Why is this Corona Virus Making us so Unhappy and What Can We Do?

View fro Santa Domenica Talao
View from Santa Domenica Talao

Ciao friends,

I have to say that I woke up sad today.  It is very unlike me to wake up sad so it took awhile for me to really analyze why I was feeling this way and once I identified it, I felt a lot better.

Here it is:

Easter has been cancelled this year for all intents and purpose. We are all on lock down and there are no big meals prepared with and for our loved ones.

There are no Easter egg hunts, no beautiful Easter dresses on the ladies at Easter mass.

There are no flowers and no music. There is no feeling of renewed life that we can share with each other.

There is no thanking God with all of our loved ones present that Winter is over and a new beginning has arrived in all its glory.

I know enforced isolation is necessary in these highly unusual circumstances but it can be very damaging to us spiritually if we do not know how to combat it.

People are all different but two of the most important things we have in common are communication with each other, with life, with the world around us, and aesthetics, a love of all things beautiful.

And everyone I know who travels does so for these two reasons.

Think about it. When we travel somewhere to see the brightly colored markets in Turkey or when we head to Italy to taste the amazing cuisine, we are looking forward to communication to this new (to us) world around us.

When we walk in the evening Passegiatta we look at each other and smile. We are communicating. When we order our dinner in faulty Italian and laugh at our pronunciation and grammar mistakes, we are communicating. When we study history, we are communicating with the past. It is all about communication.

We also look to the aesthetics, the stunning buildings, the amazing art work, and the cultural rituals and practices that we find beautiful. We pay more in hotels for a room with a beautiful view. Again, it is all about communication and aesthetics; communication and beauty.

So it is no surprise that we become edgy and upset when we are denied communication with each other and the world. We also get upset when we are denied the opportunity to see or even create beauty.

So cancelling a holiday such as Easter can give us this reaction of sadness and upset.

So what do we do about it?

Create something beautiful

One of my favorite ways of fighting the blues is to create something beautiful. In my case I have spent a lot of time creating our new Facebook group “All About Italy” which is a group of people who love Italy. It is a great group who freely share beautiful photos and videos, recipes, thoughts and ideas.

For this reason the page itself is very aesthetic and the group is in really nice communication with each other.

If you love Italy feel free to go and join.

Really work to stay in communication with your friends and family.

When  we start to feel down, we tend to with draw. This just makes the problem worse. Pick up the phone or better yet, schedule a FaceTime session with your kids. Write letters and emails just to stay in touch. Check on your relatives. You will feel better.

Plan something great for the future

Our village in Italy is in lock down right now but soon Summer will come and the sharp sunlight will creep through our windows in the morning, waking us up with the promise of so many fun and exciting things.

There will be coffees and cornetti  in the piazza with friends.

There will be parties on the roof terraces overlooking the sea where we laugh together and share stories while sipping perfect Prosecco and munching on Italian snacks.

There will be exciting days spent designing and starting on our new BNB in the piazza.

There will be endless opportunities to discover new treasures. I hear that there is a specialty farm that creates the most perfect ricotta near our village. We need to explore this!

I also found that there is an olive farm below us turning out highly crafted olive oil for us to explore and enjoy.

Pete and I have so many projects in the works and it does make us feel happy and excited to talk to each other about them and create them day after day.

If you need some ideas go check out the Super Savvy Youtube channel. We have some very cool content there and I am sure you will find some ideas to jump start your creative flows.

I know this is a tough time but I also hear great news for the coming weeks. This will not last forever and we will come out of it stronger with a renewed love of the things we might have taken for granted at some point.

Meanwhile Hang On! and work to create opportunities for beauty and more communication. This will make you feel better and it also helps those around you more than you can possibly imagine.

Sending all my best! See you in the piazza!

XO Chris

 

 

We Will Get Through This; Do These Things to Stay Happy and Healthy

San Nicola

 

Ciao Friends,

Well, we can all agree that things have been nothing short of crazy.  There has been so much change every day that it can leave us with heads spinning. And sometimes things can look pretty bleak.

We will get through this but we do need some strategies to keep ourselves healthy and to keep our spirits up. And keeping our spirits up and stress levels  down are vital to remaining physically healthy.

I know a bit about overcoming difficult times. I have had three hip replacements. I had one in 2013 to reduce intense pain upon walking. Two years later the pain had increased rather than decreased and I found out that the hip implant was in wrong.

So I had a hip revision surgery to fix it. I had to confront the pain, the disability and the healing all over again.

Shortly thereafter, my other hip tore and it had to be replaced too.

Hip replacement surgery is intensely painful and each time I had to confront going through it, it was beyond stressful.

So I have developed some strategies for dealing with hard times and I know they will help you get through this rough time.

Photo credit Oleg Magni

1. Think beyond the hard times

As I was wheeled into each surgery, I was afraid. I knew I would wake up in intense pain and because I do not do well with pain killers, I had only Tylenol to see me through. In short I had to confront weeks of intense pain.

The one thing that got me through it was concentrating my attention on how I was going to feel the first day I noticed a decrease of pain. I thought about walking without pain again. I thought about my next Summer in Italy and who I would see and what I would do. I concentrated on the future happy times.

Sometimes I would just think about how I would feel as I left the hospital full of relief that it was all over.

Take some time and concentrate your attention on how happy we will feel when this is over. Think of how unified we will feel and how much smarter we will be.

Think of the plans you will make for the Summer, who you will see and what you will do.

This will keep you from feeling stuck an unable to move.

Photo credit Aleksandr Balandin

2. Turn off the news!

The news media makes its paycheck by holding your attention hostage. It does this by creating panic and chaos. They make you think that you NEED to watch to find out all threats to your survival and then they spin it to make it as scary as possible.

Turn it off! Get your news from a trusted source that has no agenda other than informing you.

Decumano Massimo, Ostia's Main Street
Decumano Massimo, Ostia Antica

3. Find and spread GOOD NEWS.

There is so much good news. The Italian singing in their balconies, communities coming together, babies being born and neighbors caring for neighbors.  Spread this far and wide and help others see beyond this situation.

Photo credit Andrea Piacquadio

4. Take this time to reconnect

I know we are not supposed to leave our houses but we have phones and Skype. Being home can make us feel isolated and alone. Connecting with people will bring your spirits up and help us all feel like we are in this together.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

5. Join my new Facebook group.

I created a Facebook page called “All About Italy”. The purpose is to unite those of us who love all things Italian, and my Italian friends. If we are cooped up in our homes, we can connect with others with similar interests and stay connected through this time of isolation.

If you are not in love with Italy, find and join groups that are interesting to you.

View from the terrace
Sun

6. Go out in the sun

If you have a balcony or patio, go outside and get some sun. Vitamin D is important for health and getting a feeling of space is vital for mental health.

You can also look around and get out of your head where your worries reside. It is a welcome relief to escape for a time.

Sandals Royal Bahamian
Sandals Royal Bahamian

7. Make art!

It doesn’t matter one jot if you are a terrible artist. Make something! You may be surprised at how fast you become proficient! In any case, it will give you something creative to focus on and creative focus is the best remedy for boredom and upset.

If you are not into art, reorganize something, rearrange your furniture, make some great food.

cruisers
Cruising sights

For entertaining videos, go to the Super Savvy Travelers Youtube channel.

8. Help someone else

Of all the points listed above this is by far the most powerful to make you feel in control. Elderly neighbors need groceries or other things and leaving their houses can be more dangerous for them. See what you can do to help them.

