Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Italian Attitude to Fast Food!

Spotted today at Val Di Chienti where a new Macdonald's has recently opened.  And remember Graffiti was invented by the Italians! I think they may have a point!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

We are Floored for Christmas!

 Our builders have completed the top floor floors on Cancello Est.  It has been an interesting engineering project to ensure that the property is stable and now earthquake proof.

A metal frame was secured to all the outer walls and "pinned" through the meter thick walls. Then a metal grid floor was welded on covering the entire floor space in every room.  Apparently, this structure will hold everything tight and secure and reinforce the floors and walls. I guess the old lady is now well corseted and all her featured tightly knitted together, keeping her firm and secure against anything Mother Nature may throw at her in the future!

 Next stage is the underfloor heating and the finish touch - the 16th Century honey coloured tiles.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Winter Visitor at Cancello Est. Could it be Rudolf?

A beautiful stag, happily grazing near Cancello Est. 

It's not Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen or Rudolf (no red nose) as they are Reindeer but this handsome fellow certainly gives a Christmas feel to Gualdo as he feeds in the warm afternoon sun. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Craftsman versus Artist

They say that a man who works with his hands is a craftsman. I disagree. When you see the painstaking renovation of Cancello Est I think we are surrounded by artists.

This picture shows how our wonderful builders have recreated the roof and recycled the 17th Century tiles whilst hiding the 21st Century ones that will keep our guests warm and dry. Sadly residents won't see this detail as its three storeys above their heads.  Its a shame as it looks good enough to eat!

The Old Lady Reveals More Secrets

 As we peel back the layers of nearly 400 years of DIY and bad restoration Cancello Est continues to surprise us.  Now the roof structure has been completed the builders are busy removing walls and floors on the top floor which will eventually provide us with four luxury rooms all en-suite. These suites will have spectacular views of the Sibillini Mountains, the Grand Sasso and the National Park.

The floors, over the years had become a bit of a Mille Feuille with all the various layers added over the centuries. Sixty centimetres in total.

The first layer that was removed is 120 year old Terracotta floor tiles which are a rich red in colour and these will be recycled for the "cantina" area which will become the guest lounge, Bar, Dining Room and Cooking School.

The next layer was of course cement and underneath the builders discovered a deep layer at least 50 centimetres of compacted river sand and and earth.

The final reveal was the original 17th Century floor tiles that miraculously have been beautifully preserved against the ravages of time. They are  the most beautiful honey colour which is typical of the Marche region.

Now the walls are floors are removed the rebuilding begins with new beams, insulation, underfloor heating and of course the fully restored recycled floor tiles. Can't wait to see the finished floors  which the builders say should be before Christmas.

Its hard to comprehend that this magnificent building was constructed during the coronation of Charles I and has survived wars, famine and earthquakes.

Let it Snow,Let It Snow, Let it Snow

Could be famous last words - but we have had our first snow falls on the mountains and it all looks very festive and postcard Christmassy.  Gualdo is looking particularly festive and have put all the Christmas lights up in the historic area of town - we even have a set of lights outside Cancello Est.

Christmas Cake made, pickles done, Mince Pies in the oven - just need to add friends and family for the perfect Christmas

Friday, 23 November 2012

Where Eagles Dare!

Wonderful sight from Cancello Est this morning - a pair of eagles were swopping over the new roof and enjoying the winter sun.

It's remarkable that there is such incredible wildlife so close to us. Probably due to the fact that we overlook the Sibillini National Park and the wondrous snow capped peaks of the mountains.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Copper Guttering added to Complete the Roof

The finishing touches to the roof refurbishment is the addition of wonderful copper gutters that will drain the rainwater into tanks so that in can be recycled for garden use and to fill the pool.

Looks pretty amazing just hope we don't have to polish it every week !

Monday, 19 November 2012

Crowning Glory Completed

Now the roof has been completed (with an extra chimney) the builders have started to renovate the inside of Cancello Est.

