Cilento Life

So, here we were, waking up in Italy in our very own home for the first time! This would be our first full day in Villa Velina since we settled on the property the last day of our honeymoon, six months prior. Other than the hour that we viewed the property three days before buying it back in June we had never visited Italy south of Naples.

Under the Tuscan Sun has always been one of our favorite movies, due to our love of Italy, but it was never our intention to impulsively buy a property in Italy or anywhere else. In reality, that only happened in the movie version of Frances Mayes story. In real life, she had rationally purchased a home in Cortona only after spending about 20 summers there. We often giggle to ourselves that Hollywood would not have to alter our story, since we just do what is the unthinkable for most normal (normale) people.

Since it was Thanksgiving week, it was well into November and we had the chance to witness the winter weather patterns for the very first time. We have incredibly indescribable views from Villa Velina, which is why we decided to buy it sight unseen after one email conversation with Luisa from Property Organizers.

The very first thing I did upon waking on this first morning was walk out on the balcony and view my “new empire”. From the far right, I could see the valley, some farms and olive groves.

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As I panned to the left, directly in front of me stood Monte Stella, a 3,711 foot high reportedly extinct (hopefully true) volcano. I just stared at “her”, my jaw dropped in childlike wonder. This was just the beginning of a morning ritual for me. The clouds were so dramatic.

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Then, continuing to pan further to the left was our perfect slice of the Tyrrhenian Sea!

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I knew one thing for sure, there would be much sky gazing during my days at Villa Velina!

Ciao!

Jo (Giovanna)

 

Innamorarsi di Villa Velina (Falling in Love) – Part I

It had been five months, one week and five days since we stepped back on US soil holding the keys to Villa Velina, and finally time to return and stay there for our first time. We would spend Thanksgiving week in Italy! Our only prior visit was three days before settlement and for less than an hour. During the wait, we were like children with an Advent Calendar counting down to Christmas!

Villa Velina now had the basic necessities – a bed to sleep in, a cucina to cook in and chairs and a table for eating the delicious fresh local foods we would cook. Other than this short list of furnishings, Villa Velina was empty – not a wine glass, not a dish, not a fork, not a toilet seat, not a shower surround or shower curtain rod. One thing it did have was lighting in every room; albeit that lighting consisted of black electrical wires with a light bulb attached at the end! While eagerly awaiting our return, we made lists of everything we would need to comfortably furnish our love nest (nido d’amore).

During our stay in Positano, one of our three honeymoon destinations, we fell in love with this magical town and its beautiful ceramics. Our rental villa there had beautiful dishes and after returning home, I attempted to find which store made them – yes, they make their beautiful dishes right there! I was pleasantly surprised when I located the store online – Ceramica Assunta (http://www.ceramicassunta.it/). Their designs were quite distinctive. Our rental had beautiful multi-color plates with a chicken design. Since we are pescatarian, chickens weren’t exactly what we had in mind, but maybe fish or lemons. After previewing the many options, I choose a beautiful lemon pattern. I decided to do one in each color since we would only have one set of dishes, at least that way it would feel like four different sets. Then, I sold George on the idea that we could stop in Positano on our way down, spend a night and pick up the dishes.

George wrote an email to the store and than called them and placed the order. Lucky for us, we were planning months ahead, because they make their dishes to order. The store owner assumed that we would want our order shipped to America. When George explained that we wanted to personally pick them up because they were for our home in Casalvelino, he could feel the man smile over the phone. George explained that in 3 months when we arrived, we would have a small window of one afternoon to come pick up the dishes. Since we were picking them up in person, they did not want any money at all up front. We were told we could pay when we came. George arranged for us to pick them up in the afternoon of our first day there. Since November is off-season for Positano, and the shops have limited hours, he actually made an appointment to pick them up. We crossed our fingers that this would actually work out.

After flying into Rome and grabbing a rental car, we arrived in Positano by noon and checked into Hotel Villa delle Palme right in town on Viale Pasitea. We then quickly drove into the center of town to the ceramic shop to pick up the wonderful ceramic dishes. Since there was no where to park, George stayed up the street in a hotel parking area, while I walked down to the store to preview the dishes and pay for them.

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I walked into the ceramics store and the friendly owner greeted me. He had everything ready; all in the same lemon pattern, but 4 different color schemes: 4 dinner dishes, 4 salad plates, 4 bowls, 4 mugs.  All were perfect. I smiled and thanked the owner profusely, especially for opening up the closed store just for us that day! I handed him my credit card and he told me my husband also needed to see the dishes . . . I guess since George was his contact remotely throughout this transaction, he wanted to meet him and also make sure that he also approved! So, I sent George down and he returned with a smile on his face and we both had a new friend!

Planes, Cars, Ferries and Buying Villa Velina

Continuing from The Big Decision . . .

