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Guide to Regions

Its hilly landscape makes it ideal terrain for adventurous hikers and cyclists, while its mountains are immensely popular with skiers. It is off the well-trodden tourist trail, meaning property prices here are frequently a fraction of what they are a couple of hundred miles north in Tuscany.

Yet those who come here, to visit or to look for a property in Italy, are often astounded by its rugged and natural beauty. Abruzzo is seemingly one spectacular landscape after another, soaring hills and mountains towering over canyons, lakes and rivers.
Little surprise then, that much of the region lies in national parks, the biggest being the Gran Sasso and the Maiella. And it's never too difficult to find yourself in splendid isolation, at one with nature, as you wander along centuries-old pathways used by shepherds and their flock and head towards some of Italy's most remote and picturesque villages hidden in the mountains.
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Abruzzo property
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Italy's smallest region is also its most mountainous and has on its borders the Alps' best known peaks – the Matterhorn, Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. Unsurprisingly, some of Europe's best ski resorts are to be found here, with Monte Bianco boasting the continent's highest cable car ride.

The Gran Paradiso is at the centre of the magnificent National Park, full of picturesque pine forests, Alpine lakes and glaciers and populated by beautiful Ibexes, chamois and eagles. Aosta Valley has special autonomous status and in homage to the fact that it borders France, most regional government business is conducted in French.
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Alps property
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Worth visiting for its architectural treasures alone. There are cathedrals and castles dating as far back as the 10th century as well as numerous Greek and Roman remains. But Apulia also boasts a unique style of its own – barocco leccese, intricate carvings covering palaces and churches, the best examples of which are in Lecce. Another architectural must-see are trulli, conical stone structures that serve as olive and wheat barns. However, in some places they are built in clusters of hundreds and used as houses, as in the wonderfully quaint town of Alberobello. In addition, Apulia has some of the cleanest beaches in all the Mediterranean and one of the continent's largest forests. It also produces one in 10 of all bottles of wine drunk in Europe, so there's no excuse for not having a merry old time.
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This hilly, southern region is a fantastic place to seek out undiscovered Italy. The beaches along its two tiny coastlines, particularly along the Tyrrhenian Sea, have not yet been over-run by mass tourism. The economy is mainly agricultural, although there is a thriving textiles and ceramics industry. The region has a long archaeological history. There are the Greek Palatine Tables ruins in Metaponto and Roman remains in Venosa, while the architecture in Matera, Melfi and Lagopesole shows heavy Arab and Byzantine influences.
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Basilicata property
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Calabria has long been the secret that Italian holidaymakers discovered long ago and the rest of the world is just waking up to. The region, on the southernmost tip of mainland Italy, is the heart of the Mezzogiorno (Italian for midday, referring to its brilliant sunshine). It enjoys mile after mile of thankfully uncrowded sandy beaches as well as, in places, beautiful rocky coastlines that slope majestically into the sea.

