeks of March, 2009 in our new Venetian home - which dear Andrea even helped me to christen Ca' Venexiana. To keep myself busy during the renovations and waiting, I created a web site (www.CaVenexiana.com) and started learning the ins and outs of renting out a holiday apartment. The response has been phenomenal. Even before the renovation was completed, we were nearly fully booked for the first four months. Since adding the new interior photos, our bookings have even increased and are now solid through October and into November with inquiries already coming in for next year! I couldn't be more pleased with the attention to detail and quality of the renovation that was done. My family owes Andrea, Max and everyone else who are a part of the team at Properties in Italy a huge debt of gratitude for being so patient, so thorough, and so understanding of our anxieties and wishes. Without them, this would have been a dream that never would have come true.

Jaclyn Reding - March 2009

Ca' Venexiana - before/after restoration

For more information about Ca' Venexiana or to reserve it for your holidays in Venice, visit www.cavenexiana.com.

THE TOWER OF FONTANAFREDDA

 

Beth and Nigel Walsh describe their initial experience in buying a derelict tower in the Euganean Hills, in the Veneto area of Italy

"It was in an idle British winter moment that I picked up a copy of Italy magazine and read about an area of the country of which I had never heard despite many visits to Italy - the Euganean Hills. The article spoke of the area in glowing terms: its nearness to beautiful, historic cities such as Venice, Verona, Ferrara and Padua; its status as a regional park of ancient volcanic hills with fascinating fauna and flora; its wine, food and hospitality. It really sounded too good to be true! We were looking for a project that would divert some of our attention away from work and the weather in Britain (pure escapism really) and decided to contact Properties in Italy, the English-speaking company who are specialists in buying property in the Veneto, particularly Venice and the Euganean Hills. Taking advantage of cheap flights, off my husband headed to the hills. A selection of properties for sale was incorporated into an initial tour of the area, including one that stood out from the others. A second set of tickets was soon booked so that we could visit the area and the property together. From the outset, we realised both that this property was totally unique and that it was full of potential problems! It was an old, partially-ruined watchtower of a noble family of the Venetian Republic. As we explored the area further it seemed that its description had not been exaggerated: the hills really are very beautiful and offer a relief from the heat of the plain in the summer yet with very easy access to many facilities. Vines, fruit trees and wooded slopes, gardens and Venetian villas provide year-round interest. The tower itself is situated above a small village with shops, post office, restaurant and trattoria, yet gives a feeling of privacy always accompanied by those views right across both hills and plain. The tower is called "Torre del Roccolo". The origin of the word "roccolo" (plural "roccoli") comes either from the Latin word "rotulus" (round), indicating a rounded shape, or from "rocca" (fortress), "roccolo" being its diminutive. It survives as historical evidence of a method of bird-catching used by local people to capture migrant birds by attracting them with an ingenious system of nets, decoys and tools. For the poor inhabitants of the hills, bird-catching was an important supply of both meat and income as some of the captured birds were sold as either cage-birds or decoys. Originally the Roccoli were built in a very poor way: the structure of wooden poles, the walls and the roof covered by straw and clay. In the 18th and 19th centuries, when fowling became popular among the noble families who owned villas in the Euganean Hills, they started to be built as three-storey solid brick and stone "towers", usually 6-7 metres high. It became fashionable for these families to have a Roccolo for two main reasons: firstly their passion for hunting and shooting and the skills that these practices required and secondly the pleasure of owning a "Roccolo" and being able to spend warm autumn days there organising feasts for their friends, immersed in the beauty of the hills. There are less than 10 "Roccoli" still in existence within the whole chain of the Euganean Hills: most of them are ruins! Our "Roccolo" is situated in a large parcel of land right on top of a ridge with fantastic views in every direction. We have been told this was probably the ideal place to have a "Roccolo", though our particular structure was probably built earlier as a watchtower. "Roccoli" were usually built on the top of a ridge or between two wooded hills overlooking the plain, as migrant birds were forced to fly through them along their routes. They were located in the centre of a semicircular