Felice Anno Nuovo!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for joining me on my Italian adventures during this past year. I officially launched Mezzogiorno Living at the end of November 2015. Since that time, ML has received almost 4,000 views from Italian lovers spanning over 60 countries! Thank you for your loyalty as we explore The Cilento and Beyond and stay tuned in 2017 for new adventures.

I can feel good things coming in 2017 and I wish you all the best year ever! Keep positive and follow your dreams! Create the life you want to live. Refuse to get caught up (mentally bogged down) in anything that does not lead you toward your dream life. Keep an open mind. Don’t eliminate anything from the realm of your possibilities. Never say “I can’t do that”.  Dare to dream without boundaries and if a crazy idea, thought or opportunity presents itself – dare to seriously consider it!  And trust God. Life doesn’t always work out the way you planned, but there is always something good to be taken away from every situation.

Eight short years ago, I was faced with a life altering event – the death of my beloved first husband from ALS. As many of you know, events like this can have a devastating effect on a life. Or you can take the experiences and lessons learned and live your best life going forward. 

The choice belongs to all of us – Lemons or Limoncello??

I’ll take the limoncello!!

Love, Giò

Until Next Time, Villa D’Amore (Fino alla prossima volta)

I awoke gently to the special sound of one of our local bird species “who who who who-who . . . who who who who-who” and the church bells down in the valley. The realization that today was the day I depart Villa D’Amore to return to the states poured over me like a bucket of ice water, propelling me to jump out of bed and savor my last views of Monte Stella, my beloved valley and sea.

This would be the first time I would be traveling the SP430 detour return trip on a Saturday the first weekend in September and I was concerned about the traffic we may encounter as the remaining Italians returned home from an extended vacation.

I got showered and dressed and enjoyed my last fresh white figs and biscotti as I savored my final moments in my beloved Villa D’Amore.

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Next, came the part most difficult for me . . . the covering of Villa D’Amore. I drape all furniture to protect it from the dust while I am gone. This action meant the next step was walking out the door fino alla prossima volta!!!!! And fino alla prossima volta could never be abbastanza presto (soon enough) in my book.

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In spite of my ruminations that I may stay, soon enough I were in the car and in the thick of the beach traffic as I passed all the bufala mozzarella azienda casearias (dairy companies) along the way. The Mozzarella di Bufala Campania has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC). The provinces of both Salerno and Caserta in Campania are the traditional areas that produce bufala mozzarella. As I passed store after store, I want to buy it all and take it home!

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For a quick lunch, I settle on an Auto Grill near the Ikea in Baronissi, a bit north of Salerno. I had been to many Auto Grills before and love them, but nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered this time – a Wild West themed fast food burger joint.  I am not the type to go to Italy to eat American food, so this was not good news, but I found it amusing and enjoyed the Italians enjoying it. I chose a wonderful caprese panino from the regular counter. Although, of course not as good as a regular restaurant, you can never go wrong at an Auto Grill. I am always amazed that you can buy full bottles of wine there (for your drive?).

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As I continue my drive towards Fiumicino, I pass Vesuvius and my very favorite cypress umbrella trees. . . I take picture # 1,004 of these trees, saving more memories for my departure.

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Soon enough, I am nicely settled into my airport hotel, where all I can do is wait to be processed out of Italy. Why? My mind keeps asking me. I don’t have a good answer.

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Before I know it I am preparing to land in Philadelphia with another chapter of Italian memories recorded forever in my heart.

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Bella Italia!!

Gio (Jo Oxley)

Giorno di Mercato (Market Day)

I awoke this Friday morning, my last full day at Villa D’Amore this visit, with a plan for the morning’s activity in place. As I surveyed “my territory”, I could see that it would be a perfect day.

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I head to town early to catch breakfast at Isola Verde and enjoy the energy of the Marina due to the additional surge of activity. Isola is much busier than usual with everyone from the usual beachgoers to a group of ladies all dressed up for market day.

