Beach Time – Tempo di Spiaggia

As I awoke on this first morning in Villa Velina this trip, I did what I do every morning – open all the shutters and take in the view of Monte Stella and the sea. There, below us was the magnificent scenery I would soon be part of as I experienced my very first beach day at Marina di Casalvelino!

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But, it was still to early to park myself on the beach – so, first things first. Down to the Marina I went for some breakfast (colazione) and my Wifi fix for the day. As I approached my favorite beachfront bar, Isola Verde, I could tell instantly that it was a whole different experience in August, abuzz with the increased influx of vacationers.

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People were everywhere and finding a place to park was certainly not the easy task it was off-season. But I loved seeing the activity and people. I managed to get the last open table outside and ordered breakfast.  I relaxed and made plans for the day and then took a stroll down the street along the beach. The private beach clubs were all getting set up for the day. I choose one that looked fun, called Lido Azurro, and made a reservation for the afternoon.  This may only be rural southern Campania, but the Italians here know how to live. Not only would my reservation come with a beach chair, an umbrella and music, but also with wifi and the ability to enjoy a glass of prosecco, wine, beer . . . basically your beverage of choice. No silly rules like no alcohol on the beach like in the U.S. – after all we’re all adults!

I returned to Villa Velina to get ready for my afternoon at the beach. I packed extra beach towels from home, but I didn’t have a beach tote, no problem, I would pick one up on the way into town. As I arrived at the packed beach club, I was so happy I had made a reservation.

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The chairs and umbrellas were lined up neatly in rows with just enough space for a lounge chair with umbrella (for the prosecco) and a small aisle for walking around their chairs. Everyone was so friendly. The couple immediately in front of me heard me speaking in English on my cell phone and began speaking to me. I did my best to communicate in very broken Italian and some charades. In less than a minute, I heard a voice from a few chairs over “perhaps I can be of assistance”.  As I looked up, I saw a beautiful woman on her way over. This is how I met my friend, Sandra. Before I knew it, Sandra came to my rescue and became my personal translator. I learned the couple lived in Naples and their niece, who also spoke very good English was at the beach with them along with her friend, also a great English-speaker.  I met them both later.  Sandra speaks an amazing number of languages in multiple dialects – at least English, German and Italian as far as I know. I was absolutely amazed to learn that Sandra lived in the states (so far she is the only one I have met there who does) and visits a friend in Casalvelino a few times a year. In fact, she told me about her friend’s pasticceria and invited me to stop by one day. She was truly an angel sent to help me that day.

I totally enjoyed my day at the beach in the thick of the native Italian vacation season and the vistas I had in all directions. Looking southwest, I could see all the way to Capo Palinuro.

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Looking to the north, I could see the boat marina and tower of Marina di Casalvelino.

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As beach day came to  an end, I reluctantly gathered my belongings and headed home. I took one last look back at the beach from the sidewalk, thinking it may be a while before I am back during the busy beach season and saved this snapshot in my memory.

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Ciao!

Giò

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

Italia made me do it!

The next morning, I woke up in Villa Velina for the last time this trip. On the way home from dinner, I decided to leave as early as possible and drive up to Fiumicino, drop my luggage at the hotel, return the rental car and take a train into Rome to walk around a bit and have some dinner. I love Rome and so I figured this would take the sting out of leaving Villa D’Amore. It worked! When I awoke, we quickly showered, packed and covered the sparse furnishings in plastic sheeting and began my journey.

On my way as I wind around Mount Vesuvius, I am always dumb struck at the sheer size of it, even as I realize it almost appears as two separate mountains today after the nuclear-in-scope 79 A.D. explosion that froze Pompei in time and kept it covered for centuries. As I gape at it, I imagine the dotted line from the side of each remaining peak, meeting at one central point way, way up in the sky. Wow! That’s an entire mountain, almost larger than what is remaining, that was displaced. And I think of the dark volcanic sand an hour south, on the beaches of Positano, and realize how far some of that ground traveled to find its new home! I take a picture every time, while driving, but my photos are never able to do justice to the sheer size of the remnants of Vesuvius.

