We decided a few weeks ago to go with compacted gravel, rather than concrete, as the surface for our access road and driveway.
Now that the need for heavy equipment to access the site has gone, they have been bringing in base layer of gravel and spreading it.
This is big project that will take some days to complete.
All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
When our project was started in November 2016, the first activity was to improve the existing rough track into an access road and driveway. That was done by grading the soil and covering it with rough gravel. This made it possible for the heavy machinery to access the property.
Now that most of the heavy work is complete, it’s time to consider resurfacing the access road and driveway. We don’t have to do this; many country houses like ours are reached only by a rough gravel road. It’s so common that these roads have a name: strada bianca, or white road.
We’d like to do a better road for a couple of reasons: we’d like to reduce erosion as much as we can, we want to sure there is good traction for the uphill climb, and we’d like it to look nice.
Overall, we’re probably looking at redoing 500 meters or so of road surface: 50 meters for the driveway and the rest for the access road that connects us to the nearest house and road.
Kevin presented two options for the access road and driveway: reinforced concrete or compacted red gravel.
Both of these options include a couple of important elements: concrete borders, or curbs, to strengthen and maintain the edges of the road, and drainage channels to move the water away.
We thought both options would look nice, with the red gravel probably having the edge. Conversely, the concrete would require less — essentially no — maintenance and would provide better traction.
While we were pondering, Kevin proposed, and then a few hours later withdrew, an idea to combine the two surfaces, using concrete at the places where traction is critical and doing the rest in compacted gravel.
Given my concern with the slope, I was leaning toward concrete. However, it would be about 50% more expensive that gravel. Figuring we could redo it in concrete if we decided with experience that we needed the traction, we decided to go with the compacted red gravel.
Images: Material suppliers
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.
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.
Here are a lot more pictures of this work, which extended over several days.
All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
In my mind, I keep coming back to the issue of access to the property. Just like with the drainage issue, my concern is caused by the hillside the house is built on. Plus, we don’t own the land that the access road — or even the driveway — is on. This further limits our options.
To be precise, the problem isn’t really getting to the house; it’s leaving that is the problem.
Here’s an overhead view of the shape of the last half-kilometer or so of the access. There are two sharp turns: at the top of the driveway, turn A is a bit over 90 degrees and the subsequent turn B is just a tad less severe.
Now a look from the side, showing the slopes of the sections. (This slope drawing is rough; I’m sure I’ve made the sections steeper than they really are, but I think it illustrates the problem.)
The problem at A is that it follows an upslope, meaning you have to keep your speed as you enter the turn, making the sharp turn problematic. The problem at B is that it precedes a steep section, meaning you have to keep you speed up through the turn — and hope no one is coming the other way, as the corner is blind, to boot.
I’d really like to reshape these corners a little.
When I raised this issue with Kevin, I knew what he’d say: we don’t own the land, so we’re very limited in what we can do.
He also noted that rarely will anyone but us and guests be using this road, so the blind corner shouldn’t be an issue.
I know we have accept it as it is,
Overhead view: Google Maps
Side view: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
Our first morning here and our first chance to see Casa Avventura. Today, we’ll have a chance to evaluate the progress and make some decisions that have been on hold for us to be here in person.
We’ve got two big topics to discuss today. First, there is the land and terrain, specifically the slope, and second, a number of design decisions to make and potential chances to consider.
Since the land and slope is the first thing we see, I’ll write about it first and cover the house-related topics in another post.
Kevin said to meet him at the site at 9am. Not only will this be our first viewing, it will be our first time driving to the property on our own. We set off in our Lancia Ypsilon, a “supermini” class car.
As the site is out in the countryside, there is not really a street address. Fortunately, I had a pretty good sense of where the property is from our previous visits and I had gps coordinates I identified from Google Earth. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the turn off the SP129, the road from Colmurano to Urbisaglia.
The turnoff was actually easy to identify. We started down the hill on a paved road for about 1km, where the road splits. We went right, down the so-called strada bianca (white road), a fancy name for gravel.
Now it’s about another 1km on this road, down and around. The last 500m or so is the section that was graded for (and paid for by) us. I’d say it’s just in fair shape now, due to the use by construction and earth-moving equipment. Kevin says it will be redone when the house is ready to go.
When we arrive at the end of the road, where our property access/driveway begins, I hesitate. We look down the slope of the last 100m and I can see it’s steep, steeper than I remembered. I’m worried that once down the hill, our little Ypsilon with the 1.2L engine won’t get us back up. I’m also starting to wonder if we haven’t picked too hilly a hillside.
Getting down to the temporary parking area near the house, we look back up the hill. Hmm.
I think we had overlooked the driveway steepness problem because the drawing we had seen of the land profile didn’t include the driveway. It just showed the level in front of the house.
I have written about the house being “in a hole” before, but in person it was easy to see it’s true, at least with the current land shaping.
The “final” parking area is planned to be in front and above the house. Certainly above. Right now it’s about level with the top floor, with a fairly steep slope down to the house.
How can we make this better?
Here to try to sort this out are Kevin, the geometra Jimmy, the general contractor Francisc, and a landscape designer Paula, who we hadn’t met before. We start outlining the problem and possible solutions.
Currently, since the property is triangular, the house is close to property lines on each side. Plus, it’s high up in triangle, leaving little room for parking above. And our access via the driveway is just a narrow strip, which we don’t own, but on which we have the right of access.
One solution might be to buy some land from the adjacent properties, so we have some room to move the steeper slopes away from the house. That would require some land on the south side of the property.
And/or we could buy some land on the uphill/east side, where we might be able to move the parking and let the driveway curve down the hill and be less steep.
We have a meeting set for tomorrow with the farmers who own this adjacent land, so we’ll see if we can make something happen. (We also need to get them to agree to let the electric company build a pole on their land so we can get electricity to the house, not only for us in the longer term but for Francisc and his crew. Right now they are using generators.)
Paula, trying to be optimistic, thinks that there are some ways to make the slope in front of the house not be too much of a problem — maybe even an advantage — through some plantings and stairs, and the the house being low makes the first “reveal” more exciting. Features rather than bugs. I’m not sure I’m buying.
More to come about behind the house.
All photos: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure