Calabrian Cuisine, 5 Things You HAVE To Eat When You Arrive

Al Caminetto Ravioli
Home Made Ravioli at Al Caminetto

Ciao Belli!

First of all if you are new to our Super Savvy Blog Welcome and we are glad you are here.

Also thank you for reaching out to us. Our goal is to give you the information you really need and want, so your emails and comments on the Youtube channel really help us in that endeavor.

Please continue to write when you have a question and I will respond.

Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and cakes

OK, I know that you know that I am a truffle pig when it comes to finding the best eats. I will root them out anywhere I go and my job became a lot easier when we arrived in Calabria.

Calabrian food is a wonderful mix of amazingly good and fresh seafood, pork dishes, Chicken dishes, home made pastas, and so much more.

Everything is fresh. The vegetables are right out of someone’s garden. Some of the people in our village, like our friends Rosaria and Peppino raise EVERYTHING themselves including their mushrooms. Rosaria is an amazing chef and an invitation to lunch starts your mouth watering even if the lunch date  is days away.

So you can imagine how incredibly difficult it is to choose only 5 things that you HAVE to eat. By no means limit yourself to these 5 but definitely don’t leave without tasting them.

Pizza Talao
Pizza Talao
  1. Pizza at The Bella Vista, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria

    This is the Italian snack staple. Pizzas are everywhere and they are all good. I have only once had a bad pizza but it was in Rome and really everything in that place was bad. The restaurant owners and staff were not even Italian.
    So you can love them all but the best pizza I have had was Michelle’s pizza at the Bella Vista. I know I harp on and on about Michelle’s cooking but it really is that good.

    Pacchieri
  2. Pacchieri Ala Gitana at La Perla Del Terreno, Scalea, Calabria

    I initially ordered this dish because LOVE pacchieri. they are wide, fat noodles that soak up the sauce and spread it all over your tongue. Then you bite and there is a little resistance and then it gives.  You can’t help it! Suddenly you start singing hymns to the Almighty!

    This pasta Is coated in a fine tomato based seafood sauce with lots of assorted shellfish and white fish.

    It comes with a bag of freshly baked Calabrian bread that you can use to sop up everything on your plate. It is serious, good eating. Pair this with a lovely white wine on a Summer day while you watch the sea birds play in the surf and listen to the waves lap the shore. It is one of the most pleasant things to do on a Summer day in Calabria. Then you have to go and nap.

    Zucchini Fritters
    Zucchini Fritters

    The Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao
  3. Zucchini Fritters at The Bella Vista, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria

    OK here is Michelle again. Let me describe the Bella Vista to you. It is a cafe at the corner of our village and is the first thing you see when you arrive. The owners have created a huge roof terrace on top where you can enjoy your dinner while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean and while the village behind you starts to glow gold in the evening light. It is a magical place far from anything that worries you and the best part is that you know a spectacular meal is coming.
    Michelle or one of her staff greet you and take your order. Shortly after that a little plate arrives with your zucchini fritter and a perfect bruschetta featuring sweet tomatoes, garlic and a drizzle of beautiful Calabrian olive oil. Honestly some day I will show up and Michelle’s and just asks for two or three plates of appetizers instead of dinner.

    Cannoli
    Cannoli at Vulare Siciliane
  4. Cannoli at Vulare Siciliane, Scalea, Calabria

    I know I also talk a lot about Ilenia but her food is unbelievable. Everything there is delicious but if you want something sooooo incredibly delicious that you actually go weak in the knees, you want one of her cannoli. She and her husband make the little pastry shells themselves and fill them with the lightest sweetest, milkiest, ricotta filling I have ever come across. I have had a LOT of cannoli and hers are seriously the best.

    Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
    Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
  5. Pasta Al Cinghiale at Al Caminetto, Tortora, Calabria

    One rainy June afternoon we met our great friend Giacomo in Tortora which is a stunning little hill town just north of us. Giacomo’s cousin and his wife Roseangela run a restaurant there Called Al Caminetto. Since it was our first time there, Giacomo ordered a sampling of many different Calabrian dishes including fried appetizers such as arancini. This is a ball or cone of rice stuffed with a meat and vegetable mixture and rolled in bread crumbs and fried. I know! That is about as good as it gets!

    Roseangela giving us a pasta making demonstration

    Everything was amazing but her Pasta Al Cinghiale was special. It is a truly gifted chef who knows instinctively how much of everything to put in to ensure that the balance between the flavors is perfect. Roseangela is such a chef. Don’t miss this dish! (Cinghiale is wild boar by the way.)

    Lunch!
    Lunch!

