My experience of buying a home in the Italian Alps.
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In August this year, I had the great surprise of my mum telling me she wanted to give me an advanced inheritance. She knew I always wanted to have a home in the mountains, but there was no way that I could afford it with my salary and that of with my husbands’. We were vacationing in Normandie when she told me so. I could not hold my excitement and started looking in all real estate websites.
I’ve started with some of the British ones, but sooner came to check the Italian websites. The Guide to Buying a Home in Italy gave me lots of ideas of how to start and the contact of my property lawyer: Alessandro Clemente, who was great! I’ve talked to him before starting and he told me all the things I needed to take into account when going to scout properties. That was very important as I could have done all things wrong if I was not in the know.
We’ve planned to have a short trip end of August to visit some places. Idealista website was the one I’ve finished using to seeing the different offers and sorting what I want to do and an agenda on how we were going to go around. At first, I was thinking in two areas: Courmayeur and Cervinia. I’ve seen some flats in Cervinia – (Valtourneche really) with views of the Monte Cervino that seemed fabulous. Digging a bit more into what they were offering, this was part of a programme where you need to use your flat only some weeks and the rest the administration of the building takes care of it and rents it out. That kind of discouraged me because I wanted to have the option that if in the future I want to move to Italy, I have a place! Then talking to my mum, she told me that if I like so much Courmayeur and the Valdigne (the Valley of the Mont Blanc), why don’t I focus on that area only. Which really made my job easier in focusing how to use our three days better.
Got the flights to Geneva and transfers to Courmayeur. Got the hotel (Gran Baita) in Courmayeur and started looking each day at the Idealista website and sorting which flats I would want to visit. I had two weeks to talk to everyone and sort a pretty busy agenda. I’ve started to get excited!
Off we left one morning early from Heathrow to Geneva airport. When we arrived, our transfer was waiting for us and zoomed us through the Mont Blanc tunnel and left us at the hotel in about 2 hours, as we had to wait a bit at the Mont Blanc tunnel to cross it. In summer specially, sometimes you have to wait at the entrance of the tunnel, because there are too many cars. We were having a meeting at 2 PM and I was trying to contact the guy I was meeting to let him know we were going to be some minutes late.
Then we arrived into the hotel, still trying to contact this first person to meet, and he was nowhere to be seen… we were late 10’ but I had been contacting him for a while to let him know! He was a direct owner of a lovely place at Courmaison, in Pallesieux, just outside Courmayeur. But the guy appeared much later saying he had no time to show us the place…. not a good start!
But the sun was shining, we were very hungry, and we had a bit more time for the next meeting, so we went to the terrace of the Gran Baita and had a coffee and some cake. At least we could relax a bit before we have to run for the next meeting. We got the lovely room 202, that does not look towards the pool, but the front side of the hotel and also has two balconies, where you can see the tip of the Dent de Géant, which for me is always very iconic peak and means I am in Courmayeur. My mum loved the room so much that she was asking if she could buy the room!
We had the first flat we went to see in downtown Courmayeur, in Larzey, pretty much walking distance from the Gran Baita. We’ve stayed across from there, just next to Villa Novecento hotel a couple of summers ago. Did not like too much the flat, it was shabbier than chick and pretty pricey. After all, you are in Courmayeur, and the square meter goes for about 10,000 EUR here! I knew that by seeing the offer in Courmayeur, and therefore, I’ve opened my search to all of the Valdigne where the rates are more like 3,000 EUR/m2.
After that viewing, we’ve got picked up by another Immobiliarie and went to see a flat in Entreves. It was a two-bedroom, one bathroom, kitchen on the ground floor. The flat was a bit dated, but it was not bad. From the garden you could see the majestic mountains, as in Entreves you are kind of below them, and it was pretty good walking distance to either the Val Veny lift or the Skyway MonteBianco. I think that what made it for me was the dog’s house more than the apartment, but it was food for thought!
From there we’ve seen another flat in La Saxe. La Saxe is a bit nearer to Courmayeur than Entreves, with its small town with very thin roads and its church. The flat was a one bedroom, with part of the room divided by a wall and a very tall window to allow light to flow in and space to put a bunk bed.
From the garden again, if you get out of the house, views were incredible, and it had a garage. Did not make it for me either, but it was good to see it.
Finally, that day we went to Pré-Saint Didier and to the village next door by the river called Champex. This was a lovely one bedroom only, really nicely done, but it had a couple of problems.