clearing, surrounded by a line of trees (pruned chestnuts) connected with three sets of nets with different sizes of mesh. The ground floor room, with a fireplace, was used as a storeroom for empty cages and cages with decoys. On the first floor were the fowler's bed and his tools. The upper floor was the "operative" floor, with a wide window used by the fowler for observation and to use his tools. At the beginning of autumn, the migrant birds flying over the hills were attracted by the warbling of the decoys, and broke their flight on the cleared land surrounding the tower. Suddenly the fowler threw a dummy falcon, imitating its hunting whistle. The birds tried to escape by flying towards the light filtering through the lower branches of the trees, where they got captured by the three sets of nets. Our tower was originally built by the Contarini family who owned a stunning villa nearby, connected with Venice by the Bisatto river. The "roccolo" was later turned into a rural house by the adding of two attached outbuildings. The one on the right was used as additional living space while the left one was used as a pigsty and hen-house. We decided to commit ourselves to this wonderful example of local culture and history, persuaded also by its fantastic location, and began the long process of buying, throughout which we were fully supported by Properties in Italy. Their knowledge of the area, the law and the process of buying property in Italy was invaluable to us. At an early stage in the process we had to decide whether to trust the company and their advice and we have never regretted our decision to do so. As we had anticipated, the process of obtaining the necessary permissions for the renovation of an important historic building was long and complex, but we considered the Tower to be worth all the effort. We finally signed the documents for the completion of the sale in January, nine months after we had first seen the Tower, but the wait and effort involved seems worth it every time we drive up through the hills and arrive at our very own piece of history. Because of its historic importance, the central tower will remain largely unchanged. A simple stairway will lead from a small ground floor dining hall to a landing area above, from which there will be access to the master bedroom and bathroom in the two "wings". The stairs will continue up to the "Observatory" on the top floor where we will be able to enjoy views from the four windows across hills, valleys and vineyards, over the plain to the south and as far as the pre-Alps to the north-west. This room promises to absolutely fantastic: we hope that we will be able to see the migrating birds too! The ground floor will comprise a guest suite with shower room on one side of the tower, and a kitchen on the other with a new staircase leading down to a generous living room with wood-burning stove and doors leading out onto a terrace. Practicality will be added by building a garage/utility/cantina into the hill when the landscaping and ground-works for the property are undertaken. The outside of the property will be the vernacular combination of stone and render, with simple shuttered windows and doors maintaining the proportions of the original building. Our aim is to maintain the building's integrity as an ancient building which sits superbly in its environment. Our plans for the land surrounding the property involve plants and trees traditional to the Euganean hills: almond, cherry and Judas trees, lavender and rosemary will be planted around the tower and the beautiful beech and oak woods maintained and improved. We hope to recreate the atmosphere of those eighteenth-century woodland parties (without the bird-catching of course!). With the continued support of Properties in Italy, detailed plans have been drawn by the geometra Filippo Tagliaferro, a skilled local builder instructed, the neighbours met, the land cleared and the wonderful local restaurants sampled. Now all that remains is actually start building!

Beth & Nigel Walsh - 2006

April 2008 - The Tower is ready!

Well, we are not sure whether the hard work is finished or just starting! The tower now stands in all its glory, beautifully and sensitively restored by Lorenzo Fontana, our builder, with the help of many other skilled hands. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding and every aspect of the work has been carefully controlled, including the costs! Every week on the TV in the UK there are horror stories about people having problems with work being carried out in their absence. All we can say is that this has not applied to us - we have been consulted and informed and the trust we have put in 'our team' has borne the most wonderful fruit! Now it is over to us to furnish with sensitivity and (and here is the hard work!) tackle the neglected land. What fun is in store! Our thanks go to all those who have helped us, particularly to Andrea and Max, who have made the whole experience so rewarding in every sense of the word.