So, we did it! On May 25th, 2013, we tied the knot! Of course our wedding reception was Italian-themed. I’m sure if all of our friends and relatives could have made the trip to Italy, we would have had a destination wedding. But the the day just wouldn’t have been complete without everyone.

Before we knew it, we were on our way to catch our flight to Rome to begin our two week Southern Italian honeymoon. As we cleared customs and were reunited with our luggage, we instantly spotted our driver holding a sign with our name. Antonio took us just across the road to his Mercedes (illegally parked, of course) and whisked us down the autostrada to the Naples ferry port and our hydrofoil to Capri.

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We had much anticipation as we embarked on the official beginning of our honeymoon. As the hydrofoil departed, George and I reflected on our fun wedding and quickly turned to the events ahead of us: three magical nights in Capri, followed by two in Sorrento and a week in Positano. While in Positano, we had a little business to take care of – we needed to open a bank account at Banco di Napoli. Property Organizers had made arrangements with the local branch so we could conveniently handle this while in Positano. Property Organizers had already secured a Codice Fiscale for each of us, so securing an Italian bank account so we could transfer our money in to cover the purchase, was the last detail left. Oh, did I forget the most important thing? The other piece of business while in Positano was to meet our realtor and travel down to actually physically see Villa Velina, a detail most normal (normale) people would have handled before (prima) sending all those Euros for a deposit.

Our time in Italy felt leisurely. The Monday after arriving in Positano, we made it a priority to get to the Banco to get our account opened. Our contact there was Paolo and he immediately greeted us and invited us into his office. Once in, we could see he had a stack of account-opening documents in front of him. We exchanged greetings and small talk and Paolo asked us about the location of the property we were buying. We replied that it was in the Caselvelino area, about 1.5 hours to the south. Paolo began to shuffle the papers nervously and asked us why we were opening the account in Positano, rather than closer to where our home would be. He spoke very good English. We explained that Property Organizers had arranged for this in Positano for our convenience because we were on our honeymoon. Paolo then continued to play with the papers and looked up at us and said “I have never opened an account for people who do not live in Positano and I don’t feel comfortable doing this”. We tried everything, including getting Property Organizers involved, but Paolo wouldn’t budge. This was a huge concern, because we had to get the funds transferred in time to clear and be available for settlement and we understood in Italy even though you may wire-transfer, it could take a couple of days to be recognized by the bank. Once the funds were available, we had to go back and get the equivalent of a cashiers check for settlement! (How we managed to get the funds in cyberspace awaiting the opening of the Italian account is a topic for another story)

So, Property Organizers came up with Plan B. When Luisa picked us up on Wednesday, we would go first to the branch in Agropoli (a town one hour to the south) to open the account. We realized we were going to be cutting this close. Wednesday came quickly and we had the pleasure of meeting Luisa and driving down the remainder of the incredible Amalfi Coast for the first time as we traveled first to the bank and then to Villa Velina.

We arrived in Agropoli at 1:30 pm, excited to be finally getting this done and found the doors of the Banco locked! “Oh, no”, I thought, “this is siesta”. This did not fluster Luisa, she just pounded on the door until someone came and opened it for us! We were taken upstairs and met with our banker, who spoke only Italian. Fortunately, we were there with Luisa. The account got opened, the funds got transferred and we crossed our fingers that on either Thursday or Friday the funds would be available when we went back to the Positano branch to get the checks for settlement.

Now, on to Villa Velina! As we neared the area, it became clear that we were not quite in the right location, so Luisa called the owner’s son and he agreed to meet us at a gas station. We followed him up the hill to the property and there it was gleaming in the sunshine with views and interior exactly as expected and yet better.

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After taking all of the requisite photos, Luisa drove us down to the nearby beach town that we could see from our balcony and we had lunch and gelato as we walked the beach promenade. As we drove out of town, there Villa Velina was glowing in the sun on the hillside across the valley! The only thing that could have made it better was a rainbow!

Back in Positano for Thursday, we enjoyed our last two days so much – we really could live there. Below is a picture of me on our balcony and one of our many shots of this Bella Città!

On Friday, we successfully extracted our funds for settlement, on Saturday we traveled up to Rome and met up with Luisa to go to settlement. All went smoothly.  After settlement, we went out for caffè with our wonderful new friends.

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When we hopped on the flight home the next morning with Italian house keys in our hands, I can’t begin to express how wrong that felt. Shouldn’t we be staying????  We must be certainly crazy . . .siamo certamente pazzo!

 

Benvenuto! Welcome!

Ciao!

I am working hard to build out Mezzogiorno Living’s permanent content. Please check out the “About” and “Villa Velina” pages and let me know your thoughts.  There is also a restaurant, pasticceria listing and an event, each with an entry to give you an idea of our format. Every menu page will contain permanent content, including lists of recommended restaurants, etc.

Regular blogs will begin on December 1st!

Grazie!

Jo Anne

We should be live by 12/1/15 . . .