Cambridge-based Judith and Michael Portman bought a one-bedroom flat in Florence in 2015. They spend three weeks there every summer and two weeks at Christmas. The rest of the year they rent the flat to international students – often visiting students who are just spending one academic year in the city.
What drew them to Tuscany?
“Judith is an art historian,” Michael explains, “so Italy in general and Tuscany in particular has always loomed large in her life. I might not know my Giotto from my Donatello, but I do know my Chianti from my Brunello di Montalcino!
I’m a big wine buff, so I certainly never protested when Judith planned Italy for our holidays. All those wine trails and local cantinas… Tuscany was always our favourite destination, and when we eventually thought about investing in a property abroad, it was our first choice.
“We love the Tuscan countryside, but we knew we could get a longer-term rental clientele in a student city like Florence, and we preferred that to having weekly or fortnightly visitors. With students, we don’t have to worry about weekly changeovers, cleaning, or stocking the fridge. And we get to enjoy the flat ourselves in the summer and Christmas holidays.
Florence can get horribly crowded in August, so we try to do most of our summer visiting in July or June, depending on when the student’s term ends. Christmas in Florence is magical, and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“The flat is a small one-bedroom place on the third floor of an old townhouse. There’s no lift, but being on the top floor means we have a roof terrace with a wonderful panoramic view of the city. We looked at four other flats before we chose this one, and it was the view that really swung it for us.
One of the great joys of Italy is that so much of life is lived outdoors, so we don’t mind that the flat is small. We spend much of our time in Florence strolling the streets, admiring the sights, or sitting at pavement cafés.
We also love going up into the hills around Fiesole and looking down to Florence. The whole area is such an exceptional, magical part of the world. The history, the art, the architecture. It’s like you can reach out and touch it all.
“I’d advise anyone thinking of buying a flat or a house in Tuscany to spend some time exploring the region’s different areas. There’s quite a bit of variety in Tuscany, which is one of its charms.
There are lots of good estate agents here to advise you and translate everything. We were really impressed by the standard of service we received.”