Beth & Nigel Walsh - April 2008

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

This property is set in the Euganean Hills (south-west) and enjoys a stunning panoramic view over the surrounding area. This property was a look-out tower belonging to the Republic of Venice and built to guard a villa used by the Venetian "Doge" as a summer residence. The tower was then widened by adding two outbuildings and used until World War II as a farmhouse. It was then abandoned and left in ruins. The tower is still structurally very sound while the outbuildings have partially collapsed. Because of its historic value the property is listed by the Superintendency of Fine Arts.

Restoration process

Being an historic property, the restoration project had to been approved first by the Superintendency of Fine Arts. Afterwards the Regional Park and the local Commune had to approve it as well. The project includes a careful restoration of the existing structures and a recovery of the collapsed parts by using the same original stones. The two outbuildings will be connected to the tower to create a single living unit, disposed on three floors. All the windows of the tower will be recovered (some are now walled up) while the outbuildings will have new ones, consistent with the façade and the use of the living space. On the west side a cellar will be created and also a terrace which will enjoy the stunning view over the surrounding area.

Photos and project

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

update!

December 2009: It is, unbelievably, nearly three years since we bought the tower. It is still a joy and privilege to own and use. We are getting to know the local grocer, bakery and butcher as well as an ever growing list of marvellous, excellent value places to eat. If we want a bit more choice, an ice-cream, or simply to do some people-watching, we drive down to Este, our local, ancient, understated, Italian town. Need something more? Padova, Ferrara, Vicenza, Verona and Venice are all in easy reach and it is great to be able to enjoy them without the pressure of 'having' to see all the sights. There is always the next time! It has not been difficult to fill our days. For example, buying the appropriate furniture (always constrained by internal stone arches a mere 68cm wide!) has been a rewarding exercise but the fun has been the by-product of meeting all sorts of local people and stumbling through the process of buying in a foreign language. Everywhere we have been met and treated with delightful courtesy. We have planted many different but hopefully drought-proof plants in the garden and Nigel's plans for an olive grove are ongoing. The rosemary bushes, thymes and roses which went in first are all beginning to cover the earth. We are aiming for a natural, not to formal look which is just as well as there are obviously just as many weeds in Italy as in England! All the wildlife that visits the tower has been a challenge for our various guide books. Seeing a 10cm long grasshopper enjoying the warmth of our stone walls, the many different butterflies together with some very strange looking insects and the wonderful varied wild flowers has added to our experience of Italy. And it is not just small visitors: in November we saw wild boar snuffling across our land and there is at least one local hare that has not been turned into a ragu for pasta either! We have enjoyed beautiful weather and spectacular storms but I think that the most memorable days so far have been late autumn with buildings and trees silhouetted in the mist and the myriad of colours in the vineyards and woods when the sun breaks through. But then, there are the winter frosts, the spring blossom, the warm summer evenings - which do I like best? Whether tucked up by the fire, looking out to the mountains from the top of the tower or far across the plains from our terrace, working on steep, stony land or supping local wine with new friends, I think that I can safely say that we are really enjoying our Italian experience. 

Beth & Nigel Walsh - December 2009

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

A property on La Giudecca!

