Is George Clooney Selling His Beloved Italian Retreat?

By Sadie Bass

Feb 25, 2010 12:31pm

ABC's Ann Wise reports from Rome: It could be just another publicity effort by the town of Laglio on Italy’s lake Como, but rumors are flying that George Clooney’s beloved lakeside villa there is up for sale – and that David Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star married to former ‘Posh’ Spice Girl Victoria, is among the contenders eager to purchase Villa Oleandra – along with a Russian billionaire.  Beckham and his wife visited Clooney at his villa last year, and fell in love with it, according to Italian press reports.  “I fell in love with this enchanting scenery,”  Beckham is quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper.  “It is quiet and peaceful, and it is near Milan.  I would like to live there with my family,” he said after the visit.  Beckham is presently on loan to the Milan soccer team (owned by Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi) for 6 months and could commute into Milan in just 40 minutes.  Reportedly even Berlusconi himself had shown some interest in purchasing Villa Oleandra, when a deal on another property he wanted on the lake fell through. According to a Corriere della Sera article on Wednesday it is Clooney’s Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, who is pushing for the sale.  She is reportedly fed up with being hounded by tourists and paparazzi in the little town of Laglio (and from gawker-filled boats off the villa’s shores) and wants him to purchase another Italian residence in a more secluded location – possibly by the sea, which she prefers – like the island of Sardinia (where she is from) or the lesser-known Marche region of Italy. But rumors are also swirling around another lake in the region.  The ANSA news agency reports that Clooney is interested in buying a whole (tiny) island, complete with crenelated castle, in the middle of Lake Iseo.  The voices about the Loreto island sale were fueled by a recent visit to a nearby town by George and Elisabetta.  How much privacy that would gain the couple remains to be seen, since boatgoing snoopers could now surround the property. If press reports are right, and Clooney gets his asking price of 30 million euros ($40.6 million) for Villa Oleandra, he would make a tidy profit.  He bought the stately home from the Heinz family in 2001, reportedly for 7 million euros ($9.5 millon). Exclusive lakeside real-estate such as Clooney’s mansion rarely comes on the market, and the presence of Clooney himself is the main reason for a recent climb in local real-estate values – in some cases they have even quintupled. The mayor of Laglio, Roberto Pozzi, has long appreciated Clooney’s draw value for the town, and made the American actor an honorary citizen in 2004.  Keen not to compromise Clooney’s privacy, the town even enacted a law that prohibits any gathering of more that three people in the vicinity of his retreat – on pain of a $25 fine. Pozzi, perhaps denying the inevitable, told the news agency ANSA that the rumor that Clooney was selling to Beckham was an old one. It started last year when the soccer star visited, and that he had no knowledge of Villa Oleandra being on sale. “The rumors are many,” said the mayor, “especially about Russians – they are the ones who are buying in these times.  But I know of nothing solid.” A David Beckham residence would definitely draw tourists to Laglio, but nothing can match the Clooney factor, according to Pozzi.  “Impossible, I’d say,” Pozzi told ANSA.  “As a draw for this area, he has been unique, and, I might add, for free.” Most of the properties in recent years have gone to Russian billionaires, however, who own 5 prominent local properties.  Laglio’s mayor hopes the Clooney estate will not be the next.

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