Although the Italian property market has seen a burgeoning of studies and research in recent years, coming from as diverse quarters as estate agent groups and the local equivalent of the Land Registry, that idiosyncratic niche that is made up by second home sales to foreign buyers had remained hitherto elusive. It was virtually impossible to separate data about transactions involving foreign buyers from the rest, so all the news about this property segment came from agents’ anecdotal evidence.

* Properties for sale in Italy

Now however, Italy magazine, a magazine for Italophiles, has taken the first snapshot of the foreigner-driven housing market in the country thanks to its property index, which tracks the advertisements placed on Italymag.co.uk.

There is no doubt that foreign demand for Italian homes differs from the homegrown one. While Italians buy main homes in the cities and second homes by the sea or the ski slopes, foreigners — with the possible exception of Russians, whose taste is very similar to that of Italians — prefer farmhouses, rustici or managed apartments in the countryside, or panoramic townhouses in quiet rural villages.

But where do British, Americans, Germans and Scandinavians buy in Italy? And how much do they spend?

The picture that emerges by analysing the more than 11,000 property ads currently live on Italymag.co.uk is a mix of the expected and the thoroughly surprising.

While Tuscany has the lion’s share of the adverts, accounting for nearly one fifth of the total, Abruzzo comes across as the new destination of choice. The small central region beats better known locations such as Umbria to gain second place in the popularity ranking, with 19.1% of all properties advertised.

The most plausible reason for this success is the moderate price of Abruzzese property. Restored country villas, period townhouses, large farmhouses in need of renovation and flats in fashionable locations cost an average €837,268 in Tuscany — and just €227,175 in Abruzzo. And differently from other affordable Italian regions, such as Calabria or Puglia, the Abruzzo countryside, though wilder, does recall the Tuscan hills.

Third in the pecking order are Le Marche, another region boasting lush countryside, medieval villages and pretty vernacular architecture at affordable prices. Homes here cost an average €332,199—less than half than what they command in Tuscany.  But even well known, expensive
Umbria, fourth in the ad volume rankings, is substantially cheaper than its more famous northern neighbour. Average prices here are €637,129, with which you can buy restored villas and farmhouses, or really large country homes in need of renovation.

The cheapest buys, however, are in Basilicata, a small region in the South of Italy, where farmhouses and rustici command an average €141,430.23. Even the most expensive property for sale here—a small estate with four hectares, two country homes and a commercial building—only costs €800,000 (some €37,000 less than the average Tuscan house).

But where are Italy’s most expensive homes? In Tuscany of course, but also in Sicily (a villa in Taormina costs a whopping €20m) and, mostof all, in Campania. A country home in Capri, complete with gardens, sea views and helipad, commands a staggering €35m.

Top ten regions by ad volume
1.    Tuscany 19.8%
2.    Abruzzo 19.1%
3.    Marche 9.9%
4.    Umbria 9.4%
5.    Puglia 7.5%
6.    Piedmont 6.3%
7.    Lombardy 5.5%
8.    Calabria 4.4%
9.    Liguria 3.0%
10.   Sicily 2.9%

Top five regions by average price

1.    Tuscany, € 837,267.88
2.    Veneto € 748,410.53
3.    Lazio € 735,411.08
4.    Sicily € 705,361.88
5.    Trentino Alto Adige € 699,166.67

Note: Friuli Venezia Giulia has higher average prices than Tuscany buthas not been included in the ranking as the number of properties advertised is too low to be statistically significant

Five most affordable regions by average price

1.    Basilicata € 141,430.23
2.    Calabria € 210,329.48
3.    Abruzzo € 227,174.67
4.    Puglia € 234,166.92
5.    Molise € 235,648.65

Note: the Aosta valley has lower average prices than Calabria but hasnot been included in the ranking as the number of properties advertised is too low to be statistically significant

* Properties for sale in Italy