The river was just by it, maybe too near and you never know what happens if the river overflows, and the other one, was that there was no storage at all in this flat, and not too many places where to add some. And this would always be a holiday home, not to live as it had only one bedroom.
We finished for that date and then we walked into Courmayeur for dinner at Ristorante La Terraza. As it was a bit chilly, we’ve sat inside. I had lovely gnocchi while my mum savoured some pasta. My mum had been in Courmayeur only once when driving back from Lago di Como, and she went up the Skyway with me, but she has not been staying in Courmayeur. I could tell she was enchanted with the place!
Next morning, we had an early rise as we had a packed day. We woke up for having breakfast at 7.30 – I wish I had more time as the breakfast at the Gran Baita is superb, with lots and lots of variety of cold and hot dishes, and the nicest local produce you can imagine, from honeycomb honey, to local ricotta and yoghurts, lovely cakes, lots of warm options, you name it!
It gave us time to go up to the room quickly and get down for our first meeting. The owner of a lovely small house in La Salle, fifteen minutes from Courmayeur, came to pick us up with her son. I have arranged the meeting with a real estate company, but they could not come to show me the place, so the owner came from Novara to show it by herself.
We drove to La Salle and I had a chance to ask her about her place, why she was moving on and why she liked to be based in La Salle when coming to the mountains. She told me she found peace there, that Courmayeur could be a bit too busy during the season, and that you have all the services you need there, so no need to be in the midst of it all. Plus, your money extends more when you come out of Courmayeur.
We parked near the house, and we went through an alley to see it. I really liked this property and I had lots of expectations on it. The house was lovely done, with three bedroom and two bathrooms downstairs (one en-suite), and lots of storage space, and the living – diner and kitchen plus another toilette upstairs.
There was a little balcony looking to a green space and a bit of mountain. The downstairs rooms were having no view at all, but they were so cosy that I did not care. My mum was a bit concerned that next to the house there was a house falling apart and she did not like the look of it…. How I was going to convince her, I don’t know… She was starting to think that with our budget we were not going to find a decent thing in the area! And in Italy you always have something crumbling next door, and that is part of why it enchants you?
The lady brought us back to Courmayeur and we went to meet the second realtor that was in town. He took us to a little house in Villair Superiore, a neighbourhood a bit up from Courmayeur and with good bus links. This was a nice flat designed by an architect, very small, but looked funky. It did have a room downstairs in the basement that did not appeal to me too much.
Second home was in Bioley, part of Morgex, just a bit up from the town of Morgex, crossing the river and going up the road. There is a hamlet with some houses. This was an old restored stone building which was ok. I was not head over heels with it, but my mum liked it more. It has a nice open-plan kitchen – diner with some nice big window on the side and two rooms and one-bathroom downstairs.
No parking was offered here but there was free parking nearby. Then we went to another home in Pré-Saint-Didier, that was walking distance from the famours Pré-Saint-Didier Terme. The house looked better in the pictures than in the real flesh, it felt very tight. And the two rooms downstairs were a bit subterraneous. Another thing to take into account was that lots of people told me not to buy in Prè-Saint-Didier because it is in the shade most of the day and it can be freezing from December to February.
We drove back to Courmayeur and we were picked up by the high school- that was our meeting point- again by another realtor, this time from Aosta, that was going to show us an apartment in Derby. Derby is kind of the last village of the Valdigne, just before getting into the tunnel and into Avise and the valley that takes you to Aosta. The building was beautiful, the owners were there, an old couple that wanted to move because the wife was getting knee problems and wanted to go to Morgex.
The husband, in his 80’s was in great shape, going daily on cycling trips and really did not want to leave the flat. The flat was nice, great views of the Monte Bianco from the garden and from the side of the living room. The problem was that the rooms where all subterraneous. That was a turn off. The realtor was so nice though, and driving super-fast, completely glued to the car in front, and turning her head to talk to me, that I was kind of praying to get off her car soon!
She brought us back to Courmayeur; we went for a quick coffee and wee stop at the first bar on Via Roma (the pedestrianised street in Courmayeur) as we were having to meet with our next meeting. I’ve called Marco from Isigest, to tell him we were some minutes late and he was really relaxed saying, no problem, take your time, there is traffic from where I am coming too. So, I had a coffee and my mum went to ask bottled water in the bar (my mum is very Argentine; Argentines never think of asking for tap water), and the waitress told her off- she told her ‘you are not going to drink water from the Monte Bianco!?’ So, she felt so intimidated that started drinking the mountain water (which is lovely I have to say!).
