Meeting Our Neighbors Across the Valley

Farmhouse in Le Marche

The last time we visited our house we noticed that there was one house almost directly across from ours on the other side of the valley, and we wondered whether they were bothered by the unsightly view of our construction.

A few weeks later, while looking for potential places to stay on our next visit, Ed happened to stumble on a website for an eco-friendly bed and breakfast in the vicinity of our house. When he put the B&B’s address into Google Earth up came a picture of that same house across the way. It’s called Le Foglie Ridenti, which translates roughly to Laughter in the Leaves. It’s owned by Graham and Saranne, who are originally from the Ireland and England, respectively, but have lived in Le Marche for over ten years.

Since we had their contact information from their website we decided to drop them a line to introduce ourselves…and also apologize for our construction noise and mess. They invited us to stop by on our upcoming trip, so we made a date.

The view of our house from Le Foglie Ridenti

When we arrived at Le Foglie Ridenti we found out that Saranne, who writes children’s science books, was on deadline from her publisher, so we spent most of our visit with Graham.  He showed us around the place and explained that they built their house using an innovative eco-friendly building process and sustainable materials.

Most of their power comes from passive solar energy and their entire home is heated by one wood stove, that they also use for cooking. The house is kept cool in the summer and warm in winter by an innovative insulation technique. They spend just a few hundred Euro per year on electricity, unheard of in a part of the world where energy costs are sky-high.  Graham said the construction technique he used had been pioneered in Germany and he had now started a business to bring it to Le Marche and help other like-minded people build their own eco-friendly homes.

Graham and Saranne had also built their own natural swimming pool. With water lilies and other plants it looked  more like a pond except for being rectangular. The pool uses no chlorine or any other chemicals, relying on plant life and and an aeration pump to keep the water oxygenated and algae free.

Natural swimming pool in Le Marche
This natural swimming pool uses no chemicals

Graham is quite the modern-day Renaissance man and there seems to be nothing he can’t do. In addition to working in eco-friendly construction and farming their olives, vegetables and fruit trees, he is an expert in local wines and leads wine tours for his guests and others, as well as olive tours. In addition, he does farm-to-table catering for local residents, cooking for them in their homes with locally-produced organic  ingredients.

We are so glad to have this warm and friendly couple as neighbors. I am sure they will also be a terrific resource for us when it comes to their knowledge of the area and their connections with local producers.

First and third images: Le Foglie Ridenti
Second image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Solving My Online Banking Problem Learning about One-Time Pin

Having finished three days of decision-making and planning, I had a loose end or two to tie up.

First, we had a short meeting with Giovanna to resolve a couple of building contract questions. While we were there, I had her call Banca Marche in San Ginesio to see if there was someone there would could help me with a little issue.

During my October trip, I opened a checking account to hold some euros and to have automatic payments made to the water and electric companies. As part of that, I was set up for online banking and given a password to log in.

Unfortunately, I waited too long to make my first login. It was after a couple of months when I just wanted to check my balance. The password didn’t work.

I wrote to the bank to get a new password, but I was told I had to do it in person. So my bank visit today was to take care of this little issue.

I was expecting that getting this done would be a long process, but I was wrong. There were no customers waiting and I just had to show my passport and sign a form and I was set.

This time, I was going to log in right away. Now, when I tried, it took the password and I was in. Now to check my balance.

Bana Marche OTP
One-Time Pin Device
Click image to enlarge

I was asked for another code. Hmm. Then I remembered this little device I’d been given in October and which I had luckily brought with me. It’s a small one-time pin generator and I learned that every time I logged in I needed to generate a new pin and enter it. This is certainly secure, but having to use this device was a pain.

An Update

After I returned home, I discovered that there is an iPhone app from Banca Marche that replaces this little device. Now, this whole process seems practical.

OTP device: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Some Easy (?) Detective Work Identifying the House Across the Valley

While looking at some earlier pictures, I noticed a house in the background that I’d noticed before but never really thought about. Here it is in a picture from my October trip. It’s right in the center of the view from the back of our house, almost straight to the west.

Le Foglie Ridenti in distance
House across the Valley

I went to Google Earth and it was easy to identify. In fact, it popped up with a place name: Le Foglie Ridenti.

Update: July, 2017 – OK. In the end not so easy. I found the wrong house. Read all the way to the bottom and I’ll show my mistake.

Here’s the Google Earth view. Our house is the pin on the right.

overhead view of Le Marche terrain
Avventura and Le Foglie Ridenti

Here’s Le Foglie Ridenti from above. If you look closely at the first picture, you can make out the pool that you see in the overhead shot.

Le Marche propert from above
Le Foglie Ridenti

From the topological map, you can see: just down the hill and back up.

topological map Avventura
Terrain around the Houses

I found Le Foglie Ridenti on Google. It’s a house for rent, owned by Saranne and Graham, who live in the attached house with their two children. They describe it as an “eco-friendly farmhouse.” The name means, “the laughing leaves.”

