Olive trees at Casa Carotondo in Le Marche, Italy

Olive trees at Carotondo in Le Marche, Italy

Olive trees growing at Casa Carotondo in Le Marche, Italy during a mild February 2014.

Casa Carotondo is perched on top of a hill some of which (the south-west facing bit) belongs to us. It is difficult to know how to use the land productively; apart from planting olive trees and vines. We had not been here long when we found out you can buy olive trees – two years old – for only four Euros each, it seemed an obvious thing to do. We would produce our own olive oil! Of course everyone associates olives and olive trees with Italy. You see olive trees growing in most areas of the country, so naively we thought it would be a straightforward thing to do. Continue reading

A green roof at Casa Carotondo, Le Marche

The green roof of apartment Priora at Casa Carotondo in Le Marche, Italy

The green roof of apartment Priora at Casa Carotondo

Green roofs have been around for some time, but are now increasingly being regarded as a way to improve the environment in cities. The city of Chicago, for instance, has now declared that it sees green roofs as the way forward to try to reduce rising temperatures in the city as well as enhancing air quality. Heat is stored in the roof and walls of buildings during the day and given off at night, the so-called Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. A green roof prevents this heat storage happening. Through the daily dew and evaporation cycle, plants on vertical and horizontal surfaces are able to cool cities during hot summer months. They also provide some insulation to the building below, even in winter. Continue reading

Renovating a house in Le Marche, Italy – a personal account.

I shall start with a disclaimer. We rent holiday apartments, we do not offer estate agency or renovation services. However we did renovate/are still renovating our own house and can therefore provide some insight into the process. The aim is not to discourage or spur you on, simply, to give you an account of our experience. I should also add that we did not come here specifically to start a renovation project. One of my conditions on buying the house was that we get the builders in to do at least the heavy duty work. However we started with a laughably small budget for a house of 400 sqm. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it would have been better to employ builders to do, at least, the basics despite the expense. Instead we have kept the costs down but the whole project has taken a long time and we still haven’t finished. I would also like to reassure prospective guests that building work only takes place in the winter! Continue reading

Coppicing at Casa Carotondo, Le Marche, Italy

Casa Carotondo has its own small wood. It was not something we had specifically wanted when looking for a house but while considering our move to Le Marche from London, we found out that gas in Italy is quite expensive. So we were pleased that we actually had our own source of fire wood. Chopping and preparing firewood is actually time-consuming and tiring work but somehow satisfying at the end of the process when you stand back and look at your full log store. It is a job that is generally carried out in early spring, when there are a thousand other things to do in the garden. We do have gas at Casa Carotondo but mostly for cooking or to heat the sanitary water on a cloudy summer’s day (we normally use solar panels to heat the water). Although some energy in the form of diesel and electricity is used to chop and transport the wood, on the whole it is a sustainable and cheap way to keep warm.
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Why we moved to Casa Carotondo in Le Marche, Italy

Casa Carotondo in Le Marche, Italy in2004 before we started renovating it.

Casa Carotondo in 2004 before we started renovating it.

I am often asked by guests why we came here. Was it always our dream to set up home in Italy and live la dolce vita? The answer in our case is a simple: No. We were living in London and had both given up the jobs as goldsmith (Rob) and software consultant (Vanessa) we had been doing for too long. We were fed up with routine and were looking for an adventure and a new challenge. We had done a couple of house renovations. I was fed up with house renovation, Rob wanted something a little more demanding. I wanted a large garden with a vegetable plot. We enjoy walking and cycling so the idea of living close to mountains was enticing; both of us had wasted many hours in traffic jams travelling from London to various hilly hotspots in Great Britain only to be greeted by a deluge of water falling from the heavens. Of course living in a warmer climate is in itself a bonus compounded by the availability of products from that climate such as wine and olives and the added interest of a foreign culture and language. It was a friend who put the idea of Italy in our heads.

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