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Each Friday morning, Marina di Casalvelino is abuzz with activity as the market moves into town. The food vendors line up along Canale Tufolo from Via Velia to Via Lungo Mare and the household goods, clothes and shoe vendors set up across Via Lungo Mare in the parcheggio (parking lot) by the beach.

Everything you need for survival in The Cilento exists at the Friday Market, and then some . . . fresh fruit and vegetables, wonderful local bufala mozzarella, a wheel of parmesean, baccalà, and olives along the Canale. Across the street, you can find everything from Italian playing cards to bras to trash cans and tablecloths. In other words, tutti e niente (anything and everything)!

After a leisurely colazione (breakfast), I stroll the market, deciding what to buy and enjoying every second of my interactions with the locals. The produce was very reasonably priced and there were definitely deals to be had. I want to buy all of it, but I’m are leaving the next day, so sadly there is no way I can consume it all. I purchase a shirt for 10 euros and a deck of Italian playing cards, totally different from American cards. I will have to learn the games.

Keeping with my normale style, I take a break at our local hangout.

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As I relax and recount the fun morning at the market, I consider options for my last afternoon in Casalvelino. I decide to visit my favorite beach club in Ascea, Poseidonia, to have lunch, relax and enjoy my “last supper” in the Mezzogiorno.

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It’s tough eating incredible food and drinking fine wine right on the beach, but I’m up for it . . . later, it’s time to nap on the beach.

Ciao!

Gio

Castle Hopping in Agropoli, the Gateway to The Cilento

On this particular morning as I awoke, I thought “I want to visit Agropoli, I haven’t been back there since I opened my bank account”.  Now, that brought back memories of a very interesting day in the middle of my vacation to Capri, Sorrento and Positano . . .to keep a long story very short, I saw the inside of bank the first time I went to Agropoli. (See Planes, Cars, Ferries and Buying Villa Velina for the details of how that first visit went and my interesting Italian bank dealings.)

Agropoli is the largest town nearby, about 18 miles nord di Velina, with a population of about 20,000, so it was like going to the big city for the day. I headed out of town and hopped on the SP430 northbound to Agropoli for the 40 minute drive. Before the rainy season of the winter of 2013-14, this would have been a fairly quick trip on a very limited access road. However, just after I visited Villa D’Amore for the very first time over Thanksgiving after purchasing it, the skies broke open that winter. It just poured and poured and the beautiful limited access highway that I drove once to view my home for the first time and again over Thanksgiving week, simply caved in and washed away at a spot between Agropoli and Velina.

I was horrified as I learned of this unraveling weather event. It just would not stop raining! I found myself nervously pacing back in forth in my home in Pennsylvania; I felt so helpless. My friend Maria kept me informed and I was also connected to some local Italian sites on Facebook that would post articles and pictures. I kept trying to figure out exactly where in the road this break occurred. To put it mildly, I was devastated! I had just barely learned how to get to my new home, which was rather isolated, however connected to civilization by a highway. Now the highway was broken (strada rotto)!! From a distance of 5,365 miles away, I could not begin to imagine the twisted route I would be forced to take as a detour. Believe me, I tried figuring it out via Apple Maps, but it sure wasn’t obvious. I were hopeful that they would just get it fixed. . . then I heard those words – Not. Possible. It seemed these two words were used to describe whatever someone in Italy did not want to do or could not do for you, from exchanging dollars to euros at a bank to opening up a bank account to fixing roads . . .just fill in the blank.

It appeared that the section of the road that gave way was elevated (as most of this highway was). It was on pilings and the ground under these pilings was, well, saturated to say the least. I spent hours translating news articles from Cilento Notizie, a great news site with a FaceBook page. To my horror, my detective work revealed that liquefaction was involved. This is a process by which water-saturated sediment loses its strength and acts as a fluid, like when you wiggle your toes in the sand at the edge of the water by the beach. This is also terminology found in earthquake glossaries, although it was not an earthquake that caused this damage.