The site says Graham is Irish; it doesn’t say specifically about Saranne. In addition to renting the house, they offer catering and wine expertise. Here’s the link to their site: Le Foglie Ridenti

On the site, I found a picture back across the valley. Our land is right in the center.

Casa Avventura from Le Foglie Ridenti
Our Land in the Center

Now, the question is how they’ll feel when they find out about the Americans across the way. We may contact them and see about staying there on an upcoming trip.

Mea Culpa Update

I thought I’d found the right house, but after we visited in July, 2017, Anne noticed that the house I had picked had a regular concrete pool, not the natural pool at Le Foglie Ridenti.

Here is the corrected overview. The red circle is the house I identified earlier. The correct house is in the green circle:

updated le foglie ridenti image
Correct Location in Green
Click image to enlarge

And a closer look:

Le Foglie Ridenti
Notice the Natural Pool at Top Right
Click image to enlarge

You can read more about Le Foglie Ridenti in Anne’s post from July.

First image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
Images 2, 3 4, 6,and 7: Google Earth and Google Maps
Fifth image: Le Foglie Ridenti |

Casa Avventura

We’ve been using “Casa Ideale” as the working name for our house. It’s the name Kevin used when he was marketing the property and the house concept.

AdventureWe hope the house will turn out to be “Ideal”, but we know getting it built and moving in will be an adventure, so I’m going to use “Casa Avventura” as our working name from now on.

Image: Pixabay CC0 - No attribution required |

Seeing Some Other Houses and Meeting a Great Resource

Kevin wanted me to see a couple of houses where he’d managed the building and reconstruction . The primary goal was to focus on the windows, doors, ceiling beams, and flooring, since those are some of the items we will need to choose early in the process.

stairway lights in wall

ceiling beams and tiles with wired light fixture

The first house offered a lot of stimulation to know what we don’t want. It was very contemporary inside, which makes it in keeping with modern Italian, but that’s not the look we’re going for. All it really offered me was the idea of including dovecotes, in an otherwise unappealing exterior, and a better understanding of under floor heating.

The second house was more to my liking. It was more rustic, closer to the look we want. Both the beams and ceiling treatment and the flooring offered some good examples, as did the fireplace.

The best resource I discovered here was the owner, Michael. Originally from New York, he moved to Italy from Miami full time last spring. He had found his house through Kevin, and then Kevin managed the restoration. The purchase was in 2012 and the house finished in 2014. Michael said he could have done it more quickly, but he wanted to stretch the process out to fit the timing of some other events.

He still works for a law firm in Miami, so one of my first questions to him was about the quality and speed of the over-the-air internet, the only way to get connected out in the Marchegian countryside. He said it took some fiddling by the supplier to get it right, but he said he was pleased with it once it was tuned. (It uses an on-the-roof receiver/transmitter, connecting into a cellular network, I guess.)

I also asked him how easy – or difficult – he had found the process of getting connected to the local community. He said that, while he was not naturally extroverted, he had made it a point to “put himself out there.” He said he always introduced himself when he went to a new place, a restaurant or store, and told them he’d bought a house nearby and was there full time. Since Marche is off the beaten path, the locals don’t meet a lot of Americans who have done this.

They really like Americans, especially those who are trying to use their language. They started telling their friends all about the new guy, and soon Michael knew a lot of people.

He’s also an avid cyclist and he meets people through this shared interest.

Overall, it was a very positive message, and it points out our need to find some activity we can get involved in once we’re here. Too bad I don’t knit.

An Update

Two nights later I took Michael to dinner so I could get more perspective on the house building process and some other issues related to making the move. We were supposed to go to a restaurant in a small town, but it was closed when we got there. The earthquakes of the night before had made a mess of the inside of the restaurant: wine bottles fell off the wall, etc. apparently no major structural damage, though, as he thought they might reopen in a day or so.

We ended up going into Tolentino, one of the good-sized towns in the area. We went to an eclectic restaurant where he knew the owners. One of the things I had was an antipasto plate, the meats on which came from the town of Visso, near the epicenter of the previous day’s earthquake. The owners wondered about the future of their supplier, and said maybe this was the last salume they’d receive. A bit eerie.

Michael and I talked about residency, but his situation is totally different. He has Italian heritage, so it’s relatively easy for him to become a citizen. He said the big draw was access to the low cost, high quality health care.

We talked a bit about Kevin as a construction manager. He pointed out that they have become good friends, through cycling and otherwise, and I took this as a sign that he had been pleased overall. He said Kevin tries really hard to make sure the client gets what he needs — we’ve seen that, too. Michael also said he thought that Kevin was continuing to learn more about building options and resources, so he expected our process would be good, maybe even smoother than his.

One recommendation he offered was to look at using a (wood) pellet heating system rather than gas. He said, while more expensive upfront, it pays out rather quickly. Kevin had thought gas was better for us, but I’ll need to ask him again about it.

Michael offered his ongoing help, which I think will be valuable, as an American who has navigated the waters and is sailing along.

A good dinner and more positive feelings.

Image source
Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure