In shaky times, people always prefer the safety of an established market and Italy is no exception. Fashionable and elite destinations, or those that have seen a huge improvement in infrastructure are the ones gathering the greatest interest from second home buyers, according to a study by Italian estate agents association FIMAA.

Trendy seaside resorts such as Milano Marittima and Marina di Ravenna, the ever-popular Rimini, the sophisticated Cinque Terre, and the country’s most exclusive mountain resort, Cortina d’Ampezzo, have all recorded price increases of 4.3% or above between 2008 and 2007. And prices remain rock solid—and well above the €10,000 per square metre mark—in sought-after locations such as Porto Cervo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Forte dei Marmi, Capri and Portofino, where availability is scarce and celebrity buyers plentiful.

Among the traditional destinations for British buyers, Umbria and Tuscany continue to see some incoming demand. Even though he reports ‘a slightly negative movement, in that demand is slowing, particularly from the UK and the US,’ Roger Coombes of Cluttons says: ‘There are still buyers out there. People who wish to buy in Umbria and Tuscany, and have their money set aside, will come and buy.’

Within these well-loved locations, Knight Frank identifies Southern Tuscany as an area of great potential. ‘It is an emerging area, especially if the airport opens up in Siena,’ says Bill Thomson of the Florence office. ‘It is also accessible from Rome. Maremma, Castiglione della Pescaia and Punta Ala are already established with Italians, and the Argentario has always been popular.’

Interest also remains strong for the ever sought-after Lake Como and Venice,  but recently a new region has come onto the British radar—Sicily. ‘It is becoming more popular,’ says Mr Thomson. ‘The market there has traditionally been Italian and coastal, but we are now starting to see the first stages of interest inland. We are looking at selling some masserie with land about 20 minutes of the sea, which are really stunning.’

However, buyers’ preferences have definitely changed in the new climate. ‘The casa colonica with a bit of olive trees has slowed down a lot,’ explains Rima Stubbs of Knight Frank. ‘It has become more of a big decision.’ Instead, interest has shifted towards a managed environment, she says. ‘There is definitely a market for smaller, lock-up and go, easy to maintain, managed structures that you can also rent out.’