The beauty of Venice has enthralled my husband for many years, yet he still had to experience seeing the City during both 'l'acqua alta' and in the haunting fog that comes during cooler climes. We finally came to the decision to purchase a property in 2007 but it was not until 'La Dolce Vita' exhibition at Olympia, during 2008, that we met Andrea Redivo Zaglia from Properties in Italy, and the process began. I was quite nervous about the whole procedure as I had read and been told by many people that buying property in Italy was a difficult and lengthy process, filled with many unexpected pitfalls, 'red-tape' complications and hidden costs. Our requirements were to purchase a 2-bedroomed property on La Guidecca and one that did not require a great deal of maintenance. We had no plans to rent the property but wanted something that we could us a base for exploring Italy and 'lock-up and leave', without thinking about it between visits. Following our brief meeting, Andrea sent us some properties, by e-mail, to consider viewing. Within a few weeks, we flew out to Venice and spent one day with Andrea, viewing 6 or 7 properties. It was not difficult to weed out those that did not interest us and we made a very quick decision. The selection of properties were varied enough to clarify our thoughts and we selected the first apartment that we had viewed that day. The purchase itself was made incredibly easy, both by Andrea and Massimiliano. Massimiliano patiently translated into English any legal documents, including the rather long purchase contract, and explained all pertinent matters to us. It took only 3-4 months from the initial agreement to the equivalent of 'exchange of contracts'. Andrea and Massimiliano organised all the contractors that we required for painting and electrical work, even for hanging pictures and mirrors. Andrea even offered to drive a friend and I to Ikea, in Padova, and waited for several hours whilst we deliberated over various bathroom furnishings. The entire process was made so incredibly easy and stress-free that I cannot speak highly enough of Andrea, Massimiliano and their network. They deserve high praise! Being based in the U.K., I greatly prized the efficiency of communication. The ability to pick up the telephone or type e-mail at any time and know that we would receive an immediate response, to resolve any worries or organise any additional requirements, was quite wonderful. We were treated with courtesy, professionalism and patience throughout the process and a great deal of kindness and understanding. We are both extremely happy with the wonderful service that we have received and continue to receive through Andrea's willingness to assist with any problems and the open lines of communication that we continue to enjoy. When the time comes to purchase another property in Italy, we will, without hesitation, ask Andrea to help us.

Gillian and Ton Tjia - Surrey, England

Tjia Gillian.jpg
Tjia family.jpg

OUR LIFE IN THE VENETO

Rebecca Bancroft from Manchester owns a conjoined pair of two-bedroom houses in the Euganean Hills of the southern Veneto. She and her partner make regular visits to one house and rent the other to a long-term tenant. "We love everything about Italy - the food, the climate, the people," she says. "We decided on buying in the Veneto because there were direct flights from Manchester to Venice. I was thinking about Asolo in the north of the region. Then we met Andrea Zaglia from Properties in Italy at the Viva Italia show in London, and he told us 'Asolo is very nice, but you're going to love the Euganean Hills.' So I said let's have a look. He arranged a weekend for us, drove us around the hills and we just fell in love with them. Asolo is beautiful, but the area around it is very industrial - whereas the Euganean Hills are a large, unspoilt area full of beautiful villages. "A friend who'd bought a house abroad advised me to make a list of five criteria and stick to them, rather than falling in love with a property and buying it even though it didn't tick all the boxes. It was good advice, but I ended up buying this wonderful terraced house when I had always said I wanted something detached! It's split down the middle into two homes. The German couple who had owned it before us had beautifully restored it. It works out brilliantly having a tenant in one half because there's constantly someone there to keep an eye on things, and we've got rental income. "When I think about our whole experience of buying in Italy, sometimes I have to pinch myself. Nothing went wrong. And to have found an area so beautiful that we've never even heard of is incredible. Andrea has gone above and beyond what you'd expect an estate agent to do for you. If there's a problem, say with the heating, they'll find us someone local to deal with it - all for no further expense. We've constantly been surprised by how wonderful they've been. "The climate is obviously warmer and sunnier than in England. We went out for Easter this year and were eating lunch outside even then. Humidity's not a problem because you're in the hills. It's sort of a microclimate. The weather's very different to Venice. The greenness in spring is incredible. It's nice that we've only heard English spoken there once and German once. We tell Andrea 'you must stop trying to get people to come here!' We want the hills to remain a secret, but there is a trickle of people coming in. I think the area has as much to offer as any part of Italy."

Rebecca and Lisa.jpg

Location, Location, Location………..or The Persuasion of Properties in Italy!