    Now I could go on and on for days and I would love to do that because these are just the things you need to eat when you arrive. Hopefully you intend to stay awhile and sample all of the amazing restaurants in the area. The Riviera Dei Cedri seems to have attracted the most talented chefs in Italy and you can hop from one great meal to the next easily and happily.

    Antipasti
    Antipasti

    Enjoy your trip to our beautiful area and Buon Appetito!

Updates On Travel To Italy

Volterra
Volterra
Volterra
Volterra

Ciao Amici!

While we continue to wait for Italy and all of Europe to open up, we do get dribs and drabs of information.  Someone on the “Living in Italy” Facebook page posted this update and I thought you would find it helpful. It is from the Minister of External Affairs and International Cooperation.

I basically copied and translated it for you here. You can see the website in Italian at the above link.

“06/15/2020 COVID-19: WHO has classified COVID-19 as a “pandemic” since 11 March. To limit their spread, restrictive measures have been gradually adopted on a global scale since January 2020 (suspension of air traffic, ban on entry, refoulement* at the border, compulsory quarantine, health checks). Based on art. 6 of the Prime Ministerial Decree of 11 June 2020, travel to / from EU Member States, Schengen States Parties, the United Kingdom, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are not subject to restrictions. Travel to these countries is therefore also allowed for tourism. Before departure, it is always necessary to check any restrictions on entry in force in the country where you want to go. This information is available on the country sheets of Viaggiare Sicuri and on the websites of the Italian embassies and / or consulates of the countries of interest. The return to Italy from the listed countries is allowed without limitations, without prejudice to any restrictive measures provided for specific areas of the national territory.

Until 30 June, 2020, travel to/from States and territories other than those listed is FORBIDDEN, except for proven work, absolute urgency or health needs. In any case, it is allowed to return to your home or residence.

Those who return to Italy from States and territories other than those listed, or who have stayed there in the 14 days prior to arrival in Italy, must still complete a specific SELF-CERTIFICATION ON THE REASONS FOR THE TRIP,  must undergo fiduciary isolation for 14 days and CANNOT use public transport other than that used to enter Italy (for example, on arrival to Fiumicino by plane you cannot take the train to the center of Rome or to any other destination).

Airport transit is allowed: those who enter Italy by air can take another plane to any national or international destination. Car rental and the use of taxis or rental with driver is allowed. “

Truthfully we won’t know when Italy opens for other than the countries listed above until they do. Until then we wait…

Pete and I will keep you as updated as possible.

I hope this helps!

*non-refoulement refers to the generic repatriation of people, including refugees into war zones and other disaster locales.

Calabria Joins The Ranks Of The 1 Euro Italian House Program

1 Euro Italian House
Italian Balcony

Ciao Amici (Friends!)

Chris here from Super Savvy Travelers!” And in the last few weeks over 200,000 of you have heard that phrase on our Super Savvy Youtube channel. 
Thank you! It has been a pleasure being in communication with you all!

Honestly the 1 Euro Italian House trend has just gotten bigger and bigger. A couple of weeks ago, I swore to you that there were none in Calabria that I could find.

Well, it appears that Mayor Michele Conia has risen to the challenge and made 1 Euro Italian houses available in his community of Cinquefrondi.

Cinquefondi literally translates to “Five Fronds” and the village is named for the fact that there were five separate communities of Greek and Byzantine origin that all came together and formed one community during the Middle Ages.

1 Eur italianhouse
Ancient Italian House

Cinque Frondi is located on the bunion of the boot that is the Italian Peninsula. It rides along the crest of the Aspromonte Mountains and affords access  to the sea on both sides.

1 Euro House Cinquefrondi
Cinquefrondi

Mayor Michele, along with many other mayors in the region have been attempting to reverse the depopulation of their towns and villages due to the exodus of young people who have had to leave and look for work in the more populated areas.

He has christened his repatriation project, “Operation Beauty”  and we whole heartedly support him in his efforts.

Cinquefrondi has also advertised the fact that it is a “Covid Free” community in that they were able to side step the COVID virus completely.

In fact, much of Calabria was able to escape the ravages of this virus by shutting down quickly and keeping a close eye on it. I have heard that there was not a single case of COVID in our village of Santa Domenica Talao either so well done to all of our mayors and city leaders in Calabria! You guys did great!

Here is a map of where we are n Santa Domenica Talao for comparison.

Santa Domenica Talao map
Santa Domenica Talao; Riviera Dei Cedri

Now let’s go over some facts about the 1 euro Italian house programs.