This is the first bedroom to go under the hammer and we are amazed at how much larger the rooms look with the walls removed and the windows lengthened to create french doors.

This suite will have great uninterrupted views to the Grand Sasso from the front and from the other window all the way to the sea.

Please note that the builders lunch table is not indicative of future furnishings!!!!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Street where we live (Eventually) Autumn Colours Amazing !

Before and After - Breathing Life into the Facade!

Work is well underway with the outside of Cancello Est and the painstaking restoration is starting to pay dividends.

The first picture is the "before" - dreadful flaking plaster that was slapped on in the 70's and then white washed. (Why?)

This has been removed by hand with chisels and wire brushes to reveal the beautiful honey coloured stone so typical of this part of Italy.

Picture two shows the contrast and it is still a work in process. Next job ( apart from elbow grease with the wire brush) is repoint with Marbletta which will not only make the walls water and damp proof but also make a very pleasing honey coloured facade.

The builders should be starting on the inside on Friday and the outside complete - so exciting.

Also need to compliment the builders - good old fashioned work ethic and amazing workmanship. Well done Antonio and team!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Not a Cloud in the Sky and the New Roof Continues a Pace

As you can see from the pictures hardly a cloud in the sky and no rain which is just as well when you don't have a roof. 

The old tiles are being carefully recycled and relayed as coping stones to hold the new roof. A "basque" of metal beams have been inserted to tighten up the wall structure and to make Cancello Est as earthquake proof as possible.

Roof construction seems to be a bit of an art here in Italy. The roof has to be able to withstand snow at one end of the scale and soaring summer temperatures at the other. The construction is achieved with seven different layers of material that fit snuggly on the beams.

Terracotta tiles (the honey colour is unique to the Marche region),  a layer of wire mesh, a layer of mortar, a layer of insulation, another layer of mortar and then two layers of u-shaped roof tiles - One facing up and one facing down. Remarkable.

The architect tells us that the outside should be totally complete by next Friday and we can then start on the inside.

Never would have thought we would be so excited about roofing - (usually just the roof wetting!)

Look at the wonderful view we have looking towards Smerillo

Exceptional floods leave half of Venice under water

Our hearts go out to the people of Venice.  After days of rain, water in Venice rises to a height of 55 inches above sea level, flooding many shops and buildings. Flooding has intensified in Venice leaving the landmark of St Mark's Square under waters 24 inches deep.

Some 58 per cent of the city was reportedly covered by the flood waters. Tourists could be seen wading through thigh-deep water as rain kept battering the square. Raised walkways have been placed around the historic centre to help people move around the city.Shops, basements and buildings have been flooded
While the canal city is used to high waters, they are putting the delicate system of the city under heavy stress.  

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Snow on the Sibillini and the Old Lady of Gualdo get a New Hat

Winter has finally arrived and the first snows of the year have really made the mountains look spectacular. The trees are starting to take on the russet hues of Autumn. The clear blue skies and the golden colours are now enhanced by white peaked mountains of the Sibillini National Park which makes the vista from Cancello Est particularly special this time of year.

Construction continues with the property and work is underway with the tricky replacement of the roof.  The 17th Century roof tiles have been carefully removed, restored and cleaned and the environmental friendly insulation (recycled PEP bottles) tucked underneath to keep our guest warm and dry.

As the weather changes it gives us full opportunity to indulge ourselves in the hearty winter stews and casseroles all made from organic local produce. So its hearty meals and log fires for the next few months. Our favourite time of year.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Five Storeys of Gualdo

 Gualdo bathed in beautiful autumn sunshine with a newly shrouded Cancello Est encased in scaffolding ready for the intricate surgery that is starting on the South facing facade.

You now see how large the  property is when you see the expanse of the green surgeons gown.

