In Italy’s Original “Most Beautiful Village”: Two Bedroom Renovated Property for Sale in the Madonie Natural Park
The town of Gangi, on the fringes of Sicily’s fabulous Madonie Natural Park, hit the headlines in 2014 by winning the first ever competition to find the most beautiful village in Italy. No mean feat in a country famed for its unbelievably picturesque landscapes and architecture!
Taking advantage of the attention afforded by this honour, the same year, Gangi launched a much-publicised property sale campaign. Offering new residents the opportunity to buy ‘€1 houses in Sicily’, the public administration sold off disused and dilapidated property in the district at an unbelievably low price.
Our investigation into the pros and cons of the subject concluded that the sheer scale of the obligatory renovations on these tended to outweigh the advantages – we believe there is far better value for money property for sale in the Madonie. However, one undeniable benefit of the (subsequently much-imitated) scheme for the area has been the domino effect of interest in homes for sale in Sicily. It has also brought a tinge of cosmopolitan diversity to the previously monocultural hilltop town. Today Gangi is home not only to families whose roots dig many generations deep into its rocky soil, but also to a range of newer arrivals from the north of Italy, and the wider world.
Against this charming but unexpectedly liveable backdrop we find the distinctive, historic yet modern end-terrace townhouse that is Casa Marino. Built from local stone and lovingly renovated to balance historic charm with contemporary style and comfort, it is a delightful fusion of the old and new. With an attractive asking price and little work to do, it is a fabulous opportunity to buy a property in Sicily that will put you right at the heart of the island’s unmistakable culture and jaw-dropping natural beauty.
On four floors, Casa Marino forms the wedge at the end of a terrace, like a kind of Sicilian facsimile of New York’s Flatiron Building. To the front Via Vazzano is a flat, narrow street, while the cobbles of Cortile Vazzano curl upwards around the back side of the property. The heavy, unplastered masonry and narrow geometric lines give the impression of a medieval guard tower or bulwark, though a first floor balcony strikes a more modern note. The excellent condition of the silvery stone makes a very strong first impression.
Passing through a beautiful doorway into the house, you’ll note the pleasing and well-executed interplay of traditional and modern aesthetics. The enormously thick walls alternate between smooth plastering and exposed stone, as a short entrance hallway leads you past an impeccably tiled bathroom with a walk-in shower, and into the cosy living room. You certainly couldn’t wish for better natural insulation than this centuries-old fortification against the elements.
Up the first flight of stairs, the first floor follows the same layout, only with a bedroom instead of the living room. The balcony visible from the street illuminates the corridor, and an antique double wooden door has been retained at the end of the corridor for privacy and heat retention. An underfoot frieze in locally sourced tiles makes a lovely finishing touch to the passageway.
The second floor has a lower ceiling (a little more on this to follow), but once again the pattern of bathroom and bedroom repeats. All of the materials used are of high quality and, at this level, the slope of the town brings the opposite rooftops into view, offering more natural light as well as increased privacy.
Finally, the top floor has a kitchen and a second reception room which could be a second living area or a more traditional dining space. These two are separated by an archway cut into a thick structural wall, giving the space a lovely character. However, as we mentioned previously, the ceiling height is once again rather limited.
The ground and first floors have standard 240cm ceilings, but on the second this is reduced to 210cm, and on the top floor to 200cm, and 180cm in places. This is a legacy of its ancient construction – such heights would not in fact receive planning consent in the present day. However, while this might not make Casa Marino the ideal purchase for the very tall buyer, it is important to note that this is authorised because of the age of the property, and that all of the renovation work has been carried out legally and fully documented. Our survey of the building’s paperwork found no issues whatsoever.
The roof has had a recent renovation and is in excellent condition. Water is from a 2,000 litre cistern, and central heating is in place, with only the radiators left to be purchased and installed.
On one of the long, parallel terraced streets which make up this distinctive and spectacular community, Casa Marino is at the heart of Gangi’s hillside old town. The steep hill, first settled two thousand or more years ago by the island’s classical forefathers, rises smoothly and regularly to a peak at almost exactly one thousand metres above sea level and then drops dramatically down a cliff face to the north-east.
Home to around seven thousand inhabitants, the town is known for its mountaintop castle and noble lineage, as well as its precipitous topography and quintessentially Sicilian way of life. On the southern edge of the beautiful Madonie Natural Park, it is within driving distance of many of Sicily’s most spectacular panoramas and biodiverse woodlands.
Twenty five kilometres to the north is the Tyrrhenian sea, with beautiful sandy beaches at Finale, Castel di Tusa and Cefalù providing the perfect backdrop for a lazy summer day at the seaside. A pair of international airports, at Palermo and Catania, are within a hundred kilometres, and each offers a growing array of flights to all of the continent’s major cities and travel hubs.
The central location makes day trips to any of Sicily’s major attractions a possibility. Whether you – or your guests – want to explore the volcanic peak of Mount Etna in the east, the impeccably preserved Greek temples of Agrigento in the south or the salt flats of Trapani and Marsala in the west, you will be able to travel there and back in a single day.
The renovation work on this lovely property for sale in the Madonie is essentially complete, but there are just a very few little tasks which remain to be finished.
The staircases are bare, and need to be painted, and covered with tiles or floorboards. The glazing is still single and somewhat thin, and especially if you want to make use of the house in winter it would be better to replace these with some more energy-efficient windows.
As we mentioned above, whilst a modern heating system has been installed, the buyer will need to purchase and install radiators. And of course it will be necessary to equip and fit the kitchen, besides adding decoration and furnishings.
The unusual floor plan and the presence of a bathroom on each of the first three floors means that the pair of bedrooms could be fully independent from the rest of the building, offering the possibility of running Casa Marino as a small bed and breakfast.
If you are interested in the process of running your own guesthouse in Sicily, our guide to investing in the region would make a great starting point, and our team are always on hand to discuss any ideas you may have. Drop us a line today!