With Francesca 8 months pregnant, I came back to visit the site on my own in June 2006. In the intervening months, we had had numerous email exchanges with Antonio and Cesare. With Antonio, it had been agreeing terms and understanding the details of the quotes, and with Cesare we had been exploring the option to buy the remaining land that adjoined the castle to make sure there were no pre-emotion rights exercised by our future neighbours.
We had agreed that we would complete the purchase at the back end of the year, once Francesca had given birth and was able to travel again. But in the intervening period, we were going to push on and clear rubble form the site, so that Antonio and his team could conduct the full survey. To get the right tools and equipment up there, that meant
I had also arranged to meet with Simon Corkhill – an English landscape gardener and swimming pool expert who had moved out to Le Marche some 18 months previously and established a thriving landscaping business. We wanted to get a better idea on the potential costs of turning the overgrown hill with a pile of stones on top of it in to a luxury boutique hotel, with wonderful pool and beautifully landscaped gardens, and Simon had agreed to come on site and give us an estimate.
Later that afternoon we met with the representatives of the two companies that Antonio had selected. The first XXXXX, who was to clear and rebuild the road, was proposing a fully finished surface with full irrigation ditches and soakaways. Thinking that this was overkill to just get a small Bobcat and truck up there, we negotiated them down to just widening and flattening the track, together with some basic water irrigation to stop any of the surface being washed away over the winter months.
We then talked though the proposal for the site clearance. There was less leeway on this, as the work had to be done. We agreed the deal, and they promised to start once the road was complete in July. Initially they would secure the site with a metal fence all the way around it, and then start the laborious task of removing all of the fallen stone, and clearing the site back to its foundations.
Since no formal plans of the castle existed- not even in the Vatican Archie -we were going to have to measure the depth and breadth of all of the foundations to then be able to determine the height and thickness of the walls. Only then could we formally ascertain what the final square metreage might be – which of course ha a direct impact on the number of rooms we could have, and consequently would determine the viability of the project.