The colours are starting to change of what is a very late autumn - in a few weeks the countryside will change into stunning hues of Gold, Red and and brown and bring another aspect of the Marche country side.  This of course is enhanced by the clean, clear Marche light.

Finally the tower of the original eastern gate to the village is rebuilt (with a cleverly designed swimming pool incorporated)

The honey coloured stone and marbilita look marvellous. It really does look like it was built in the 12th Century rather than yesterday. Now some railings and some clever planting in the garden will make the area look fabulous.

Friday, 19 October 2012

On a Clear day you can see forever!

Apologies to Ms Streisand - but we are absolutely thrilled with the great wall of Gualdo! 

From the pool you can actually see the Grand Sasso, 230km away and its wonderful. Imagine relaxing in the warm waters on a balmy Italian day with that view! 

The "Great Wall" is taking shape and almost complete - the next stage is to get the south facing side of the house stripped, pointed and made waterproof. 

We needed the garden area secure and earthquake proof so that the rest of the renovations can commence. 

Watch this space!


Monday, 15 October 2012

A Pool with a View

Stage two of the pool construction is complete - its coming along perfectly - the decision to convert a non usable foundation stabilising room into a pool was the right one.

One things for sure, guests who bathe are going to have the most spectacular view of the Sibilini Mountains!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Autumns Harvest Making Christmas Tasty

We are enjoying an Indian Summer here at Cancello Est and apart from the beautiful Autumn colours, nature is providing us with some extra special, organic treats for the Christmas Table.

We followed the initiative of the locals and foraged and picked some of the most amazing produce and canned, pickled and bottled for the Christmas table.

Apple Jelly, Peach and Ginger Jam, Pickle Onions, Green Tomato Chutney, Chilli Jam, Chilli and Ginger Relish, Mint Jelly and of course Grape Jam from our own vines. All grown within 5kms of Gualdo and produced as Mother Nature intended - naturally.

Walnuts, Hazelnuts and Almonds have been picked and stored - we are looking forward to an organic Christmas table - hope you can join us.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Two Little Visitors Today

Not exactly a Spring Lamb but more of an Autumn Child - this little beauty was born a few hours ago and is looking so cute and fluffy.  The dogs are desperate to give it a good sniff but mother sheep will not let them any where near it.

The work Continues at a pace

Stage two of the foundations are now complete and we the second level (semi-clad in wood) will be the pool - underneath we have ended up with a pool room (or is it an air raid shelter).

Apparently the pool stage will be finished by Saturday - can't wait till they start cladding the cement box with the original 12th Century stones.

As soon as this area is finished scaffolding will be erected to restore the house facade to its former glory.

Friday, 5 October 2012

A Little rave for Old Fashioned Craftsman

In never thought I would ever ever find myself over the moon about brickwork. The stripping of the old cement and dreadful plaster has been competed on the Via Borgia side of the house. This all had to be done by hand as Sandblasting would have created such a mess for the wonderful neighbours (We want them to stay that way. The builders have used old fashioned building methods to get the correct effect and I must say its absolutely wonderful.
The Shrouded Old Lady of Gualdo looking towards the Historic Centre of the Village

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his head is a craftsman. He who works with his head and his heart is an artist” 
St Francis of Assisi

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Face Lift Continues

Before and After - the reconstruction of the Grande Madame of Gualdo continues. Scaffolding has been erected and the 1930 plaster is being chipped away by hand to reveal the locally hewn natural stone.

12th century building techniques are being used to restore the facade to its original honey coloured exterior.

Desperate for the completion of the outside so we can see what lurks beneath the plaster internally and finally see the much talked about frescoes.

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Old Lady of Gualdo is Finally Getting a Face Lift

 After a few months of intensive negotiation we have begun the restoration.

The old lady is currently clad in a corset of scaffolding and the face lift begins. The first objective is the outside walls and roof and indeed she is getting a "full support" corset of steel to ensure that not only can she withstand the extremes of weather but also the odd earthquake tantrum that Mother Nature occasionally throws in this area of Italy.