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On the way down from Roma, the detour began just after Agropoli at the Agropoli Sud Uscita (exit) and continued until just before the tunnel at Prignano Cilento. It seemed very long, the first time I took it. The detour on SP45, travels along the edge of the mountain that the SP430 was built to avoid. If you are afraid of heights, let’s just say you won’t enjoy a ride in the passenger seat for the southbound journey. The guardrails, when present, are interesting. If that is your seat, and you’re scared of heights AND you have trouble KEEPING.YOUR.MOUTH.SHUT. as cars pass on narrow winding roads with plenty of blind hairpin curves that don’t always have guardrails – I suggest using a blindfold. It’s not a great idea to scream and scare the driver on roads like this.

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At any rate, traveling a new road always seems longer the first time. Have you ever noticed this? By the second time, you know what to expect and how long it will take and that knowledge seems to make it feel shorter.

In spite of the detour, before I knew it we were approaching Agropoli and following the signs to Centro Storico, normale for me. There were many one way streets that were getting narrower and narrower. This is a sign that you are very close or maybe already in the Centro Storico. At this point, the fear that you may get stuck or lost in the labyrinth of roads kicks in, as backing out a twisty road barely narrow enough for your Fiat, isn’t fun. I came to a “T” in the road and the signs told me the Centro was to the right, so I turned left to search for parking, not wanting a “narrow road encounter”. Luckily, as the road I was on descended down a hill, there was a nice, large parcheggio by the beach and marina! I parked the car and noticed everyone had parking receipts on their dashboards, but there was no sign of where to get them. After walking around and asking the workers at a restaurant, I finally located the central parking meter about a quarter mile away.

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As I was figuring out how exactly to get into Centro, I spotted a Farmacia. I had been trying to find one that was actually open (when I was nearby) for a couple of days now. I had been trying to shake off a sinus infection, and felt I was losing the battle. So, I went inside and waited in a short line to talk to the pharmacist. Although I did not speak very much Italian at all at that time, and he did not speak very much English at all, we managed to communicate and he “prescribed” a medicine for me and then had it all wrapped up like a gift.

I continued walking up the hill and to the left and found a beautiful street lined with shops that swept up upwards and morphed into a very wide, gradual staircase.

Signs guided me along the way . . . although the historical center was my goal, this one sign presented a particular challenge (I love gelato)!

In spite of the temptation, I did not follow the sign to the gelateria, but continued my upward climb. As I reached the Portico to the Borgo Antico, I looked to our left and saw my car parked far below.

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As I climbed higher, my journey was rewarded by more breathtaking views. I will never tire of viewing slices of scenic beauty cropped by edifice antichi (ancient buildings).

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One of my first stops was the Church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli.

Continuing on my upward climb, the Angevin-Aragonese castle, Castello Aragonese, was my ultimate goal. The castle standing today was built on 6th century Byzantine foundations. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us along the way, as the the promontory on which the Centro Storico stands has been inhabited since Neolithic times! There were so many wonderful buildings, views and doors along the way, it was such an interesting walk  . . .

As I reached the castle, I was rewarded with gorgeous views along the sea, looking to the north of Agropoli.

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I walked the castle, imaging how life was back in the day.

The view to the south from the top of the castle was amazing.

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And upon leaving the castle, another surprise “historically cropped” view awaited us. I imagined an intruder who, after miraculously scaling the foreboding walls of this castle, was forced to “walk the plank” to his death . . . if you had to go, I thought, this was the way to do it. At least your last memory would be fabulous. Many have gone before us with lesser visions just prior to their final journey to their ascent or descent, whichever they had earned.

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Not yet wishing to leave my newly discovered Borgo Antico, I decended from the castle and found the perfect bar to sit and relax while recapping yet another perfect day in my beloved Cilento.

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Ciao!

Giovanna (Gio)