This Week in the USA

Buongiorno!

Most of you have seen my blog yesterday about an Afternoon in Salento, a tiny hill town we discovered while standing on another hillside while exploring nearby on our first visit to Italy after purchasing Villa Velina.

I just want to take a few minutes to update you regarding why there was a “no blog” space of almost a month before yesterday and why there will be another week to possibly two week long space before the next blog in this series. We are relocating from the Philadelphia, PA – Wilmington, DE suburbs to New Port Richey, Florida (Tampa, FL metro area). Just like Villa Velina and Italy, we didn’t see this coming. . .

About two years ago, we did a major downsizing from a 3,800 sq. ft. home to our current condo. We thought we would live in our current condo forever and so we spent $30K making it what we wanted from a design perspective. As you will learn in blogs yet to come (my blog is for the most part a chronological story), this downsizing was heavily influenced by our experiences in Italy. Now, we are doing another form of preparation for spending much more time in Italy combined with family reasons.

Between George and I, we have 5 daughters and twin sons, so we are the Brady Bunch on steroids. I brought the 5 daughters and he came with the 2 sons. All together, we have 15 grandchildren!! During 2015, we had a couple of surprises – the two daughters with the 8 youngest grandchildren were both presented with wonderful opportunities to relocate, resulting in a better lifestyle and job opportunities for their families. We were so happy for them!

First, Jeanan and Kevin decided to leave their longtime area of Alexandria, VA (Metro Washington, DC) for New Port Richey, Florida. Kevin’s mom and dad lived near there and while visiting, they fell in love with the area and saw what their money could buy real-estate-wise and so, they built a house. Their jobs were independent of location, so better cost of living for them, not to mention better climate to raise their twin daughters (the Princess Twins) who just turned two and they would be closer to their son, Trevor as he attends Florida State University. (Please note: the Princess Twins DO NOT control our minds.)

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Next, Lauren and Mike lived in Newtown, CT (Fairfield County) and Mike, who is a restaurant management executive, was presented with an incredible opportunity to move to the Gulf Shores, Alabama area to run The Hangout, Gulf Shores and The Gulf, Orange Beach, AL. (Check these out on the internet). They moved to the wonderful town of Fairhope, Alabama. So, off went our 5 youngest grandsons.

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While George and I were truly happy for both of these daughters and their families, our minds began twisting into a pretzel as we tried to imagine how we would live near Philadelphia, visit Alabama and Florida often enough so our small grandchildren would know us AND still have time for Italy. After much mind-twisting thought, we decided to sell our PA condo and buy two smaller condos – one in Florida and one in Alabama.

Well, my friends, our Florida home is ready and it’s freezing up here in Philly, so this week, we’re “getting out of Dodge”. See you all on the other side!!!

Goodbye, Philadelphia!

 

Hello, New Port Richey!

A presto dalla Florida (see you soon from Florida),

Giovanna (Jo)

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An Afternoon in Salento – Un Pomeriggi nel Salento

So, lunch . . . we wanted to check out our local deli at the bottom of “our hill”.  It was situated just as we got to the main street of the area called Velina, fratzione di (sister town of) Casal Nuovo Cilento. As we turned right on this road, Via Arbosto or SS447, we spotted the deli immediately on our left. We pulled into the parking lot and entered the deli and met our new friend Danielle for the first time. Although he spoke no English and we spoke very little Italian, through an exchange of simple one to two word phrases, pointing and charades, we managed to get a vegetarian sandwich made of melanzani (eggplant), funghi (mushrooms) and mozzarella on magnifico pane (magnificent bread). We were the excited recipients of not one, but two of these fantistico sandwiches and bottled water for only 5.50 euros!! And Danielle was so friendly and had the nicest smile.

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There were no tables to sit at in the deli, but no problem, we happily munched on our delicious sandwiches on superior bread in the car before beginning our new adventure to discover Salento, the small hilltop town we had spotted from “our castle”.

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As soon as we gobbled down our sandwiches, we set off on our journey. We had purchased the Western European TomTom, so I plotted our course to Salento and we were on our way. Although Salento was only about 8 kilometers away, I could see there were some tricky hairpin turns involved. The beginning of the journey was on familiar turf as we exited Velina, passed the train station and drove through Stella as we would as we normally traveled to get on the SS18, an autostrada that took us to points north, such as Agropoli or even Rome or south to Palinuro, Sapri or Maratea. But, that’s where the familiar turf ended. “New turf, George”, I noted with a huge grin, as we always do in our travels.

As we crossed under the SS18, we drove by a relatively flat open field and dry riverbed and that’s where the “flat” ended. The tiny road, only about wide enough for an Italian-sized car-and-a-half, immediately began heading straight up, while twisting and turning. “Boy, are we lucky I am not driving,” I thought to myself, as I reflected on my dusty stick shift driving skills that had not been used for many years ever since crashing a car into the laundry sink in my garage . . .

I was immediately brought into the present as George deftly rounded yet another ridiculously hairpin-ish, hairpin curve that also sent us 20 feet closer to Heaven at the same time when immediately in front of us, there were cows!! Horns of very angry looking cows. Horns of very hostile looking cows that appeared to want to skewer our car right through the front window so they could waste no time spearing us! How dare a car disrupt their walk down their road from their meadow to the barn! And I’m sure this rarely ever happened to them, considering the tiny size of this town and of this road. Now, this was probably the best photo op I had ever been upfront and personally presented with, and how did I respond? Why, I was so shook up, I took a fabulous picture of the dashboard. So, for illustration purposes, the follow-on shots will have to suffice.

Even more exciting (read scary) than surprise cow horns in our faces, was the fact that George had to BACK down the sharpest, hairiest, hairpin curve I had ever (and have yet) to see.

Once the cows were all in their meadow, we continued winding up to the town, where we found interesting, old architecture and nice but curious people who could not seem to understand why in the world anyone foreign (stranieri) would visit their teeny, tiny hamlet.

George even found a friend – a dog who followed him everywhere. We affectionately nicknamed this dog “Joe” in honor of the sweet dog friend our dear friends, Jean and John befriended in Elutheria, Bahamas. “Joe” escorted us all throughout the town and was a true guide.

Once we reached the edge of town, we could see back over to the castle where we had first “discovered” and Apple-mapped this town. After enjoying the indescribable views and Joe’s company, we departed with a smile on our faces and yet another adventure to remember.

Buon Giorno!

Giovanna (Jo)