Italy: Long Mediterranean coastlines, wonderful regional food, and glistening lakes – these are just a handful of the country’s highlights. The birthplace of Ferrari and Lamborghini, and home to an array of top golf courses, Italy was named one of the most idyllic countries to live by Forbes. Today, it has the second-best Residence-by-Investment Program, according to Henley & Partners.
Collating JamesEdition’s data, Italy’s high-end property market features over 7,472 apartments, villas, and houses. The median price of real estate is around $1,5 million with the average price per square meter coming in at $5,699.
Where are the best places to live in Italy? At the top end sits a $43,000,000 historic villa in Florence, Tuscany; the most affordable is a $500,000 apartment in Turin, Piedmont. But what about lesser-known areas for high net worth individuals to invest in? A variety of options tick that box – read on for our top picks.
The 5 best places to live in Italy’s metropolitan cities
1. If you like Rome, stay in Olgiata
Highlights: Golf clubs, an International school, and grand villas, and nearby natural beauty
Just 30 minutes northwest of the historic capital sits Olgiata, a district inhabited by the wealthy. Think swanky villas with manicured gardens and a country style of life. The area is also home to a magnificent tree-lined parkland golf course ranked fifth in Italy, while Acquasanta Golf Club is a 40-minute drive away.
Picturesque Lake Bracciano, with its origins tracing back to volcanic activity thousands of years ago, is just half an hour away by car. And St George’s British International School is a 10-minute drive away, making this one of the best places in Italy to live with a family.
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2. If you like Milan, stay in Brescia or Brianza
Highlights: Mille Miglia route, close to Lake Como and Garda, and the home of Italian caviar
An hour’s drive east of fashion capital Milan sits Brescia, which also happens to be just a 30-minute car ride from glorious Lake Garda. Nicknamed Leonessa d’Italia (“The Lioness of Italy”), Brescia is situated at the foot of the Alps and is the home of Italian caviar.
The city was also the starting point of the famous 1,000-mile Mille Miglia motorsport endurance race that took place 24 times between 1927 and 1957. Supercar owners may fancy driving the scenic route themselves for posterity.
Brianza is 45 minutes north of Milan: A historical, cultural area that’s one of the best places in Italy to live for expats, and just half an hour’s drive from Lake Como, too.
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3. If you like Venice, stay in the Lido
Highlights: Glorious beaches, Circolo Golf Venezia, and beautiful scenery
This seaside island separates the capital of Veneto from the Adriatic Sea. Think wide, sandy stretches – sun-worshippers will be in their element. Away from the hustle of historic Venice and the mainland, expect leafy residential avenues and scenic views to the Lagoon. The Lido is also home to par 72 Circolo Golf Venezia, and in the winter and spring, you may catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Dolomites in the distance.
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4. If you like Naples, stay in Posillipo
Highlights: City location, overlooks the Gulf of Naples and Capri, and fairy-tail scenery
An affluent residential quarter of Campania and Southern Italy’s capital, Pospillipo is just a 15-minute drive from the city center of Naples. Wrapping around a hilly peninsula overlooking the Gulf, the neighborhood offers picture-postcard scenery and sophisticated coastal living. This charming spot is a top choice among the Neapolitan elite.
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5. If you like Turin, stay in Moncalieri, San Mauro Torinese, or Pecetto Torinese
Highlights: Hostellerie du Golf, historic hilltop town, and riverside tranquility
A quarter of an hour south of Turin – the capital of Piedmont – sits hilltop Moncalieri. The compact town is home to a 15th-century castle, the residence of the Royal House of Savoy and UNESCO-designated since 1997.
Northwest of Turin by the same journey time is San Mauro Torinese, a small but perfectly formed destination on the banks of the River Po. Pecetto Torinese is 20 minutes southeast of Turin, and just five from Hostellerie du Golf, with a course designed by Luigi Rota Caremoli.
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The 5 best places to live in Tuscany and Umbria
6. If you like Florence, try Fiesole
Highlights: Historic landmarks, scenic vistas, Poggio dei Medici Golf, and the Futa Pass for adrenaline-fuelled rides
Northwards 20 minutes from Florence lies Fiesole, an Etruscan stronghold in the 8th-century BC. The well-preserved hillside Tuscan town is noted for its beautiful villas, formal gardens, and vistas down to the Renaissance city of Florence. Escape the bustle at this sleepy spot that’s just a 20-minute stroll from Belmond Villa San Michele with its trio of eateries, and a 40-minute drive from Poggio dei Medici Golf. For a bit more action, speed enthusiasts will delight in an adrenaline-fuelled ride along the Futa Pass.
