Tuscany goes top
It’s arrivederci to rustic charm, as villa owners upgrade to attract wealthy holiday makers who are demanding all mod cons and designer kitchens.
The art, the architecture, the food, the wine, the countryside, the sunshine: the allure of Tuscany may be timeless, but the region is not immune to trends, and those who own a home there might find themselves having to catch up if they want to make the best of the holiday rental market.
Rustic charm has had its day, and a cosy family retreat in simple country style is now dismissed as rather agriturismo. In its place has come a new sophistication, says Simon Ball, who runs holiday lets for British owners through his company, Tuscany Now & More. “Over the past five or six years, the finish has become much higher. To get a decent rental income, owners need to upscale -they’ve got no choice. The middle classes are not spending, but the rich are travelling more than ever.
“The qualities needed are far higher and more complex than 10 years ago. There is a demand for detail. Bathrooms have to be spacious, with top-end designer bathtubs and sinks. And just spending the money is not enough. You have to have style. Each property needs to be a signature house.”
For the new market, which he says can earn owners up to €10,000 (£8,700) a week in high season. This helps cover the costs of maintaining a Tuscan pad, which are considerable even before you factor in hiring staff to look after the place.
It seems you can never be too grand to let your residence. Ball is having a busy winter helping clients upgrade their properties for the coming season, and among those who have sought his help are Alessandra and Lorenzo Niccolini, the marchesa and marchese of Camugliano.Their estate lies between Ponsacco and Capannoli, south of the Fi-Pi-Li, the infamous motorway that links Florence to Pisa and Livorno. It has been in the family since an ancestor bought it from the Medici in 1637 and created a magnificent Renaissance villa from the single tower that stood at the centre of the land.