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I continue up the autostrada, past my favorite trees and on to Fiumicino to drop off luggage and the car.

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As I depart from Termini, Rome’s main train station, I am reminded that the Christmas season is upon us. Not that I wouldn’t see decorations in the U.S., considering that this is Thanksgiving weekend, but the Italians don’t have Thanksgiving to mark the official beginning of the Christmas season. Here in Rome, Christmas is in full swing, with beautiful lights strung along the vias and adorning buildings everywhere as I decide where to have dinner.

I settle on a restaurant about a block or two from Termini that doesn’t appear too touristy, and go down a half-flight of stairs to enter. I am not disappointed with my food. I chose a seafood and pasta dish, one of my favorites. I strolled the streets a bit after dinner and then returned by train to my Fiumicino hotel. I always enjoy Rome!IMG_5060

Although I’m staying on the airport property, I arrive in Fiumicino very early. Since all flights to the United States must clear though a special terminal (Terminal 5) before being transported to the main airport gates, you never know how long it will take. Although, I certainly wouldn’t care if I missed a flight . . .

I spent my extra time having a delicious Italian pastry and a morning prosecco! One last real Italian bubbly on “the soil”. I “pretend shop” for jewelry at Bvlgari. Unfortunately, I will have to leave this €16,500 necklace behind!

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At last, I board and find ourselves flying high above the Alps.

I couldn’t have predicted what happened next. As I settled in after takeoff and my obligatory Alpine photos were taken, I began to think about what fun I had and how surprising it was to learn that I could survive and actually thrive and enjoy my life in only 450 square feet of living space! I loved the views and location of Villa D’Amore from the start, but was a bit concerned about the size of the space. But what I learned was that it lived so LARGE! From the gigantic views to the spacious rooms, I felt freed from the trappings of society. From my 85-wine-glass collection back home to the many other belongings I had accumulated over the years, I learned it felt great living without such a heavy load on my back – and this was the biggest surprise of the whole trip! In Villa D’Amore, I had only what I needed – a spectacular view of the world around me, the bare necessities and a beautiful, although small, abode – but that made me feel happier.

This thinking led to a major revelation for me. While still high over the Atlantic, I thought “I’ll call Mary Pat and talk with her about putting that big house of mine on the market and find something more manageable to live in”. I was a bit shocked by this thought. I loved my home and although it was much bigger than I needed, I loved throwing huge parties in it. I also loved playing “weekend bed and breakfast”, but my “bookings” had been dwindling. As the grandchildren got older, there were weekend activities that prevented them from traveling and I found myself going to them instead.

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Really, my surprise revelation, made a lot of sense. Italy had totally changed my view of the future. I no longer planned to just hang out where I had been and continue my current live as I flowed into my retirement years, wondering what to do to entertain myself for the next phase of my life. Now, there was Italy . . . a true game-changer. Now, I was busy learning Italian, immersing myself in a new culture and friends and new horizons to explore. I saw myself taking the parties and my friends and family to Italy. Why not position myself to fully enjoy my new future?

P.S. My home was listed 28 days later and sold in 6 days . . .

Ciao,

Giò

Arredo Villa D’Amore (Furnishing Villa D’Amore)

Funny how my Italian story telling timing has coincided with real life. I have just completed the furnishing of Villa di Mare, my new condo and U.S. home in New Port Richey, Florida and today it is time to tell the story of adding furnishings to Villa Velina:

Early during the first week of my first stay in Villa D’Amore, I stalked my local furniture store – Mobili Radano. Mobili is the Italian word for furnishings and interestingly, immobiliare is the Italian word for real estate. It makes perfect sense: furniture can be moved, but real estate is immobile. I began my stalking of this cute store at the bottom of the hill I live on the day I arrived which was a Saturday and my stalking continued through Tuesday, when finally I was able to connect. You see, in Italy it is not always easy to learn/know when/if a store will be open. There are often no hours posted and even if they are, that does not necessarily mean that a store will actually adhere to those hours!