Having been regular visitors to Venice for about twenty years, we decided one sunny afternoon, over a glass of grappa in the Campo San Polo, that it was time to look for a flat of our own. This was 2004 and it was to take until January 2007 to achieve our goal. Buying in Venice is not easy, especially when we firmly stipulated that 'our' flat simply had to be in Dorsodoro and preferably as near to Campo San Barnaba as possible! Following up a small advertisement in one of my Italian magazines, we met up with first Max and then Andrea and viewed many flats together over the months, efficiently guided and advised, but nothing was just right……….. By now it was May 2006, when an e-mail from Andrea arrived, suggesting a flat to be completely restored and fitted out, but - oh dear - not in Dorsodoro! However, trusting his intuition, we were there two days later in an utterly peaceful Corte, three minutes from the Rialto Bridge, five from the Market, ten from St. Mark's, ten from the Station, ten from the Fondamenta Nuove….what a position, as our guests constantly remark! Amongst the rubble, we had to imagine the exposed beams and restored terrazzo flooring and how we would make it 'tipico' but we decided to go ahead, soon getting a feel for the area with its small specialist shops, cafes and restaurants where you soon become known and where everything really is 'just round the corner'. The purchase was not without its problems, but Andrea and Max worked hard and conscientiously in our interests and most certainly have done so ever since. Lettings have proved very good indeed, through an Italian agent, an English one and business and personal contacts. 'Properties in Italy' are courteous and capable and I thoroughly recommend them.

Jane MacInnes - August 2008

For more information about Ca' Amadi or to reserve it for your holidays in Venice, visit www.veniceholidayrental.com.

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

Peter and Phyllis Davies achieve their dream in Venice.

We've been regular visitors to Venice for many years as tourists but also because Phyllis is a painter and the city has been the inspiration for much of her work. As she said in a recent exhibition catalogue "although my work is varied, it is to Venice that I return again and again. The light, the pattern, the vibrancy and vitality of the city leave their mark on anyone who visits". So it's no surprise that we've often toyed with the idea of buying our own apartment. But it always seemed so full of unknowns. Could we control the costs of buying? Who would be checking all the legal work? What would the running costs be? How could we arrange and supervise any building work? How would we register for local taxation and utilities? What's a codice fiscale and how do you get one? Etc etc. We visited a few local estate agents and, frankly, were unimpressed. We also heard cautionary stories from other second-homers that had received a basic service but then had been left to fend for themselves after the purchase was completed. And then happily we met Properties in Italy at the La Dolce Vita show in March 2007! Immediately we felt that we were getting clear answers from a team that was attentive and seriously customer-focussed. Over the next couple of months we followed up by email with other questions. Buying in a foreign country involves putting a lot of trust in your local agents and we judged that this was a team that we could trust - everything subsequently has borne that out. So when we planned a programme of apartment viewings, in the following August, we decided to work only with Properties in Italy and didn't use another estate agent. The result was that by December we were the delighted owners of just the right property in Giudecca. The whole buying process was not stressful and actually we were looked after so well by Max and Andrea that it was an enjoyable journey. But what has really impressed us is the "after-care". This has ranged from selecting, organising and supervising builders, to representing us at condominium meetings, even to purchasing palms and tuscan terracotta pots and installing them on our terrace. Nothing has been too much trouble for Max, Andrea and their network of specialists. We have the comfort of knowing that if a problem arises they will be responsive and helpful and stay with it until it is resolved. So now we are thoroughly enjoying our second home in Venice. Phyllis is getting the new studio equipped and I'm beginning to think about a small boat. Our sincere thanks go to Properties in Italy for helping us achieve the dream.

Peter and Phyllis Davies - July 2008

If you are interested in Phyllis Davies's paintings, have a look at: http://www.phyllisdavies.com

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

A property with courtyard in Venice!

We met Andrea at the Dolce Vita exhibition in 2006 and immediately formed the view that here was someone that knew his business, was trustworthy and understood what we wanted. Meeting Andrea enabled us to turn a “pipedream” of owning a property in Venice into a reality. We searched for a property with outside space, ideally a courtyard, in the Dorsoduro area. Through various visits, e mails and telephone conversations the search progressed and had taken the best part of 12 months before Andrea found us what we had been looking for. His e mail giving us the details was certain that this was the right place for us and this has proved to be the case. We met Max as the legal process for the purchase set off and everything was handled efficiently, calmly and with no surprises. We are now the proud owners of a lovely 2 bedroom house with private courtyard in Calle dei Guardiani, Dorsoduro, which is predominantly a buy to let investment, as long as we can keep the family and friends from filling up all the available slots! We upgraded the courtyard turning the space with potential into the major selling point of the property. Once the building work was completed, Max and Andrea joined us one Saturday afternoon for the planting of the courtyard. Andrea has wide ranging gardening skills and was very much in charge of the operation, Max the lawyer and I were the labourers acting under his direction! It seemed to us to sum up the whole exercise and the journey we had been on. From the Dolce Vita meeting to the completion of the garden in the courtyard together with our friends Andrea and Max who have been invaluable throughout.

