My nose keeps getting distracted—the air is scented with fresh foccaccia bread and cornetti, Italy’s version of the croissant. As real estate agent Sylvie points out, this house comes with breakfast on the doorstep. A traditional bakery is just across the street.
In the heart of Licciana Nardi, the three-bedroom house I’m viewing doesn’t require any work. It has 1,290 square feet of living space, and a cantina for storing those lovely bottles of wine and olive oil. A covered terrace overlooks the town’s old borgo (main laneway).
At the end of the borgo, an archway opens onto a piazza. Beyond is a panorama of chestnut forests, a feudal castle and a crystal-clear river. Yet the property is priced at “pinch-yourself” level…just $163,000. For a restored townhouse in Tuscany, that’s incredible.
Yes, Tuscany. But Licciana Nardi is in the tranquil Lunigiana. Undiscovered by most travelers, this castle-studded borderland is where Tuscany melts into Liguria and Emilia Romagna.
Affordable properties aren’t the only enticement. Tuscany’s unspoiled northern tip delivers medieval market towns in the valleys and tiny fortified villages atop the hills…vineyards, olive groves and meadows…a network of village-to-village hiking paths. The coast is a short drive, and Florence, Lucca and Pisa are all easy day-trips.
Dubbed “the Land of 100 Castles,” the Lunigiana was squabbled over by the Medici and Malaspina families for centuries. The backdrop to those historic dramas are the Apennines and the marble-threaded Apuan Alps where Michelangelo sourced his Carrara marble.
Word is getting out among Europeans, but for most North Americans the Lunigiana is terra incognita. That’s a shame, because they’re missing such a treat. I visited in April—beech and chestnut trees were greening into leaf, and the hedgerows hid a flourish of primroses and violets. Higher toward the mountains, meadows were bright with alpine flowers.
I spent a day with Sylvie, from a real estate agency in Licciana Nardi. Some stone townhouses here are divided into apartments. Studios start at $57,000 and there’s a price tag of $85,000 for an apartment with kitchen, bathroom, two rooms and a mezzanine for extra bedroom space.
Offering around 10% less than the listing price won’t offend vendors. Although the market hasn’t nose-dived further over the past year, it remains slow. But once buyers regain confidence, move-into houses for less than $220,000 will become rarer.
An address anywhere in Tuscany always has cachet.
My full report starts on page 16 of the current issue of International Living magazine.
Editor’s note: Subscribe to IL magazine now and get instant access to the June issue with Steenie’s Tuscany article.