We walked back to our outside post by the secondary school of Courmayeur to be picked up by Marco. He came, really nice and easy going, and told me that he was going to show me only nice things. And, that many of the things I’ve asked to see (I’ve sent a list of dozens of properties), he was not going to show me. That I have asked for lots of things way up in the mountain on top of La Salle, and he was telling me that the first time we drive, it would be lovely, the second, a novelty still, and the third time we will be thinking what a pain! He had a point!
He took us to a new building telling us that it was constructed by whom is considered number one Engineering firm in Aosta – Santangelo. The flat is located on Villair de Morgex. The place looked beautiful, with lots of details, like hand-made iron rails, studded lights on the external staircases, beautiful woodwork on the walls and stone…but it was a bit over our budget. And in new-builds in Italy you need to pay IVA tax of 10% over the price of the house, instead of the 2 or 9% you pay over the cadastral price of the house (if you are a first home purchaser or second home purchaser respectively)
And new-builds in Italy tend to come with no bathroom nor kitchens done. The idea is that you choose what you want and do it to your style. All very well if you leave in situ, but for me living in Britain it could be a daunting task!
Second flat we’ve went to visit was in La Ruine, just following the road from Villair de Morgex. Both are considered as being part of Morgex, like the outer parts of the borough. This was a lovely flat on a first floor, a two-bedroom, one bath and a living room with two balconies with nice views of the mountains- the Grivola to the left and part of the mountains near the Mont Blanc on the right.
This place was also to buy from the builder, so you have to pay the IVA tax, but it was near the local park with a lovely café and lots of green space, and lots of little shops nearby too, plus CHEAPER. You could tell the details of the windows and door handles were not as good as flat number one showed by Marco. But it was nicely done, nonetheless.
My mum loved this, there was no garage, but place to park the car (there was a garage for an additional sum, and she thought we can just leave it outside).
We went on to see a new flat in La Salle, in the outskirts of this lovely town on a sunny plateau. This flat was really nice, also new so you have to pay the VAT tax, with a massive window overlooking the Monte Bianco, no balcony though, which would have been nice, two bedrooms and one bathroom downstairs and a veranda with another bedroom and a bathroom with views of the Monte Bianco upstairs.
We’ve seen the flat on the other side of the foyer in the same building that had a balcony, but the layout of the first flat was nicer. I really liked it, also you need to do all from scratch, so I was seeing my mum making numbers on her head that it was going to be much more expensive than she thought!
We went along then to Chabodey, just down from La Salle and we saw a semi-detached house, that was a wood cabin. The place was very nice, very ample, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice big living room-diner and a downstairs ‘cantina’ (pretty much enormous storage room with high windows).
The walls were made by logs, so you can imagine it very cozy. It was bought by a Genovese, and the other semi-detached house bought by a friend. The views of the Mont Blanc were incredible. The only thing I did not like was the power tension tower next to the house. But the garden had all kind of fruit trees, looked really nice. The heating seemed old, but it would be an option. The only thing I was thinking that it was a bit in the middle of nowhere- with good connections by car to the main road, but if you want to walk to a shop, it was not very well located.
We were having too many thoughts and we went for a coffee in this nice café place by the park in La Ruine. We told Marco we were going to buy from one of his places as we’ve liked them all, as he said we would. He offered to help me with getting the kitchen set up (that it was what it was daunting me a bit), and while having some nice espressos machiattos, he said if we had time, there was another flat that was in the middle of Morgex, that maybe had not those incredible mountain views, but the furnishings inside were worth much more than the asking price, plus it would be very comfortable for my kids wondering around alone. I was having another meeting in 5’ with the next realtor, and I’ve started already cancelling all further meetings, but this one was kind of too close to call off.
He said that only 5’ were going to be needed. That this was a home sold by a friend immobiliare in Aosta, but he has the keys to show it too as it is just down the block from his agency. So off we went. This flat was just like two blocks from the main church (Santa Maria Assunta) in Morgex, via a pedestrianised road.
You access to this flat through a lovely esplanade that has a bridge underneath (that is why it is called Lo Ponton) and the building is a lovely solid stone house with lots of wood. Coming in it was a complete ‘wow’… My mum and me were completely off our heads…this flat was so much nicer than everything we have seen and it was all done with no need to do anything else! The wooden floors, the stone walls, the pan-de-bois roof (beams covered with concrete in between, you see this a lot in France medieval buildings), the impressive lighting, the amazing wooden kitchen with all the appliances, the lovely stairs with the hand-made iron rail, the beautiful upstairs rooms with wooden beams and spectacular wardrobes. The two bathrooms were made in such nice style, with lovely tiles and great bathroom amenities.