But, finally on Tuesday I was able to find the store open and connect with the owner. He did not speak ANY English, and I did not expect him to – after all I are in his country and if he came to see us in the U.S., I would certainly not be speaking much Italian with him. However, once again I was able to communicate through various methods including my fledgling Italian, charades and pointing. I saw many beautiful options that I loved in his store (all made in Italy – which is something I love about Italy), but I choose a practical small scale wicker set which included a love seat, two chairs and a coffee table. Since initially, I will not be at Villa D’Amore except for vacations, I wanted something versatile that could also easily be moved out to the balcony, where i instantly knew I would often spend much of my time. The wicker was of real wood, as it should be, not plastic.

So, I agreed on a price and explained that I needed to have the furniture delivered and took the owner outside the front door of his store and pointed to Villa D’Amore in the majestic salmon-colored stucco building on the hill directly overlooking his store. He said he could deliver it “adesso” or NOW! That’s what I call instant gratification. The cost was 750 euros and he really wanted cash so I told him I would go to the bancomat around the corner and get the cash and return and his reply was “no problem – he will load up the furniture, follow me to the bancomat and then to my home”. So, on to the bancomat we went.

When we all arrived at Villa D’Amore, I tried to pay him for the furniture. He would not take it and instead managed to communicate to me that he wanted to bring in the furniture first to make sure I liked it, then I could pay him. Wow! I’m sure I was grinning from ear to ear. This was far, far different than any retail-furniture-buying experience I had ever had in my U.S. life. Imagine someone trusting you enough that they allow you to choose the furniture you would like, deliver it to you and wait for you to approve before they take one cent from you!! And deliver it to you the very second after you buy it. And do all of this, even though you cannot speak his language and much could be open to interpretation. THAT is trust and kindness. Well, that’s what happened. He worked hard to get all of the furniture upstairs, put the cushions on it, had me sit down and waited until I smiled. AND THEN, only then, would he accept payment from me. In the future, who do you think I will buy my furniture from? I think Mobili Radano has a customer for life!!

Buona Giornata!

Giò

This Week in the USA

Buongiorno!

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

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. I am relocating from the Philadelphia, PA – Wilmington, DE suburbs to New Port Richey, Florida (Tampa, FL metro area). Just like Villa D’Amore and Italy, I didn’t see this coming. . .

About two years ago, I did a major downsizing from a 3,800 sq. ft. home to my current condo. I thought I would live in my current condo forever and so I spent $30K making it what I 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 my experiences in Italy. Now, I am doing another form of preparation for spending much more time in Italy combined with family reasons.

I have 5 daughters and 15 grandchildren!! My three oldest daughters are my first sweet husband, Gail Oxley’s daughters. (Gail passed on to Heaven on June 1, 2008 after a long illness with ALS). At my insistence, they came to live with us within 6 months of our marriage. They were 4, 7 and 8 years old and I was just 21! It’s not that Gail didn’t want to have them live with us, but he certainly was not going to push them on me, especially considering our young marriage and my age. Our two youngest daughters then came along, for a total of 5 daughters in our household ages newborn to 16, at the time of the youngest’s birth. During 2015, I had a couple of surprises – the two daughters with the 8 youngest grandchildren (from oldest adopted and oldest biological) were both presented with wonderful opportunities to relocate, resulting in a better lifestyle and job opportunities for their families. I was 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 my mind.)

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Next, Lauren and her husband 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 I was truly happy for both of my daughters and their families, my mind began twisting into a pretzel as I tried to imagine how I would live near Philadelphia, visit Alabama and Florida often enough so my small grandchildren would know me AND still have time for Italy. After much mind-twisting thought, I decided to sell my PA condo and buy two smaller condos – one in Florida and one in Alabama.

