by Fleur Kinson

Orderly and elegant, with some of the country’s most sublime landscapes, northern Italy has long been adored by foreign buyers. From the celestial peaks of the Alps and Dolomites to the romantic beauty of dreamy lakesides, from rural walks to jewel-like cities, top gastronomy to fine wines, the north has an embarrassment of riches.

Three northern regions are far less well-known than all the others, and you’d do well to make their acquaintance. Each of the three is affluent, well-run and characterized by a high quality of life, and each has a rather unwieldy name. They are: Valle d’Aosta, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. As a non-Italian, you’ll be entirely forgiven if you’ve never heard of any of them. If you’ve heard of one or even two, well done!

Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige are of particular interest to skiers and mountain-hikers, with the majestic Alps dominating the former and the pretty golden needles of the Dolomites rising above the latter. Both regions offer superb skiing (perhaps especially Valle d’Aosta, where you can find some of Italy’s premier slopes and arguably the country’s best ski-resort, Courmayeur). There’s summer hiking too, of course, plus year-round vistas of jaw-dropping scenery. Expect to encounter a deliciously mixed culture in both regions. Valle d’Aosta, tucked up against the border with French-speaking Switzerland, enjoys a beguiling French-Swiss-Italian feel. Trentino-Alto Adige, meanwhile, offers a fascinating melange of Austrian, Swiss-German and Italian elements. Tyrolean buildings enliven its landscape, while street-signs bi-lingual in Italian and German add further exoticism.

Ski-oriented properties in Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige come in a very wide range of prices, with Valle d’Aosta being perhaps the slightly higher-priced region. At the lowest end, features one-bedroom ski apartments in Trentino-Alto Adige from just €79,000. Note that ski property prices drop substantially even just five minutes outside the centre of a resort, so you could do well to seek a home that’s not right next to the slope. Ski prospects aside, Trentino-Alto Adige is also a great place for stately country mansions and apartments in historic old buildings, so do look beyond its mountains.

Clean, prosperous Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a deeply lovely region indeed, with an impressive diversity of landscapes and a heady mix of cultural influences. Here, Italy meets Austria and Slovenia. Onion domes vie with darkwood chalets and Venetian-style townhouses. The blue Adriatic licks the region’s southern edge, forming warm, shallow lagoons peppered with sandy islands. Then, from its southern plain, Friuli-Venezia Giulia slowly rises to form gentle hills then steep highlands. There are countless beautiful walking routes to enjoy up here. The whole region is also sprinkled with exceptionally appealing little towns and cities – magical places like Trieste, Gorizia, Udine and the heavenly Cividale del Friuli. Enchanting settlements plus wonderful, uncrowded countryside make this a region worthy of your serious investigation. Properties on include plush farmhouses, elegant townhouses, small rural homes, seaside villas and luxury mansions.

So when you think of Italy’s wonderful north, don’t forget that there’s rather more up here than you might already have discovered. Look beyond the regions you’ve heard of and you might stumble upon somewhere that’s even more perfect for you.