Sunday, June 13, 2010

Working in the summer heat

Catching up......with myself!!

Well folks, its been a while since my last post! mainly due to the fact that we have been incredibly busy on several projects, some related to the house and some not!

I have now been joined by my Farther in Law Kevin, who as an experienced builder is proving to be invaluable!! even if its just someone to talk to during the day!!
We have managed to get a little order into the site over the past month by clearing tons of vegetation away to allow us to see the building properly.
The old animal buildings which had sustained some damage over the winter(....roof fell in!), have now been demolished and cleared ready to be rebuilt! we have now amassed a rather large pile of rubble which hopefully will prove useful in reinstating the road and raising the level of the garden in one particular area where it is around half a metre lower than the rest of the garden!

We are also in the process of applying for some aid from the European union to assist us in the restructuring knowing Italian bureaucracy we could be waiting some time!!
However, if we are successful we will be able to do a little more in the way of finishing touches!

I will try to download some photos next week to show a little of the progress so far..... unfortunately not as much as I had hoped for at this stage but equally not an insignificant amount of work!!

PS. anyone with any good ideas about alternative power please contact me or post a comment with your idea!

Ciao for now

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Work Starts!!

Well, We have finally started work! Last week on a bright but cold Monday morning, after dropping off the children at school, I set off for Piosina, with a plan!
First order of the day was to begin stripping the old hand made "cotto" floor tiles, with the intention of rescuing as many as possible to re-use during the construction phase of the project!

I had envisaged this as a simple job...not taking into
account the fragility of a cotto tile!! The thing to
remember about old cotto is that the manufacturing process was really a bit hit and miss! So the mixture, size and the temperature the tiles were fired at were all non uniform therefore giving a very mixed quality level. So when you try to lift a tile it is a bit like a lottery as to whether it will come out whole or break! The first 80sqm has resulted in approximatley 25% broken or unusable tiles, which I don't think is too bad a return, especially as the idea is to re-lay the cotto in the ground floor and use warmer wooden flooring on the
upper two levels.

Tuesday was again a wonderful sunny winters day and I was beginning to think "this is a great way to spend your day!"
One of the hardest parts of this little job has been removing the tiles from the upper floor to storage on the ground floor....three storeys equates to about 8m of height! but as ever, where there's a will there's a way!!...the local builders merchant does a great line in big plastic buckets, pulley wheels and rope!

REMEMBER the bucket needs to weigh less than you or it will try to pull you out the window when you lower it!!...... a lesson learned the hard way!

Tasha decided to lend a hand for a morning on Wednesday, which unfortunatley was a bit overcast and very cold and no sooner had she picked up her first tile than it started to snow! But to give her credit she kept on for the whole morning and made life somewhat easier on the legs for me as I could stay upstairs and lower the full bucket for her to unload, reducing the number of times my poor old legs needed to drag me up and down two flights of stairs!
Thursday and Friday saw the rain arrive! Certainly puts a damper on your spirits as you trudge up and down the stairs and round to the storage area in the rain, but you just have to keep thinking about how great it will be when you have finished this part of the job and can start on the next bit!
To provide myself with a bit of a diversion from the tile job I decided to do a couple of simple but gratifying pieces of demolition! First task, was to "break" into the room next door as this was originally part of the main house and we plan to re-attach this room to give a third bedroom on the top floor, this required some brute force and ignorance to knock a hole through a wall made from a ceramic hollow tile which is commonly used for internal walls here as it has great thermodynamic properties...keeps it cool in summer and warm in old Roman design that has survived to this day! Anyway it was a great diversion for 15 minutes but made a lot of mess! I also decided to remove the old water tank which upon inspection proved to be made from concrete?...not sure if this is normal for water tanks but it certainly made it easier to remove. Rather than having to maneouvre an unwieldy tank down the stairs I applied the Royal Engineer method of removal....a 10lb sledge hammer! This made it so much easier to remove the now side-plate sized lumps of concrete by chucking them out the window!...Obviously checking in case any interested Italian farmers had decided to make that the moment for them to investigate what the strange Englishman was doing!!

I am really pleased with our first week and have to say it is quite a nice feeling to be sitting here on a Sunday morning and looking forward to work on Monday!

Any comments or ideas to make life that bit easier (or safer!) for a sole worker would be greatly recieved!

Ciao for now more next week!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Here are some photos of "La Libellula" as it is today, before any work starts!
The house is in fact two separate houses, one of which has been abandoned since the 60's and the other since 99'.
The house stands on the valley floor about 1/2 km from the small village of Piosina, which is 4km from the beautiful City of Citta di Castello, which is the northern most town in Umbria, lying about 15km from the border with Tuscany and the famous "alpe de la luna" region.

The area is a traditional farming community and surrounding the house are fields full of Sunflowers, Corn and Tobacco, which all looks enchanting, particularly during the summer months.

The house sits well back from a country road in its own grounds of 1/2 hectare, with assorted fruit and nut trees, and is 200m from the banks of the Tiber River which runs from its headwaters in the mountains of Tuscany on through the centre of Rome.
Along the banks of the river is a well maintained cycle path which takes you right to the centre of Castello, without going near a road, which we hope to promote to future guests, along with cycles for hire!....being flat, even the most sedate of our guests should be keen to take advantage of this peaceful method of getting to town!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why La Libellula?

Some of you may be interested to know why we have chosen La Libellula and what it means.....translated it means "The Dragonfly" and here is a description of the meaning or symbolism of the Dragonfly.....we thought it absolutley appropriate for our project.....let me know what you think??

The meaning of a dragonfly changes with each culture. The main symbolisms of the dragonfly are renewal, positive force and the power of life in general. Dragonflies can also be a symbol of the sense of self that comes with maturity. Also, as a creature of the wind, the dragonfly frequently represents change. And as a dragonfly lives a short life, it knows it must live its life to the fullest with the short time it has – which is a lesson for all of us.
There are many different representations of the dragonfly; it all comes down to which culture you happen to be in. For instance, if you are in Japan, the dragonfly symbolizes a new light and joy. Some animal symbolism has the dragonfly representing good luck, prosperity, swiftness, purity, harmony and strength. Some Native Americans believe dragonflies are the souls of the dead. There are also many cultures that believe that the meaning of a dragonfly is happiness, courage and subconscious thoughts. It is also believed that if you see two dragonflies paired together that they represent love and maturity.
The dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings and change for many centuries and even though the representation of the dragonfly seems to change throughout the cultures, there are still a few things that are similar; the dragonfly means hope, change and love. Since cultures vary, others may see the dragonfly as a symbol of financial wealth like savings. With the constant changing of the world, it is no wonder that more and more people are adopting the dragonfly as their totem and admiring this beautiful insect.


Natasha and I came to Italy in March 2008, after many years of visiting my mothers family here in Citta di Castello, we had decided that this would be the place where we wanted to bring our children up, and escape the pressures and grind of a typically english executive lifestyle!
In December 2009, we completed the purchase of a fantastic farmhouse here in the Upper Tiber Valley close to the border between Umbria and Tuscany.
With the help of my father-in-law Kevin, a builder of 45 years experience and my family here in Italy who are well respected Geometras and Architects, we hope to transform this wonderfull old building into luxury self-catering/B&B accommodation for discerning travellers!
We hope you have as much fun reading about our experiences as we hope to have during the process and we hope to welcome you as guests to our wonderful home in due course ! Ciao for now!