Here was when Marco told me that Santangelo has built this flat, that it was an old barn used for crops and cows on the 17th century and it has been done lovely! As this was owned by a lady, I did not have to pay the IVA tax. And it was like this lady never used anything really! This was over the budget but my mum loved it so much, that we kind of made our plans! After this we have to go and see the other property in the hill on top of Morgex, which was very nice, but nothing to do compared to this one. This architect was Argentine like me, and super nice, he showed me another development that was more expensive, done in a very old cylindrical building, that was something pretty cool. But I already found what I wanted to get. And in two days!
I’ve managed to cancel all my meetings for the following day and off we went for dinner to the Gran Baita hotel’s upscale restaurant, La Sapinière. Lovely local Valdostan food in a very cosy restaurant, like a stübe, with wood panelled walls, giving you the warmth for a winter night. Obviously, we had a great time!
Next day I’ve called Marco and Elisabetta of Isigest, who was whom I originally have contacted via email with all my requests to visit different apartments. We arranged to see them in the early afternoon. So, we were free for the morning and the day was amazing! We decided to go to the pool with my mum.
Really enjoyed the pool, the cold bucket shower on the side, the sauna with a view of the catena di Monte Bianco… pity we had to move to go out.
Marco was lovely to come and pick us up and take us to his office in Morgex, and there was Emanuela, who went through all paperwork with us, and explained how we have to do the offer. I was talking to Alessandro Clemente, my lawyer, who was telling me what to ask, and he talked to Emanuela, and all started being in the roll.
That afternoon was our last one, a storm was coming that night to Courmayeur. We walked through Via Roma, had a nice aperitivo and watched the rain starting to pour down, and then walked to the restaurant Pierre Alexis, which is a bit off Via Roma. The food and ambiance were lovely. I had some black ink gnocchi that was superb! You can tell I love gnocchi….
Next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast, a walk-through town, and back to the hotel to get a ride to Geneva. Overall it was a great trip!
Everything was on the roll when I came back, we have to wait for the acceptance of the offer- we’ve finished buying the flat with its furniture, which was lovely, and a bit of going back and forth, but in six weeks (only because we decided to wait that long), I had the property keys.
I went a couple of weeks after this trip, to Milano to open a bank account, and my lawyer got my Codice Fiscale, that is a tax ID document that you need for anything, from opening the bank account to buying the property and everyday work activities. Alessandro introduced me someone in Milano to open a Unicredit account, we’ve sent the moneys to this account to be ready for the moment of the exchange, and then went with my husband to exchange and complete in Milano – a weekend away without the kids! But that will be for a future post!
I suggest you if you can, and your dream is to have your home in Italy, go ahead and do it. Life is short, and I have been many times since this past end of year and this year, and I completely love it! Looking to move into Italy and working on my ancestry to get citizenship juris-sanguinis too… this is as much I love the place!
Here is our review on the Gran Baita hotel.
Also I’ve written another post on how to buy a home in the Alps.
You can search for your own accommodation in the snow for your next ski holiday through our Accommodation Search tab. Or if looking to stay in the heart of the Mont Blanc Valley in the Aosta Valley, check Il Coure della Valdigne review here. This is our own family home in the mountains, that I am renting out when not using, you can always write me a private message if interested to email@example.com
If you want to take your family skiing and you don’t know where to start, read here. And search for your ski transfers from all airports to the Mountains here. And for those that are like me, that are lazy to cook, you can get your food, even gourmet mountain food delivered to your home with Huski.
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You can start thinking about your trip, by reading the articles on the Planning your Ski Trip tab. Or how to pack for your family ski trip. If taking your furry friend abroad to the continent, read about the new Pet Travel Scheme update from DEFRA. Self-drive skiers also need to plan for Brexit. Check out our tips for driving to the mountains. If flying and renting a car in Europe, beware of the extra charges they will pass to you if you want winter tyres, snow chains or ski racks. If driving, check the winter tyres news for Europe and North America. You can see how our last family ski holiday was not as expected, even though one plans it to be a success, but how we could do the most of it. If you want to get better before getting to your next ski holiday, here is a quick guide to indoor skiing and dry slopes in the UK. You can also read our week in the mountains during our summer holidays in Courmayeur.
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