We are a strong and powerful people all across the world. United we can come through anything. And soon we will walk in the sun saying how glad we are that this is over and how much we appreciate our friends and neighbors.

Love you guys. Take care.

 

 

How to Learn Italian (Or Any Romance Language) Easily

Chris and the Loa Archeological site

Ciao everyone!

I am gobsmacked at the number of people contacting me about moving to Italy. Seemingly everyone has an Italian dream.

But the one thing that strikes horror into them is the fact that they have to learn Italian.

Others hope that they will soak up Italian like a sponge when they get there, after all babies do that all the time.

But there is a difference. As babies, our lives were set up to teach us our new language. Mama takes us to the market and says “potato” a jillion times while pointing to a potato and sooner or later we associate the object with the word.

When I was 17 my family moved to Brussels for a year. Since there were several of us kids, my parents could not afford to put us in American schools and they wanted us to learn French.

So my sister and I were packed off to L’Institut Dames De Marie in Brussels where we started our quest to learn our school work and simultaneously learn French.

But we did not simply sponge up French despite being immersed in it all day. It was not until I enrolled with my parents in the evening classes taught in French to a bunch of disparate foreigners who all spoke different languages, that I really understand how to learn a foreign language and started really learning French.

Happily our instructor was Monsieur Jons who knew exactly how to teach someone to speak French.

I have used his technique to learn not only French but also Spanish and now Italian.

And his technique was different than most because it focused on the verbs.

Every class we had with him was heavily verb oriented. We conjugated hundreds of verbs and in a one year period we knew verb conjugation, irregular verb conjugation and past, present and future.  (Conjugate means to change the verb to fit  in the sentence.)

Once we knew those the rest was easy.

So following in Monsieur Jons’ footsteps, My recommendations are as follows:

First learn who you will be talking about:

I=Io
You (informal)=Tu
He/She=Lui/Ley
They=Loro
We=Noi
You (plural)=Voi

Next, learn the verb To Be. In Italian it is “Essere”

“Essere”

Io Sono= I am
Tu Sei=You are
Lui/Ley=He/She is
Loro Sono=They are
Noi Siamo=We are
Voi Siete=You (plural) are

Practice this by making up sentences with the verb conjugation and don’t worry about putting in some English words as long as you conjugate the verb correctly. :

“Io sono happy”. “Loro sono angry.” “Tu sei pretty.” etc.

Do this until you are very comfortable with the verb “essere” and all it’s present tense conjugations.

The next most important verb you must, must, must learn is the verb “To have” and this is “Avere”. This is vital for when you want to start talking in the past tense in that you can use “I have gone”, “You have seen”, etc and it makes talking in the past tense super simple.

“Avere”

Io Ho=I have
Tu Hai=You have
Lui/Ley ha=He/she have
Loro hanno=They have
Noi Abbiamo=We have
Voi avete=You (plural) have

Again, use these different conjugations in sentences mixed with English until you get the hang of it.

While doing this also download the Duolingo app. Duolingo is a great little app that lets you play fun games that help you drill your Italian without the pain and suffering. In fact, it is really fun.

I also recommend a set of CD’s called “Drive Time Italian“. This program is great in that it starts you from the very beginning and moves up from there. It also goes over verb conjugations, vocabulary and grammar. If you have a long commute you can learn a ton. I bought these and drilled the the CD’s probably about ten times each and it really stuck with me.

I also recommend “Italian for Dummies” as it also goes over the grammar and sometimes it is great to see things in writing. Also Italian for Dummies equipped me with a phrase that I thought was odd when I learned it but later realized how needed it was in Italy. It was “Signor! il Bancomat ha mangiato la Mia carta!” “Sir! the ATM has eaten my card”.

This came in tremendously handy when the ATM in Diamante ate my card and I had to go in the bank and explain what happened.

The book has a ton of other very handy phrases as well.

OK! it is time to get started! Learn these verbs and start using them. I will write another quick lesson for you soon.

For the accompanying Youtube video, check out our Youtube channel. 

 

More Reasons Why Calabria is the Perfect Retirement Destination

Perfect coffee and cakes

Ciao again!

First off I want to thank you all for your interest in my article “Living in Paradise: Why Calabria, Italy is the Perfect Retirement Destination”  .

Of all the articles, this one has generated the most interest and motivated you to put pencil to paper and send me a note and I love that.

Since I wrote that article a lot has happened in our little corner of the Gulf of Policastro and Riviera de Cedri in Calabria (Cedro is a citrus fruit only found in Calabria)

Last Summer while I was there I was privileged to be invited to attend and speak at an event presented by our mayor with all the other local mayors in attendance.

This forum was designed to pull everyone together from the various villages and towns and to coordinate efforts to really promote the beauty and the products of Calabria.

After all Calabria has EVERYTHING!

Maratea borgo

And the Italian government is now making a concerted effort to open the area up for tourism, not only for the Europeans who tend to descend on Calabria every Summer and enjoy her beautiful beaches, but to the world at large.

For far too long, Calabria has been Europe’s best kept secret and the secret is out.

So aside from the points in my first post, what other possible reasons could there be to retire in Calabria?

I gatti
I gatti

There is an amazing group of people there

During the event last Summer, our mayor got up and spoke about how proud he and the entire village was that so many people of different nationalities called Santa Domenica Talao home. We have Americans, English, Irish, Russian, Swedes and Finns in our village. And our village has embraced every last one of us.

Summer is a blast. My friend Bonnie gets everyone together for parties. Occasionally we get invited to Peppino and Rosaria’s for Sunday lunch (Which is an occasion to die for. (Read about our epic meal here!)

Festival
Photo credit Oleg Magni

The festivals!

Honestly Calabria needs no excuse to put on a festival. And why not? The Pepperoncino Festival in Diamante is a massive hit every September.

One of my favorites is the pastry festival in Santa Maria Del Cedro, featuring the knee weakening delights of Pasticceria Arrone (Here is yet another blog post all about their pastries to die for.)

Add to that, festivals for wild mushrooms, pasta, sausages, swordfish, chocolate, red onions and a seemingly endless parade of religions festivals which are so fun and amazing, and you have something going on all the time.

Fried chilis
Crunchy fried chilis with sale and olive oil. AMAZING!

Every day I find another amazing restaurant.

When I am in San Jose, California there are one or two really good restaurants near me and you have to look for them. Most of the restaurants I have visited in California have been ok but not stellar.

Where we are in Calabria we have some really top notch chefs who get up every day and cook for the masses possibly without realizing how spectacularly talented they are.

In previous posts I have sung the praises of The Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao, Al Caminetto in Tortora, and Ristorante di Aliga in Maeira.

Ristorante di Aliga
Ristorante Di Aliga

But last Summer,  Bonnie and I grabbed our friends Sarah and Andy and we headed down to Scalea to La Perla del Terreno.

La Perla is a lovely restaurant on a gorgeous stretch of beach in Scalea. You can sit outside and let the sea breezes caress you while dining on amazing seafood pasta, Freshly caught and grilled sea bream, fries, gorgeous grilled vegetables and fruity white wine.

An afternoon spent gazing at the endless, deep blue sea, laughing with friends and eating heavenly food is the best reason to retire in Calabria.

For a Siciilian twist, head into the down town area of Scalea and visit Vulare Sicilane. 

