Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lease a lighthouse

Sardinia, Italy, is putting a portfolio of state-owned property on the market, including decommissioned army barracks, empty castles, and former convents. On the list are several lighthouses, which the island's autonomous government hopes will be converted into galleries, museums, retreats, oceanography research centers...or hotels like the Capo Spartivento lighthouse (3rd image). Italy’s 1st lighthouse hotel is located 30mi from the regional capital of Cagliari and situated at the end of a private dirt road on an isolated promontory overlooking the white sand beaches. Originally built by the navy in 1856, conversion took 7 years and cost €3 million ($4 million). Owner Alessio Raggio now has a 38-year lease on the property and pays just €3,000/month in rent to the regional government, but warns, “Rebuilding a lighthouse is not easy – especially one like this. Fortunately it was strongly built, with stones from the local area, and the main building was in good condition. You have to be a little bit crazy to take on a job like this, but it was worth it." If you have the capital and are up for the challenge, you may want to bid on one of the following:
  • The lighthouse at Capo Mannu on the western side of the island (1st image), which overlooks a good surfing beach, but will require a lot of structural work.
  • The lighthouse at Capo d’Orso near Palau (2nd image), currently accessible only by boat or a tough climb.
The lighthouses - most of which were built in the 19th c.- have been superseded by automated lights and the government can no longer afford to maintain them. “They have been inaccessible to the public for ages because they were owned and run by the Coast Guard or the Navy. Some are in good condition and need just a little investment, while others are in a really bad state and would need a couple of million euros of refurbishment,” explains Alessio Satta, executive director of the Conservatoria delle Coste [Coastal Conservation Agency], which is managing the sell-off. Private developers would be granted 30-year leases in return for restoring the historic buildings. Though held up as a model of restoration, the 5-star Capo Spartivento, which offers luxury lodging for up to €1,000 ($1,325) a night depending on the season and the view, is a bit more exclusive than the government hopes for: “We want to create places that can be visited by everybody, We don’t want to create fortresses for the rich.”


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