Words by Carla Passino

Bucking the national trend, property sales went up 20% in the affluent, cultured Reggio Emilia province, the birthplace of the Italian flag

There is one happy property island in Italy, a place where the architecture is fascinating, culture is dynamic and the market is still roaring like a lion. It is the lush, fat, rich province of Reggio nell’ Emilia, in the heart of Emilia Romagna.
Reggio, as it is commonly called locally, is a smallish city with a long history—a military station in Roman times, it later became an independent municipality before passing into the hands of the House of Este, which kept it for more than two hundred years.
The Este domination ended in an insurrection (aided by Napoleon) which saw the birth of a small Republic, and, with it, the Tricolore, the green, white and red flag that would later be adopted by the rest of Italy.
The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque eras bequeathed churches and palazzos to the city, such as the grandiose Basilica di San Prospero, with an ornate 17th century façade fronting a 15th century body, or the tall, austere Torre del Bordello, which once housed the town’s public archive despite being, somewhat surprisingly, named after a whorehouse that stood nearby.
The 19th century saw many ancient buildings, such as the Palazzo Spalletti Trivelli, renovated into the elegant style of the time, with magnificent frescoes and monumental ballrooms hiding behind clean, simple facades, while the twenty-first century has brought the gigantic, candid, arching bridges by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Over the years, the Reggio province was also a cultural powerhouse, the birthplace of poets such as Ludovico Ariosto and Matteo Maria Boiardo, and painters such as Correggio, and it is still home to a myriad initiatives, including the Biennale del Paessaggio, a range of exhibitions and shows celebrating the Reggiano landscape and the six month long Ori della Terra Reggiana, a festival of local traditions involving 22 municipalities and plenty of pumpkin, wine and mortadella tastings. Around the towns, the Reggio countryside is a sinuous stretch of rolling hills covered with pasture and peppered with pretty villages, crenellated castles and cows—this is after all Italy’s dairy capital, which has given the country its best-loved cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano.
And for parents with children, Reggio and its province have another valuable attraction—some of the world’s best pre-and primary schools, based on an educational approach that puts children in control of their learning. Oh, and to favour the uptake of new technologies, the city provides a free wi-fi network to both residents and visitors in twenty three locations throughout the centre.
What makes it interesting for property buyers, however, is the news that both Reggio city and the surrounding province have seen sales volumes increase by 20% or more in the last six months—at the time when, in the rest of Italy, the market is contracting. This trend-bucking activity, recorded by the Agenzia del Territorio, Italy’s equivalent of the Land Registry, comes after the province saw a drop in transaction volumes at the end of 2007.
Prices were substantially stable between 2007 and 2006 (2008 figures are not yet available) but, as you would expect in an affluent provincia, they are a bit higher than the Italian average. Homes in Reggio city centre cost in the region of €1,700 to €3,210 per square metre, according to the Agenzia del Territorio, while village houses in pretty borghi such as Correggio or Scandiano cost in the region of €1,470 to €2,140. Rural homes are cheaper at an average of €680-€980 per square metre.
And for those who are interested in more than just price trends, the Reggio province is also a pioneer in both low-energy and affordable housing. All the planning permissions for new builds requested this year in the area are for energy-efficient homes, which, if approved, will also be able to obtain a special Ecoabita green certificate, issued by the local authorities.
And the Reggio town council is granting financial help of up to €400 per square metre to property owners who renovate historic houses in the city centre and rent them at affordable rates to young people for at least 10 years.

View a selection of properties for sale in or around Reggio Emilia on our database.