It has gorgeous scenery, a fascinating history and luxurious new homes at a fraction of the cost of Italy or France. No wonder Montenegro is fast becoming a 21st-century Riviera.
For many people, their ideal home is not just in a foreign country, it is in another time as well. Close your eyes and think of the Côte d’Azur and you quite possibly imagine a quieter era, before chock-a-block motorways along the coast and 20 flights a day. A time when there was still greenery between the buildings, and enough ocean to sail your boat wherever you pleased.
Some parts of Europe avoided the mass development of the 20th century that blighted parts of the Algarve, Spain and Italy. Last night, England played football against just such a country: Montenegro. It is a jewel of the Adriatic, with all of the charms of Greece or Italy, but with none of the long history of mass tourism. For much of the 20th century, it was hidden from Western eyes, first as part of Yugoslavia and then as part of Serbia, caught up indirectly in the horrendous wars of independence.
In the Sixties the country had a brief heyday, when stars such as Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren would come to frolic in smart casinos, but this tailed off. Montenegro was a location in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig, though scenes were actually filmed in the Czech Republic.
Since it gained independence in 2006, however, Montenegro has been catching up. Unable to rely on the old industries such as steel-making, it has sought tourism, and investors from around the world have looked at its dramatic, unspoilt coastline and seen somewhere ripe for expansion. Billions of pounds are flooding into the country, much of it to build smart waterside properties. For a fraction of the price of a top-end property elsewhere – holiday apartments start at around £150,000 – you can buy a haven in a growing nation. No wonder buyers are piling in.
“The government here is young, smart and has a clear strategy,” says Kieran Kelleher of Savills Montenegro. “Wherever five-star hotels go, property prices follow, and at last hotels are coming. There is 2bn Euros of high-quality investment planned over the next few years. I don’t know anywhere else in Europe with these kinds of numbers. It is going to transform the area. Buyers are taking a punt on what Kotor will be like in five years time, and I think it could be quite incredible.”