Deciding to move to Italy with her Italian husband and three children, Tami Schrader chose Florence for her international school. The family moved from London last July and is renting in the Gavinana district until its renovation project is complete: a former orangery near the city walls in Porta Romana.
“The Florence International School was the main factor, but we liked the small, compact city with its cosmopolitan community,” says the East Coast American who used to teach the International Baccalaureate studies program in the UK. “The center of Florence is too touristy, it’s too hot in the summer and it lacks green spaces, we wanted the scope to have a big garden and a swimming pool.”
Not all Tuscan shoppers feel the same way. The demand for housing in the historic center of Florence has remained high since the start of the pandemic, especially in the area south of the Duomo, where the big attractions are clustered around Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, the Italy’s most visited cultural attraction in 2021, and the ancient Ponte Vecchio which seems to be permanently jammed with tourists.
In July, a property there sold for just over €9 million at, according to its sales agents, Knight Frank, the highest price per square meter ever recorded in Florence: €21,428. The property, a 420m2 penthouse, is located in Palazzo Portinari Salviati, a prestigious family home converted into high-end apartments and hotel suites on Via del Corso, overlooking the dome of Brunelleschi’s cathedral.
The most expensive houses in Florence typically sell for around €10,000 per square meter, but the average figure in the second quarter of 2021 was between €3,500 and €4,600 per square meter, according to the Agenzia della Entrate, the Italian tax office. The total number of sales in Florence, at 5,433, was 9.4% higher in 2021 than in 2019, according to OMI, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Knight Frank’s Bill Thomson says the buyer of the penthouse was motivated by taxes, specifically the €100,000 per year flat tax on foreign income for new residents. “Tax-driven buyers will often start in Milan or Rome because that’s where many of their tax advisors or notaries are located, but some end up in Florence when they see the lifestyle it offers.”
An American couple recently bought a three-bedroom pied-à-terre in a converted palazzo in Borgo Pinti for €3 million after frequent visits to the city. The strength of the US dollar has been a factor in drawing more American buyers to Florence, says Thomson, noting that high-end buyers “never seem particularly affected” by rising mortgage rates across the continent. He has “another pair of €5m+ deals” currently in the works.
It is too early to tell whether international buyers will be affected by the policies of Italy’s new right-wing government, although local buyers may benefit from promised tax cuts and higher state wages.
During the 2020 travel restrictions, when many Airbnb apartments went empty, some owners in Florence sold them, Thomson says. According to short-term rental analyst AirDNA, in the historic center, the number of rental listings in August was still 36% lower than in August 2019, although his figures show that demand has recovered.
a series of floors historical Center with price reductions can be found at idealista.it. “Sales below 1.5 million euros have slowed down due to the fall in tourism [last year] and its impact on some Airbnb owners had a negative impact on the market, but also because take-home pay is low in Italy,” says Thomson.
As with Venice, there have been discussions about a new local law to limit short-term leases to 90 days per year and two properties per owner. “There is a risk that profit-reliant buyers will be trapped if this is introduced,” he says.
Families looking for space will look south of the Arno towards Porta Romana, the entrance to the walled city of ancient Florence, Via San Leonardo and Piazzale Michelangelo, on a hill with sweeping views of the city. It’s possible to find villas, rather than apartments, in these areas: expect to pay around €4,000 per square meter if they need to be renovated, says Diletta Giorgolo Spinola of Sotheby’s International Realty.
The old narrow streets behind the city walls in Pian dei Giullari, as well as Bagno a Ripoli and Poggio Imperiale, are convenient for families with children at the International School of Florence, where the number of students has increased by 10 percent since 2019. Schrader only put two of his children into school this year; she is waiting for a place for the third, who has had to go to another school.
She describes her search for properties as “difficult”. Stand-alone homes with land tend to sell and rent quickly through discreet networks, says Jeremy Onslow-Macaulay of agent Casa & Country.
“It is difficult to find them. We had more inquiries about a three-bedroom detached house on Via San Leonardo this year than about any other property – it sold for just under €2m.”
Franco-American Alexander Zeleniuch has been renting in Porta Romana since moving to the city in July 2020 with his Ditta Artigianale artisan coffee company. He will move into a new two-bedroom flat that he has bought at Manifattura Tabacchi, in the northwest of the city.
The former tobacco factory designed in the 1930s by Pier Luigi Nervi, who helped design Milan’s Pirelli Tower, is the city’s largest regeneration project and includes the Polimoda fashion school (chaired by Ferruccio Ferragamo, son de Salvatore), artists’ workshops, a theater and a hotel.
Sold through the Savills estate agency, the two-bedroom flats start at €570,000, at €4,000-€6,000 per square metre. Zeleniuch appreciates that she is paying a premium. In Novoli, the neighboring district, the average price is €3,600 per m2.
“I’m hanging around downtown for work, so I wanted to live somewhere a bit further away and quieter to retire,” he says. “It’s easy to cycle to the center, although too far to walk.” A new streetcar line, due to arrive in 2025, will stop outside the development, better connecting it to downtown.
After 34 years in the city, arriving as an art school graduate, Jane Harman and her partner finally moved downtown to an old stone villa and studio 25 minutes east in Pelago. Her job as a furniture restorer brings her back to town every week or so.
“I sold our little house near the Artemio Franchi [football] very fast stadium earlier this year; we were thinking of moving but the pandemic pushed us faster,” says Jane, from Glasgow. “Now we have the best of both worlds, peace and quiet but without excessive isolation. Downtown tourism feels like it has picked up this year.”
In 2021, the median price of a property in Florence was €2,772 per square metre, up 0.4% from €2,761 in 2019, according to OMI, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Florence is cheaper than the other big Italian cities. According to Knight Frank, €1 million buys 111 m2 of prime property in Florence, compared to 87 in Rome, 80 in Milan and 56 in Venice.
The purchase tax on resale properties is 2 percent of book value for primary homes and 9 percent for second homes; the realtor’s commission is 3 percent for both the buyer and the seller.
What you can buy. . .
Apartment, San Marco, €850,000
A 158 m2 apartment a few steps from the Sant’Ambrogio market and Piazza del Duomo. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment has 4.8m high ceilings, frescoes, parquet floors and views of the Duomo from the French windows in the living room. for sale with frank knight.
Apartment, San Marco, €1.3M
A three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment overlooking the Giardino Della Gherardesca, in central Florence. The property, which measures 240 square meters, has undergone an extensive renovation and features frescoes and mosaic floors. listing with house and field.
Apartment, Piazza d’Azeglio, €2.7 million
One of 10 newly developed apartments located in a 19th century palace, this property includes three bedrooms and five marble bathrooms. A short distance from the Sant’Ambrogio market, its completion is scheduled for December. Available through frank knight.