Sea View House in Sicily’s Madonie Hills, with Unmatchable Views and Limited Renovation Demands
With an unbeatable sea view from the very edge of the little hilltop village where it stands, Casa Franca offers extraordinary value to a buyer looking to renovate a house in Sicily.
The price tag is almost unbelievably low – we’re almost in the territory of the famous “€1 house in Sicily” offers, but without any of the strings attached which create artificial pressures on the cost and timetable of your renovation work.
Moreover, Casa Franca is in an overall shape much better than most of those properties. The skeleton in good structural condition, with no work to be done on the walls or roof. The internal ceilings are where renovation work will be required as the internal iron structure of each needs to be restored. The plumbing and wiring will also need some attention, but beyond this the only efforts needed to turn this two-bedroom property into a peaceful summer house or stunning year-round residence will be painting and decorating.
We think that an investment of just €50,000 above purchase price will return this sea view home in Sicily to its full potential. Keep reading to find out just how exciting a prospect that is.
Casa Franca is a 70m2, two storey house on a terrace, although it actually occupies the first and second floors of the building. It’s reached by means of a private staircase from street level, curving up and around a ground floor which is owned by a neighbour. This might seem a strange arrangement to someone new to real estate in Sicily, but in reality it’s far from uncommon, parts of buildings having been passed between neighbours over the centuries.
Once you arrive on the landing of the first floor, a pair of bedrooms open to either side of the property. On the street side is a smaller guest room of around 10m2, with a little Juliet balcony overlooking the quiet road outside. To the rear, northern side of the house, however, is a really wonderful master bedroom, nearly 20m2, with a sea view panorama that floods the room with light and would be a delight to wake up to, day after day. Here, again, is a small Juliet balcony, meaning that the windows are full-length to make the most of that fresh sea air and astonishing view.
You’ll see from our photos and video that a lot of work is going to be needed on the walls and finishings, besides the attention to the ceilings which we mentioned above. One element that you will certainly want to keep, however, are the beautiful traditional floor tiles, in locally produced ceramics with subtle patterns which you can’t fail to recognise as being Sicilian. If you want to keep your new sea view house in Sicily in touch with its cultural roots, these floors are the perfect design touch to spruce up and proudly feature.
Continuing upstairs you reach a pair of rooms which have been combined in an unexpectedly modern fashion to create a single kitchen-cum-living room. This flexible space is really large, over 20m2, and twin balconies to the front and rear mean that light and breeze flow through the entire room. For hot sunny days in the long Sicilian summer, this is the perfect living area. There is even a balcony to the front, facing south and overhanging the quiet street below, which is big enough to enjoy a bite of breakfast or an afternoon coffee in the sun.
The kitchen will need to be installed, but there are some nice white tiles which could certainly be reused to create a clean, modern canvas around your food preparation area. You will certainly want to make the double window the focal point of the living area, as the views from this floor are even more perfect than those in the master bedroom.
By now we are above the height of the only buildings opposite, meaning that the sea-view panorama is uninterrupted. On a clear day you can easily take in fifteen kilometres of Tyrrhenian coastline at a single glance, with the view stretching right out to the volcanic archipelago that is the Aeolian islands, fifty kilometres to the north east. It’s fair to say that the rare cloudy day shown in our video of the property is only going to make the reality take your breath away even more dramatically. This is the kind of property you fall in love with at first sight.
Casa Franca is completed by a narrow bathroom adjacent to the living room, and a long, low storage space in the loft, directly under the roof. Ceilings elsewhere are a standard height of 2.85m – a little lower in the bathroom. There are connections to the municipal water, electricity and gas mains, and a meter in place for the gas supply. The exterior is in a fair condition, with a bit of work eventually to be done for appearance’s sake, but no immediate urgency.
The town of Pollina is a small community of under three thousand residents, which we profiled in detail a couple of years ago. It has been apparent to us for a while that the views, location and amenities of this fortified Medieval town make it one of the best investment opportunities in Sicily. While the community is still definitively local in character, with most of the neighbouring property having remained in the same families for hundreds of years, several international buyers have purchased houses here in recent years, a testament to this belief.
The views are breathtaking. Just 3km separates Pollina from the sea as the crow flies, but the land drops a full 700m before reaching the emerald waters of the Tyrrhenian. This steep hillside plays out beneath you in almost every direction, a carpet of pasture, woodland, olive groves and vineyards. Even inland, as the peaks of the Madonie National Park rise dramatically in front of you, up to a maximum of 2000m at the full height of the snow-capped Pizzo Cane, the terrain falls and rises in all directions, offering a beautiful vista from every corner of Pollina.
The town is steeped in tradition, having been founded (as Apollonia) by the Greeks in the fourth century BC. Fans of twentieth century cinema will remember the face of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone as he was “hit by the thunderbolt” at the sight of his own Sicilian Apollonia – we should warn you that this spectacular region may provoke the same intensity of feeling in you! Early modern Pollina grew up around the castle of Ventimiglia in the fourteenth century AD, and a tower of the fortress still looms over the village to this day, from the top of the monumental open-air theatre which hosts performances with a jaw-dropping natural backdrop throughout the summer.
Needless to say, with Casa Franca standing between the last two streets of the village, there is no possibility of having your unbroken sea view interrupted in the future – there simply isn’t space. The position is also advantageous for car parking (a vehicle is really essential up here), just around the corner from the easiest street on which to find a space – the one which encircles the village before sloping down towards the sea.
As this road snakes down, it brings you to the lower half of the municipality of Pollina – a seafront community known as Finale di Pollina. Here you will find more in the way of supermarkets and infrastructure than are available at the top of the hill, including sports facilities and an indoor theatre, although of course you can buy everything you need for day-to-day life from the local butchers, bakers and grocers within a couple of minutes from your front door.
Along the coast, less than a half hour drive from Pollina, is the fabulous beach paradise of Cefalù, one of Sicily’s most popular vacation spots. The coastal highway runs from Messina in the east, gateway to the Italian peninsula, to Palermo in the west, where you can find the nearest international airport as well as an entire metropolis teeming with cultural, creative and culinary delights.
Once the necessary structural improvements have been made to Casa Franca, its clean lines and superb open living space will allow you tremendous freedom to put your own design on the property. In truth, the natural beauty of the north side is so dramatic and resplendent that a minimal, unobtrusive decoration and furnishing is all that’s needed to perfectly offset that miraculous view.
It would be worth budgeting for new windows and doors, in order to improve the energy efficiency of the property. In the medium term you might also want to budget a little to freshen up the north fascia, although as of course this is the one side of the property which you personally will never find yourself looking at, you may not consider this an urgent investment!
Our broad budget of €50,000 includes the strengthening of the ironwork in the ceilings, plus new electrics and plumbing. It also allows for you to add a heating and cooling system in order to make the property comfortable for year-round living, as well as painting and decoration.
Taking into account the location, the space and the exceptional views, we would struggle to find a better finished home for this kind of total investment, anywhere in Sicily.