Normally if you elect to purchase a 1 Euro Italian house, you have to have a 5,000 Euro deposit. In addition if you do not complete the renovations within 3 years, you will be facing a fee of 20,000 Euros.

In Cinquefrondi, the 5,000 Euro deposit is waived but they ask you to purchase an insurance policy in the amount of 250 Euros per year until the works are complete.

The 20,000 Euro fee is in also effect in Cinquefrondi if the works are not completed in three years.

So it appears that the community has tried to sweeten the pot dramatically in order to bring people in.

Maratea
Ancient house in Maratea Centro Storico

That said, is a 1 Euro Italian house for you?

In addition to the factors listed above, there are other factors you need to consider.

  1. The houses available for 1 Euro in Cinquefrondi are very old and are located in the ancient part of the city.  These ancient houses lean on each other. What happens to the structural integrity of the building as a whole? Can you fortify your house so that it doesn’t fall if the others never get renovated?
  2. Does the housing market in Cinquefrondi support a renovation cost of 10-20K Euros that it will cost to renovate one of these places.
  3. How can you protect yourself if the builders get backlogged and it takes longer than there years to renovate?

None of these questions are designed to put you off the 1 Euro houses but merely to have you take a look and see if this will work for you.

In any case I would definitely run everything by an attorney because he will know what questions to ask and what points to clarify in a contract.  We highly recommend Nic Metta at Studio Legale Metta for this purpose.

This may be the deal of the century for you so check it out thoroughly!

Now I want to give a shout out to Dave and his Youtube channel Dauv0. Dave is in Mussomelli (Messina) Sicily and has his finger on the pulse of everything about 1 Euro houses all over Italy. We will be teaming up with Dave for some really fun and exciting projects so stay tuned to both of our channels. You are going to love it!

If you are looking for a 1 Euro Italian property. You need to watch our video on the subject. This will give you the truth abut 1 Euro Italian houses.

AND if you are looking at purchasing a property in Italy and/or moving there you MUST study our online video course and Ebook. It gives you EVERYTHING you need to know about purchasing a home and/or moving to Italy.

You can also get your personal Move to Italy Action Plan/Checklist here.

Free Action Plan/Checklist
Free Action Plan/Checklist

Caio!

Chris

When can we go back to Italy?

 

                          Photo credit Pexel.com

 

Ciao friends!

If you are like me, you have been watching news reports like a hawk to get some idea as to when we can all head back to Italy.

We are all hoping that sometime this Summer Italy will open up and be back to some form of normal even if it is with social distancing, masks and other paraphernalia.

Happily someone sent me a link to the Italian Ministry of External Affairs website which gives a pretty complete rundown of the rules as they apply now during phase 2.

In short, you can travel to Italy under some circumstances but the country is not open to tourism yet, at least for those outside the EU.

That said, here are the restrictions as outlined on the website. I copied and pasted them.

  • Which rules apply to persons travelling to Italy from March 28?
  1. Before boarding, the carrier’s staff is required to check the self-certification (to download the form) setting out the following detailed information: the reasons for travelling to Italy (health needs, work requirements, reasons of absolute necessity), the place of self-isolation for 14 days, own or otherwise private means of transportation used to get to the place of self-isolation and a mobile/land phone number. The reasons of “absolute necessity” are as specified in the FAQs previously posted on the website.
  2. All persons entering Italy, whether at an airport, ferry port or railway station, must avoid using public transport and must therefore make arrangements to be picked up, take a taxi, if and as allowed, or hire a car, with or without a driver.For airport transits and for the rules that apply to pickups at the airport, port or station, please consult the specific faq.
  3. All persons entering Italy are required to self-isolate, including persons with their own transport. Persons travelling to Italy for work may postpone the start of the self-isolation period by 72 hours (which can be extended for a further 48 hours), albeit only if strictly necessary.
  4. All persons entering Italy, including persons with their own transport, are required to report to the local health authorities on arrival at their destination.
  5. All persons entering Italy may self-isolate either at home or other place of their choice.
  6. If a person entering Italy has no place for self-isolation, or is unable to travel to their place of self-isolation (if they have no-one to pick them up, if there are no available hotel rooms, etc.), they will be required to self-isolate at a location established by the Civil Protection Service, at the interested person’s expense.
  7. The above rules do not apply to the following persons: cross-border workers, health services personnel, passenger/freight transport crews.

Phase two is still pretty strict but the statements I have seen from Italy’s culture and tourism minister, Dario Franceschini, indicate that he and his team are looking at opening the country up for tourists and are in conversations with other EU countries to see how they can safely make that happen.

While they are only looking at EU countries right now, I am sure other countries will be evaluated soon and we will have the answer to our question, “When can we book?”