This family owned restaurant boasts a compete menu ranging from swordfish served in a crust of pistachios to the Il Completo sandwich, served on a twisted home made roll topped with nuts and stuffed with sweet sausage, onion relish and delicious friend fries. It is my favorite sandwich ever created and as soon as I arrive in Calabria I head directly to Vulare for an Il Completo.

The first time my son visited us, he ordered the hambugerazzo at Vulare. Be prepared, this thing is massive. I saw the waiter emerge from the kitchen, his knees buckling and his muscles and sinews straining under the weight of the plate he was carrying.

I swear it was so big that  it blocked out the sun for a moment and my son with his back to the kitchen had no idea what was in store for him.

The waiter shoveled it onto the table and backed away saying over and over “piano piano!” Urging my son to take his time or he could hurt himself.

As it was, my son ate part of it and we all ate the rest of it for dinner that night. It was great both times.

After lunch you HAVE to have a canollo. Vulare makes their own and they are like milky heaven. Fresh ricotta is perfectly sweetened and sprinkled with choclolate chips then pressed into perfectly crafted pastry horn. No matter how much you have eaten, you will find that you still have room for a canollo and a cafe.

And unlike some restaurants in Italy, Vulare will give you a doggie bag!

Castle in Calabria
Castle in Calabria

There are secret treasures!

Word on the Strada, mostly from my friend Sarah, is that there is a little farm down the hill from us where the ladies craft their own ricotta cheese. I understand you can go and see how it is done. I have net yet been but plan to soon.

Fresh mushrooms in Santa Domenica Talao
Fresh mushrooms in Santa Domenica Talao

In addition there is a thrift type store where you can buy anything second hand. Due to the many renovations happening in Calabria, you can find some amazing hardware, furniture and light fixtures that you would never find anywhere else.

And as I have previously discussed, the market in Scalea is way too much fun. You can purchase anything from freshly made cheeses, to housewares to jewelry and clothing. It is never the same market twice and I always spend however much money I bring with me.

Market day
Market day

Each village has its own market day. Some are better than others. In Santa Domenica we have a smallish one but Tony from Morocco always has beautiful things for sale.

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao, our beatiful home.

The mountains

I know we have the sea and we all love our sea views but the mountains rising up along the spine of Southern Italy are truly spectacular.

The first time we visited, I looked out the window of the plane and saw the magnificent jutting mountains rising up out of the clear blue sea and I could not contain my awe.

Of all the places God created, I think he must be proudest of Calabria. There is no other place like it.

And when you live there you get to experience these and so many other wonders every day.

Honestly, there are so many reasons to love Calabria. These are just a few. The best way to discover them is to come and see them for yourself.

Come to Santa Domenica Talao and look for us in the piazza. We will be having a gelato on a bench next to the church. We will look for you.

Scalea stair case
Scalea, Staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolutely Vital Steps to Purchasing Your Home in Italy

Belvedere Maritimo

Caio!

And thank you for helping to make our recent Youtube videos so popular.

We have also received lots of news from Santa Domenica Talao, Italy letting us know that the work on our home renovations are going swimmingly.

We really can’t wait to see the finished project. You can see our renovations in the “during” phase right here. 

Obviously before purchasing our house almost ten years ago, Pete and I did a lot of research on purchasing a home in Italy.

The housing market in Italy is totally different than in America. In my recent video I went over the differences between an American home and a centuries old home in an Italian village.

Please do your own research but ultimately you will take these steps.

1. Find the area you want to be

There are several very important things to consider when choosing the area where you want to land.

a) Proximity to medical care and hospitals is super important.

Understand that medical services in Italy are very different than they are here in the US. Here if  we have something wrong, we make an appointment with a doctor and see him or her before getting any kind of treatment.

In Italy the pharmacies have pharmacists who are highly trained in diagnosis and treatment of the vast majority of health problems you might have.

For example if you have a sinus infection, you can get antibiotics over the counter. I once had a rash on my face and the pharmacists diagnosed the issue and handled it with the correct ointment.

My son once had food poisoning that he picked up before he arrived in Italy. He was in rough shape. I went to the pharmacy and they prescribed electrolytes and probiotics. He was much better after starting that treatment.

I do not know where the line is medically beyond which you have to see a doctor but there is a lot you can handle with your local pharmacist.

b) Check into the availability of the services you need and want.

For example if you need a hairdresser close by, or a nail salon, factor that into your decision.

c) What is the character or your city, town or village? 

Make sure it matches your own. The most perfect house in a village where you have massively different realities with the people there will not work out well.

d) Are there other ex pats?

Depending on your independence and confidence in being able to learn the language and to fall in with the customs, this may or may not be important to you. I can say that it can be exhausting trying to speak Italian all the time when you are learning and having someone to speak English with is a blessing.

However once you are up and rolling, that all could change. It all depends on what is important to you. I do highly recommend folding yourself in with your village no matter the language and cultural differences. This will give you the richest life experience.

e) Language

In Southern Italy, English is not a prevalent as it is up north. Even in the North when you get out of the bigger cities, you may not find a lot of English spoken.

Obviously you will want to learn Italian and speak like a local but after days of listening and learning, you can get some pretty wild brain fatigue and it is very nice to hear your native language.

2. Choose your agent

I hate to say it but some real estate agents in Italy are not honest and I am not necessarily talking about the locals. I have heard some real horror stories so be on the lookout.

Additionally the standard of responsibility for an agent in Italy may not be the same as in the US. The packet of documents you receive when purchasing a house in the US is massive. In Italy it is pages.  I do not know if disclosures are even a thing in Italy.

That said we found a wonderful agent in Ivan De Luca at Immobiliare Casabella in Scalea, Italy. I will provide all the data at the end of this post.

3. Obtain your Codice Fiscale

The Codice Fiscale is the Italian tax ID number and every big purchase requires that you have one. I bought beds recently and had to show my Codice Fiscale. You can obtain them at your local Italian embassy and it is not difficult but if you want to get it in Italy your agent can assist you with the process.

4. Choose your property

Where do you see yourself? Do you want an ancient hilltop village or a beautiful beach town? Do you want a busy city or a place in the country? All of these options have pros and cons.

In hill towns you will likely need a car whereas if you get a place in a town along the train lines, you can avoid the cost and hassle of having a car.

On the other hand if you purchase something close to the beach, understand that July and August can get extremely crowded with tourists.

That said you may be right in the thick of all of the festivals and events that occur in Summer. The hill towns and villages also have their version of the events but they are not as big as the busier cities.

Do you want a renovated house or apartment? Do you want something habitable that needs some cosmetics or do you want a complete renovation? All of these are good options but do your homework and get the costs in advance for all renovations and fixtures before making an offer on your house. Again there is a lot of useful information in my recent video .

Are you thinking of purchasing something off plan or to-be-built? ok, do me a favor and DON’T!! EVER!! EVER!!! EVER!!!

When I was researching our home purchase the first thing I did was get on the local forums where ex pats discussed experiences and issues. I also got onto forums in Spain and other countries as well as in Italy to see what experiences might be similar.

What I saw shocked me. So many people had purchased off plan (or to-be-built) projects that were never built. The contractors and these peoples’ money just disappeared like breath off a razor blade.

In another forum I read the story of a couple who had put a good amount of retirement money into a new build in Spain. Due to local misrepresentations of zoning laws, their house was bull dozed and there was no recourse.

The legal machinery in Italy grinds exceedingly slowly and you may never see a cent back in the event that you have to litigate. And litigation presupposes that you have tracked down the culprits who scammed you because they could be long gone.

