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)

 

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)

Cambiando Cieli del Cilento (Changing Skies of the Cilento)

I awoke on this Monday, Labor Day in the U.S., but just a normal day in Italy. My plans included just staying in town, taking care of a few things and simply relaxing a bit at Villa D’Amore.

As always, my morning ritual begins with taking in the view of Monte Stella. It’s truly so beautiful that I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing it. I also do not believe that I will ever take it for granted. It’s never, ever the same view twice.

On this particular morning, Monte Stella was MISSING!!! Who stole her? Dove è Monte Stella? Little did I know this was a clue that today would be a very interesting weather day.

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My plans for the day included stopping by Bar Pasticceria Franco, owned by Sandra’s (who I met at the beach two days prior) friend, Gaetano. As I walked into the shop to get some breakfast, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a full case of pastries spanning almost the length of the shop! What to choose?? I finally decided on three small pastries.

Then, as I was eating, I saw Sandra and Gaetano leaving the bar. It was great to meet Gaetano and see Sandra again. I thanked her once again for the interpretation assistance on the beach a couple of days before. I made plans to have them come to my house for apertivi and then go out to dinner together later in the week.

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They sent me home with some delicious cookies, wrapped beautifully like a present, just like everything else you buy in Italy, even pasta.

So, on to my next activity, which was paying for a parking ticket I had received when at the beach.  I forget that all times are noted in military time and the meters said you had to pay until 1:00, so due to our orientation, I took that to mean 1:00 pm as in the afternoon. But that would have been 13:00, so that is why I found the ticket on my car when I returned from the beach. The next day, I had tried to pay the ticket in the police station. There was a lot of chatter between the two officers and some laughing, none of which I understood. They reduced the fine from 25 euros to 18 euros, but told me I couldn’t pay them.

Instead, I would have to go to PosteItaliane to pay the fine, but they were closed on Sunday, so here I go on another new experience in Italy. I could walk there from the bar. I chuckled to myself all the way there – I heard you can do anything at PosteItaliane except buy postage stamps!! People pick up and cash their pension checks, pay their utility bills, anything except  buy a stamp. As I approached the doorway, I could see I was in for another lesson in “Italian lines”. There were a couple of women sitting on a bench by the door, both windows were occupied, and there were several people scattered all around. This was not dissimilar to an earlier experience I had at a bank in Rome a few years ago. Really, all you need to do is remember who was inside before you got there, then once they were all taken care of (no matter where they may be standing), you will know it is your turn.

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The “PosteItaliane Experience” took some time, and after that I required some liquid refreshment, not to mention a wifi fix, so off to Isola Verde I went to grab a prosecco. This bar is right across from the beach. I went inside to order and let them know I would sit outside at a table. While I was waiting, a man at the next table began speaking to me in Italian, but I did not understand him. So, in Italian, I told him, I could only speak a little Italian. He immediately began speaking to me in perfect English (he was actually German).  He wanted to let me know that there was something of interest out over the water. I looked up and saw it.

At first, there was just one very skinny waterspout and then a thicker one also dropped down. I always wondered what I would do if confronted by a tornado – and, now I know! I would stay put and photograph it. A moment of fear swept over me as the thought crossed my mind about what if it got too close, but before it could take hold, the waterspout dissipated.

Wow, all this excitement for one morning! It was now time to stop by the local wine store and pick up some wine and go home for lunch. I tried a few different wines and selected my favorite. I didn’t have my own container, so he filled an empty water bottle for me. This set me back a whopping 2 euros!!

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Once back home from my local but eventful morning, I prepared lunch. I had some fresh tomatoes and white figs that were absolutely delicious and so fresh. Fig season is the end of August/early September. They are the best. Eating in Italy has really ruined me – the bar is really high now.

I relaxed a bit after lunch and then decided to take a local drive on a road I had not been on before. As I drove, the skies became very dark suddenly and a severe thunderstorm skirted around us and the sun soon appeared.

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As I rounded a bend, I almost drove off the edge of the road as I let out a scream (of delight)!! I parked the car as soon as I found a spot where I could safely pull off the road.

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It was the most unusual rainbow I had ever seen and it was a double, although the top one was faint. The darkness of the sky was the perfect backdrop for this magnifico arcobaleno!! As I zoomed in you could see it was framing Salento, one of my favorite little hill towns.

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Wow, what a day with such beautiful and dramatic skies!! How beautiful is God’s canvas? I could watch it always. Rainbows are God’s checkpoints for me letting me know I am exactly where I am supposed to be at that moment.

Ciao,

Giovanna

Amo Cilento in Estate! (I Love Cilento in the Summer)

My Italia-influenced move to a simpler (smaller) U.S. habitat kept me occupied (occupato) until it was time, once again to escape to Villa D’Amore. Before I knew it, I was at Philly International waiting to board my flight. Since i had not ever been to my area of Italy during the summer when the population was at its peak, I was excited to see Marina di Casalvelino in full swing.

In my mountain-surrounded valley leading to the Tyrrhenian Sea (the part of the Mediterranean Sea off the western coast of Italy bordered by Sardinia and Corsica), the population dwindles to only locals in all but the months of July and August. Don’t get me wrong, the population gradually swells leading up to those months, but by August, all of the Italians are on vacation for the month. When added to all of the Germans and Brits who also vacation in Marina di Casalvelino, this normally sleepy little beach town instantly turns into a whir of activity from crowded beach clubs to volleyball tournaments to nightclubs.

The first time I saw Villa D’Amore just days before purchasing it, in the beginning of June, the Marina was empty other then myself, my realtor and three to four others strolling by the sea. Now, I couldn’t wait to see August in the Marina! I tried to get some shut-eye, if not sleep on the way over. Soon, the sun was rising. This is the part of our flights to Rome I love the best, because it means 1) I get to see my “funny island” (Monte Argentario) connected to mainland Italy by two strips of land, and 2) we will be landing soon!

