Posted by: debrakolkka | November 28, 2009

Grand Designs – The Pile of Rocks in Tuscany

Last year we bought a ruin near the picturesque town of Vergemoli in a national park in the Garfagnana, about 25 kilometres from Bagni di Lucca.  We like to call it our pile of rocks.

the old house

our pile of rocks


It once was a stone cottage occupied by three brothers.  It sits on 10,000 square metres on the side of a mountain with gorgeous views over the tiny village and beyond.  The brothers were farmers and the remains of their grape vines and fruit trees can still be seen.  The terraces where they grew vegetables, probably artichokes, broad beans and tomatoes are still there.  Hopefully things will grow there again in the future.


Old terraces for vegetable growing

The first job was to improve the road to the site.  A dirt and gravel road was built several years ago, but time and water from our spring have eroded several sections.  A well house has been erected which will eventually connect to storage tanks.  We are very lucky to have our own water source which has run all year even in the driest part of summer.

Adriano at the well house

The last step this year was to pull down the old house.  We would have preserved the stone walls but they were too far gone to be saved.  There was a volcanic stone arched doorway which was dismantled and will be saved and put back into the new house.  Our permits state that the new house must be of the same building materials and dimensions as the original.  We want to do this anyway and the doorway is so lovely we would be nuts not to keep it.  Several of the doorways in the nearby village are of a similar design, another reason to keep it.

cracked wall

Volcanic stone doorway

the dismantled door waiting to be rebuilt

The site has been cleared in preparation for the next step, the foundations.  We are in a low risk earthquake zone, as is much of Italy, so the new house wil be built with the necessary earthquake proofing.  We are also going to insulate the walls, double glaze all the windows and use solar power where we can.  We are hoping to make is a eco- friendly as possible.

This is a long term project.  Work has stopped for this year as the site is too difficult to work on in winter.  Next spring work will commence on the foundations.

We will keep you posted.


Vergemoli view

View from Vergemoli

View from Vergemoli


  1. What an amazing undertaking.

  2. […] here and here to see the old house and the cleared […]

  3. Hi Deb
    It looks fabulous and I envy you. How is your access in winter?

    It looks like a good candidate for Kevin McLeod’s “Grand Designs”.

    I wish you well.

    • The site is accessible all year, unless there is deep snow. You could still walk there, but it might be difficult to drive. The road will be improved as we use it more. There are a few spots still affected by heavy rain , but we will work on that. The house is about a 10 minute walk from the village – about 2 minutes by car.
      It would be wonderful if Kevin McLeod was interested in our little house.

  4. […] here to see the original pile of rocks. The house in Vergemoli now has its own category as […]

  5. I think you are incredibly brave to tackle a project like this, but wow – what a view! That and the scenery would make it totally worthwhile.

  6. […] here to see the original pile of rocks. The house in Vergemoli now has its own category as […]

  7. Have you finished yet. It’s taken us 15 yrs to do our wreck in Pescaglia. Worth every minute !

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