Soaring prices and elbowing expats have forced many holiday house-hunters east of Tuscany and Umbria, into the largely unexplored Marche region of Italy. Castles and bastions from the Middle Ages dot the hilly landscape between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea. To buy your own Italian fortress, enlist Monica Bruni, the area's top real estate expert. On her radar now is Castello di Magliano, outside Fermo in the southeastern part of the region; the three-story fortified tower is built into thick rampart walls and dates back to the late 1200's. The 6,000-square-foot house has been completely restored, with exposed brick, wood beams, terra-cotta tiles, stone fireplaces, and 16th-century tables and chairs. If you're looking for more of a fixer-upper, Bruni can locate a property and a construction team—architects, contractors, interior designers—to match. Monica Bruni, 39-0736/848-703;; Castello di Magliano $1.4 million; other listings include a $200,000 country house and an $800,000 stone tower on 20 acres of farmland.
—Monica Larner