I recommend that you buy something that you see before you and do not purchase anything with a build contract as the renovations may never happen.

We were shown an off plan build in our area ten years ago that we could have purchased for $120,000 Guess what? It was never built.

If you are thinking of getting something that needs renovations or needs to be rebuilt (Like many of the 1 euro houses) make sure that you get to know your builder and your architect before hand and are very comfortable with them. Then get all estimates up front before making an offer on your property.

Once you have all that data, make an offer that makes sense and be prepared to walk away.

Also be aware that not everything we expect in the US to be included in the price, is in fact included. Kitchens in Italy may or may not be included. They are like Lego sets and can be assembled and disassembled quickly. Take nothing for granted and if you want the kitchen, ensure it is in included in the deed. The same goes for light fixtures and just about anything else.

Also be aware that sometimes a garage or room in a house may belong to someone else. Take nothing for granted and ensure you know EXACTLY what all is included.

5. The purchase and dealing with the Notaio (Notary)

Notaries in Italy are way different than notaries in the US. According to Ivan De Luca, a PHD in economics and real estate agent extraordinaire, here is an outline of the Notaio’s functions:

a) The Notaio acts in favor of both the buyer and seller and works for the state.

b) The Notaio is a neutral third part and ensures that all documents comply with Italian real estate law.

c) Whether the transaction is done person to person or through an agent, the Notaio is required to oversee the transaction

d) The Notaio may execute certain checks after the  purchaser has paid a deposit. These checks might include each party’s rights to buy or sell a property, Whether there are any third party claims on the property (liens), a search to identify the presence of possible mortgages, and verification of planning permission.  The Notaio does not verify the compliance with planning permission only that planning permission was given.

e) The Notaio draws up the deed of sale (Atto di Vendita) based on the input from the seller or real estate agent.

f) The Notaio verifies the identities of the parties involved in the transaction.

g) The Notaio attends signing of the final sales contract and reads it aloud to both parties.

h) The Notaio ensure that the new deeds of ownership are registered at the Land Registry.

i) After the deed is registered, the Notaio gives copies of the deed to both parties.

After all of this is complete, congratulations! You are the proud owner of your Italian property!

Obviously this is an overview and since we are not attorneys, We are not giving legal advice here. Check with your real estate professionals in Italy and you can even check with your Notaio if you have questions. Also, if your transaction is complex or if you simply feel more comfortable, hire an attorney to assist you with the transaction.

Pete and I highly recommend Ivan De Luca who has acted not only as a real estate agent for us but has assisted us in setting up our business in Italy, managed our bills and advised us in so many ways on so many issues.

Ivan De Luca
Immobiliare Casabella, Scalea, Calabria, Italy
Parco Centro Marina, Via Lauro, 159, 87029 Scalea CS, Italy
+39 0985 90923

We recommend Ivan for the following reasons:

a) We have used him on several property transactions and despite some pretty grave obstacles, he has always found a way to get things done.

b) Ivan manages our rental properties and bill payments.

c) He is organized and completely transparent. You see where every penny is going.

d) Every time he makes a recommendation he backs it up with good logic and judgement.

e) He has seen everything in the Italian property market and knows what to do in every circumstance.

f) He is fluent in both Italian and English.

g) He is a one stop shop.

In addition to the sales process Ivan can assist you with these issues:

Fully assisted viewings with English translations
Provides assistance obtaining your Codice Fiscale
Offers translation services at the closing meeting
Full before and after sales assistance.
Assistance wtih residency and/or business set up
Bill payment/management
Renovation management and rental services
He has a PHD in economics and knows the Italian system very well.

We have found Ivan to be a valuable partner in all of our property handlings.

I hope that this blog post and the accompanying videos have been helpful to you. Please continue to send me your feed back and any subjects you want to hear about or any questions you have.

Ciao for now!

 

 

1 Euro Italian Properties, Great Deal or Renovation Nightmare?

Santa Domenica Talao, Italy

Ciao!

Southern Italy has really started booming lately. Tourists who are tired of the Italian Trifecta (Rome, Florence and Venice) are discovering a whole new Italy, or should I say an old Italy where Italian traditions are still intact and the local mom and pop establishments have not sold out to Starbuck’s and believe it or not, Dominos Pizza.

Southern Italy is a charmer and is luring more and more people looking to retire or to purchase a dream home to run away to when life gets to be too much.

And, if you are savvy, you can make a great purchase, find exactly what you want and not break the bank.

So that brings up the question, What about those 1 Euro houses that are all the rage in Southern Italy and especially Sicily? It sounds like a fabulous deal!

Is it?

Having purchased several properties in Calabria and having discovered honest real estate agents, architects and builders, I can see at a glance several problem areas with what I have researched on these 1 euro homes.

Why are they selling these homes for so cheap?

To answer that questions I have to delve a bit into Southern Italian history.

Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, much of Southern Italy survived mostly on hunting, agriculture and fishing. Southern Italy is also known as the Mezzogiorno region which means “midday” in Italian. The name evokes images of intense heat and sun in the Summer months creating an environment that can burn plants right out of the ground and starve grazing animals when conditions turn inhospitable.

Life in Southern Italy was hard to say the least. For that reason, when news came that America was the land of opportunity and where survival was not nearly as difficult, a huge number of Southern Italians jumped on boats and headed over. Many simply abandoned their houses. Some had the idea of returning but never did, so once the family died out, the houses were, again abandoned.

Every village in Southern Italy has abandoned properties and the villages who have not reinvented themselves and drawn people to them are, in fact, dying out.

Clever mayors are looking for ways to attract new people to these villages and to create new life and a future for their beloved paese. The Italian government having recently handled a huge Mafia problem in our area is now giving grants to the hill towns of Southern Italy to help them promote themselves and new marketing campaigns are rolling out touting the beauty and products of Calabria.

And one of the methods of stoking interest is to offer these abandoned properties for so cheap that you simply must come over and check them out.

That said, there are some things you need to know about this “deal”.

Houses in Italian Historical Centers are way older than any house in the US and some give new meaning to the term “crumbling ruin”

Many of these villages are medieval and some even pre-medieval. This means that these houses are several hundred years old. Most often abandoned properties have been abandoned since the Italian Diaspora in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. This means they can have been standing vacant and neglected for over a hundred years. This also means that roofs may have fallen in and once that occurs, water gets into the ancient walls created out of stones, ceramic roof tiles an any flotsam and jetsam that is lying around, and they start to crumble taking the entire structure with them.

And finally this means that although you are purchasing a “house”, you may end up taking it down and completely rebuilding it.

Most of these deals come with conditions

One of the condition is that you have to agree to renovate within a certain period. In addition to that there may be conditions on who you can use in your village as far as work goes. I know that certain villages frown on you bringing workers in from somewhere else to do your work and this can cause friction in a village. You might end up renovating your dream home and living with the fact that you have inadvertently created antagonism with your fellow villagers.

On the other hand, the renovation contracts accompanying these “deals”may be ridiculously expensive for the area or even in general making it a very bad deal indeed.

Sometimes the locals put up the prices for foreigners

Pete and I were discussing where to purchase finishes and supplies for the renovation of our BNB. Our close friend insisted that our builder accompany us to make the purchase because she knew that the vendor might put the prices up when they saw us. Our builder came with us and was able to negotiate a fair price for everything we needed.

Recently Pete and I also received an estimate for the refinishing of some stucco on our rental apartment and it was over 8,000 euros. Obviously that was way too much. We will use someone we trust instead.

