By Fleur Kinson
Named “the happy land” (Campania felix) by the ancient Romans, Campania is an intensely colourful and romantic region, with stunning geography and fabulous foodstuffs. Few parts of Italy can compete for leisure-appeal with a region that boasts the heady glory of the Amalfi Coast, the sweetness of Sorrento, the chic island-life of Capri, the drama of Vesuvius, the poignancy of Pompeii, and the beguiling exuberance of Naples.The region’s food is little short of mind-blowing. Italy’s best pasta, best tomatoes, best mozzarella, best pizza and best ice cream are all found in Campania (and those last three are local inventions). The climate is warm and sensuous. There’s music in the air and romance all around.
Campania has a unique ability to beguile and enchant visitors from 8th-century B.C. Greeks to the ancient Romans, from 18th-century Grand Tourists to 20th-century movie stars. If you’ve fallen in love with the region too, then you’re just following a long tradition. Campania remains one of Italy’s most visited regions, and yet it sees nowhere near as many foreign property buyers as other much-loved parts of Italy. Perhaps this is because its most famous parts contain some of Italy’s most expensive property. A home on the Amalfi Coast or an island such as Capri is simply beyond the reach of most buyers, and homes in these gilded spots rarely come on the market anyway. Even shabby-but-loveable Naples remains a very pricy city, because the demand for accommodation here far outstrips supply. If you can get yourself a home in any of these places, the rental returns are superb.
And yet Campania also contains some extremely affordable and good-value property, if you know where to look. For seaside property at a bargain price, investigate the Cilento coast (south of Amalfi). Cilento is an area of charming small towns and lovely beaches. Its hinterland rises quickly into hills and mountains, and much of it has been declared National Parkland. It’s much more relaxed and uncrowded than the expensive Amalfi Coast. New building is restricted, which means homes will hold their value very well. Note that in Cilento as across most of Italy, property prices go down in inverse proportion to altitude and/or to distance from the sea. This has often worked out very well for buyers who want a view, as they generally get a more expansive one by buying slightly inland and higher up.
Buyers with very small budgets should definitely investigate Campania’s interior. There are numerous semi-abandoned villages here that make exciting investment opportunities. And there are thriving communities too, in highly attractive old hilltop towns where property prices can be amazingly low. A good example is Calitri, about 35 miles from the sea and home to 5,000 people including a few northern European ex-pats. Unrestored and fully-restored homes can be snapped up for five-figure sums here.
If your dream is to restore an old Italian property, Campania’s interior offers rich pickings. Prices are very low, and the standard of local builders and craftsmen high as all across Italy. Wherever and whatever you decide to buy in Campania, you can be sure of a very warm welcome from the people here. They’ve been embracing visitors for many centuries, and they’re extremely good at it!