7. If you like Lucca, try Pietrasanta
Highlights: Medieval arty town, luxury marina, and seaside location
Half an hour northwest of Lucca and five kilometers from the Versilia coast is the medieval town of Pietrasanta, known for its artistic leanings. A tiny Tuscan jewel, Piazza Duomo is at the center, surrounded by local specialty shops, galleries, and exhibitions. The nearby upscale marina is home to an abundance of beaches, from prestigious Forte dei Marmi to golden Lido di Camaiore. Combined, these factors make Pietrasanta one of the best places in Italy to live for the English.
8. If you like Monte Argentario, try Capoliveri and Portoferraio on the island of Elba
Highlights: Luxurious island life, top-notch beaches, and charming cobbled streets
Monte Argentario – a former island in the Grosseto province now connected to the mainland by a trio of narrow sandbars – has competition from Elba’s Capoliveri. Also part of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is famous for its first-rate beaches, and as Napoleon’s place of exile between 1814 and 1815. Lively and characterful, Capoliveri is situated in the district of Livorno. Sitting high on a hill, the small town is filled with picturesque alleys to lose yourself in.
Portoferraio on the northern coast is also a top choice. Located on the edge of the harbor, it’s bordered on three sides by the Ligurian Sea.
9. If you like Siena and Perugia, try Cortona and Orvieto
Highlights: Medieval hilltop towns, Orvieto Cathedral, and glorious hilltop views
Between Siena and Perugia – about an hour from both – is the hilltop Tuscan town of Cortona, in the province of Arezzo. While there, stroll to Piazza Garibaldi and admire scenic views down to Lake Trasimeno.
The Umbrian city of Orvieto in the district of Terni lies around 90 minutes south of Perugia and Siena. Perched on the summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff, wander the ancient streets and don’t miss the Duomo.
10. If you like Gaiole in Chianti, try Montepulciano and San Gimignano
Highlights: Quaffable red and white wines, vineyard visits, and historic towns
Gaiole in Chianti may have been named as Europe’s most idyllic place to live by Forbes, but there are other top choices in the region. Drive southeast of Gaiole in Chianti for 75 minutes and you’ll reach Montepulciano, a medieval and Renaissance hill town in the province of Siena, southern Tuscany.
An array of wineries are nearby – try Azienda Agricola Poliziano or Avignonesi Winery Fattoria for luscious red tipples such as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
In the same province sits San Gimignano, 90 minutes west of Gaiole in Chianti, and an area more famed for white Vernaccia grapes. The dinky medieval hill town is UNESCO-designated, encircled by 13th-century walls.
The best places to live on the Italian lakes
11. If you like Menaggio on Lake Como, try Bellagio and Tremezzo
Highlights: Wonderful waterside scenery, stylish villas, and Circolo Golf Villa D’Este
Just five minutes from Lake Como’s Menaggio is Tremezzo, on the western banks looking across to Bellagio, and 25 minutes from George Clooney’s Villa Oleandra. The Lombardian town is home to Villa Carlotta’s botanical gardens and offers plenty of natural beauty, not to mention The 5* Grand Hotel Tremezzo with its array of dining options.
Hop on a ferry for 20 minutes and you’ll reach Bellagio, famed for its cobbled streets and elegant buildings. Don’t miss taking a stroll through the grounds of 5* Villa Serbelloni with its beautiful lake views.
Both Tremezzo and Bellagio are within easy reach of Circolo Golf Villa D’Este, a challenging course with Lake Montorfano as the centerpiece. All in all, the glorious scenery of the Lombardy region makes it one of the best places in Italy to live for retirees.
12. If you like Desenzano del Garda on Lake Garda, try Sirmione
Highlights: Thermal spa, sunset views, and refreshing swims in the lido
A 20-minute drive from Desenzano del Garda you’ll find Sirmione, a quaint historic town with Roman ruins and a fortress, sitting on a narrow, long peninsula. Head to Aquaria Thermal Spa, with its 15,000 square meters of wellness and relaxation space. Or make your way to the northern tip and check out the clear waters of Lido delle Bionde, before watching the sunset at Jamaica beach.
