Greece and Spain are known for their beautiful islands, but France, Italy and Portugal can also provide an appealing life away from the mainland. Being on the path less trodden than their Greek and Spanish contemporaries, island life can be even more relaxed on each of their offerings. Let’s explore three of the best.
If you want all the benefits of an Italian lifestyle – food, wine, beaches, fantastic landscapes – without the noise and stress of the mainland, head on a viewing trip to Sardinia. Take your pick from rural villages in the island’s mountainous heart, coastal resorts to suit all budgets and Italy’s 20th largest city.
The uber-chic Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) draws a constant stream of well-heeled visitors to the island. Many arrive aboard mega-yachts, which they moor in swanky marinas, before splashing their cash in swish shops and dining in fine restaurants.
Popular spots with property buyers include areas in and around historic Alghero in the north-west, the island’s capital Cagliari in the south and Olbia in the north-east, which has benefitted from the spread of the Costa Smeralda’s wealth. With an international airport serving each, getting there couldn’t be easier, whether you choose to buy on the coast or in an ancient village in the island’s spectacular hinterland.
The birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, Corsica is France’s unspoilt gem. Located just to the north of Sardinia, the island’s sublime landscape – pretty bays, upmarket coastal cities, hilltop settlements, white-sand beaches, soaring peaks, sweeping valleys and verdant forests – has escaped overdevelopment. Consequently, the Corsican identity – language, cuisine, customs, character – has also remained intact, something that sets it apart from the mainland.
Far from being overrun by resorts, the ones that do line its picturesque coastline tend to be on the sophisticated side, like upmarket Calvi in the north-west and Porto Vecchio to the south – the island’s oldest established resort. The west coast attracts the majority of property buyers, who come to explore spots like Sartène, Propriano, Porticcio, Ajaccio, Les Calanches and Porto.
The island has four airports – Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and Figari – which provide frequent low-cost flights to Europe and elsewhere from May to September. Anyone looking to access their property out of the peak season will need to fly via the French mainland.
A rise in low-cost flights to Madeira has increased the island’s popularity. No longer is it the preserve of cruise ship day-trippers. This new breed of visitor is greeted by a subtropical climate – it’s actually closer to North Africa than Portugal – sandy beaches, grand mountains, verdant gardens and vineyards. Exotic fruits and avocados hang from the trees that line the winding streets. It was once said that Madeira “ensures every European comfort, with almost every tropical luxury” leading to it being given the nickname “the pearl of the Atlantic”.
Set to the stunning backdrop of lush green mountains the island’s capital, Funchal, offers an old-fashioned charm, stunning views, historic architecture, picturesque markets and a wealth of establishments in which to sip the island’s authentic wines. There’s no shortage of low-cost flights to the nearby Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport – the island’s most famous son – from the UK.
If you really want to head off the beaten track on your island viewing trip, take the ten-minute flight to tiny Porto Santo, 50 kilometres north-east of motherland Madeira – you can actually usually fly direct here from Gatwick during the summer months. Once there you discover virgin sands and turquoise seas, more reminiscent of the Caribbean than the Atlantic. Not to mention a Seve Ballesteros designed links golf course and a surprising amount of affordable property.
Why not split the cost and double the fun of owning a holiday home by buying with family or friends? Read our guides to Buying Abroad with Family
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