This time I get a cute hatchback Lancia rental at the airport. I quickly speed down the autostrada. I just love the interesting views as we get close to our destination.

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As I arrive at Villa D’Amore as the sun is on the downturn. I quickly remove the plastic coverings from the furniture and clean (after all, it is siesta and no shops are open). Then I pick up some tasty snacks from the Supermercato and prepare for happy hour.

As I chill on my balcony, enjoying the ever-changing vista of Monte Stella, I look forward to the beach day I have planned for tomorrow!

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Buona Notte,

Giò

Con Te Partirò (Time to Say Goodbye)

Before I knew it, the time had come to leave my beloved Villa D’Amore and The Cilento. I had done and seen so much and enjoyed the food, beautiful scenery, friendly people and all of my experiences so very much. I truly felt “at home” in my new Italian home. All of us at one time or another may have lived in a place that never really felt like “home”, but here I just felt instantly like I belonged. Even though there was a language barrier, this did not make me feel uncomfortable . . . everyone I met truly made me feel welcome with open arms!

I decided to have my “last supper” at La Campagnola, one of my favorite local restaurants. I couldn’t decide which of my favorite dishes to have, so I ordered too many items including salad, swordfish (spade), mixed seafood grill (grigliata mista di pesce), pizza AND tiramisu! This was quite a feast and cost me only €22, including vino!

As I dined, I reminisced about my wonderful first visit to Villa D’Amore and all that I had seen and done and all the fun I had:

Stopping in my beloved Positano to pick up my custom dishes; my first trip to the supermercato and meeting the nice ladies there; morning visits to Isola Verde for cafè to get my wifi fix; meeting Rafaele (who worked at the store that delivered and installed our kitchen) and how he was so quick to close his store and take me across the street for cafè to celebrate; how sweet it was for Maria and Alessandro to drive all the way from near Rome to bring me welcome cookies, wine and olive oil (all homemade); how I had managed to buy furniture  and otherwise totally furnish a new condo, with everything needed for survival (think: corkscrew), that had nothing in it before I arrived other than a kitchen, table and chairs and a bed; the overwhelming kindness of the people and the beautiful scenery.

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As I recalled these wonderful memories, I felt warm salt-water tears begin to flow down my cheeks. I didn’t want it to end. I believe I could have just stayed and left all of my earthly belongings back in the states. I was seriously thinking at this point that perhaps I just wouldn’t get back on the plane. . .

I thought about my long-term plans to spend more time at Villa D’Amore and said “arrivederci” to our town, for the next morning I would leave to take the 4.5 hour drive to Roma to spend the night before catching my flight the following morning. The only reason I decided to leave was so I could return . . .

Ciao!

Giò

Thanksgiving in Italy

So, here I am, beginning to feel quite at home in Italy and preparing to celebrate my first American holiday here. As I awoke two days prior, I gasped with excitement to see the surprise Monte Stella had in store for me – She was adorned with a light, glistening frosting of snow!! Snow is extremely rare in Southern Italy and rarely ever happens, but I was lucky enough to witness this rare event.

Monte Stella stands at a majestic 3,711 feet above sea level right by the sea, so this just further emphasizes her stature! There is truly no way to capture her majesty with a lens. You must be physically present to take in the full effect, which in case you haven’t gathered by now, I would be more than ready and willing to do 24/365. In Italy, I always rise early every morning and practically run to the window and balcony to check out the view. This often leads to yet another photo shoot of the coastline and Monte Stella, because it’s never the same picture twice. Yes, God is the most amazing artist! And in Casalvelino, He has a big sky, huge Monte Stella and the sea to work with, all at once . . . in my opinion, it doesn’t get better!

Before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving and I awoke to find quite a different view. The atmosphere had become a bit unstable, perhaps due to the cold air that caused the snow to fall on Monte Stella. My weather app told me to expect a stormy day for Thanksgiving, and the skies certainly supported that forecast, so I hurried out to the shops before afternoon siesta set in to grab everything I would need for my Cilentano-style Thanksgiving Feast.

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So, off I went to the pescheria (fish store), pasticceria (pastry shop) and frutta e verdure (fruit and vegetables) to gather everything needed for my feast.

Then to go home and enjoy preparing my “catch”. The tiny clams were simply dilizioso! Everything had such a fresh taste and smell, unlike the watery tasting fruit we often are stuck buying back in the states, unless you are lucky enough to be located close to a produce source so you can buy fresh directly.

The day was filled with back to back thunderstorms and I enjoyed watching the spectacular cloud formations over the sea and around Monte Stella from my hilltop perch across the valley.

After about twelve back to back dramatic storms, clearing seemed to be coming from the sea. Red sky at night, sailors delight!

Ciao!

Giò

Sono Tornato! (I’m Back!)

Buon Giorno!

It’s great to be back! My apologies that it took me twice as long to “return to blogging” than I thought . . .my truck “landed” in Florida on February 22nd and life has been a whirlwind of activity ever since. It was really took much more time and elbow grease than originally anticipated. While I have totally modified my last two homes from a design perspective, this time, the home is vintage 1985 and all modifications, including major changes, like kitchen and bathrooms are being done WHILE I reside in it. Add to that the fact that this is the smallest home and the oldest home I have ever owned in the United States. My home in Italy is THE smallest home I have ever owned. Very soon, in an upcoming blog, I will share with you how buying Villa D’Amore has been the single factor that has impacted my view on home ownership ever since!!

Here’s my Villa di Mare progress so far:

Back to Italy, thoughts of Italy and writing about my beloved Cilento!

Giò