Il Divorzio and Villa Velina

I know, it’s like I fell off the face of the earth . . . Some of my loyal followers have written asking me about my current status, having noticed my absence from this blog or picked up on changes on Facebook, so . . . here’s my long overdue update. I have actually had a very busy year. Regular blogs about life in The Mezzogiorno will resume once again after a few transitional updates.

The Divorce. Yes, it happened. No, I never thought this would be something I would experience. But unfortunately, last year at this time I realized it needed to happen. A decision like this is not one you make lightly (troppo leggera), although to outsiders it may appear that this was the case or that it was all too “sudden” (improvviso). Well, let’s just say that not everyone drags all of their friends and relatives through drama, trauma and pain for many months or years before making this decision . . . some of us just deal with it swiftly once we admit to ourselves there is something amiss. The upside of talking about your impending divorce with everyone before doing it is that everyone else is prepared (rather than shocked). The fallacy here is that they are not the ones who need to be prepared. In fact, most of your friends become so sick and tired of hearing about your impending divorce that they actually beg you to get the dirty deed over with. The downside of having the knowledge of an impending divorce hanging over you for months or years before taking action, is the severe emotional toll it takes during that time and the fact that you are delaying moving on with your life and after all of that negativity, you still have to go through the actual divorce. And people say the court system is slow!

Look, in this marriage, fun was had and companionship and adventures were shared. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read about some of that. We enjoyed and appreciated many of the same things. But honestly, there were just some recurrent, underlying problems I would classify as communication differences and unconditional acceptance issues, which to me are two areas that carry a lot of weight as far as harmony and happiness go . . . I was actually attending therapy sessions alone specifically to address what, if anything, I could do to resolve these issues, but it really does take two . . . I respected that everyone doesn’t believe in or feel comfortable using therapy as an aid for relationship issues, but I was just tired of having the same disagreements over and over and never being able to work together to resolve them.

Since NO ONE (nessuno) was “in the know” in advance of my decision, that made me an easy target for all kinds of speculation the day I didn’t return home – had I gone “off my rocker”, was I having a “mid-life crisis”, or even speculation that perhaps there was some sort of mental diagnosis involved. I assure you, the only thing happening here was that I was securing my future happiness and perhaps my soon to be Ex’s future happiness (I sincerely hope that’s the case). I had, by then, already taken all possible steps needed to be sure this was the right decision for me (relationship therapy alone for almost a year, etc). The exercise of vacating my marriage without prior notice to any/everyone who may have wanted to know, provided me with a very clear picture of who “gets me” and appreciates me for who I truly am and also showed me very clearly who chose to judge me. Those who fall in the “gets me” category saw this coming before I did. These people all contacted me immediately upon becoming aware of the pending divorce to show their concern and make sure I was okay, but none of them were shocked. They knew me to the very core and innately understood why this wasn’t working for me. In fact, each of these dear friends provided encouragement, upon learning the news, commenting that I hadn’t been my normal happy self for a long time. Thankfully, I can count the dear friends category as the majority. On the other hand, it was eye-opening to me how a few people (who appeared close to me) to this day have not even concerned themselves enough to ask me “what happened, what went wrong?”, or offer any kind of support. Perhaps this is a tell-tale sign of a “judger”? Maybe they didn’t need to ask, as they had already decided how things were in my marriage. Or, in all fairness to them, maybe the appearance of suddenness shook them to the core, leaving them with a lingering concern about the destiny of their own marriage or relationship. After all, we looked like such a happy couple . . .

You see, I don’t just believe that marriage is something to endure. I believe it is something to treasure and enjoy. It is about a total give and take, ying and yang. It is about each person totally accepting and loving the other for who they really are and what they are really like, not who each wants the other to be. It is not about obeying . . . it is about sharing and cooperating. I knew what this felt like . . . I had that before and I wanted it again. Stay tuned for a love life update!

Villa Velina. Okay, now for the important part of this blog. I’m sure you’re all wondering what the fate of Villa Velina is as a result of the divorce. After doing much soul searching, I realized that I did not wish to give up Villa Velina. I am just not finished with my adventures as an albeit part-time resident of Castelnuovo Cilento. I love the people and the geography of that particular area along the Cilento Coast and I have much more living to do there! I have so many really good friends there now and I really feel grounded and at home there. And so I retained sole ownership of Villa Velina in the divorce settlement. New adventures coming!

Ciao,

Jo (Oxley)

 

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How We Accidentally Bought Villa Velina

I have previously blogged about how we happened to buy Villa Velina and have included the links to these blogs at the bottom. So many people ask us, how and why we ended up in Southern Campania and how we actually found our particular property, so George and I decided to also make a VLOG telling our story:

Here are the three blogs I previously wrote that tell the story (in order below):

Villa Velina Just Happened

The Big Decision

Buying Villa Velina

Ciao,

Jo

Manca l’Italia (Missing Italy)

Today, I’m going to stray from my chronological story about finding, purchasing, furnishing and vacationing in our Italian villa.

It has been six months since our return from our most recent trip to our beloved Italy and I am manifesting all of the symptoms of Italia-itis:

  • Thinking constantly of Italy
  • Talking constantly about Italy
  • Suddenly speaking in Italian to innocent bystanders
  • Waking up with the Italians  . . . this has been interesting
  • Cooking authentic Italian dishes in authentic style (no Americanized food here)

Beware, should you visit us during dire “manca l’Italia” times, you may be subjected to lengthy sessions of viewing our many photos or subject to listening to our ramblings of all things Italia. My apologies to anyone we may have bored. . . but I ask for leniency, as this is a documented illness. You can leave Italy, but Italy never, ever leaves you!

