The Grotta dei Frati in the Fiastra Valley, Le Marche, Italy

The Fiastra Valley in Le Marche, Italyas seen from the Grotta dei Frati.

The Fiastra Valley as seen from the Grotta dei Frati.

The Fiastrone river has its source high in the Sibillini Mountains. The valley the river flows through has a number of caves in it, some of which are still accessible today. These caves have served as places of refuge for people, in particular monks, over the centuries. I am not a religious person but the stories behind these cave hermitages seemed fascinating from the human point of view; that men were so bound up in their religious belief they were prepared to live a life of absolute poverty, in cold and discomfort and against the contemporary rulings of the Church. It is interesting to get an idea of how they lived by visiting the cave but also to have some background knowledge of the situation at the time. 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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