With the region not yet trampled underfoot by mass tourism, your euro will go farther here than in virtually any other part of Italy. Calabria, in many ways, is typical rural, deep South country. Narrow roads that wind perilously through the mountains, sprawling olive orchards and wheat fields. And in the main squares of the towns, the men smoking as they play cards, their wives sitting on doorsteps, knitting and weaving, locals almost falling over themselves to dispense hospitality to visitors. Welcome to unspoilt Italy.
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The rich and famous and the beautiful the world over, as they have done for generations, still flock to the Amalfi coast and the nearby islands of Capri and Ischia, well-known for their golden beaches, clear blue seas and skies and delightful caves and coves. Yet there is much more to Campania, Italy’s most densely populated region.
It is an area rich in historical relics, notably the famous Roman remains in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the 2,600-year-old Greek temples of Paestum. In the 18th century, Naples was Italy’s biggest city and a mecca for European aristocracy. Today the city is a hub of thriving activity and famous for its Neapolitan cuisine. Then again, this of the original birthplace of the pizza and mozzarella cheese. And if you’re feeling adventurous there are few better ways to work off all that fine dining than a breathtaking hike up Mount Vesuvius.
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Its endless miles of warm, sandy beaches have naturally become a magnet for visitors from across Europe and are perfect for those who love any kind of water-based recreational activity. Its best-known resort, Rimini, is just as famous for its exuberant nightlife. Away from its alluring beaches the region – apart from being one of Italy's richest – is a treasure trove of architectural gems. The magnificent basilicas of Ravenna, for example, are a reminder that for centuries this was part of the Byzantine Empire, while Bologna's 11th century university, Italy's oldest, are proof of its long history as a centre of art and culture.
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Emilia-Romagna property
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This quiet corner of north-east Italy is rarely visited by Italians, let alone outsiders. But let that not blind you to its many attractions, especially if you fancy exploring them without having to weave your way past throngs of tourists. Trieste, its main city, was James Joyce's favourite place in the world and he was made an honorary citizen; a statue to the legendary Irish author stands on the bridge over the Canale Grande, near his old home. There is much to discover elsewhere in this region of contrasts, from snow-capped mountains to warm sandy beaches and lagoons, from awe-inspiring rocky coastal cliffs to picturesque fishing villages. Those who appreciate architecture will find much to admire in Udine's Gothic Palazzo del Comune and the Basilica in Aquileia, as well as the numerous Roman ruins and palatial country villas dotted around the region.
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Friuli-Venezia property
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There's Rome, of course, the Eternal City, with seemingly every cobble on every street steeped in more than 2,000 years of history. Yet Latium – Lazio, to give it its Italian name – is so much more than just Rome. The rest of the region offers long, sun-kissed beaches and vast pine groves, mountains, lakes, hills and plains. And south of the capital, for instance, is the famous spa town of Fiuggi, itself almost encircled by equally charming picturesque hill towns. To the east lies Rieti, where you can visit and even sleep in some of the monasteries built by St Francis of Assisi. Some 40 or 50 miles north of Rome is the former centre of the fabled Etruscan civilisation, which was later conquered by the Romans.
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Rome property
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Liguria has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its breathtaking scenery, from the Liguri Alps in the north to the Italian Riviera to the south. Arguably the most famous stretch of the Riviera is the Cinque Terre – five picturesque villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and the surrounding hillside – that is now a UN World Heritage Site because of its outstanding natural beauty.

Further west along the coast, on the other side of the main city Genoa, lies the harbour village of Portofino - one of the Mediterranean's most beautiful resorts. It's easy to see why for decades it has attracted celebrities the world over.

Another notable destination on the Riviera is San Remo, at the heart of the coastline called the Riviera dei Fiori after the stunning variety of its flowers and also famed for the San Remo Music Festival. The Riviera runs as far as Ventimiglia, just west of San Remo and a few miles from Monte Carlo on the other side of the French border.
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Liguria property
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The wealthiest of Italy's 20 regions and one of the three richest in all Europe. It boasts the fashion mecca of Milan, which is also a centre for finance, commerce and industry, as well as the must-see medieval cities of Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Mantua and Pavia. However, tear yourself away from its towns and cities and head for its beautifully serene countryside, with some of Europe's most breathtaking stretches of water. Its several shimmering blue lakes, including Como, Maggiore Orta, Endine and Garda, make it a natural haven for lake cruises and water based sports.
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Lombardy property and Italian Lakes property
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A mainly agricultural region, famed for its good food and wine. There's also a 100-mile Adriatic coastline, with the seaside resorts Fano and San Bernadetto major attractions. The area has a proud artistic history, with Renaissance painter Raphael being born in Urbino. Places such as the regional capital Ancona, as well as Ascoli, Fano, Fermo and Urbisaglia, are full of magnificent Roman remains. The region's national park and nature reserve boast the 22-mile Sibylline mountain range.
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It shares many of the characteristics of Abruzzo, which it was a part of until 1963. It is mainly mountainous with a small coast facing the Adriatic. Molise has several examples of medieval architecture to fill the visitor with awe. Campobasso, its capital, has a Lombard castle dating back some 1,500 years, while San Bartolomeo and San Giorgino both boast majestic Romanesque churches. Anyone travelling to Isernia, Molise's second city, should make a point of seeing the 14th century Fontana Della Fraterna.
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Piedmont, one of Italy's great wine-growing regions, is bordered on three sides by the Alps and is home to some of Europe's most spectacular peaks, including the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa. Then there are the rolling hillsides of Monferrato and La Langhe with their rich, fertile terrain that has given Piedmont its great wine and culinary tradition.

