This is a 1-hectare (2.5-acre) site in unspoiled woodland in a valley next to a stream with an approved project to build a 200sqm ecological house, 15km (20 minutes) by car from the charming walled Umbrian town of Città di Castello. The site is in a European Union-designated and -protected area of outstanding natural beauty. If you are looking for a project that will be relatively uncomplicated to build (compared with the many potential pitfalls of restoring a ruin) and for a beautiful property that will make either an easy, efficient and economical home or a good lock-and-leave holiday house, and are set on being in the countryside, this could be the ideal choice.
- Location: 20 minutes (15km) from Città di Castello, Umbria; in a protected woodland valley next to a stream. To see Picchio on Google Earth, please click the Location tab.
- Altitude: 530m
- Property size: 1 hectare of woodland
- Condition: land and remains of stone house, with permissions to build an entirely new house
- Authorized project: 200sqm, 4-bedroom ecological house
- Access: country track
- PRICE: €150,000
THE ‘PICCHIO’ SITE
It is hard to find such havens of peace and unspoiled natural beauty in western Europe. The site centers on the remains of a small stone house called Picchio – which translates as Woodpecker – nestled in a tranquil clearing in a valley of oak-forested hills. Here, the only sounds are of birdsong, chirping crickets, croaking frogs and the other wildlife – including deer, wild boar, porcupines – that live in these hills. The forest is also rich with wild orchids, wild strawberries and a vast assortment of other wild plants and flowers (see Gallery photos), not to mention porcini and myriad other mushrooms and both black and prized white truffles. Think classic fairy-tale cottage in a clearing in the woods.
The site has its own independent access across a ford in a stream and along a track that is in good condition after recent maintenance and the installation of drainage pipes. It has no neighbours (and, thanks the strict regulation of rural building permissions, no possibility of other construction nearby) and the possibility of a water supply for house construction (pumped from the stream through a pipe that we have laid beneath the access road).
The site is about 1km from our country house, which is the nearest property, but each is well hidden from the other by thick oak forest.
THE ENERGY-EFFICIENT PROJECT
The regional authorities have granted permission for the construction of a stone, wood and glass house on the site of the existing ruin, of which nothing more than the base stones remain. Getting these permissions has taken many years, due to the site’s protected status, and – under strict preservation rules – was only possible because the property exists on old survey maps.
As conceived, the house is to be built in keeping with local traditions and its woodland surroundings, and entirely on the basis of ecological principles (using passive solar heating, geothermal technology etc) and with environmentally friendly building materials. (See the computerized images below to get some sense of how it will look – but add bucket loads of digitally-untranslatable woodland charm, tranquility and beauty to get a truer picture.)
As such, this will be a country house with a difference. Its construction will not risk the potential headaches and nasty surprises inherent in restoring an old-building. And, once built, it will be easy and economical to run all year round. The planned construction will not only minimize heat loss, but – in line with passive solar heating principles which involve the alignment of buildings to ensure the absorption of an ideal amount of sunlight at different times of year – will actually capture and retain heat in the winter (while ensuring a cool environment in the summer), for maximum energy efficiency and comfort.
The land is for sale with the approved plans. The buyer may continue with our ecological project (we can provide more details, upon request) or proceed with a different idea, so long as the house’s footprint follows that of the approved plans and external aesthetic changes are not too drastic. We have made some estimates of the possible range of construction costs — depending on the finish required — and will discuss these with anyone who is interested.
Click on photos to see larger images and to scroll through.