Josh Herlihy - June 2008

If you wish to know more about the holiday house Ca' dei Guardiani see their web page.

Enjoy The High Then The Super-High Season With A Venetian Fly-To-Let


To begin at the beginning, I had been a restaurateur for many years, having originally sought out the catering industry as a challenging alternative to a previous career in theatre that I felt had run its natural course. Food was something I'd always been passionately interested in, and buying a charming 16th century restaurant in a sedate and picturesque Welsh borders town seemed like my idea of heaven, a far cry from the hell that is often the stage. Running a restaurant was enjoyable, though extremely hard work, and last year I decided it was time for another career U-turn. I wanted a somewhat easier way of earning money than cooking for the 5,000, so I turned my attention to the potential of property. As I was also moving back to London, this seemed like the most obvious place to invest, but I quickly figured the kind of price achieved by my good-sized restaurant would buy me little more that a cramped flat in some obscure London borough. Besides, London didn't seem to be the kind of rat-race city that I could imagine spending the rest of my days in, more of a necessary stopgap than any kind of long-term retirement home. When I honestly contemplated where I wanted to be in, say, 10 years time, I imagined a lazy life in Italy, specifically Venice, a city I'd visited frequently and loved for many years. And the more I honed in on this idea, the more it also seemed like a wise investment strategy. On the face of it, of course, this wasn't the case at all. In fact, when I informed friends of my would-be plans, their immediate response was one of incredulous wonder. "Invest in a city that's sinking? Are you mad?" was the rather unanimously overwhelming response. True, Venice is built somewhat precariously in the lagoon waters of the northern Adriatic, and does occasionally experience what is locally referred to as acqua alta (literally "high water"), at which point the sandbags come out, as do the Wellies, plus the raised walkways that enable dry carriage around the city. But the Venetians simply take it all in their stride as a fact of life. But consider too the vast inflatable dam that's being constructed at the mouth of the lagoon - something akin to the Thames Barrier but much bigger - an unprecedented engineering phenomenon that will protect Venice from rising waters when it is completed in 2011, and you quickly realise that there's far too much invested in Venice for it to be any kind of ill-fated Atlantis. From a fly-to-let perspective it's virtually unrivalled anywhere in Europe, with no actual low season, just a year-round high season and then a super-high season for Christmas, Carnival, the Venice Film Festival and various other dates scattered across the calendar. Venice, it seemed, was a veritable goldmine waiting to be tapped. Of course I realised the competition would be fierce, but having spent numerous holidays in invariably dreadful (and never cheap) short-term holiday accommodation, I was fairly confident that I could put together a stylish holiday let package of my own that would put others to shame, even on my fairly moderate budget. Then I could let it out to cover the mortgage, maintenance, cleaning and management costs, and use it myself when it was empty. Perfect. As serendipity would have it, about the time I was beginning my investigations, Olympia in London was staging a 5-day event called Viva Italia show to promote the Italian way of life lock, stock and barrel: fine food and wine, cars, fashion and, of course, property. It was here that I made contact with the excellent Properties In Italy company who would eventually guide me through the whole process of buying in Venice. Although I was a little unsure what exactly I was looking for, I duly made my arrangements to fly out for an intensive session of viewing. The Low-Down On Venice The Venetian lagoon is a geographically complex cluster of many islands, but for investment purposes life centres around the half-dozen sestieri (or districts) where most tourists invariably spend most of their time, a strange fish-shaped pocket of reclaimed land that is linked to the mainland by a mile or so of road and railway. Divided loosely by the inverted S-figure that is the Grand Canal, these sestieri are Santa Croce, San Polo and Dorsoduro to the west and Cannaregio, Castello and San Marco to the east. The last of these, San Marco, with its awe-inspiring Piazza, Doge's Palace, its namesake Basilica and 1,000 other sights, must rank amongst one of the most frequently visited square kilometres of land anywhere in the world. Having