Lying between the Apennine Mountains and the wide sandy beaches of Tuscany’s Versilia coast, Forte dei Marmi has been the preferred resort of well-to-do northern Italians since Florentine nobles began to holiday there in the late19th century. And with its brightly coloured bathing cabins, beach umbrellas and well-dressed families cycling along its promenade, Forte, as it is known, has retained much of its old-world charm.
A summer adjunct of the finance, fashion and media worlds (Milan is about two hours away), Forte is often compared with the Hamptons and, like them, the town has attracted celebrities, intellectuals and commercial dynasties. The Agnellis, Thomas Mann and Henry Moore, various icons of Italy’s dolce vita and many of today’s football and television stars have appreciated Forte’s blend of flash and discretion.
Forte has, however, evolved over time. The private beach concessions that once belonged to the villas have become bagni, beach clubs that offer umbrellas, cabañas, restaurants and even swimming pools; many villas are now hotels or their lots have been subdivided; international brands have replaced local stores. Moreover, the past decade has seen an influx of Americans, Japanese and Russians eager to join Italian families in the summer rituals of sunbathing, shopping and dancing at evergreen nightspots such as La Capannina.
However, none of these changes have diminished Forte dei Marmi’s lustre – or its real estate prices, which have remained the highest of Italian resorts. The typical Forte dei Marmi property is a postwar, single-family villa in its own fenced garden. Price varies with size, condition and distance from the beach and town, and while government figures say villa prices were €12,000 to €15,000 per sq metre in 2010, informal reports put prices closer to €20,000. The most interesting properties rarely change hands, though a few have come to market.
The first is a single-family villa that was built in 1938, in the Cinquale neighbourhood, by the artist Mino Maccari. Traces of the property’s connection to Forte’s cultural heritage remain in the villa’s handsome stone façade and the broad windows of Maccari’s studio. The stonework and the floor plan make the feel of the house less “beachy”, more year-round, and almost Provençal in comparison to most other houses in Forte, which reflect the postwar building boom.
It has a professional kitchen and three bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms. Only a few hundred metres from the beach and marina and near a heliport and golf course, the property comes with 1,950 sq metres of walled garden, two guest cottages with baths. It is on the market with American-based agents The Realuxury Inc and is priced at €5.5m.
The second property offers an unusual opportunity for a purchaser: a villa in the grand, pre-second world war war style on an undivided lot. It is situated on the prestigious Viale Morin in Forte’s most desirable neighbourhood where the Agnelli villa (now the Hotel Augustus) is located.
Three blocks from the beach, it is a straight shot to chic Bagno Piero, one of Forte’s historic and exclusive bagni. Generations of families who dined under the villa’s portico remember it in its more recent guise as the Pensione America. However, its origins as a private house mean that re-zoning can return the 32 room, 1,400 sq metre central building to a single residence (with swimming pool). Realuxury has it on the market for €15m.
For buyers who want to be near Forte but whose idea of Tuscany is of country hills not beaches, Beatrice Sidoli, who represents both Winkworth and The Realuxury Inc, suggests a 16th-century villa complete with a view of the sea.
Unrestored buildings with potential for various uses include another farmhouse, a 1,000 sq metre stone “barn” and a chapel. The property, which once belonged to Napoleon’s sister Elisa, also has an infinity pool, heliport and generator, while the surrounding agricultural land produces olive oil, chickens and rabbits. There are four bedrooms with en-suite bedrooms as well as staff quarters, and services include a laundry room, cooled cellar and professional kitchen. It is on the market with Idea Immobiliare for €30m.
The hills around offer classic, stone Tuscan houses more in keeping with popular images of the region. Nevertheless, Forte dei Marmi remains the undisputed jewel of the Versilia coast.
● Close to Florence and Pisa, indispensable cultural escapes when beach weather fails
● Something for all ages: calm sea for the bucket-and-spade brigade, nightlife and restaurants for the adults
● Bicycle-friendly: great for going to the beach or mountain biking in the challenging Apennines
● Houses are close together
● Uninteresting terrain
● Most houses are uninspiring: 1950s and 1960s, builder rather than architect-designed
What you can buy for ...
€100,000: nothing. But with €100,000 you can rent a villa with a pool and use the change for a chaise longue at a better bagno for the month of August.
€1.1m will buy a 60 sq metre apartment composed of living room, two bedrooms, kitchenette and bath (in need of renovation) in central Forte dei Marmi.
Beatrice Sidoli on behalf of The Realuxury Inc and Idea Immobiliare, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +39 0583 495797, tel: +39 3353 97271
Dario Tonini (agent for apartment at €1.1m): tel: +39 3471 730858