Forget Tuscany – it’s all about Le Marche
Asmall rural region in central Italy, Le Marche, has got used to being overshadowed by its headlinegrabbing neighbours, Tuscany and Umbria. After buying an Umbrian vineyard last year, Ed Sheeran, the singer, is reported to have said: “I didn’t want to buy in Tuscany because there are too many English people there”.
He would have found even fewer if he had ventured into next-door Le Marche (also known as Marche), a region of rolling hills of wheat fields and vineyards, medieval towns like Urbino and Ascoli Piceno, and 17 Blue Flag beaches on the Adriatic coast to boot. It may not offer the extravagant culture of Tuscany’s Renaissance towns, but it does have truffles, great seafood and fine verdicchio wines.
An advantage of being off the radar of international buyers is that the property prices are lower too, something that attracted architect Adam Hall and his wife, Justine, to buy a home there. “Tuscany is very familiar, yet when we came across Le Marche we realised it shared many of its attributes, but not the tourists,” he says. “There are gorgeous Cotswold-type stone farmhouses, the food is authentic and you don’t feel you are being overcharged.”
With the help of Mauro Rieti, a local geometra or surveyor, Adam knocked down a property near San Ginesio and rebuilt and extended it into a beautiful, high-spec four-bedroom family villa that has earthquake-proof foundations. “We spent £100,000 on a pile of stones, spent £400,000 doing it up, and now have a home that is worth more than we spent on it,” says the father of two teenagers, who has set up a company with Mauro to help other buyers do the same ( uniquemarche.com).
San Ginesio, a quintessential Marche hill town with a bell tower, cobblestone streets, and award-winning gelateria, along with historic Ascoli Piceno (described by Lonely Planet as the “hippest town in Le Marche”), are in the two popular southern provinces.
According to gate-away.com, the Italian property portal, these two areas each account for more than 30 per cent of inquiries in the area, with Ancona next highest at 17 per cent. The average property search budget is €254,800 (£220,000), and buyers mostly come from Germany, the US, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Anna Rita, of local estate agency Cella-Shirley, says the “golden triangle” (yes, everywhere has one) of San Ginesio, Gualdo and Sarnano has long been popular with British buyers. “The historic centres took a bit of a battering from the earthquakes of 2016, and the market stopped dead for a bit, but prices are much lower than Tuscany,” she says.
“You won’t find the same number of stately homes in Le Marche but you can get a 250 sq m (2,690 sq ft) old farm- house for around €350,000 with beautiful views towards the Sibillini mountains on one side and the Adriatic coast on the other.”
That said, she has for sale an elegant country house built in 1850, with a tiny Cistercian chapel attached, on the outskirts of the fortified town of Loro Piceno for €349,000. It’s been in a local family for years and they have half renovated it, having done the roofs and walls. But it would need around €300,000 spent on it to make it into a five-bedroom home.
The arrival of easyJet flights into Ancona this June should encourage more people to discover Le Marche too. Ryanair currently flies to Ancona and Pescara from the UK, and the region is strategically located for access from Venice (four hours), Perugia (one hour) or Rome (three hours). “There’s a saying in Italy that the largest town of Marche is Rome, because there are many Marchigiani who go to Rome to make money,” says Rita.
There are also Romans who buy holiday homes near the Marche coast, which is the area that agent Linda Travella recommends, even though it gets more expensive. “If you buy too far inland, you’ll find your home tricky to sell to second-home buyers,” she suggests. “Italians from Rome, Milan and Turin visit for the summers and buy homes in attractive towns such as Ripatransone or Grottommare.”
In “Ripa” as it’s known, five miles inland, you can get a three-bedroom apartment in the historic centre for €200,000, or a four-bedroom house for €260,000. It’s an hour from both Ancona and Pescara airports. In the nearby small family resort of Cupra Marittima you can buy a new-build one-bedroom apartment on the beach for €225,000.
Prefer something a little grander? There’s a 10-bedroom historic mansion with elegant colonnades, tower and a chapel reached by a tree-lined driveway that is available for €5million. Just two miles from the sea, it would make an ideal boutique hotel, suggests Gemma Bruce, an agent from The Viewing. “I love that it is a historic property with both countryside and coastal views. So often in Italy, once you get close to the coast, the properties are all modern,” she says.
“Pesaro is a vibrant coastal town, and the historic centre boasts stylish boutiques and aperitif bars along the main street, which runs down to the waterfront promenade.”
Adam Hall’s villa, which he built from scratch after knocking down the original; Hall with his family, below
Hall’s villa, perched on the hillside, left; a bedroom in the house, below