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Reactions to the Landscape Plan Overall, Not Too Bad

We sent Paula’s long-awaited landscape plan off to Kevin for consultation with Francisc and for their comments.

Overall, we got a not-unexpected “yes, but …” reply.

It starts like this:

Overall, it looks nice. The key is that on this first pass you got something you can work with. Now, we need to get it to where it can be executed starting in a 3-4 weeks.

Now on to the specifics:

On the stairs directly down from the parking to the stairs, there was no mincing of words.

Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House

Nobody this end — me, Francisc, others — thinks it’s a good idea to execute a staircase directly from the front door to the parking lot … it’s too steep and the costs of doing it (in anchored, reinforced cement) could be prohibitive.

This one point Anne and I won’t budge on. We’ll just hope the costs are manageable.

On the other access paths in front of the house.

I would be careful to not “junk up” the front of the house with two many stairs, trails, paths … ONE would be fine and that lets the house and planned plantings speak for themselves.

Here we agree.

On the idea of a “guard wall” at the bottom on the driveway, his thoughts are clear.

No additional walls are required at the driveway/parking lot … I don’t understand why that’s been suggested.

This one is trickier for us. We do have a concern abour cars going over the edge, based on our past visits, but the situation may have changed. We’re going to leave this guard wall out of the plan, but think about putting some large planters there to define the edge better than the wooden rail fence will on its own.

Moving to the back of the house, he had only one major concern.

I would not put a pergola on the back of the house — this would essentially defeat a key design element of the house — all those big french doors that bring light into the house. If the pergola is covered in vines or plants, or even if it’s there unencumbered, it will block sunlight into the house … if you need shade (and you will) head under the portico or onto the 1st floor terrace. Note that with the quality of insulation in the walls, door/window glass and roof — WAY BEYOND a normal house — the idea of too much heat coming in is a non issue … plus, a pergola will require permissions … plus, it’s something you could always add LATER, so see if you really need it before spending money on it and blocking light.

He’s convinced us here. No pergola for now.

Now it’s time for the clincher and he’s spot on here.

Paula needs take the lead on this and specify exactly what is needed. I can help, certainly, but she needs to lead (and she needs to do that LITERALLY as soon as you say you like the plan as is)

My job is to back to Paula and get her to step up and take charge.

An Update

Paula did go to the site and explain the plan to all involved: Kevin, Francisc, Pippo and his son Marco, who will do the landscape installation. While the relationship between Paula and Kevin and Francisc can be quite testy, she seemed to hit it off with Pippo and Marco, which apparently helped to lighten the mood.

Next is for Francisc to plan and cost the stairs and for Paula to get to work on the planting plan.

Image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Finally Some Progress on the Landscape Plan Stairs and Paths

This has been a long time coming.

Last we heard, we had received the detailed survey that our landscape designer Paula required. That was in November. The delays on this have been driving Kevin and Francisc crazy, as they want to get the project wrapped up. We can’t blame then, but given the difficulties presented by the sloping plot, we’ve been patiently waiting for this plan.

At this stage, we’re focusing only on the hardscape — the stairs, walls, and paths — since that work needs to be started right away. The next phase, once this is settled, will move on to the plantings.

I’ll start with a plan overview that shows the whole property. It’s a little hard to read, so I’ll show close-ups of the key areas around the house and provide some commentary.

Landscape Plan Overview
Landscape Plan Overview
Click image to enlarge
In Front

We’ve done a lot of land reshaping to try to soften the slopes around the house. This work has helped a lot, but right now we’re left with only one way to get down from the parking area to the house, via a path that leads to the kitchen door.

While this is fine for everyday use, we need a more direct route to the front door for guests and for a “proper” approach to the house.

During our trip in May, when we first met Paula we discussed the need for some stairs that went directly down from the parking to the front door. She’s included those stairs, divided into a top section that is more formal and a lower section that is more informal. (Aesthetics, I guess.)

There is also access to the kitchen via a gravel path, following the existing slope. (More on that below.)

She’s also included a very indirect approach, starting along the path to the right of the house, cutting across on the level in front, then descending some stairs to the left front of the house. (This seems like it’s likely overkill.)

She’s also recommending that we build up the retaining wall at the end of the driveway, as a safety measure to define the edge of the slope and to act as a barrier to prevent a car from sliding all the way down to the house.

Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House
Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House
Click image to enlarge
Side Near the Kitchen

This is just a closer look at the path that approaches the kitchen. This slope is shallow enough to build a path, gravel with wood risers, like railroad ties.

Landscape Plan Detail at Side of House
Landscape Plan Detail at Side of House
Click image to enlarge
Behind and Down to the Pool

First, Paula suggests we add a pergola across the back of the house, covering the area from the portico to the edge of the house.

Next, she’s suggesting a stone landing in the middle of the back of the house, leading to a set of (too steep?) gravel and wood steps down to the level below the house. These steps would then continue to the next level, the one above the pool.

From here, the slope is less steep, and we might be able to do just a path down to the pool, really a series of short stairs with grass levels.

Then, at pool level, there would be a portico to provide some shade.

Landscape Plan Detail Behind House
Landscape Plan Detail Behind House
Click image to enlarge

We think that overall it’s a very good plan. We’ll send it off to Kevin for his thoughts and some ideas about feasibility and costs.

Plan drawings by Paula Ryan: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Extending the Parking Level More Earth Being Moved

Place to Extend Parking Area at a new house in Le Marche
Place to Extend Parking Area
Click image to enlarge

Since the property is shaped like a triangle, with the narrow angle being up the hill above the house, we’re a little cramped on parking area, and just as important, in the turning area to get faced uphill. Francisc noted that as the earthmoving has developed, we were left with a bit of “dead space” adjacent to the parking area. He suggested that we use it to provide some breathing room.

Using the area this way means we need to extend the parking area retaining wall toward the south side of the property. The work comes with a price tag, of course, but it seems like a worthwhile investment.

It requires the wall extension and then more backfill.In the end we will be left with a much better turning area and a chance to get a straight shot going uphill.

Backfill Work Behind Wall at a new house in Le Marche
Backfill Work Behind Wall
Click image to enlarge

Also, as part of this work, they have started to face the retaining wall with stone and to put some topsoil over the terra armata.

Working Above Retaining Wall
Stone Wall at Right Top
Click image to enlarge

Here are a lot more pictures of this work, which extended over several days.

All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Drainage Avoiding a Flood

Given our hillside location, we’re concerned that in a heavy rain water might pour down the slope until it ended up inside our house. A few weeks ago, I raised this issue with Kevin. He said Francisc had some drainage planned, but I asked them to beef it up.

The trench digging and gravel and pipe work has been going on over the last few days. These trenches are designed to carry the water around to the sides of the house.

Digging Ditch in Front
Digging Trench in Front
Click image to enlarge
Drainage Gravel
Drainage Gravel
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It looks like they are covering the gravel with a landscape fabric of some type.

Drainage Gravel and Fabric
Drainage Gravel and Fabric
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Drainage Ditch Filled With Gravel
Drainage Trench Filled With Gravel
Click image to enlarge

On top of the gravel and fabric, I think they’re going to place the topsoil.

Drainage Ditch Being Filled
Drainage Trench Being Filled
Click image to enlarge

Seeing all this in place makes me a lot less concerned about a flood.

All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

An Update on the Landscape Plan Very Slow Progress

This is the longest. most painful process we’ve been through yet.

survey tool

Given the slope of the property, having a good landscape plan is very important. We need to have various levels and will need plantings to soften some of the slope.

We first started in earnest on the plan during our visit in May, when we met on site with a landscape designer, Paula, and our geometra, Jimmy. We thought we were making progress on the plan in July when we had another site visit. Little progress was made until late September, but it looked then like we were ready to get it all put together..

Wrong. Now it’s November and we still don’t have the terrain map Paula needs to design the landscape. The latest holdup was caused by Jimmy not being able to get the special gps machine used to work out details terrain plans. Apparently, it’s in very high demand.

Finally, this week, Jimmy was able to produce a CAD file with the terrain. (You can get a feel for the steepness of the slope, especially behind the house where the contour lines are very close together.)

Detailed Terrain Map
Detailed Terrain Map
Click image to enlarge

Now the holdup is that Paula works only on paper and neither she nor Jimmy seemed to want to get what we had printed. Fortunately, Kevin stepped in, contacted the gps guy who had done the measurements and produced the CAD file, and got him to deliver a pdf version.

Kevin will pass that off to Jimmy and Paula to get printed on a large format printer.

So we’re not out of the woods yet.


Survey tool image: Copyright: phatthanit / 123RF Stock Photo
Terrain map: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure