Italian holiday homes: luxury flats within historic Lucca’s city walls or renovated farmhouses in sought-after rural Tuscany
Fly, to Pisa, head north-east by car or train and within 30 minutes you are in Lucca, a beautiful Tuscan walled city of intimate squares, marble-fronted churches and wood-panelled restaurants.
Lucca’s architectural history includes the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre and wide 17th-century walls that encircle the city, providing the perfect promenade for jogging, cycling and sedate evening walks.
The historic centre inside the walls has 100 churches and a handful of brick towers built as a show of medieval wealth, including the tallest of them all, the tree-topped Gothic Torre Guinigi. Annual events include the Summer Festival, this year with Sir Elton John among the performers.
“Lucca has always been wealthy thanks to its historic industries of silk and paper production and shoe manufacturing but never exploited tourism,” says Alessandro Deghe of Knight Frank. “Yet it is logistically so well placed, 45 minutes from Florence, 30 minutes from the coast and 90 from skiing at Abetone.”
The secret seems to be out with tourism figures booming and enquiries for Lucca property up 40 per cent last year according to Knight Frank, which named this lovely city in its 2019 Wealth Report as one of Europe’s neighbourhoods primed for the best capital growth.
Buying inside the walls
Well-restored apartments in the historic centre start from £255,000 for two bedrooms and from £425,000 for three in a grander palazzo. Add in precious outdoor space, a lift or parking and prices rise significantly.
A duplex three-bedroom flat on the third floor of a palazzo with few historical features is £335,000. A smaller, two-bedroom flat, with sunny terrace renovated with care and historical charm, is £326,000, both with Knight Frank.
A restored loft-style three-bedroom flat on the top two floors of a palazzo in the historic centre with a large roof terrace
A full restoration currently under way in Piazza Santa Maria Forisportam to provide 21 studio to four-bedroom flats launched last summer and has sold well, with only three still for sale priced from £275,000 for two-bedroom homes.
Most striking of all, an artfully restored three-bedroom apartment of 1,938sq ft on the top two floors of a palazzo with a wonderful roof terrace, is £857,000. Local lettings agent Sidrak Masetti claims this could earn 7.5 per cent yield in annual rentals.
Holiday homes outside the city
“Fifteen years ago most buyers were looking for a derelict property but today few take on a full project,” says Deghe. The countryside around Lucca is lush and heavily wooded. Prime rural areas within 20 minutes of Lucca include Matraia and Arsina where farmhouses are hidden down narrow lanes among olive groves.
A handsome four-bedroom villa in Arsina in seven acres with a pool looks good value for £595,000, down from £705,000. The villa has original features and well-sized rooms and needs only a little love to make a fabulous holiday and rental home.
Closer to the coast in San Macario Monte, British owner Les Woodruff is selling the six-bedroom farmhouse in seven-and-a-half acres that he has owned since 1985, for £1.2 million.
He restored the house, planting fruit and olive trees, adding in a pool surrounded by rosemary bushes, and he rents the property for £4,200 a week in July and August.
Lucca address book
Ristorante Giglio: at this restaurant, within the city walls, three chefs have collaborated on a modern menu that recently earned them a Michelin star (ristorantegiglio.com).
Three chefs have collaborated on a modern menu at the Ristorante Giglio (Alamy Stock Photo)
Ristorante all’Olivo: warm service, an extensive menu and a wide terrace in the piazza for summer dining (ristoranteolivo.it).
Al Tambellini dal 1879: one mile from Lucca this is pure Italian country style with a winning Tuscan menu. Lunch daily, dinner on Saturdays (+39 0583 342077).
Hotel Dipinto: around the corner from Romanesque Church San Michele and the main shopping street Via Fillungo, Dipinto is a four-star hotel in a cleverly converted 13th-century palazzo. It offers contemporary rooms, some with original beamed ceilings, and friendly service (palazzodipinto.com).