Beach Time – Tempo di Spiaggia

As we 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 we would soon be part of as we experienced our very first beach day at Marina di Casalvelino!

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But, it was still to early to park ourselves on the beach – so, first things first. Down to the Marina we went for some breakfast (colazione) and our Wifi fix for the day. As we approached our favorite beachfront bar, Isola Verde, we 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 we loved seeing the activity and people. We managed to get the last open table outside and ordered breakfast.  We relaxed and made our 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. We 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 our reservation come with two beach chairs, 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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Ciao!

Giovanna and Giorgio

 

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

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

In our mountain-contained 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 we saw Villa Velina just days before purchasing it, in the beginning of June, the Marina was empty other then ourselves, our realtor and three to four others strolling by the sea. Now, we couldn’t wait to see August in the Marina! We 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 we get a cute hatchback Lancia rental at the airport. We quickly speed down the autostrada. I just love the interesting views as we get close to our destination.

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

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

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Buona Notte,

Giovanna e Giorgio

Italia made us do it!

The next morning, we woke up in Villa Velina for the last time this trip. On the way home from dinner, George suggested we leave as early as possible and drive up to Fiumicino, drop our luggage at the hotel, return the rental car and take a train into Rome to walk around a bit and have some dinner. George knows how much I love Rome and so I figured this was a very strategic move on his part to make sure I left Villa Velina. It worked! When we awoke, we quickly showered, packed and covered the sparse furnishings in plastic sheeting and began our journey.

On our way as we wind around Mount Vesuvius, we are always dumb struck at the sheer size of it, even as we 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 we gape at it, George and I always 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 we think of the dark volcanic sand an hour and a half 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 George is driving, but my photos are never able to do justice to the sheer size of the remnants of Vesuvius.

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

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As we depart from Termini, Rome’s main train station, we are reminded that the Christmas season is upon us. Not that we 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 we decide where to have dinner.

We 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. We are not disappointed with our food. I chose a seafood and pasta dish, one of my favorites.  We strolled the streets a bit after dinner and then returned by train to our Fiumicino hotel. We always enjoy Rome!IMG_5060

Although we stay on the airport property, it’s our policy to 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 we missed a flight . . .

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

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

We couldn’t have predicted what happened next. As we settled in after takeoff and my obligatory Alpine photos were taken, George and I began to discuss what fun we had had and how surprising it was to learn that we could survive and actually thrive and enjoy our lives in only 425 square feet of living space! We loved the views and location of Villa Velina from the start, but were a bit concerned about the size of the space. But what we learned was that it lived so LARGE! From the gigantic views to the spacious rooms, we felt freed from the trappings of society. From our 85-wine-glass collection back home to the many other belongings we had both accumulated over the years, we learned it felt great living without such a heavy load on our backs – and this was the biggest surprise of the whole trip! In Villa Velina, we had only what we needed – each other, a spectacular view of the world around us, the bare necessities and a beautiful, although small, abode – but that made us feel happier.

This conversation led to a major revelation for me. While still high over the Atlantic, I looked at George and said “let’s call Mary Pat and talk with her about putting that big house of ours on the market and find something more manageable to live in”. As this stream of consciousness thought became words, we were both a bit shocked by it. We loved our home and although it was much bigger than we needed for the two of us, we loved throwing huge parties in it. We also loved playing “weekend bed and breakfast”, but our “bookings” had been dwindling. As the grandchildren got older, there were weekend activities that prevented them from traveling and we found ourselves going to them instead.

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

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

Ciao,

Giovanna

 

Arredo Villa Velina (Furnishing Villa Velina)

Funny how my Italian story telling timing has coincided with real life. We have just completed the furnishing of Villa di Mare, our 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 our first stay in Villa Velina, we stalked our 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. We began our stalking of this cute store at the bottom of the hill we live on the day we arrived which was a Saturday and our stalking continued through Tuesday, when finally we were 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 we were able to find the store open and connect with the owner. He did not speak ANY English, and we did not expect him to – after all we are in his country and if he came to see us in the U.S., we would certainly not be speaking much Italian with him. However, once again we were able to communicate through various methods including our fledgling Italian, charades and pointing. We saw many beautiful options that we loved in his store (all made in Italy – which is something we love about Italy), but we choose a practical small scale wicker set which included a love seat, two chairs and a coffee table. Since initially, we will not be at Villa Velina except for vacations, we wanted something versatile that could also easily be moved out to the balcony, where we instantly knew we would often spend our time. The wicker was of real wood, as it should be, not plastic.

So, we agreed on a price and explained that we needed to have the furniture delivered and took the owner outside the front door of his store and pointed to Villa Velina 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 we told him we 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 us to the bancomat and then to our home”. So, on to the bancomat we all went.

When we all arrived at Villa Velina, we tried to pay him for the furniture. He would not take it and instead managed to communicate to us that he wanted to bring in the furniture first to make sure we liked it, then we could pay him. Wow! We grinned from ear to ear. This was far, far different than any retail-furniture-buying experience we had ever had in our lives in the U.S. 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 us sit down and waited until we smiled. AND THEN, only then, would he accept payment from us. In the future, who do you think we will buy our furniture from? I think Mobili Radano has some customers for life!!

Buona Giornata!

Giovanna

This Week in the USA

Buongiorno!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye, Philadelphia!

 

Hello, New Port Richey!

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

Giovanna (Jo)

An Afternoon in Salento – Un Pomeriggi nel Salento

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon Giorno!

Giovanna (Jo)

 

 

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.

George was already up and showered, so actually it was me 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” and George is right there with me. Home is where we are 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, we had a great shower, but although we 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, we were on to grab some colazione (breakfast) as we planned the days’ events. We drove a couple of kilometers down to Marina di Casalvelino, where we 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. We enjoyed everything about it so much, that this, too, would become a ritual.

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

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

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