Country houses for sale

Beyond the Costa Smeralda

Changes are afoot in Sardinia. Once the preserve of sea-starved mainland Italians, the island, aided by the recent rise in low-cost flights connecting it to Britain, Germany and France, is now attracting an increasing number of international buyers. Britons in particular have made their mark over the course of last year, according to Tecnocasa estate agents.

Although foreign interest initially clustered around Sardinia’s north-eastern corner, the Costa Smeralda?a playground of the rich and famous and, according to the latest Knight Frank’s Annual Wealth Report, the world’s second most expensive rural destination at just under ?24,000 (about £16,295) per square metre?buyers are now descending towards the equally beautiful but significantly cheaper south.

Soft golden beaches fringed with pine trees and eucalyptus, thickets of vivid pink and pale white oleanders, and granite outcrops plunging straight into a cobalt sea have brought to international attention places such as Villasimius and Costa Rey, on the jagged south-eastern shore, and Chia and pretty Pula, on the sandy south-western one.

It helps that all four villages are within one hour and a 15- minute drive from Cagliari airport, that restrictive conservation rules protect coastlines throughout the island, and that property prices, although hardly cheap, are still competitive with much of Italy, Spain and France.

According to Tecnocasa, prices in Chia range between ?1,900 and ?5,000 (about £1,290 to £3,395) per square metre, while in Villasimius they are between ?1,000 and ?4,500 (about £679 to £3,055). Costa Rey is cheaper at ?1,200 to ?2,200 (about £815 to £1,494), and Pula, which is very popular with British buyers, costs between ?1,300 and ?2,800 (about £883 to £1,901) per square metre.

The only snag is that Sardinian legislation is somewhat unfriendly towards non-resident buyers?if they purchase a house set within three km of the beach, they have to pay an annual tax of ?8 to ?16 (about £5.40 and £11) per square metre, and, if they resell it after five years or more, they have to cough up a 20% capital gains tax (both residents and non residents reselling within five years pay Italy’s national CGT).

However, Italy’s national Government challenged Sardinia’s local Government over these measures last summer, and the island is rife with speculation that the law may be amended or repealed. If this happens, expect Sardinian property prices to surge in the very near future.

Hilltop of Carbonara Cape, Villasimius

Perched at the top of the scenic Carbonara Cape, this newly finished five-bedroom villa has far-reaching views of the sea from nearly every corner. Rooms open onto large terraces that have been specifically designed to combine privacy and vistas?perfect to enjoy breakfast in the morning and a cocktail in the evening. The villa comes with about 3.5 acres and a swimming pool, but the beach is just 5km away. The asking price is £656,000 through Savills (020-7016 3740).

Torre delle Stelle, between Cagliari and Villasimius

A new Sardinian law forbids building new properties fewer than 2km from the coastline, so interest in pre-existing seaside homes is soaring. Savills are handling the sale of one such apartment in Torre delle Stelle, on Sardinia’s south-eastern shore. Set right above the water and next to the resort’s sandy beach, it has four bedrooms, appealing features, including hand carved solid oak doors and a private pool, and great sea views. The apartment, which is serviced and has private access, is on the market for £537,212 (020-7016 3740).

Villa Azzurra, Perla Marina, Pula

Awash in Mediterranean colours? ochre façade, pale and vivid blue walls, burnt amber flooring?Villa Azzurra is the perfect seaside home. Set in a lush garden less than 200m away from a residents-only beach, it has plenty of outdoor living areas for dining and relaxation. It comes complete with furniture, appliances, air conditioning and sauna at ?1.2m (about £814,794) through Precious Villas (0870 899 8023).

Villa Contessa, Stella Marina, Pula

Five-bedroom Villa Contessa is a former wood guard’s house, which has now been turned into a comfortable home full of character. It is arranged in traditional Sardinian style around a tiled courtyard with a water well. Inside, it retains many original features, including wooden ceilings, period walls and an old wood-fired oven. The asking price is ?1.5m (about £1m) through Precious Villas (0870 899 8023).

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Cappuccini Island, Costa Smeralda

Hideaways hardly get more exclusive than this private island off the Porto Cervo shore. Surrounded by an azure sea, gently sloping Cappuccini has a large villa composed of several three-bedroom domes, which is set in natural gardens near a quay with berthing for several boats. The asking price is predictably sky high?£23.5m through Savills (020-7016 3740).