Renovation costs can be huge

I recently read interviews with people who had purchased a ruin for a euro and then spent over 250,000 Euros to renovate it.

With housing prices as they are, they could have purchased a completely new or renovated mansion for 250K. I cannot imagine paying that for renovations for a house or apartment of 1,000 or even 2,000 square feet when you can buy one completely done up for less than $100,000. It makes zero sense and if you had to sell for whatever reason you would lose a ton of cash.

Renovation in the Historic Centers is also difficult. Many times there is no road leading to your new house or apartment so the supplies might have to be brought up stairs or ramps in wheelbarrows. Giant scaffolds may be required because many of these villages are in hill towns. All of these things drive up the costs of renovating.

Property purchases in Italy are not legally the same as they are in the states

Recently in our village there was a situation where our builder was frankly, ripped off. I asked him why he didn’t sue and the fact was that despite the gorgeous work he did on the house in question, the real estate market simply did not support a price that would make lawyer fees sensible. Lawyers in Europe are as expensive as they are here. Getting into a legal battle takes forever and will cost you way more than you ever thought.

It is best to avoid resorting to legal remedies in Italy if at all possible. Get everything in writing, ask all the questions you need to ask and don’t be afraid to walk away from a purchase if your gut tells you it’s not right.

So with all that said, does it still make sense to purchase an ancient house in Italy?

The answer is yes but only if you are smart about it,

Every hilltop village in our area has properties available in various stages of construction or deconstruction. The prices in Southern Italy are the lowest I have seen in 10 years. I believe that this is because of the uncertainty in the political and economic situations in the EU and the UK.

Many English and Europeans are hunkering down and sitting tight to see what will happen.

Others are up and selling because they are scared. The prices dropped to almost half of what we saw when we first purchased our house in Santa Domenica Talao.

With this going on, there is a fantastic opportunity to buy your dream home in Italy, especially in the South.

If you are dreaming of a home in Italy here is how I recommend you proceed.

Decide where you want to be

This may be a multi trip project. Go to Italy, find some villages and stay awhile in the ones you find attractive. What are the people like? Each village has a character and it must match yours to some degree if you are to be happy there.

Decide what your ideal scene is with regard to your property

Every property purchase comes with a list of must haves, wants and things you don’t want. Make a list of all of these and assign priorities to each item. Understand that you may completely toss your list if you find a place you fall in love with but at least you will have considered everything.

Get to know your architect and builder if you are planning on renovating

In small villages there is normally one builder and one architect. Be sure you are comfortable with them before doing anything with them. If you aren’t, get something that is already renovated.

If you are planning on renovating, get the prices for EVERYTHING before you make an offer

Sit down and tot up the cost of the house, closing costs, architect costs, and renovation costs down to the last toilet. Get this all in writing and see if the deal makes sense. If not, offer what does make sense. You may do this more than once before you settle on the right house and situation.

If the house needs a new roof, you may want to put on a roof terrace. A roof terrace adds so much to your lifestyle that any place that needs a new roof should be evaluated for a roof terrace, but that is my own personal preference.

Do not over renovate for the area

The property values in any given area are what they are. Putting in $2500,00 in renovations in a house that will maybe sell for $80,000 is fine if you really want it, have the money to support it and don’t plan on recouping all of it if you ever sell.

If you have all of the above covered, go nuts. If not, consider carefully how you plan to renovate.

Understand that you may not be equipped to do the work yourself

Ancient houses are NOT the same as houses here in the US. See our Super Savvy Travelers Youtube video below where I describe them. Any improvements you might make yourself will come with a learning curve. If you are ok with that, proceed.

Budget for more than what you think it will cost

In any renovation, you never know what the final cost will be. Things turn up when moving walls or fixing plumbing, especially in an ancient village. Be prepared.

Purchase something that does not require any structural repairs

New walls, new ceilings and floors are expensive. Avoid all that and get something that is in good shape structurally but just needs some cosmetics. Prices are so low in Southern Italy now that you will be amazed at what you can get.

If you are hell bent on a renovation project CONTACT ME!

Pete and I have a ton of experience purchasing and renovating properties in Calabria. We have discovered and vetted reliable estate agents, property managers, builders and architects. In short we have put the infrastructure there for you to enter into a renovation project eyes wide open. We can walk you through the process.

If you are planning to come to Italy to look at property or to just have a great vacation, we can help you put together a fabulous trip. Send us an email at [email protected]

 

 

5 Reasons Why Ostia Antica Beats the Roman Forum!

Ostia Antica

When most people think of Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum usually comes to mind as the top place to see what life was like in ancient Roman times. There, you’ll find yourself immersed in the grandeur of an ancient city center surrounded by large monuments, stately buildings, and ancient temples and churches.

The Roman Forum

But there’s actually a lesser known place, just outside of Rome, that beats the Roman Forum for providing a more closer, intimate view of what life was really like in ancient Roman times. That place is Ostia Antica.  Here are five reasons why Ostia Antica beats the Roman Forum for giving you a much closer look into what day-to-day life was like in Roman times.

1. Ostia is in Better Shape

Ostia Antica is Rome’s original Port city. Founded around 600 BC near the mouth (ostium) of the Tiber river, it developed into the headquarters for one of the commanders the Roman Fleet around 267 BC. Ostia started to become an important grain storage area for the military, and from there developed into a major commercial trading center.

Artist's Depiction of Ostia Antica
Artist’s Depiction of Ostia Antica

Because of the booming commercial trade in Ostia, the city soon ran out of capacity to dock ships. In 98 AD Emperor Trajan started work on a new harbor about 3km north of Ostia to provide extra ship capacity. As the urban center around this new harbor (Portus) developed and at the same time Rome’s population started declining, Ostia faded in importance, and around 800 AD it was finally abandoned, hastened by repeated Saracen pirate attacks.

Most of Ostia was gradually covered by silt from repeated flooding of the Tiber and by its changing course.  All of the silt accumulation helped to preserve the remaining structures until excavation of the site started in the early 1800’s, resulting in the really well-preserved ancient city that you can see today.

To help us to better understand the history of Ostia and everything there is to see there, we signed up for the “Daily Life in Ostia Antica” private tour through tripadvisor, which was hosted by Maria from viator. Maria is a trained archaeologist who actually lives in the present-day city of Ostia. Maria’s knowledge of the history and background of Ostia Antica was amazing, and we learned so much from her on our 3-hour tour with her. Here she is pointing out some details of the necropolis, a burial site near the park entrance, to Chris:

Chris and our tour guide Maria
Chris and our tour guide Maria

According to ancient law, burial places had to be located outside of the city walls.  Here we could see elaborate tombs for people of upper social classes.

Raised Tomb in the Necropolis
Raised Tomb in the Necropolis
Tomb of the Little Arches
Tomb of the Little Arches

The entrance to the city, the Porta Romana, is marked by the remnants of an elaborate marble entrance.

Porta Romana
Porta Romana

Inside Ostia Antica itself, we were amazed by the excellent condition of many of the areas we saw. For example, in a shop near the Roman Baths you can clearly see a beautiful marble bar counter with shelves and basins for washing dishes, along with a built-in stove!

Shop Near the Forum Baths
Shop Near the Forum Baths

There are also plenty of well-preserved murals and paintings still visible in their original locations including a mural showing items you could purchase in the shop.

Mural
Mural Showing Shop Offerings

Even some of the mosaic tile floors are still in great condition!

