First sight of Castello dei Pecorari

After a week of touring around the Marche, looking at old villages, ruined palaces and Renaissance villas, we had one final property to see. Giuliano Gnagnatti from Paradise Possible, had persuaded us that there was an old ruined castle that would be worth the one hour drive up into Northern Marche.

Nestled in the Urbino hills between Piobbico and Urbania, and only 3 kms form the heart of white truffle capital Acqualagna, was the forlorn looking Castello dei Pecorari. As we drove out of Piobbico on the road to Urbania, the castle sat majestically high above us – like a sentinel watching our progress up the valley.

About 2kms later, in the small hamlet of Piano, we turned right off the main road and wound our way up through the houses and up the steep hill to the base of the rock that the castle was precariously perched upon. The soft hues of the late winter sun, exaggerating the pink in the local stone of what was left of the castle.

We parked our cars at the bottom of the overgrown track that zigzagged its way up the side of the hill, over a distance of about 1.5kms and a rise of about 250 metres, to the Castle itself. The narrow path made the going difficult, but prolonged the time before we could see the castle in its full glory. Accompanying us, as we climbed to the top was the agent Cesare Belpasso, the architectural engineer, Antonio Marconi together with his Geometra, Mauro and Giuliano Gnagnassi from Paradise Possible.

As the track doubled back on itself, the castle came into full view. Originally a medieval watch tower, it had passed into the ownership of the Ubaldini family in the 16<sup>th</sup> Century. Up until 1930 the castle was inhabited, but a combination of neglect, weather and time had robbed the castle of it roof, most of its walls and its dignity. It sat in its rather forlorn and ruined state, waiting to be rescued.

The castle was originally bounded by a wall. The archway on the left of the main Keep, wss the only entrance into the courtyard, which was bounded by the keep at the front, additional buildings on the Eastern wall, a church on the northern wall and just open courtyard on the western wall. The church, like most of the buildings had long been ruined, was the ruin of but there was no evidence at all of the stable block and stalls that had originally occupied the left hand part of the courtyard.

Yet despite its dilapidated state, it was majestic. It had huge potential, and at the price it was being offered together with the 10 hectares of prime truffle oaks, woods and pastures it seemed a steal. Very quickly we both realised that this old ruin had real possibilities. With the help of Antonio Marconi, we were able to take some rough measurements and make some indicative assumptions about the possible restoration costs.

Over dinner that night we chatted about the possibilities that Castello dei Pecorari could provide, and the very next morning we decided to put an offer in that was accepted. We had found our project.

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