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Luxe at Length

Living The Fairy Tale…

Posted by: Sonali Velinker Kamat on December 15, 2014

As a general rule of thumb, owning a castle implies being born with royal lineage. From the Percy-family-owned Alnwick Castle in Northumberland (which served as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films) to the Loire Valley’s Chateaud’Usse, that is currently inhabited by the Seventh Duke of Blacas, castles across the globe are a mirror of history and an unmistakable symbol of power. However, they’re not all bastions of blue-bloods. High maintenance costs and the increasing tax burden on properties have convinced many owners, whose properties have often been in the family for generations, to evaluate sales opportunities. And so the likes of Hollywood star Nicolas Cage have snapped up castles for use as private residences — to literally live a fairy-tale life.

Sadly for Nicolas Cage, his days as the king of the castle were short-lived. Debts forced the actor to sell the property in 2009, with insiders suggesting that his Midford Castle in Somerset was offloaded at a loss; after being purchased for close to £5 million. Cage’s experience aside, not all investments in fairy-tale real estate are a bad idea. Can you really put a price tag on living like royalty — towering turrets and all?

For those who can afford the fairy-tale life, dozens of private castles are up for sale throughout Italy today. From £950 to £7,000 per square metre, these numbers seem of little consequence when one has the money, coupled with a burning desire to own a piece of history. These are properties of great charm and value — some are in perfect condition and being used as tourist accommodation or functional farms. Lionard Luxury Real Estate CEO Dimitri Corti confirms that his company alone has 37 castles listed for sale on their website (www.lionard.com), with over 70 such properties available throughout Italy in their portfolio.

“For foreign clients, the prices are affordable, especially when compared to the cost of other cities in the world: for an apartment measuring 150 square metres in London’s Mayfair district, you would need €6 million; the same figure in New York will get you 130 square metres in Central Park,” says Corti, adding, “On the other hand, in our experience, purchasing a property of great value like a castle or a historic villa always translates into an opportunity and gives an economic boost to the local area.”

From Corti’s offerings, he suggests that the best value properties to purchase are in Piedmont. “For one of the most eye-catching castles in the Monferratoarea, surrounded by a park with age-old trees, 5,962 square metres of perfectly-restored indoor space and a sixteenth century guesthouse, you would need about €7 million — just over €1,000 per square metre.”

Opportunities in the same price range can also be found in other Italian regions: from Umbria to Emilia Romagna, from Lazio to Liguria, through to Tuscany, one of the most popular areas for this type of property. That is the case for the nineteenth-century Castello di Acquabella, in the beautiful setting of the Vallombrosa Nature Reserve, near the Abbey of the same name, restored to perfection, with a total of about 5,000 square metres of indoor space. On the coast, between Livorno and Castiglioncello, an early twentieth-century castle with breath-taking sea views is for sale, with 700 square metres of indoor space over four floors and two crenelated towers. Outside, a lush park with palm trees, oaks, age-old pines and exotic plants makes for a spectacular sight.

For those with more on hand to spend, for between €10 and €20 million, fairy-tale castles in the Siena and Florence Chianti region are up for sale. The impressive Castello di Tavolese is available through Lionard Luxury Real Estate. This historic property once belonged to the illustrious Farinata degli Uberti family and offers 7,676 square metres of indoor space and 62 hectares of parkland, in addition to other buildings including a church and several farmhouses.

While Eva Longoria and Tony Parker or Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise may have chosen castles as the backdrop for their fairy-tale weddings (ironically neither marriage survived!), playing castle-owners on a daily basis has got to trump any other investment in real estate. If you really want to live ‘The LUXE’ life, ignore the maintenance for a moment and just imagine the bragging rights!