Right now, there is no answer to that question but as we get information and sift through the facts versus the fakes, we will know more.

I have also asked our mayor in Santa Domenica Talao to keep me informed and he said he would let me know as soon as he hears something.

It is clear that Italy is picking its way right now after being blindsided by this vicious virus and they want to ensure that they don’t lose any more citizens. Their population tends to be on the older side so they want to take every precaution.

Still, it is our hope that by August we can all go back. We can’t wait. There is so much happening there.

Stay tuned here and I will share whatever information I get.

Meanwhile stay safe and keep making plans!

 

Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil

Chris Olives
Olive Market
Chris Olives
Olive Market

Hi Everyone!

I am so excited!

But I have to divulge a BIG secret to you about myself.

I have spent a lot of time in Italy and done a lot of cooking and eating. In fact I am quite a foodie over there. I have a nose for the best restaurants and the amazing chefs that I seem to be able to find all over Calabria

And I love to cook. So I would spend mornings in the markets in Italy finding the best and freshest ingredients. I would have Nunzia save me fresh eggs just scooped from underneath an unsuspecting chicken. And I would find the sweetest fruits and tastiest vegetables all ready to be enjoyed.

Market day
Market day

I would gather all of my bootie and come home and cook.

And my dishes were fantastic! In Italy I am a great cook.

So it was a huge mystery to me as to why, when I came home I was a mediocre cook. I still looked for and purchased the best ingredients. I still took care to make things correctly. And don’t get me wrong, the dishes were good, they just weren’t Italian.

Now full disclosure here, I am not Italian by blood, I am in spirit and one thing I do know is great cooking.

So recently I started really looking into something that I knew was missing here and that I could somehow find and incorporate into my dishes to make them truly authentic. .

Beautiful olive tree
Beautiful olive tree

And then I figured it out!

It was the most basic and probably the oldest fresh ingredient in Italian cooking.  It is the one thing that no Italian table is ever without.

What was missing was a really good Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. That was it! I knew I was onto something!

But as soon as I started looking for true facts on the subject of olives and olive oil, I ran into so many contrary facts, ideas, and opinions that I could not figure any of it out!

Olive Oil Pouring
Olive oil

I knew I had to go to the source to get really good information and I found it in the most unlikely place!

In my travels I stumbled across a book written in 1900 in Spanish called “The Oil of the Olive” By Dr. Alejandro Bizzarri, probably the world’s first real OLIVE NERD.

And I knew I had found it.

So I translated Dr. Bizzarri’s book from start to finish, read it all and culled out the really useful information that would help us in this day and age. (I left out the bits about how many olives were exported from Argentina in 1899. We don’t need that particularly.)

And I was enchanted!

Dr. B's book
Dr. Bizzarri’s book

Dr. Bizzarri covered everything from the cultivation to the harvesting methods to the pressing including intimate details of how to clean the presses, and what to do if your olive oil comes out smelling like animals or tasting like worms. This man was a true nerd and I am quite proud that I found him.

In short, Dr. B gave me everything I needed to pen my olive video and ebook that I now proudly call “Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive OiI”.

slowfoodrenaissance.com
Foodies Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil

After completing that I had to jump head first into great olive oils so I ordered five of the top ranking Italian olive oils on Amazon.com.

We created several other really fantastic products including a video side by side comparison of the five Italian olive oils we bought. We were amazed at how different each one was and in short, I will NEVER go back to mass produced olive oil again. I have been spoiled for good!

On top of that we created special recipes for each olive oil we tried which was so much fun and way beyond delicious. We also made these available on video and in ebook form.

And, if that were not enough olive fun, I translated and notated Dr. Bizzarri’s book for you as well. Let me tell you, that was time consuming but with the annotations, it is really fun to read and honestly there is nothing that I can think of olive related that is not in that book.

You are going to love it.

Olives through the window
Olives through the window

I also included a couple of surprise bonuses but I will wait until my project is ready to launch before I tell you what they are.

All in all, Pete and I have been in Olive Wonderland for the last several weeks! I can’t wait to release this so you can join us there! I see many olive related happy moments in our future!

Chin-chin and I will see you in the piazza!

 

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

 

 

1 Euro Italian Properties, Great Deal or Renovation Nightmare?

Santa Domenica Talao, Italy
Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, at sunset. #santadomenicatalao, #calabria, #southernitaly, #noeffect #chasinglabellavitanow

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]

 

 

Southern Italy’s Most Instagrammable Places

Beach in Maratea
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.

#calabriaisbooming!

View from the terrace
Sun
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