said that, it's still very easy to get off the beaten track and lose yourself in its atmospheric labyrinth of passageways. Still, for my liking San Marco felt a little too obvious a place to invest, and considering that it's 99% geared towards milking tourists of their money, not the cheapest of places to get a foothold in. An apartment looking out onto the Grand Canal, for example, could set you back as much as £4m. A nice idea, but more than a little out of my depth. Besides these 6 main districts there's also the other lagoon islands to choose from: Giudecca, just 1km south of San Marco, offers affordable new-builds, but feels strangely out on a limb, whilst Murano and Burano, world famous producers of glass and lacework respectively, make for cheaper alternatives, but if lace lacework and glass aren't really your thing … well, what's the point? Back in Venice itself, the remaining 5 sestieri all have their individual style and atmosphere, too: Castello feels authentically Venetian, but is perhaps a little too quiet and off the beaten track; Cannaregio and Santa Croce are both interesting areas, but don't have quite enough tourist cachet. Which leaves San Polo and Dorsoduro, both of which were ticking all the correct boxes in my head: vibrant and lively, a fair share each of Venetian must-sees, yet with quieter pockets away from the main tourist drag. Having narrowed down my search I felt confident that my trip to Venice would bear fruit. And indeed it did. Over the course of 3 days, I viewed a dozen or so apartments, a wide range that encompassed those requiring full restoration and others that were fully restored and furnished and already had permission to let. What is so unique about Venice is that every single building is different. Eventually you have to consider each on their individual strengths alone, as making comparisons can often cloud the matter further. Costs can vary dramatically, too. Basic rates begin at around €4,000 per sq mtr, although fairly basic fare in San Marco can command as much as €8,000 per sq mtr and those precious locations on the Grand Canal can often reach the €10,000 mark. As a guide, 2-bedroom apartments can range from €350,000 to €600,000, with factors such as the floor and the location holding quite dramatic sway over price. Given the limitations of space in Venice, a balcony, small courtyard or even just a picturesque view can all have an impact on price. And despite the looming threat of acqua alta, you mustn't disregard cheaper properties simply because they're on the ground floor. All you need to establish is the height above sea level and then remember that the lagoon waters reach a height of 1.3m above sea level just once or twice a year. (The highest recorded acqua alta was 1.9m back in 1966.) Like I've suggested, the great thing about Venice from a fly-to-let perspective is its year-round high season, attracting a strange melange of honeymooners, film buffs, art historians, pilgrims or those simply "doing Europe". The Lido is just a brief vaporetto (or waterbus) ride away, so you can also get your stint on a beautiful stretch of beach. Such heady pulling power ultimately means that the holiday market is very well oiled, with no shortage of established agents organising your bookings, check-ins, check-outs, maintenance and cleaning for very competitive fees. And an empty week or two simply means there's a handy window in the calendar for a discounted trip for friends, family or even yourself. For me Venice is the definition of having your cake and eating it. So what can you currently expect to gain on the Venetian property market? Well, once again, location very much determines exact prices, but a 2-bed apartment typically yields between €900 and €1,200 per week, and even more during the super-high season. Taking into consideration the costs of managing the property remotely, you can expect a healthy annual yield upwards of 6%. The overall picture is rosy, too, with property prices rising by 8% to 10% annually across the region. Thus equipped with a low-down on Venice that extended beyond the well-thumbed pages of my Rough Guide, I finally honed my search upon just 2 apartments, one each in San Polo and Dorsoduro. And The Winner Is … Don't get me wrong, the San Polo apartment was out of this world: 1st floor, 3-bedrooms, vast balconied living room overlooking its own romantic stretch of canal, all within 5 minutes' walk of the Rialto, but the refurbishments it needed would definitely have pushed my budget to breaking point and beyond. On the other hand, the Dorsoduro apartment was on the ground floor and therefore considerably cheaper, despite its generous size. It was also higher than that all-important maximum flood level.

