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 |

House Hunting in Le Marche – Day 3

There were a couple of houses we were interested in that were listed by another agent, Richard, so on Day 3 we went to see them.

La Perla Segreta (The Secret Pearl)

La Perla SegredaOne of the nice features of this house was that it was walking distance to the town of Mogliani, while still being very private. It was a good-sized house, with five bedrooms and five baths and a pool. It also had 80 olive trees and a small vineyard, a plus from my point of view.

But it didn’t show well, as it was totally overgrown and it would be quite a big project to clear the property. But its biggest unfixable drawback was that the living room was rather small and was down a long, narrow hall on the opposite end of the house from the kitchen. We quickly decided to pass on this one.

Casa Tranquilla

Case Tranquilla, Le MarcheCasa Tranquilla sits below the town of Penna San Giovanni, but still high enough to have panoramic views of the whole valley. We were met by the owners Trud and Udo and their two dogs as we drove up the driveway, and they showed us around both the main house and the apartment in back, as well as the extensive grounds (about 7.5 acres).

Casa Tranquilla poolThe house itself was a charming country cottage that had been thoughtfully restored to maintain its character and vintage details. It had a wonderful loggia in front, where I could picture enjoying all our meals in good weather. Inside, the floor plan was a bit quirky and chopped up. The master suite was on the ground floor and there was another bedroom upstairs, but without a bath. The upstairs hallway had a door leading to the apartment, which could be closed off or left open and integrated into the main house. The apartment itself was great, and provided a Casa Tranquilla interiornice rental income in summer for Trudi and Udo. It had a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room, plus a large, partially covered terrazza with incredible views.

The property was awesome. Besides the pool and the views, it had lots of olive and fruit trees as well as a bocce court. There was also a barn in back, where Udo had his art studio and workshop.

It was hard not to love this place, but we decided the inside space was too awkward and didn’t have the right rooms in the right places, so it probably wouldn’t work for us.

Casa Ideale (Redux)

After we returned from seeing these two houses, we decided to go back to Casa Ideale (the ruin) to have another look at the property and discuss whether the option of building a new house was something we would really consider taking on.

The neighboring farmer had blocked the lane with his truck so we had to stop short of the property and trudge through the fields to get there. But what a view.

Ideale_view1      View from Casa Ideale, Marche

We discussed the size of the house we could build, how and where it might be sited to take advantage of the views, where the pool would go, etc. Most importantly, could we actually pull off building a house in Italy while living in Chicago. This would have been a non-starter if it were not for the fact that Kevin, in addition to being a real estate agent, also worked as a general contractor, overseeing restoration projects. He had a team of architects, builders and other tradespeople who could do this for us, and he would be in constant communication with us to give us progress updates and get our feedback. We were intrigued with the notion of building something to our own specifications and not having to live with awkward floor plans or someone else’s taste in interior finishes.

We also felt it was a plus that the property was close to two towns: Colmurano and Urbisaglia. We really want to get involved in local life, so this was important to us.

We had a lot to think about, and our decision was made all the more confusing by the fact that we were comparing apples, oranges and grapefruits when it came to what property to buy. We had two fully finished houses in contention, a couple of partially reconstructed houses and a ruin.

That night we had a long discussion over dinner, helped along by a couple of bottles of local wine.

Images: Copyright Our Big Italian Adventure

Le Marche? The Part of Italy You've Never Heard Of

Blank stares. That’s what we get when we tell people the area we’re looking at in Italy. Essentially, no one has heard of Le Marche or really knows where it is. Even my online Italian teachers were hard-pressed to tell me anything about it. So, let me fill you in.

The first three questions everyone has are, “Where is it?”, “Why does it have a strange name?” — in English, it’s often translated as The Marches — and, “Why not Tuscany?” Let’s deal with these.

A Geography Lesson

map of italy with marche highlighted

One of the 20 regions of Italy, it’s on the eastern side of the country, with a coastline on the Adriatic Sea and a western border along the top of the mountains that run down the center of the peninsula. North and south, it’s about in the middle. It’s northeast of Rome, about 3 1/2 hours by car, and southeast of Florence, again by 3 hours or so. The distances to these cities aren’t that big, but you have to cross the mountains to get to either.

The terrain is mostly rolling hills, plus the mountains, with a small sliver of flat land along the coast. There are a number of river valleys that run down to the sea, so traveling east-west in the valleys is a lot faster than going north-south through the mountains and hills.

marche provinces map
It’s divided into 5 provinces, named after the biggest city in each. With one possible exception, you’ve never heard of any of these places. North to south, they are Pesaro & Urbino, Ancona, Macerata, Fermo, and Ascoli Piceno. The exception might be Urbino, not a big town but the birthplace of the painter Raphael.

After my reconnaissance mission a year ago, we’ve decided to focus our search primarily on the Macerata province, in the farmlands around the towns of San Ginesio, Colmurano, Urbisaglia and Amandola. That will put us about 35-40 minutes from both mountains and sea.

A History and Language Lesson

In the Middle Ages, most of Italy was ruled by the Pope, but on the eastern fringe were the Marches of Ancona, Fermo, and Camerino. These were nominally part of the Papal States, but were in fact under the control of local rulers, called a marchese, or marquis in English.

The term march in English or marca in Italian, comes from the Latin word marco, meaning “margin” or “edge”, and because of their locations this area became known as Le Marche, the Italian plural of la marca. (The name “Denmark” comes from a similar derivation.)

An Economics Lesson

Tuscany is great: the art, the terrain, the wine, the women, the song. Tuscany is also bad: overrun by Americans, both for houses and summer visits, and home to high real estate prices. (Try visiting Cortona, made famous in one of those books about moving to Tuscany. If you hear anyone speaking Italian, you win a prize.)

Based on our extensive online searches and four days visiting about 15 houses, house prices, even on the far edges of Tuscany, are at least 30% higher than Le Marche. Look near Florence and, as they say, if you have to ask what it costs you can’t afford it.

Now, I hope your blank stare has turned into a wise look of recognition.

First map source: By Gigillo83 – Own work., Public Domain Second map source: Licensed: Copyright: lesniewski / 123RF Stock Photo