Rock star Sting, former Timer Warner manager Richard Parsons, and businessman James B. Sherwood. Three internationally known names with a common interest: the Tuscan countryside and its food products. If the former Police lead man produce oil, wine and honey in Figline Valdarno, Parsons invested in Brunello by purchasing an estate in Montalcino, while the founder of the chain of luxury Orient Express hotels is the owner of a Gaiole business in Chianti that produces nearly 80,000 bottle per year. Three initiatives that are front-page worthy, which are not isolated cases, just the most striking cases of a phenomenon that is growing in Tuscany like in the rest of Italy.
Between 2007 and now, that is to say during an economically difficult phase for Italy, the number of foreign agricultural entrepreneurs that wagered on the Italian countryside has grown by 11%: according to an analysis conducted by Coldiretti, the national association of agricultural businessmen, they reached a record level 17,300. Tuscany is the most highly sought out [Region] for this type of investment, with 2,300 acquisitions (14% of the national total) already completed. The most recent of these dates to a few weeks ago when a Hong Kong businessman, who mostly deals in the pharmaceutical sector, purchased a winery in Greve, in the heart of the Florentine countryside where Chianti Classico is produced, for 2 million Euros. Numbers and initiatives that denote the international attention to traditional Italian and Tuscan products that not only represent excellence for the wine and food lovers but that – Coldiretti stresses – have excellent prospects for sale on foreign markets.
According to the survey, it is Swiss and German entrepreneurs that invested most heavily on this opportunity: 2,800 investmens in the Italian countryside generated from Switzerland, 2,600 from Germany. They are followed by France, Romania, and the United States. Furthermore, the choice to invest in land is dynamic instead of being based on nostalgic or purely esthetic motives: two out of three entrepreneurs are under 50 years old. Besides Tuscany’s primacy, the other regions targeted by foreign investors are Sicily, Veneto, and Lazio.
The growing interest in Italian agriculture is in line with the success that “made in Italy” food products are having on international markets: according to Coldiretti calculations on ISTAT data, in 2013 agricultural and foodstuff exports reached a record 34 billion Euros. The products that registered the most success on foreign tables are wine, fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, and olive oil.