The great wall of Gualdo is now under construction and the "boys" are busy knitting the metal structure that will hold back the garden and of course support the swimming pool.

The swimming pool was was one of the areas of contention for the Commune in Gualdo as it is the first one to be allowed in the "Area Historicale" and the architect - Piero, had to jump through quite a few hoops to gain permission to build.

The garden area or "orto" is actually situated in the 11th century tower of the medieval village and of course we are rebuilding it it using the traditional methods of the time (backed with just a touch of concrete, which will be out of view as it has to be earthquake proof).

I just hope when the outside is finished this old lady  doesn't look like Joan Rivers sucking a lemon!  Hard to imagine that in a few months the breakfast terrace will be complete with great organic food, fabulous views and

Friday, 20 July 2012

Spotted in the Trees at Cancello Est

We cannot believe the abundance of wildlife particularly the Birdlife in and around Gualdo.  This is a European Woodpecker - a cheeky little fellow who lives in the copse that the property overlooks. 

Another reason we love Marche!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sanarno - a Jewel in the Marche Crown

Last night decided to pop into Sanarno on some errands and decided to try out a newly opened Restaurant on the side of the road.

Great meal, great wine and most of all a great view of this majestic medievil town.  Well worth a visit particularly on Thursdays when the whole town descends of the square for the weekly market day shopping extravaganza!

Another reason we love Marche

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Kindness, Generosity and Honesty of the Italians Continues to Amaze Us!

This week we decided to watch the England / Italy game with the locals at a favorite eatery, Da Cicco in Gualdo and really enjoy the game with a real Italian flavour! 

Being a Welsh and South African combination of nationalities we decided that the best option was to support Italy which was much appreciated by the Gualdonese. A great time was had by all and our newly made friends really got into the spirit of the game and became very vocal and demonstrative in their support.

Another memorable part of the evening was when we were settling up the bill, Larissa the wife of the owner and brilliant chef ( her signature dish is cinghiale (Wild Boar) ), rushed out of the kitchen in a real panic clutching a handful of Euro notes. Apparently a month before when eating there with a group of friends she had mistakenly double charged for some of the meal and had been waiting for us to come back for another feast.  Now wasn't that a lovely surprise and a real indication of the local honesty and generosity of spirit. 

Another reason we love Le Marche

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Another Great Day Trip - Scheggino

Beautiful Scheggino is a small town with less than 1000 habitants situated in the valley of the Nera river. The river has been diverted to form canals which run down the main street which makes it a picturesque mini- Venice.

We had an amazing lunch right on the River at the   Ristorante Del Ponte - freshly caught trout from the river was a big hit.

Another great find was a really quaint Antique Shop full of Italianate furniture - but managed to resist
Another reason we love Marche

Monday, 18 June 2012

Exploring Marche from Cancello Est - Brilliant Day Trip

June is one of the best months (and best kept secrets) to visit Le Marche

The weather on Saturday was wonderful warm sunny and clear so we decided to venture through the Sibilini Mountains to Norcia. The Salami Capital of Italy.

On the way we discovered the plain of Castelluccio which was a breathtaking.  All the fields surrounding this picturesque village were planted with Rape and Lentils which were all in full flower - reds, golds and yellow.

Another reason why we love Marche!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Cancello Est Revealed More Secrets Today

After some severe pruning of the undergrowth we at last find what will be the terrace and pool deck.

Imagine sitting here with a great glass of wine and watching the sun set over the mountains.

Even on an overcast "Jubilee" day the views are breathtaking.

Looking down on the old turret from the fortified walls we will have views out to Sarnarno and and the countryside - with a backdrop of the Sibilini Mountains

However, the crack in the turret is going to be a challenge for the architect to solve. The area has to be stabilized repaired and or rebuilt - keeping the character of course and retaining every medeival stone.