Tile Floor in the Baths of Neptune
Tile Floor in the Baths of Neptune

2. Ostia Isn’t Crowded

Because Ostia is outside of Rome’s historical district and is somewhat off the beaten path, fewer people venture out to see it. We visited Ostia twice, in June and also in September, and on both occasions we never encountered more than 20 people in the entire 84-acre site. You can practically have the place to yourself when you visit!

Decumano Massimo, Ostia's Main Street
Decumano Massimo, Ostia’s Main Street

3. Ostia is Cooler in the Summer

Because Ostia is only 2km away from the sea, it’s cooler in the summer compared to the Roman Forum where you can bake in the noonday sun. There’s quite a bit of shade from the many pine trees on the site. That said, especially during July and August, I’d suggest you visit either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it’s cooler and when the lighting is more subdued compared to the middle of the day.

Lots of Shady Pines!
Lots of Shady Pines!

4. Ostia Gives You a Better View into Roman Life

A visit to Ostia lets you get a good idea of what day-to-day life must have been like for Romans living and working in a large commercial center.

You can see how people lived in apartments at the House of Diana.

House of Diana
House of Diana

For daily entertainment for the city’s residents, the city had an impressive theatre.

Theatre Entrance
Theatre Entrance
Amphitheatre
Amphitheatre

The city had two bath complexes, with the much of the original structure of the Forum Baths still visible.

Forum Baths
Forum Baths
Form Baths
Form Baths

You can even see the remnants of a complex system of hollow pipes that ran warm water through the floors and walls in the  Forum Baths.

Forum Baths Plumbing
Forum Baths Plumbing

There’s also a museum onsite that houses many artifacts found in Ostia.

Clay Pots Outside of the Museum
Clay Amphorae Outside of the Museum

5. Ostia is Close to the Airport

Ostia is a great place to visit if you’re at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for an overnight stay or even for a short layover, since it’s only about a 15-min. taxi ride away.

Directions for Fiumicino to Ostia Antica
Fiumicino to Ostia Antica

If you are in Rome for an overnight visit, I’d recommend you stay at the Best Western Hotel Rome Airport; it’s a nice basic hotel with a good restaurant, it has a regular shuttle service to take you to the airport terminals (5 min. away), and it avoids you from having to go into Rome itself for an overnight stay (a 60-euro, 45-minute  taxi ride).

Ostia Antica is located at Viale dei Romagnoli, 717, 00119 Roma RM. Information on tickets and opening hours is at the Ostia Antica website.

Contact us if you’d like more details about visiting Ostia Antica or any of the other exiting destinations in Italy!

Southern Italy’s Most Instagrammable Places

Beach in Maratea

Ciao!

Who doesn’t love Instagram? If you are dreaming of travel or just adding to your bucket list, Instagram is a great place to go to escape even for a short while.

It is lovely to take out your computer on a cold and rainy Sunday, and look at photos of bright sunshine, blue skies and fabulous crystal blue seas.

And for all of the above, there is no place better than Southern Italy for snap after snap of impossibly beautiful images whether in your mind or in your camera.

Diamante
Diamante, Calabria

Diamante, Calabria

Diamante means “diamond” in Italian and a diamond it is.

Diamante rides atop a point that juts out into the Mediterranean and curves inland creating white sand beaches and gorgeous seascapes.

The historic center of Diamante (Centro Storico) is a beautiful blend of ancient Italian houses and tiny cobbled vias interspersed with spectacular views of the sea.

Diamante promenade
The lungomare (promenade) in Diamante

Diamante is also known for its murals which present themselves around corners and tucked into alleyways. A morning spent on a hunt for each mural is so fun as you wind your way through the town taking picture after picture to put on Instagram.

Mediterranean Near Praia A Mare
Mediterranean Near Praia a Mare

Praia a Mare, Calabria

Pete and I just love Praia a Mare. On a Summer afternoon, Praia’s shady, tree lined promenade down the center of town is a treasure chest of Instagrammable snapshots.

Gulf of Policastro
Gulf of Policastro

Praia a Mare is so spectacular that Pete and I recently purchased a property that we are now renting out on Air BNB

View from Casa Gorasole
View from the wraparound terrace of Casa Girasole
Tortora Calabria
The beautiful hill town of Tortora, Calabria Italy

Tortora, Calabria

Calabria is studded with gorgeous little hill towns that take your breath away. each one has its own personality and charm however Tortora is one of our all time favorites for billions of Instagrammable views and sights.

Another reason to love Tortora is that our great friend Giacomo and his family live there and they have introduced us to their friends and family.

Roseangela PAsta demo
Roseangela pasta making demo

Any trip to Tortora must include lunch at Al Caminetto, a restaurant in the Centro Storico that is run by the extremely talented Roseangela and her family.

Roseangela is royalty in terms of Calabrian cooking. A meal with her is a feast of traditional Calabrian appetizers, freshly made pasta dishes featuring Chinguale or local wild boar, and freshly made ravioli with ricotta from the local farms.

Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
Pasta with Wild Boar at A; Caminetto in Tortora, Italy

While we were there, Roseangela gave us a pasta making demo which you can see here. Enjoy watching me mangle a fusilli. It is quite entertaining how she whips them out perfectly while I struggle trying to make something that might pass for a fusilli noodle if it is buried at the bottom of the dish.

Fusilli at Al Caminetto
Fusilli at Al Caminetto, Tortora, Calabria, Italy

I recommend visiting Al Caminetto with a big group and ordering a selection of traditional Calabrian dishes. You wil be amazed at the variety and how delicious it all is.

Ancient Greek vase Tortora
Ancient Greek vase in the museum in Tortora

Tortora also has a beautiful museum where you can see artifacts that have been dug up in recent local excavations, including Etruscan and Ancient Greek artifacts that date back to the era of the Magna Grecia which encompassed Southern Italy.

Tortora is also one of those villages packed to the brim with Instagrammable images. Everywhere you look is something beautiful.

Maratea_coast
Sweeping Mediterranean views from Maratea

Maratea, Basilicata

There is portion of Italy where you can see three different regions, Calabria, Compania and Basilicata. You can see them all from our Air BNB apartment on the terrace.  In fact the sunsets from our balcony are all Instagrammable and they are different every night.

View from the terrace
View from the wraparound terrace I Casa Girasole

Maratea is just north of Calabria along the coast. Maratea is known for the giant white marble statue of Christ the Redeemer similar to the one in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

This statue is perched high atop the hill in Maratea. A drive up there affords you the most spectacular views of the Mediterranean found anywhere.

Cristo Redentore, Maratea
Cristo Redentore, Maratea, Calabria. Christ the Redeemer of Maratea, at 21 meters high, is the third-tallest statue of Jesus in Europe. The statue was built of pure Carrara marble in 1965 by Bruno Innocenti, a sculptor from Florence.

The beaches in Maratea are also stunning as are most beaches in Southern Italy. The Mediterranean turns crystal blue as you journey down South.

Beach Near Maratea
Beach near Maratea

Matera, Basilicata

Matera used to be called the Shame of Italy. Back in the 1950’s starvation was rampant as was malaria. Many of the people in Matera lived in caves in the rock walls bringing their animals inside with them in Winter for warmth. Carlo Levy, in his book,  “Christ Stopped at Eboli” was the first to shine the light on the deplorable conditions in Matera and this caused the Italian government to come in, repatriate the people in better housing and to care for them.

