Venice in Italy is one of the world’s most enchanting cities thanks to the almost fairytale allure of landmarks such as St Mark’s Basilica and Square, the Palazzo Ducale, the Grand Canal and the Bridge of Sighs.
This is understandably one of the most desirable places in which to own a property in Italy. Yet with prices of apartments in St Mark’s Square, for instance, routinely changing hands for US$9.75million, many investors have shied away from buying real estate in Venice. As have many locals, in truth, and since the 1950s the city’s population has shrunk by two-thirds to its present 60,000.
Yet there are highly affordable and profitable investment opportunities to be snapped up here – if you look in the right parts of the city. One such area is Dorsoduro, one of Venice’s six sestieri (districts) and a short vaporetto boat ride from St Mark’s Square. Here, just US$360,000 can buy a small, well-appointed apartment. Dorsoduro lacks nothing in upmarket chic as it is home to the Accademia art gallery, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and a recently opened Punta della Dogana Museum, a major collection of contemporary art on the site of an old 17th century customs house.
Yet it is also a lively, vibrant area – the Ca’ Foscari University is here – and after dark Dorsoduro’s bars and cafés form the centre of Venice’s nightlife. To get more bang for your investment buck, head for the even more affordable Castello, Venice’s largest district, which lies just to the east of St Mark’s Square but is slightly off the well-trodden tourist trail. Here, expect to pay around US$415,000 for a two-bedroom apartment of around 75-80sq m.
The rental yield of property in Venice remains huge. Some 20 million visitors a year beat a path to the city, for its historic architectural splendour as well as popular events such as the carnival in February/March; the Biennale arts festival in summer and autumn; and the Venice Film Festival in August/September. It means there is demand for rental properties almost all year round. In high season, a one-bedroom apartment can fetch from US$1,700 a week, a two-bedroom property around US$2,600 and the most prestigious properties US$8,000-plus.
Alternatively, look farther afield to the outlying isles among the 118 that make up the Venetian archipelago. In Burano, six miles outside the city centre, US$625,000 can secure a house rather than just an apartment. The nearby islands of Tellestrina Chioggia and Torcello are also worth a look. Bear in mind that rental yield will fall the further away from the centre of Venice in which you are.
Another popular option is to look beyond Venice and to the historic towns and cities within the Veneto region, some 45 minutes away by train. They include Verona, one of Veneto’s principal tourist and cultural destinations; Vicenza, a Unesco World Heritage Site; Padova, a lively, attractive and historic university city; and Treviso, renowned for its wine and cuisine. In Treviso and Vicenza, expect to pay around US$350,000 for a two-bedroom town centre apartment.
Padova is possibly the priciest of these towns and an 80sq m two-bedroom apartment will frequently come with a price tag of around US$550,000. Obviously the price falls considerably if you are prepared to take on a restoration project. Explore the surrounding countryside, where in places such as the spa resort of Abano Terme US$350,000 can stretch to a spacious three-bedroom home.