Most recently, we have really, really been missing the real Italian cooking. I don’t care how many “Italian” restaurants you may dine at here in the states, you will be hard pressed to find a truly authentic one. There are a few, and you will find in almost every case, they are currently owned by someone who recently immigrated directly from Italy. However, the short list is further limited by removal of the above restaurants who have modified their recipes to please Americans, rendering their offerings less than authentic.

Our response to this has been to cook the real Italian meals we crave ourselves. Recently, we enjoyed a meal of Spaghetti con Vongole and Tiramisu, both authentic and totally homemade – right down to the spaghetti – ask our friends John Iannotti, whose job was to separate the individual spaghetti strands and place them on the drying racks and Jean Iannotti, whose job was to chop and prepare the very many ingredients for the vongole sauce. These poor innocent victims who were our our guests at Villa del Mare had absolutely no idea they were stepping into a Culinary Studio Experience that required their participation!

Here is the process and results of the Villa del Mare Culinary Studio Experience:

 

Fun was had by all! And let me just say YUM!!

I will be happy to share my recipes for the pasta, vongole, tiramisu and limoncello martini with you for your enjoyment (for free). Just comment below with your email address and which recipes you would like! I still have a “day job” . . .who could afford to buy the pasta making apparatus without one? . . . so please allow about a week to receive the recipes.

Ciao!

Gio

(Jo Oxley)

 

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,

Gio

 

Until Next Time, Villa Velina (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 we depart Villa Velina 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, our beloved valley and sea.

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

We got showered and dressed and enjoyed our last fresh white figs and biscotti as we savored our final moments in our beloved Villa Velina.

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Next, came the part most difficult for me . . . the covering of Villa Velina. We drape all furniture to protect it from the dust while we are 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 suggestions that I may stay (envision Giorgio prying my hands from the terrace railing), soon enough we were in the car and in the thick of the beach traffic as we 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 we passed store after store, I want to buy it all and take it home!

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For a quick lunch, we settled on an Auto Grill near the Ikea in Baronissi, a bit north of Salerno. We had been to many Auto Grills before and love them, but nothing could have prepared us for what we encountered this time – a Wild West themed fast food burger joint. Giorgio and I do not eat meat, and we are not the type who go to Italy to eat American food, so this was not good news to us, but we found it amusing and enjoyed the Italians enjoying it. We chose wonderful caprese sandwiches 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 we continue our drive towards Fiumicino, we 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, we are nicely settled into our airport hotel, where all we 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 we know it we are preparing to land in Philadelphia and we have another chapter of Italian memories recorded forever in our hearts.

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Bella Italia!!

Gio (Jo Oxley)

Giorno di Mercato (Market Day)

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

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

Keeping with our normale style, we decide it is time for a break at our local hangout.

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As we relax and recount our fun morning at the market, we discuss our options for our last afternoon in Casalvelino. We decide to visit our favorite beach club in Ascea, Poseidonia, to have lunch, relax and enjoy our last afternoon in the Mezzogiorno.

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It’s tough eating incredible food and drinking fine wine right on the beach, but we’re 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 we awoke, George said “I want to visit Agropoli, we haven’t been back there since we opened our bank account”.  Now, that brought back memories of a very interesting day in the middle of the second week of our honeymoon . . .to keep a long story very short, we saw the inside of bank the first time we went to Agropoli. (See Planes, Cars, Ferries and Buying Villa Velina for the details of how that first visit went and our 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. We 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 we visited Villa Velina for the very first time over Thanksgiving after purchasing it on our honeymoon, the skies broke open that winter. It just poured and poured and the beautiful limited access highway that we drove once to view our home for the first time and again over Thanksgiving week, simply caved in and washed away at a spot between Agropoli and our home.

We were horrified as we learned of this unraveling weather event. It just would not stop raining! We found ourselves nervously pacing back in forth in our home in Pennsylvania; we felt so helpless. Our friend Maria kept us informed and we were connected to some local Italian sites on Facebook that would post articles and pictures. We kept trying to figure out exactly where in the road this break occured. To put it mildly, we were devastated! We had just barely learned how to get to our new home, which was rather isolated, however connected to civilization by a highway. Now the highway was broken (strada rotto)!! From our distance of 5,365 miles away, we could not begin to imagine the twisted route we would be forced to take as a detour. Believe me, we tried figuring it out via Apple Maps, but it sure wasn’t obvious. We were hopeful that they would just get it fixed. . . then we 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 our 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 we 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. How do I know this?? Ask George. 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 we knew it we were approaching Agropoli and following the signs to Centro Storico, normale for us. 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. We came to a “T” in the road and the signs told us the Centro was to the right, so we turned left to search for parking, not wanting a “narrow road encounter”. Luckily, as the road we were on descended down a hill, there was a nice, large parcheggio by the beach and marina! We 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, George finally located the central parking meter about a quarter mile away.

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As we were figuring out how exactly to get into Centro, I spotted a Farmacia. We had been trying to find one that was actually open (when we were 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.

We 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 us along the way . . . although the historical center was our goal, this one sign presented a particular challenge (we love gelato)!

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

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

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

Continuing on our upward climb, the Angevin-Aragonese castle, Castello Aragonese, was our ultimate goal. The castle standing today was built on 6th century Byzantine foundations. We 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 we reached the castle, we were rewarded with gorgeous views along the sea, looking to the north of Agropoli.

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We 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 our newly discovered Borgo Antico, as we decended from the castle, we found the perfect bar to sit and relax while recapping yet another perfect day in our beloved Cilento.

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Ciao!

Giovanna (Gio)