Matera Morning
Matera Morning

In recent years however, Matera has become an artist’s Mecca with art and music schools popping up, and festivals in Summer. When we visited, we heard music around every corner from opera to jazz to pop. It was quite extraordinary.

Aside from the art aspect however, Matera is, itself a work of art. Made from the local white stone, Matera gleams in the sunlight and glows in the evening as the golden town lights come up.

Matera evening
Matera evening

Most recently, Matera has been the perfect location for movies. The new James Bond movie “A Time to Die” was partially filmed in Matera. (Click here for some awesome footage.)

Church in Matera
Church of the Purgatory in Matera

Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria

Of all of the Instagrammable places I have presented here, my heart belongs to Santa Domenica Talao which is my home.

The Piazza
Our Piazza

When Pete and I first looked for property in Calabria, we saw Santa Domenica Talao and that was it. We knew this was where we belonged.

Every day that I walk around the village I see new and beautiful instagrammable views, from the sweeping views of the sea and the mountains to the fruit laid out at my friend Nunzia’s store and the kids playing soccer in the parking lot. There is so much to take in.

Nunzia's store
Nunzia’s store

We love Santa Domenica Talao so much that Pete and I have purchased a ruin just up from the piazza and a few steps from Nunzia’s store. It is a ruin and we are renovating it and turning it into a BNB so that others can come and enjoy our beautiful village. Check out our renovation project and follow us as we complete it.  Then make sure you are there for the grand opening!

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao, our beatiful home.

Santa Domenica is infinitely Instagrammable but beyond that, when you come you will fall in love with the people. We have so many warm friends there and have been welcomed from the beginning.

As you can see, Southern Italy is a photographer’s paradise. Start planning your trip down. Pete and I are experts in the region and can help you plan the perfect visit. Contact us and we can get you started.

How to Navigate Tricky Venice and Bathe Yourself in Beauty

Little Bridges

 

Venice is magic!
Venice is Magic!

Ciao Everyone!

Wow! Pete and I just returned from an incredible cruise on Azamara to the Greek Islands, ending up in Venice.

I was unfamiliar with Venice, all of my knowledge being stories I have read and beautiful photos in travel magazines. Seeing Venice up close and personal was a gift that I hope you all receive. In short Venice is spectacular .

That said, Venice, being built on stilts in a swampy lagoon and being a spot that tourists are drawn to like Winnie the Pooh to honey pots,  has her challenges. Pete and I very sneakily discovered some ways to get around them and to have a beautiful time in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Water taxis and busses are the only way to get around
Water taxis and water busses are the only way to get around.
  1. Make sure your hotel is close to the water taxis

If you have never been to Venice, be aware that it is not a city for the severely mobility impaired. Venice is a series of islands close together with canals running betwixt and between them. They are held together by beautiful little bridges that connect each island to the ones next to it forming a an interconnected archipelago.

There are no cars in the center of Venice so no taxis to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.  The water buses are great but let me tell you that if you have walking, standing or balance issues they can be intimidating.

There are no cars in the old town, Venice

I have had three hip replacements so in big cities, I walk with a cane and have some balance issues. I had to use great care getting on and off these boats and sometimes the only way on and off was over a skinny plank.

In addition we had luggage. We pack pretty light but those who do not will have the massive task of heaving a huge suitcase onto and off of a water taxi then dragging all their luggage to whatever accommodations they are planning to use while there.

When you look at it, it can be a long walk to your hotel if it is far from the  Grand Canal.

Tiny vias in Venice
Tiny vias in Venice

While in Venice we stayed at the Hotel Lux. It is close to the water taxi stations, close to the Piazza San Marco and had some stellar restaurants nearby. Hotel Lux is a three star hotel. The room was small but it was inexpensive and clean and you get breakfast. We would definitely stay there again, especially since hotels in Venice can be extremely pricey.

While we were on board the Azamara ship, Pete had overheard an unfortunate young woman who had reservations at a hotel in Venice. Her mother was confined to a wheelchair and she had no idea how she was going to get her mom, their luggage and herself to her hotel and around Venice. I felt bad for her. It was a thorny problem.

Venice cistern
Venice had cisterns to gather water and provide It to the residents

2. Buy quality luggage and pack as lightly as you can.

I have found recently that quality luggage is the difference between breezing through airports and over cobbled historical centers, and dragging, sweating and possibly even swearing (under your breath of course) trying to get your stuff from one location to the next.

Prior to leaving for this trip, I went and bought a rolly bag made by Swiss Gear. I paid more but after rolling all the bags around the store I decided it was worth is and it really was! This thing is a dream. I walk through the airport barely pushing it. It is light and easy to hoist onto trains. Even over cobble stones it was great.

Venetian Canal
Venetian Canal

3. Check to see what floor you will be staying on because there are very few lifts in Venice.

The only drawback to the Hotel Lux was that it was a tall and skinny hotel. We were on the “third” floor (really the fourth because that is how they are counted in Europe) and there was a stair case that you had to climb to get to reception. Happily we packed relatively light but we still had to schlepp all our bags up the stairs to our room and back down again when we left.

I had a conversation with the hotel manager and he advised me that the building codes are very strict in Venice to the point where inside or outside, you cannot move the ancient walls or take them down. This severely limits building owners and as there are few locations that can actually accommodate a lift, there are very few.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge

4. Don’t spend all your time at the main attractions.

Sure St. Mark’s Square is stunningly beautiful and you should see it. Go at night, most of the tourists are gone and several restaurants feature beautiful orchestras playing classical music. Sitting at a table in a square surrounded by some of the most beautiful architecture ever created  drinking a Prosecco while listening to Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s favored son, is a treat you won’t want to miss.

St, Mark’s during the day is choked with people as is the Rialto Bridge. See these places after dark.

Venice at night
Venice at night

Meanwhile Pete and I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day running around Venice with our cameras looking for the prettiest corners, the most interesting reflections and watching the beautifully crafted gondolas glide soundlessly through the tiny waters with their passengers.

Venice is one of those rare cities that is beautiful through and through. Around every corner is another amazing sight. From the mask maker’s shops to the glass shops, there is so much to delight your eyes that is not shown in guide books.

Little Bridges
Little Bridges

5. Understand that most of the bridges have stairs.

Again if you are in a wheelchair, you will not see a lot of Venice. Along the Grand  Canal the city has provided ramps for those with mobility issues but that is the only place I saw them. The rest of the lanes are held together with little arched bridges with stairs.

Murano Glassworks
Murano Glass Works

6. DO go see the glass works in Murano

While we were there Pete and I took a boat tour to Murano and Burano.

Murano is the island where Venetian glass is made. Since glassmaking is an inherently dangerous activity due to the high temperature fires needed to melt silica and make glass, all of the glassmaking has been restricted to the island of Murano.

Once we alighted on the island, we were treated to a short glass making demonstration during which we watched in fascination as a master glass craftsman took a bubble of glass and create a rearing horse in seconds.

After the demonstration we toured the showroom. We were not allowed to take photos and it is unfortunate because I cannot describe how beautiful these works were.

 Check out this website however for some idea. The picture may or may not due them all justice. The works were nothing short of specatacular.

Burano umbrellas
Pretty umbrellas in Burano

7.  Take a guided tour

Our tour of Murano and Burano was with City Wonders. Our tour guide is a Venice resident and had an incredibly rich knowledge of the city’s history. She answered every question we threw at her including the significances of certain statues, what a normal Venetian would have for dinner and what products we should order this season in the restaurants. On top of that she was immensely entertaining and funny. Her name was Francesca A and we highly recommend her.