13. If you like Stresa on lake Maggiore, try Baveno
Highlights: Lakeside vistas, elegant villas, and scenic promenade strolls
A mere five-minute drive northwards from Stresa you’ll find enchanting Baveno, overlooking Lake Maggiore. The lakeside town is known for its mineral water springs and quarries of pink granite, and is home to a lakefront promenade offering wonderful views to the Borromean Islands – easily reachable by boat from the harbor. Opulent villas line the shores, including Henfrey-Branca, Fedora, and Barberis.
The best places to live in Italy by the sea
14. If you like Palermo (Sicily), try Cefalu
Highlights: Authentic Italian atmosphere, golden beaches, and historic landmarks
From Palermo, head eastwards an hour along the northern Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily and you’ll reach Cefalu, one of the best places in Italy to live for Americans. There’s an authentic Italian vibe to the picturesque spot, sitting on a rocky headland. It’s also home to sandy beaches, a Norman Cathedral, and a 12th-century fortress-like structure. And Madonie National Park is just a 60-minute ride inland. If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, head to the southern coast to Verdura Resort, where you can play a trio of golf courses.
15. If you like Syracuse (Sicily), try Noto
Highlights: Sicilian Baroque, unspoiled stretches of golden sand and atmospheric ruins
Half an hour south of Syracuse, along the southeastern Sicilian coast, is Noto: the heart of an ideal starting point for a visit to the valley of the Sicilian Baroque. Along with the expected architectural treasures included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Noto offers a charming mix of unspoiled golden beaches, the crystal clear watches of the Ionian Sea, and historic buildings available to rent and to buy. Throughout Noto’s countryside, you’ll find historic farm houses renovated with a clean minimalist aesthetic which resonates beautifully with the landscapes of southern Sicily.
16. If you like Porto Cervo (Sardinia), try Porto Rotondo
Highlights: Scenic sea views, picturesque harbor, and the luxury Costa Smeralda
Porto Cervo – a glam spot on the northeastern side of Sardinia where superyachts dock – is a top choice for second home seekers, but keep Porto Rotondo in mind, too. A 35-minute drive southwards around the rugged coast, explore beaches, countryside, and views to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Part of the Costa Smeralda, Porto Rotondo was once a small fishing town, and now houses a pretty harbor, modern shops, and plenty of bars and restaurants.
17. If you like Portofino in the Italian Riviera, try Lerici
Highlights: Poetic history, close to Tuscany, and views to the Ligurian Sea
From Portofino, drive around the coast for 90 minutes and you’ll arrive at Lerici, a pastel-colored destination once frequented by poets such as Shelley, Byron, and D.H. Lawrence. Think curvy coves and rocky cliffs looking out to the sparkling Ligurian Sea. And the attractive town is just 40 minutes from exclusive Porto Venere, known as Cinque Terre’s sixth town and a docking point for luxury yachts. Part of the Italian Riviera, Lerici is within driving distance of Tuscany’s Florence, Bologna, Parma, and Modena – should the mood take you.
18. If you like Sanremo in the Italian Riviera, try Alassio
Highlights: Coastal location, close to the French border, and scenic promenade ambles
Along the Ligurian coast just an hour from Sanremo you’ll find Alassio, just 80 kilometers from the French border and 90 minutes from Nice and the Cote d’Azur. Part of the Italian Riviera, the backdrop of Alassio is comprised of terraces, narrow streets, verandas, manicured gardens, and fountains. There’s a promenade overlooking the beach and the sea, ideal for lazy strolls and aperitivo pitstops.
19. If you like Ostuni (Apulia), try Lecce
Highlights: Michelin star meals, baroque architecture, and picturesque piazzas
An hour south of Ostuni is Lecce, a Puglian town known for baroque buildings and the Piazza del Duomo. Wander the narrow streets of golden sandstone in search of hidden squares, or if you fancy getting out and about, head into the countryside or across to the eastern coast – just a 20-minute drive. Santa Maria di Leuca – the southernmost point in Salento – is an hour away, while Gallipoli on the western side is 35 minutes by car. Back in Lecce, check out Michelin star eatery Bros’ for lunch or dinner.
20. If you like Positano on the Amalfi Coast, try Maiori
Highlights: Wide sandy beach, scenic strolls and hikes, and beach clubs for lounging
Maiori sits 45 minutes east of Positano towards Salerno, and is a lively town with the largest beach on the Amalfi Coast. Beach clubs rent loungers and umbrellas, and there’s a lovely waterfront promenade. This scenic spot is also the start (or end) point of the Path of the Lemons, a panoramic hike through the groves to Minori. Ravello is 20 minutes away by car, and Amalfi is just 15.