This is an interesting article published on the “Financial Times”, 20 June 2009:
“It’s a little paradise” by Carolyn Reynier
As you travel along the Mediterranean coast from France to Italy the French Riviera becomes the Riviera dei Fiori, or “coast of flowers”. You leave behind Menton, with its famous microclimate, and arrive in the Ligurian border town of Ventimiglia in the province of Imperia. Hillsides that in France are covered in concrete are choc-a-bloc full of greenhouses here. Further west is San Remo, the city that each year sends blooms to Vienna’s Musikverein hall as decoration for its famed New Year’s Day concert.
Between these two large Riviera settlements lies Bordighera, originally a small fishing village founded towards the end of the 15th century. “It’s a little paradise,” says Christian Choquenet, a surgeon who has owned a second home in the town for 10 years. He and his wife, Anna, originally bought an apartment in the centre. Three years ago, prior to the birth of their son, Julien, moved to a new villa on a nearby hillside. “As the crow flies, we’re about 1km from the sea and a 10-minute walk to the centre. We have a lovely view of Bordighera, the Italian coast and along the French coast to the Cap d’Antibes.”
Both commute to work in Monaco – “it takes me 30 minutes to get to the hospital,” Choquenet says – and they use Nice airport when travelling abroad.
The development of tourism in this part of Italy started with the arrival of the railway in 1872, bringing French, Russian, Austrian and particularly British families. The journey from Nice-Ville station along the coast must rank as one of the loveliest in the world and Bordighera has its station right in the town centre. Between its rail tracks and its sparkling sea is the Lungomare Argentina, a promenade lined with restaurants and cafés, where an animated Thursday market takes place.
To the north is the Via Vittorio Emanuele, the town’s main street, running parallel to the Mediterranean. To the east is the small port, which is being enlarged with plans to double the number of moorings and add a hotel, restaurant, bar and shops. But it will remain “in keeping with the tradition of Bordighera”, says commune surveyor Geòmetra Davide Maglio.
Up the hillside there are houses and apartments with port and water views, including the fine 19th-century Villa Garnier, built by French architect Charles Garnier, of Paris Opéra, Monte Carlo casino and Nice Observatory fame. Then, on up through the verdant Giardini del Capo, is the centro storico (old town), where early British settlers left their mark with buildings such as the Biblioteca Civica Internazionale, the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri and the museum of western Liguria, which bears the name of its founder, one of Bordighera’s most famous English residents, the Protestant pastor Clarence Bicknell.
Yet this is very much an inhabited old town, too; the large car park on prime real estate with fine sea views is testament. Unsurprisingly, houses in the narrow lanes are subject to strict building controls and expensive. Most prospective purchasers turn to an apartment down in the town centre or a villa on the prima collina, the first hillside behind it, instead. A centrally located studio south of the Via Romana – uno monolocale – will cost about €170,000, while two-bedroom apartments go for €320,000 or more, even after recession-related price falls of about 10 per cent.
Buyers looking for a vista mare typically retreat to the prima collina, where there is still a refreshing breeze in the height of summer and any new construction is limited to three storeys, according to Maglio. Simone Ramoino at Casamare Real Estate recently sold a small villa – about 160 sq metres – to an Irish family for about €800,000. A 300 sq metres hillside villa in ample grounds will command a price of about €4m.
Michaela Posch, an interpreter from Germany, bought a newly constructed prima collina home a few years ago. “It was summer so there were concerts, Neapolitan music. We sat among the pine trees listening to the birds, the music, looking down at the little village and we said: ‘We can imagine living here.’”
Although buyers are predominantly from northern Italy, there are also foreigners – Russians, British, Irish and French – picking up second homes with a view to taking up permanent residence in the future. “Our daily bread is the Turin and Milan market [but] we have a page in Russian on our website,” Ramoino says. Last May he sold a villa in Ventimiglia to a Russian family – “300 sq metres, pool, sea view, 600 metres from the beach” – for just over €1.2m. A similar villa in Bordighera would be nearer the €2m mark, he says. Indeed, the town’s property values have shown more resilience than those in the larger cities and sales of “substantially significant value” are still going through, according to Fabia Devia at Agenzia Domus.
There is also an active market in seasonal and annual rentals. A studio in the centre of Bordighera might cost about €400-€500 per month and a two-bedroom or small three-bedroom apartment about €1,000 per month.
There are options outside Bordighera too. To the west is the coastal village of Vallecrosia; 5km to the other side, just before the Capo Nero, is charming Ospedaletti, where a new marina is being built. “When it’s finished, we’ll see an increase in prices [there],” says Ramoino.
Residents of the area say they care less about investment than the friendly, Italian seaside atmosphere. Posch says: “In Munich, I was looking out at the snow; nobody talks to you. But here – I love this. It’s really so different.”
From: The Financial Times