Seeing any city with a tour guide is the best way to go. The experience is so much richer when you know what you are looking at.

If you don’t want to do that check out some of the Great Courses. Either way your experience will be much richer when you know the stories behind the magnificent things you are seeing.

Venice is a city full of challenges but also full to the brim of wonder. She is a challenge to negotiate but when you do you will be treated to an experience like no other.

This beautiful little island built on a lagoon to thwart invaders ended up dominating all the cities in terms of trade and drew to herself, architectural and artistic elements from everywhere.

She is a sparkling jewel in a stunning Byzantine jewel box just waiting to be explored,

 

 

 

 

 

 

#calabriaisbooming!

View from the terrace
Orso Marso
Chris at the top of the hill Orso Marso

Ciao Belli!

If you are in any way, shape or form an Italophile, I am sure you are always on the lookout for hidden treasures and tucked away gems. You are interested in tiny hill towns bursting with culture and community and perhaps you have even thought about purchasing a property in one of these little pockets of beauty, tight knit community, culture and history.

Pete and I have been drawn to Italy since we were both teens and young adults when we visited Italy and each made a decision that some day we would make it a huge part of our lives.

That day came in 2011 when we purchased our house in the little Calabrian hill town of Santa Domenica Talao.

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao

At that time we saw the treasure that was this town and all the other hill towns and seaside villages that dotted the mountains and shores of Calabria. And we could not believe that they were not overrun with tourists breathlessly discovering the spectacular mountains, the freshest air, the beautiful crystal-blue waters that make swimming a joy and the food, wine, community and culture that are the most valuable hidden treasures here.

Calabria has always been off the beaten path for travelers, in fact a very famous guide book publisher told us that “Americans don’t go to Calabria”. Well, that may have been true at one time but it is not true now.

In fact, I get a lot of emails from people looking to purchase property in Calabria and researching retiring there.

Calabria is an excellent tourist destination and retirement destination for so many reasons.

Calabrian Atmosphere
Calabrian Atmosphere
Pizza Bella Vista
Pizza at the Bella Vista

It is inexpensive.

Properties here are so amazingly affordable. Apartments can be found in the 30,000 Euro range. And with them you have proximity to the beast beaches in the world. In Amalfi, these places would be unaffordable. In addition, a fabulous wood fired pizza in our village costs as little as 6.00 Euros. The cost of living is a whole lot less than just about anywhere.

YUM!
YUM!

The food is unparalleled

We have dishes in Calabria that are now setting the world on fire with their uniqueness and flavors.

Recently there was a festival in our village where we had speakers and cooking demos using the products unique to Calabria. I learned that there are 380 food products unique to Calabria. The cedro and the Calabrian Black Truffle are only two of the products that grow only in Calabria and famous chefs who love Italy are discovering the food treasures found only here.

Scalea
Scalea

Calabria has some of the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

Our village of Santa Domenica Talao is between the mountains and the sea and you get spectacular views of both. The Pollino Mountains rise up forming a rocky spine just inland. In one sweeping view from our terrace you can see the most spectacular mountains anywhere and the endless Mediterranean.

Anywhere in Calabria you are close to a spectacular beach, a beautiful town or village and art and architecture that takes your breath away.

Roseangela at Al Caminetto
Roseangela at Al Caminetto
My Beautiful Friends Nunzia
My Beautiful Friend Nunzia

There is a special culture unique to Calabria.

You see, Calabria is the REAL Italy. Now this is no dis to Rome or Florence or Venice who all have their charm but they are big famous celebrities while Calabria is, well, its home.

I love my friends there. They made us feel welcome from the very beginning and we are a part of something bigger than ourselves or our families. We are part of a village with all its joys and sorrows, all its trials and triumphs.

I feel that much of this feeling of belonging is missing for a large number of Americans. Depression and loneliness are almost foreign here, Since my husband is still working in America, I spend a lot of time solo. When I get lonely I simply go up to the piazza and see all of my friends.

We are parts of their lives and they are part of ours.

Most recently I have seen a huge interest in Calabria not only from our website but from many sources.

Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun just wrote an article in National Geographic Magazine all about the cultural and culinary riches of Calabria,

In addition, Air BNB’s recent magazine prominently featured Calabria as a tourist destination.

In short, Savvy Travelers everywhere are finally discovering Calabria and the Italian government and the local towns and villages are all aligning in the same direction,

Last Summer while I was there, our village featured  a major culinary festival spanning two days. A famous local chef was invited and a panel discussion was held and later cooking demonstrations featuring typical Calabrian products.

A week later, I was honored to speak at Santa Domenica Talao’s 350th anniversary. All of the mayors of the local towns and villages were there and wanted to know what it was about Santa Domenica that drew Pete and me there and made us decide to invest in a business there.

They listened intently as I told them how much we felt loved and welcomed into this amazing village and how it gives us things we have not found at home, things like a real sense of community, and a feeling of being a part of something important. We are now a part of this Italian village and we could not be prouder or more humbled.

Happily a local reporter was there who interviewed me and wrote a nice article on the event.

Here is an exerpt in English:

Great astonishment was aroused by the testimony of Chis, a naturalized Cristina, a middle-aged woman from California, who found her dimension in Santa Domenica Talao. The American citizen explained how after a trip she fell in love with this place, even coming to buy a house in the middle of the historic center, where she now spends five or six months a year. The passion for this land has also infected his sister, who has become her neighbor. And that's not all, because a year ago Cristina decided to buy a second building, this time to turn it into a b & b. To make it known to overseas tourists, Chris writes about it on his blog, which can be found on the website www.supersavvytravelers.com, in which he describes, in detail, what comes in the small community that overlooks the Tyrrhenian coast at an altitude of 304 meters. Between thunderous applause and great enthusiasm, the evening ended with the cake cutting tradition.

 

In addition many of the mayors who attended stood up and spoke. I learned that the Italian government has provided certain grants to these villages and towns in Calabria to assist them in promoting themselves.

As a result we have seen a lot of new interest in Calabria by travel magazines, famous chefs, and travel writers. All of this has created the beginnings of a boom in our beloved part of Italy.

Nunzia's Store
Local Calabrian products

There has also been a surge of new businesses, including a gorgeous new BNB in Praia a Mare owned by our friend Giacomo’s son and his two friends. Together they purchased a crumbling ruin in the historic center of Praia a Mare and renovated it into a high end luxury BNB called Praja Vecchia.

Their message to the young people of Calabria is that you don’t have to go away to find work in Rome, Milan or London. You can create your own work where you are. You can stay with your families and in the place you grew up.

And this is what they have done.

Pete and I have also purchased a ruin to renovate and turn into a BNB in our village. While I was meeting with Antonello, our amazing architect, and designing our new BNB, he told me that this last Summer, every BNB, every room in a house and every apartment in Santa Domenica Talao was full all Summer.

And that makes me tremendously happy.

Since #calabriaisbooming, perhaps you want to come and be the first among your friends to discover its charms.

Chris in Santa Domenica Talao
Chris in Santa Domenica Talao

Pete and I can help you arrange you trip. Recently we have purchased a rental property in Praia a Mare with sweeping views of the Mediterranean from your private terrace and private patio.

We can help you arrange all of your travel to get here and a property manager will be there on scene to ensure that you have everything you need.

Your morning view
View from Casa Gorasole
View from the wraparound terrace of Casa Girasole