As in many countries, a typical story has unfolded in rural Italy. Recent history has it that industrialisation caused tenant farmers to leave their farmhouses and work in factories in the cities instead. Therefore, Italian home towns soon became ghost towns with just a handful of elderly folk left behind to live in increasingly dilapidated homes. Castelfalfi, an 800-year-old village in Tuscany is a case in point. But, thanks to TUI AG, the German owners of Thomson, this village and its immediate surroundings are seeing a new lease of life.
Talking about British holiday homebuyers who bought up several abandoned properties before the arrival of TUI, Giancarlo Ercolin, general manager of Castelfalfi’s Hotel La Tabaccaia, explains: “They came here because they wanted the Tuscan lifestyle – the peace, the tranquillity.” Now TUI is doing the same, but on a much grander scale. The main challenge is to ensure Castelfalfi doesn’t become a faceless tourist resort: “Our credo is to remain authentic,” he reassures us.
What to expect
With a budget of €250m (£216m), TUI’s is one of the biggest tourist projects in Italy. Their vision is as important as their building plans and the beauty of the “new” Castelfalfi is that, just like its predecessor, you hardly know it’s there. As you arrive today, you would scarcely know you are on a building site, albeit a modest one with just one per cent of the entire six square miles earmarked for construction.
TUI have already built a golf course, a three-star hotel and several plush apartments, with plans for four and five-star hotels, villas, shops and restaurants on the way. Since the developing began in 2007, farmhouses and terraced houses perched on the hillside have been restored strictly in keeping with their heritage, yet their interiors are equipped with state-of-the-art appliances and luxuries in keeping with 21st century living. With prices ranging from €230/£199K to over €1.2m/£1m, there is scope for all kinds of investors to buy up their dream holiday homes in Italy.
Castelfalfi is an ideal base from which to visit Florence, just over an hour’s drive away, and Pisa, just under an hour away. Alternatively, you might prefer to spend most of your Tuscan time simply relaxing, visiting local villages and enjoying the region’s sumptuous salamis, beans and local wines. As Stefan Neuhaus, Catelfalfi’s German CEO, says: “The region has always been synonymous with a life in Italy that many people dream of.” Castelfalfi is here for tourists to live the Italian dream where everything is bello, from the sunshine and the food, to the wine and the people.
Castelfalfi is just 45 minutes drive from Pisa Airport and has direct flights from London Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted. Budget flights also come in from Bristol, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Glasgow Prestwick, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
If you’re one of the British homebuyers mentioned in this article, have you considered covering your home abroad?