Well, my friends, my Florida home is ready and it’s freezing up here in Philly, so this week, I’m “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),

Giò (Jo)

An Afternoon in Salento – Un Pomeriggi nel Salento

So, lunch . . . I wanted to check out our local deli at the bottom of “my hill”.  It was situated just as I got to the main street of the area called Velina, fratzione di (sister town of) Casalnuovo Cilento. As I turned right on this road, Via Arbosto or SS447, I spotted the deli immediately on my left. I 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 I spoke very little Italian, through an exchange of simple one to two word phrases, pointing and charades, I managed to get a vegetarian sandwich made of melanzani (eggplant), funghi (mushrooms) and mozzarella on magnifico pane (magnificent bread). I was the excited recipients of one of these fantistico sandwiches and bottled water for only 2.25 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, I happily munched on my delicious sandwich on superior bread in the car before beginning my new adventure to discover Salento, the small hilltop town I had spotted from “my castle”.

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As soon as I gobbled down my sandwich, I set off on my journey. I had purchased the Western European TomTom, so I plotted my course to Salento and I was on my 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 I exited Velina, passing the train station and driving through Stella as I would normally travel to get on the SS18, an autostrada that took me 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”, I noted with a huge grin, as I always do in my travels.

As I crossed under the SS18, i 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, am I lucky I’ve become more familiar with driving a stick” I thought, as I reflected on my dusty stick shift driving skills from many years ago, when I crashed a car into the laundry sink in my garage, when it lurched forward due to my failure to step on the clutch when starting the car . . .

I was immediately brought into the present as I rounded yet another ridiculously hairpin-ish, hairpin curve that also sent me 20 feet closer to Heaven at the same time when immediately in front of me, there were cows!! Horns of very angry looking cows. Horns of very hostile looking cows that appeared to want to skewer me and my car right through the front window so they could waste no time spearing me! 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 I 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, I continued winding up to the town, where I 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.

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

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

Buon Giorno!

Giò

Cilento Esplorando

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After the first of what would become my morning meditation ritual on the balcony surveying my new territory, I reluctantly pulled myself away to prepare for the adventures of our first full day of Cilento Exploring.

I was actually poking around a bit and holding things up. I sometimes love the particular “spot” I am in at the time, or “view” I am taking in and become slightly reluctant to “move on”. Please don’t mistake this as an inability to change on my part, because I will decide to change the largest things in my life, like where I live, spontaneously. It’s the small moments, the “snapshots” of life where I pause for reflection. This may be the only trait that somewhat grounds me. I consider myself a “citizen of the world”. Home is where I am at any given moment. . .

So, the shower . . . a small moment in the shower . . .well, this would fit my definition of “camping out”. I knew as I stepped in it would be interesting. You see, I had a great shower, but although I were able to arrange remotely for a kitchen to be installed on the blank wall with pipes, we had not managed to handle the Shower Situation.

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Esattamente. No shower surround. Well, I smiled to myself, the bathroom will always be clean, because it will also get washed in its entirety each day during my shower!

So, a few minutes and a shower-shined bathroom later, I was on to grab some colazione (breakfast) as I planned the days’ events. I drove a couple of kilometers down to Marina di Casalvelino, where I became part of the view from our balcony to join the local crowd at Isola Verde, a cool beachfront bar, for a pastry and cafè. I enjoyed everything about it so much, that this, too, would become a ritual.

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I decided that Casalnuovo Cilento, the very old hilltop town to which I was now technically a local citizen (cittidini) of, should appropriately be our first visit. Set high on the hill on the side of Villa D’Amore that is away from the ocean we wove our way up and down the winding road to Casalnuovo Cilento.

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Once on the ancient castle grounds, I spotted our next destination. Out the back, across the valley very high on a hill I saw a small town. Once I captured the magnificent view of it, I used my iPhone to map a route to it and learned it was called Salento. This would be my post-pranzo (after lunch) adventure!

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