Words by Carla Passino

Vast stretches of woodland, a lively property market and affordable prices conspire to make tiny Molise an interesting proposition for second home buyers

Ask a foreigner to point to Molise on a map, and chances are they won’t know where it is (and some Italians won’t either). After all, it is Italy’s second smallest region (after Valle d’Aosta) both by area and by population size. But second home buyers would do well to brush up on Italian geography and keep an eye on tiny Molise because it has some of the most affordable property prices in Italy and a lively market that continues to grow.
Set at the crossroads between central and southern Italy, Molise is a wild, sparsely populated land of towering mountains and clay hills, which reach down to a small stretch of Adriatic coastline. A dense canopy of beech, ash, fir and pine trees casts its shade on a mushroom- and truffle-rich undergrowth peppered with fresh springs. Deep dark caves split the oak and fir-studded sides of the Matese massif while on the jagged Mainarde mountains, wind and water have carved deep gorges and canyons, and the woods are home to wolves and brown bear. The hills are tamer, with oak woods and lush meadows, or planted with silvery olive trees, almond trees and neat rows of grapevines.
Isolated for centuries, Molise can now be reached in under two hours from the international airport in Pescara and just over two hours from the international airport in Naples. This historic seclusion is reflected in property prices that are lower than in many other Italian regions. With a few exceptions, property values across the region are between 0.3% (or less) and 0.7% of the Italian national average, according to data from the Agenzia del Territorio, Italy’s equivalent of the Land Registry.
Even better, outside the provincial capital of Isernia, the Molise market remains quite active. The Agenzia del Territorio reports a 4.4% increase in residential sale volumes across the region, a 3.4% rise in the regional capital, Campobasso, an 8.9% rise in the comuni of the Campobasso province, and a 0.8% increase for the comuni in the Isernia province. The ratio between sales and supply is a healthy 2.2% in the cities and in the provinces 1.8%.
But what makes Molise really appealing is that you can still find village houses for sale for less than €30,000, and whole castles for less than what you’d pay for a flat in Rome. Here are two interesting properties to give you a feel for what is available for sale there.

Homes in Italy are selling a stone house in the small village of Castelbottaccio, among verdant hills crossed by the Biferno river, one and ¾ hours from Pescara airport. Laid across two levels, it has a living room with stone fireplace downstairs, and two bedrooms upstairs. A balcony makes the most of the views over the surrounding countryside. The house, which also comes with a stone cellar, requires restoration work—the bathroom, kitchen and electrics, though in working order, need upgrading, and one of the ceilings needs to be repaired—but, says selling agent Mark Slaviero, “it is a bargain property and a great little project. It has great character and there are amenities and parking close by. It is a great low-cost pied-a-terre in Italy.” The asking price is €25,000 (+44 (0)845 229 7057, www.homesinitaly.co.uk).

Also in Castelbottaccio: a stone house in need of full renovation, for as little as €5,800 (www.immobiliarecaserio.com).

At the opposite end of the price scale, the Castello d’Angiò is perched on a rocky outcrop above a small village between Isernia and Campobasso. Originally built in the early Middle Ages, it was restyled by the Aragonese in the 16th century and given three huge towers. Two hundred or so years later, the Centomani family, who owned it, turned the castle into a stately home by filling the moat, lowering the towers and walling up the torture chambers. The main entrance, which breaks up the thick walls, gives access to a courtyard around which are laid out the ground floor rooms, which once were the castle cellars, sheds and store rooms. The main rooms are situated upstairs in what was the piano nobile. The salon that takes up one of the towers is especially beautiful. The castle appears to be in good structural condition and retains some interesting features, such as terracotta floors and the original wooden doors, but requires renovation. Once restored, it would lend itself to becoming a luxury hotel or a grand family home. The asking price is €1.8m through Casaitalia International (+39 0743 220122, www.casait.it).
If your taste doesn’t quite run to castles, you can buy a large villa in Oratino for just €270,000 (www.grimaldi.net).