The region's capital is Turin, which has a long-established architectural and cultural history and in the 19th century was the first Italian capital. The St John the Baptist Cathedral houses the Turin Shroud; many of the palaces of the old House of Savoy are here; while its Museo Egizio has the world's most important collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo. And in recent years the city has shaken off its image as the grey industrial home of Fiat and soccer club Juventus to enjoy a renaissance and in 2006 hosted the Winter Olympics.
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Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, boasts an average 10 months of bright sunshine a year and 1,200 miles of coastline, ranging from welcoming sandy beaches to vertiginous sheer cliffs. One stupendous example of its coastline is at Neptune’s Grotto in the north, a labyrinthine underwater cavern of spectacular rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites.

On the north-east coast, the six-mile long Costa Smeralda is now an upmarket resort of private villas and luxury hotels. A second resort almost as popular is Porto Rotondo, a few miles further down the coast. The Sardi, as the locals are known, are very proud of their distinct culture and dialect, both distinct from mainstream Italy. Many Sardi in and around the capital Alghero, for instance, still speak an archaic form of Catalan.
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The average year-round temperature is 25C, and even in winter it’s a balmy 12C. Not surprisingly for an island whose southern tip is closer to the tropics than parts of North Africa. Mount Etna towers two miles high over the island.

There are 36 national parks while its coasts are a mixture of steep and rocky in the north and sandy beaches to the east, from Messina to Cape Passero. Through the ages various civilisations have settled here - Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and French – and their influence can still be seen in the architecture they left behind. South-eastern Sicily, around Ragusa, Nota and Syracuse, is very popular among foreign buyers. As with most of southern Italy, property prices are much cheaper than elsewhere in the country.
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Sicily property
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It sits on the Austrian border and the population of Bolzano, one of its two regions, is two-thirds German stock. The region’s cultural mix gives it a unique character, especially in its cuisine, and bratwurst is just as likely to be on the menu as spaghetti. Its location in the Alps and its several winter sports resorts – many high enough for summer skiing - make it especially popular with Italians, three million of whom holiday here each year.
Trentino-Alto Adige also has nearly 300 lakes, including Lake Garda, and in summer their beaches are a magnet for hordes of swimmers and sunbathers. The warmer months also attract hikers through the woodlands that teem with ibex, marmots and eagles and account for nearly half of the region.
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Trentino property
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Tuscany is a magnet for millions of visitors the world over, drawn in large part by its centres of Renaissance art and culture such as Florence, Siena and Pisa. However, it is its swathes of green idyllic countryside and numerous picturesque villages that have seen visitors from the world over so keen to own property here. Its spectacularly diverse landscape also includes the popular beach resorts of Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio to the west and the snow-capped Apennine peaks and Apuan Alps to the north.
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Not for nothing does spectacular, mountainous Umbria proudly call itself “the green heart of Italy” – green after its seven nature reserves and lush valleys through which the River Tiber flows to the sea; and heart as it is right in the middle of Italy. The Sibillini mountains straddle its border with the Marches and few leave without gazing in awe at the spectacular 540ft Marmore Waterfalls. This is a region so scenic and unspoilt that it is made to be discovered on foot.

Many present-day visitors throng its numerous hiking trails, including one that recreates an epic 13th century journey by St Francis of Assisi. Umbria is full of picturesque hilltop towns rather than sprawling cities and Perugia, its capital, is home to fewer than 150,000 people. Perugia is well-known for its summer jazz festival and Spoleto, to the south, for its annual international music event.  

Medieval pageantry is a key part of local tradition and late September sees thousands of visitors flock to Gualdo Tadino for its I Giochi De le Porte gala, a three-day medieval games tournament. Other towns such as Assisi, Orvieto, Castiglione and Todi are also immensely popular with tourists.

In the west of Umbria, house prices in towns such as Tuoro are buoyant as it overlooks scenic Lake Trasimeno and because of the proximity of Tuscany. However, there are bargains to be found across the region.
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Everyone falls in love with Venice, undoubtedly the jewel in Veneto’s crown. Yet the region has several other glittering attractions. Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, is one of the country's most beautiful historic towns. But also contributing hugely to Verona's allure are its elegant Roman ruins.

Worth discovering too are Chioggia, which boasts Venice's canals but few of its teeming crowds; Soave, famous for its wines; and Abano, a serene spa town. When it comes to relaxing and soaking up the sun, the region has seemingly endless golden sandy beaches along its 150-mile Adriatic coastline, with Lido di Jesolo the most popular resort. Veneto is also home to the Dolomite mountain range, where winter sees the rich and the famous descend on the ski resort of Cortina.
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Venice property
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