Expat Trends: Italy’s Wine Country Boom & Restoration Incentives Attract Investors

Expat trends- As more and more expats are pouring into the enchanting hilltop vineyards in the north, the Italian government is also offering attractive incentives to lure investment migrants to the boot, specifically the heel of the boot, on the Mediterranean.

Motivated by a sense of discovery, Americans are on a spree.

American second-home buyers have beaten out the British to become the No. 1 demographic flocking to Italy’s Piedmont region with its vast landscapes of prized Barolos and precious white truffles, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sotheby’s International Realty estimates the number of Americans asking about the area has jumped almost 50% in just the last two years alone.

The region has been long revered by sommeliers and foodies, but its second-home market has managed until recently to stay under the radar, catering mostly to a small group of Northern Europeans and some Italians from nearby Milan and Turin, according to the Journal.

A quilted patchwork of vineyards, colorful sunflowers, and hazelnut groves

Now, it is attracting a new wave of American buyers who are taking advantage of the current strength of the dollar as they hunt for a unique type of vineyard property nestled among sun-kissed grapes with Instagram-worthy views of Alpine peaks afar.

Generally referred to as the region’s Vineyard Landscape following its Unesco designation as a World Heritage site in 2014, this lush belt of villages and vineyards covers the subregions of Langhe and Monferrato.

Standing above bucolic rolling hillsides, towns such as medieval Roddi and Serralunga d’Alba are home to cobbled streets, imposing castles, and warm, friendly locals.

With its summer festivals aplenty, the fertile Piedmont region is also the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement as well as the cultivation center of aromatic Italian white truffles and Barolo and Barbaresco wines.

Expat Trends- The potential for a lucrative return on investment

Known for aging well and pricing high (as much as $500 per bottle), the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the temperamental Nebbiolo grape, which flourishes only in the northern part of Italy.

White truffles, gathered in the area only from late September through January, can cost more than $3,200 a pound, making the region a potentially profitable return on investment, according to the Journal.

Prime Barolo vineyards are the most expensive in Italy, with prices reaching $830,000 an acre. Desirable Vineyard Landscape homes, however, are typically a bargain compared with similar properties in the food-and-wine hot spots of Tuscany and Umbria in central Italy.

Buyer beware

The region is not without its challenges, however – the Vineyard Landscape is strongly affected by climate change. In the lower-altitude areas drought conditions and disease are hurting grape production and speeding up the conversion of agricultural lands to other uses, including residences.

Higher temperatures have offered the opportunity to successfully harvest olive trees—once a rarity in Piedmont, one of the few parts of Italy traditionally too cold to produce olive oil.

And, warmer weather globally has also meant an increase in the consumption of white wine in Europe and the U.S., which meant less market share for Italian reds.

Meanwhile, the hotter, drier summers are upending the annual white truffle season – last year’s summer was among Italy’s hottest on record, which greatly reduced the season’s typical yield for many truffle hunters.

Despite the challenges, U.S. expats continue to snap up properties and are now also the biggest non-Italian customers in high-end residential renovations in the coveted Vinyard Landscape Area.

Shoring up the heel of the boot

The expat trends of foreign investors hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Italian government.  A unique opportunity also presents itself in the southern tip of Italy – the government is offering €30,000 ($31,000) to anyone willing to move there.

But there’s a catch – you must buy and fix up old, abandoned homes to get the cash.

To be eligible for the incentive, homebuyers must purchase and restore abandoned homes in the historic town of Presicce, a village of 9,000 people located in the Puglia region in Italy’s heel about a 15-minute drive to the Ionian Sea.

Presicce has a rich history, but a declining population. A mosaic of churches and stately buildings embellishes the historic center, and the surrounding areas are framed by olive trees and enchanting Renaissance farms dotted between eighteenth-century houses.

The total funding will be split in two: it will go partly into buying an old home and partly into restyling it, if needed, according to CNN.

In order to qualify for the money, buyers must purchase a property built before 1991 and take up residency in Presicce.

“It is a pity witnessing how our old districts full of history, wonderful architecture and art are slowly emptying.”

In 2019, Presicce merged with the neighboring town Acquarica to form a new commune — like a county — called Presicce-Acquarica. That merger allowed the region to receive more funding from the Italian government which is being used to revitalize the community.

“There are many empty homes in the historical center built before 1991 which we would like to see alive again with new residents,” Alfredo Palese, a government official in Presicce, told CNN when discussing expat trends.

According to the Italian listing site Immobiliare, homes in the Presicce-Acquarica comune normally sell for €669, or about $690, per square meter. A typical home of 46 square meters, or about 500 square feet, would normally cost just over $31,000.

Other areas open to explore

According to Forbes, Presicce is just the latest small Italian village to try to lure newcomers by dangling major incentives.

Other Italian towns experiencing population declines and struggling with derelict properties have instituted similar programs.

Expat trends show that each town has its own unique requirements and incentives varying from the duration of the renovation to the amount of the financial commitment.

Whether it’s the northern affluence of Piedmont or the southern history of Presicce, Italy’s storied villages can offer expats and second-home buyers adventurous new opportunities to discover a whole new world.


The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. You should contact a qualified and ideally regulated adviser in order to obtain up to date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. If you do not then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not accept any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.


Chris Lean

Chris is a Chartered Financial Planner who writes blogs and articles to simplify and explain some of the financial issues that affect UK expats. Subjects include; hot topics, regulation and the ever-changing world of finance.

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