John Bensalhia hunts down some unusual but brilliant properties that make for homes to live in or great property and business investments, part one of a two part series. 

They (whoever “they” are) say that “A man's home is his castle”. And these days, never a truer word was spoken. While the common choice to rent or buy is the traditional two up two down house, if you have the money, then a slightly more unconventional choice of home can be yours.

With property TV programmes still hot property on the box, there has been a growing demand for quirky, unusual places to live in. In Italy, there is a wide range of these types of property. Whether to use as a comfy home, a shrewd investment for the future or as a business venture, these buildings are becoming more and more popular. So let's take a look at some of the most notable examples – please note that the buildings are listed at the time of writing in September 2015.

BRANCHING OUT

Think back to those happy days as a kid – do you remember the appeal of the tree house? A hideaway up in the branches away from those pesky adults hassling you to do your homework or chores around the home. Well, now in the grown up world, it's still possible to cling on to those good times with your very own tree house.

One of the most notable examples takes this notion to the maximum. 25Verde in Turin contains 63 apartments in one great big tree environment. The project was designed by the architect, Luciano Pia, and is five stories high. It's a triumph of innovation, architectural skill and high quality.

It's also environmentally sound. The building includes an insulation overcoat, ventilated walls, while the trees absorb the toxins from the cars driving past outside.

KING OF THE CASTLE

It's the stuff of legends. The nobleman and noblewoman living in their own castle – a building that will see many a banquet eaten, a jester playing and a suit of armour guarding the rooms.

But today, this legendary lifestyle can also be yours. Castle property is available in Italy, and makes for an extra special place to live. Take this fairytale castle in Ravenna, Emilia Romagna for example: 

This castle dates back to medieval times and really is like something out of a storybook. The picturesque building contains its fair share of piquant period details including ornate decorations, beautiful statues, arch windows and pillars. It spans three floors, boasting a generous range of rooms containing vaulted/wooden ceilings, terracotta floors and frescoes.

Surrounded by a 7000 square metre park, the castle is also close to Ravenna, the sea and Ferrara, making this a convenient and highly prized property.

A SIGHT TO SKI

Acquisition of some of these buildings can mean a sound business investment. Such a buy can lead to turning the property into a holiday home, or a series of apartments – or a hotel opportunity.

With that in mind, a purchase such as a hotel in Gressoney-Saint-Jean in the Aosta Valley (details available here) could lead to a lucrative stream of revenue in the future. The ski holiday market is huge, as millions jet off each Winter to enjoy the slopes - although, given that the only ski holiday I took in 2005 led to a sprained hand and sprained dignity means that I may not be among that number.

The less clumsy millions would no doubt enjoy a good base from which to enjoy their skiing. And a property like the one in Gressoney-Saint-Jean has lots to offer. For one thing, it's ideal for those who are serious about skiing. The slopes of the Weissmatten offer a black slope for the keen skier as well as a 25 km circular route for skiers looking to take the scenic cross country route.

The hotel is huge and stands as a fantastic base with 13 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms for all types of tourist from lone travellers through to couples through to families. The hotel allows for plenty of warmth in the Winter with an underfloor heating system and solar panels that produce hot water.

Other amenities include a reception, lounge, bar/restaurant, a games room and a basement tavern! Just the spot for a quick warmer after a hard day's skiing! It's also a good spot to come in the Summer, as the area also plays host to a number of activities and events.

HOSPITALITY HEAVEN

If you'd prefer to take on the chance to assemble your own hotel, then a good example can be found here

This opportunity allows you to take on two houses. The smaller one fits in 10 rooms while the larger one fits in 20. It's a great chance to restore this property to make it into a hotel. Whether rain, shine or snow, this property is based in an ideal location – it's 28 km from San Salvo Marina Beach and 73 km from the Capracotta ski resort. What's more, the surrounding scenery of rolling hills and countryside make this spot a tranquil, peaceful and beautiful haven. There are also 40 hectares of agricultural wood land – with the right investor, this property could become a sure-fire winner as a great hotel in the future.

Potential hotel property is also available in Concordia sulla Secchia, Emilia Romagna.

This large scale rural property is a little bit of house heaven. Renovated to a fine art in the Emilian countryside, the property is spread over four hectares with its own park, small lake, bridge, greenhouses and fruit trees. There are three real estates here: a main house on two levels and an attic room; plus two guesthouses. Other attractions for this great venture include a garage (which can fit about six cars inside), a swimming pool and a tool shed. If you're interested in having the property supplied with unique and priceless furniture, then please contact the agent for more details.

Recently used as a B&B/restaurant, a restored country house in Valmozzola, Emilia Romagna represents another great opportunity into the hospitality world.

Tastefully and carefully restored, this house combines the traditional ethos of its original style while ensuring that the new additions ensure maximum interest, comfort and convenience.

It has everything that the B&B guest could want, including designer bedrooms with en suite facilities, lounge, and dining halls. Outside, there is a swimming pool, 13 hectares of land to look around and what used to be a mill house is now a wine tasting area.

The staff have a great big designer kitchen to cook up all sorts of culinary creations, while the owner won't go short changed either. The owner's residence is located in a separate building and has its own bedrooms, bathrooms, cellar room and kitchen. Experience more details at this link.

THE STONE AGE

A unique home can be yours – the difference being that this type of house is made from stone!

A five bedroom country stone house has been restored in Verona. Located in Valpolicella, this property has been restored to a very high standard. It's about 20 km from Verona and Lake Garda and stands in an area that's famed for its wine production.

The five bedroom house includes cosy wooden beam ceilings, a beautiful garden and a terrace to enjoy your meals. There is also the potential to build a swimming pool if you so wish.

Meanwhile, a two bedroom stone house situated between Comano and Licciana Nardi is also available. 

The house itself is based in a delightful hamlet and is near to many great sights and local wonders including the Appenine Mountains, the golden sandy beaches around Lerici and the pebble coves of the Cinque Terre.

Featuring two bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining room and a kitchen, the stone house also boasts some nice finishing touches like a fireplace in the lounge and a roof terrace. You can take in the beauty of the area thanks to some spectacular views across the valley.

In the final stages of restoration is this charming stone cottage in Cilento which is bustling with an array of great special features. These include new wood windows, terracotta brick floors, an open log fireplace and skylight windows in the sitting room.

The kitchen will be fully fitted and will include cooker/hob, dishwasher and fridge freezer. Meanwhile the walled garden will include a brick patio to add that extra touch of class. The cottage is close to the village and is also near to the beach at Agropoli – just the place to go when the sun's out!

Stay tuned for part two in this series of interesting properties for sale that we have spottted around the boot.