Witch Lakes and Medieval Homes

Cruising into hair-pin bends, cursing tailgating Italian drivers, and with the eighties music cranked up loud on his little Lancia’s radio, my scout Paul O’Sullivan is still on the road in Italy…

Today we find him somewhere in Abruzzo feasting on pasta, pastries and historic home bargains…

He is giving me serious Italy FOMO…I can’t wait to get back there…maybe I’ll buy a little bolthole.

Witch Lakes and Medieval Homes

By Paul O'Sullivan

She's dark and handsome. Noble and poised. With curves that verge on the outrageous.

On his grand tour of Italy, the poet Edward Lear said that the little borgo (village) of Scanno in Abruzzo had the most beautiful women in Italy.

That was over 100 years ago. Today, most of the young have left. And, while those still here were surely great beauties in their day, the real head turner now is the village itself.

Like a fine wine, Scanno has only improved with age. Surrounded by lush green hills, her medieval streets twist and turn under ancient arches and up narrow steps. Despite being a small village, you could stroll for hours here without setting foot in the same place twice.

A few minutes' drive from the village, a heart-shaped lake with teal blue water opens into view. It's the largest natural lake in Abruzzo. Local legend has it that it was created from a feud between a witch and a sorcerer—the lake marking the spot where the witch finally fell.

Today, there's an artificial beach where you can rent a boat, swim, or just chill with a glass of wine at the lake bar.

In winter, you can take a ski lift up the Godi Pass, and enjoy about three miles of slopes.

Scanno's heart-shaped lake sits in the Sagittario valley a few minutes from Scanno village.
Scanno's heart-shaped lake sits in the Sagittario valley a few minutes from Scanno village.

Scanno was not the semi-abandoned medieval village I was expecting. There were buses of Italian tourists arriving. Surrounding the lake and the village, cranes were hoisting materials into new alpine-style apartments. There were pharmacies, tourist shops, shoe stores, and the ultimate signifier that the old borgo was still economically kicking...a bank.

Yet, despite all this, peppered along every street throughout the historic center were "Vendesi" signs ("for sale" in Italian). Sometimes even within sight of each other. Scanno's medieval homes were having a clear-out.

Spot the
Spot the

That's lesson #1 about Italians and real estate. In Italy, even in bustling towns and villages you can do well on the right historic property. Generally speaking, the locals don't want them. They want something new and shiny, often a featureless concrete structure where they can park their car out front.

Pair that with a tumbling birth-rate and aging population and you have yourself a feast of bargain historic homes.

In Abruzzo, the population decline is worse than the national average. The young continue to leave in droves, with mountain towns and villages hit hardest. In Scanno, I saw few young people at all.

And so we get "Vendesi."

In Scanno the population of permanent residents is aging and many of the historic homes are up for sale.
In Scanno the population of permanent residents is aging and many of the historic homes are up for sale.

Lesson #2 about Italians and real estate: They don't really want to sell.

Sure, they've put up the sign, maybe they've even put a listing online, but few will pick up the phone and fewer still will answer an email. In Scanno, most of the homes are sold privately, which makes it difficult to get a viewing.

I went to a local real estate agent and through some sign language and Google translation they told me to come back in two hours. When I returned two hours later not only was there nobody there, the place had been entirely shut down with lights off.

So I got in touch with an expat broker from the U.K. I'd made contact with. He has a two-bedroom townhouse, available in the historic heart of Scanno for €58,000 ($67,719).

The house is spread out over three levels and pretty much an empty shell to work with. It could make a nice little bolthole for the right buyer. A mountain retreat for someone with a place on the coast or in a city.

While the locals were all home for lunch, I shot a quick video of the town. I contemplated knocking on doors and asking about the "Vendesi" signs but I know better than to get between Italians and their food. Besides, with the smell of woodsmoke and pizza wafting through the streets, I was feeling peckish myself...

Scanno is a beautiful town with peaceful piazzas nestled between lush green hills.
Scanno is a beautiful town with peaceful piazzas nestled between lush green hills.

Ronan says:Scanno was just one of the towns Paul scouted in Italy over the last couple of weeks for Mission Italy. He and my other scout Eoin Bassett covered well over 1,500 miles in their search for bargains and opportunity…they’ve looked at hundreds of listings…traversed multiple regions…put boots on the ground in three of the most stunning tourist cities in the world…

There is no way we can share all their findings here in this e-letter.

So we’ve put together a special research report, Mission Italy—The Full Report. This behemoth is jam-packed with videos, photos, and detailed accounts of properties…it’s a deep dive into what the guys uncovered.

Inside you’ll discover:

  • Big yield properties in Italy’s blue-chip tourists cities—Rome, Florence, Venice.

  • Beach condos in Tuscany from $110,231…

  • Medieval hill town homes from as little as $67,252.

  • €1 homes in Italy’s greenest region…

  • How to get an Italian bank to pay for your dream property.

  • How to get the Italian government to pay for your historic home renovation.

  • Plus, much, much more!

All the details for getting your hands on this are here.

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