Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Find a Piece of Real Italy; Rustic, Green Umbria Is Stepping out of Tuscany's Shadow, Says Cathy Hawker

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Find a Piece of Real Italy; Rustic, Green Umbria Is Stepping out of Tuscany's Shadow, Says Cathy Hawker

Article excerpt

Byline: Cathy Hawker

THE landlocked region of Umbria in the centre of Italy is forever fated to be compared with Tuscany, its neighbour to the west. Yet with beautiful stone houses in perfect countryside, medieval hilltop villages and sheer Apennine peaks, Umbria can easily stand alone. It appeals to buyers looking for the real Italy somewhere where the neighbours probably won't speak English, but will share armfuls of lemons fresh from their trees.

Jeroen Macco, of Special Umbria, says: "The Umbrian lifestyle is less developed than that of Tuscany, more local and even greener, and its property prices are generally lower." Macco and partner Rob Landeweerd have built up a strong rental and sales company, offering homes from Lake Trasimeno south to Orvieto across both sides of the Tuscan-Umbrian border.

Through Pure International, they sell generous plots and homes from PS165,000 up to PS1.44 million, offering full project management of new-build homes and renovations of ruins. In the past seven years, they have completed 25 projects for international clients.

Houses featuring gardens with scented walls of jasmine and paths of lavender are hidden down strade bianche gravelly white roads lined with pine trees and silver olive groves. Beyond lies some of Europe's most idyllic countryside high hills and wide valleys punctuated with vines and forests. The most beautiful homes on their books are ones where they were heavily involved in renovations. Landeweerd's deft design skills mix high street brands such as Ikea and Zara Home with high-end designers Missoni is a favourite.

They employ a skilled team of carpenters and blacksmiths and use a Farrow & Ball-inspired palette of moody greys and soft blues. This, along with pale terracotta floor tiles and modern furniture custom-made in Puglia, keeps interiors refreshingly simple to ensure those wondrous views take centre stage. …

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