Apartment before the works

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

Although it didn't have a balcony or courtyard, it was detached on 3 sides (one canal-sided) and therefore enjoyed this amazing sense of space and light. In terms of actual size, it extended to 100 sq mtrs, comprising a huge living room, 3 bedrooms (one vast; two good-sized), a spacious kitchen, plus a bathroom that desperately needed enlarging somehow. To get it up to holiday-letting scratch, the apartment needed refurbishing throughout, but there were many amazing details in place that I wanted to retain, amongst them filigreed plasterwork on the ceilings and beautiful Murano glass chandeliers in every room. When my offer of €336,000 (€12,000 below the asking price) on the apartment was accepted, I used the remainder of my budget (€70,000) for renovations, an extensive 2-month programme of work that saw the apartment stripped right back to the brick, before being fully re-wired and re-plumbed under pristine plaster and beautiful new floors. Properties In Italy had put me in touch with an excellent engineer/project manager who oversaw every aspect of the renovation work. By the time the apartment has been fully furnished I'll have spent in the region of €430,000, but already, as I write, and before all work is fully finished, I have bookings to the value of €12,000 and enquiries coming in on a daily basis. The agent I'm currently dealing with is suggesting occupancy rates of up to 80% per year should be wholly achievable. And in the wake of the recent flooding that has caused so much misery and destruction in the UK, I cannot help but feel a certain smug satisfaction when I think of those who initially pooh-poohed my idea of buying in Venice.

David Wills - September 2007

Further research: For more information about Ca' San Sebastiano or to reserve it for your own property viewing expedition, visit www.casansebastiano.com.

Apartment after the works

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

A property in the Euganean Hills

Properties in Italy with Paul & Karen Sanham at the Hard Rock Café in London

It has been a dream of ours for the last 5 years to buy a home in Italy, but no one has ever found us a property within our specification, price range or in the right location.

We met "Properties in Italy" at the Dolce Vita exhibition in April this year. We left our contact details and the type of property that we were interested in and within a few weeks we had received some details of properties that matched our criteria. We then made arrangements to go out for a viewing. Nothing was too much trouble, Alessandra even managed to host us for lunch even though her first baby was due within a couple of weeks.

We had always been looking in the Veneto region, but it was the stunning beauty of the Colli Euganei that made us decide to buy in this area. One property particularly stuck in our mind, so we went back for a second viewing and our excitement was more intense than our first viewing. We needed a lot of vision as the property was still being built, but it felt so right and the location was perfect, nestled into the hills with stunning views all around. Arrangements were made to meet the family building the house and we put in an offer, we had to wait a nail biting 2 days to find out if our offer had been accepted. Within 4 weeks we met Andrea and Max in London and signed our Preliminary Contract over a celebratory dinner in the the Hard Rock Cafe.

Although it is very daunting trying to understand the minefield of burocracy surrounding buying a home in Italy, "Properties in Italy" have all this under control. Every question or concern we have had Andrea & Max have been there at the end of the phone or e-mail giving us the answers and guidance that we need. What we have found in our experience so far with "Properties in Italy" is they take the time to listen to your requirements and concerns. They do not give you the 'hard sell' they want you to be 100% certain that you are making the right decision in buying your dream home. Every aspect of buying a home in Italy is taken care of by "Properties in Italy", it takes the pressure out of the whole process.

 

 

Finally it is also nice to know that in the meantime we have made new friends.

Paul & Karen Sanham

Proud owners of a beautiful house in Faedo

Paul&Karen5.jpg
Paul&Karen2.jpg
Paul&Karen1.jpg