We now have a place in Italy with a spectacular view and it has a working kitchen and a bed to sleep on. We are flying over for Thanksgiving. We will spend 11 days in Velina. We fly into Rome (there is great non stop flight from Philly to Rome on US Air). WE get our bags and go through customs without a problem. We head for the car rentals which are in the parking garage connected to the terminal. We rent our car and all is well. They tell us the car is on the roof level. After searching the entire level and clicking our car FOB like crazy, there is no car to be found. We return to the downstairs location and find the car is there only 4 spaces away. Oh well this is Italy. We drive out of the parking area and onto a connector highway between the airport and the city of Rome. WE exit onto the Autostrada A3 south towards Naples. WE are on our way.
Just before Naples we stop at an Auto Grill (rest area). Unlike our turnpike service areas, the food is fantastic, fresh and just made. We order two Capri Panini’s (Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil). After filling our stomachs we head south on the Autostrada. Jo Anne wants to buy some dishes (hand Made) in Positano. We decide to spend the night there. South of Naples the road narrows and winds along the coast to Sorrento and Positano. We head to the pottery store (which is located on the only road through Positano and it is one way). There is no parking so I pull into a drive at a small hotel and wait with the car while Jo goes to the store. She comes back with no dishes in hand! She says the owner wants me to see them as well to make sure I am happy as well. He doesn’t know my motto is “Happy wife, Happy life”. With dishes in hand we head around the road to the Main Amalfi Coast Road and head back towards Sorrento to get on the beginning of the Positano road. We check in to our hotel and take a walk. Positano is a city of millions of steps and one road. We buy some lemon cello for our house and later find a place near the beach to have dinner. The water is wild, it is raining but we are in Positano and love it. The next morning after breakfast we leave and take the Amalfi Coast Road east towards Salerno (a very large port town). The road is narrow with many small tunnels. You have to keep your eye on the road for trucks coming the other way. They barely fit by us. Just before Salerno we stop at a ceramics factory and buy more things for the house. Now we head east onto the A3 South again. We exit at Battipaglia and head south past the famous Greek ruins at Paestum and beyond to Agropoli (the largest city in this area). From here we head south-east to Velina.
After a drive through Velina up the hill and onto a dirt road we are home! Our house is a condo (one of ten units) see above picture. Tomorrow we will discuss opening the house up, getting through the electronic gate and turning water, electric and gas on. We will also discuss our first day shopping in Velina.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Amalfi Coast, Campania, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Positano, Rome, Velina
Tags: Amalfi, amalficoast, Campania, Food, Italian, Italian people, Italy, Lemoncello, Naples, No Tour Touring, Positano, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Velina
OK closing is over we are on our way back to the US but still thinking about our beautiful place in Italy. We begin to plan our next trip. We will spend 11 days (Jo is still working). We choose November (Thanksgiving week) to get us the extra day and to see how the winter is in Velina. We reserve plane tickets, rental car and a hotel for last night in Rome. The drive back to Rome is 4.5 hours and our plane departs at 11 am. It would be a very early morning and risky to attempt this in the same day. We drive up to Fiumicino Airport on Saturday and stay the night so we are ready for a Sunday morning flight back.
There is no kitchen or furniture in our new place. It would be like camping out with a bathroom to stay like this (Jo is not a camper – She has always told be camping is staying in a Hilton with only one bathroom). So we look for a kitchen. Kitchens come in modular form with cabinets, sink, refrigerator, stove and cook top. You can also get a dish washer at the expense of cabinets. We decide on not getting a dishwasher. We did not like the kitchens in the other units of our place. Our condo manager (the owner’s daughter) helps us remotely. We look at kitchen places in Rome but delivery is way too expensive. Maria manages to find a wood cabinet (dark stain) kitchen with everything we want.
She negotiates a kitchen with a table and 6 chairs for the price of the kitchen. We then decide to get a bed (mattress and frame – Italians do not use a box spring) from the same place. They come and install the kitchen and setup our bed. We are not ready to come back to Velina without camping out.
We find online that our Home Land Security requires a form documenting any foreign deposits over $50,000. If your account had $50,000 or more, even for a day, you must declare it. This is NOT an IRS form. So I download the form and fill it out. The fines are huge if you are caught without doing this. We are now ready for our Thanksgiving in Velina Italy.
Tomorrow we will discuss the Thanksgiving trip, our first stay in Velina and the town and people we met.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Europe, General Travel, Home Land Security, Italy, Owning a home in Italy, Velina, Xpats
Tags: Italian, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Owning a home in Italy, Velina
Yesterday I gave an overview on buying our place in Italy. Today we back up in time to before the closing. We had to get closing money from dollars to Euros and from our American bank account to an Italian one. At closing you need the equivalent here of a certified check (actually two – one to the people you are buying from and one to the person doing the closing and covering taxes etc.). This was quite a chore! First, as I have said in this BLOG, exchange rates are high. Banks tack on 4-10% extra on a transaction. If you are getting $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation it is bad but too bad. If you are moving $100,000 plus it really hurts. I investigated how to get around this. I found a company in the UK that lets you wire dollars to them (no bank fees at this end) and buys Euros for you. They deal in billions of Euros so they give you the World Bank Rates (no extra fees added on) for large sums of money. We did not yet have an Italian bank account because our country requires foreign banks to only open accounts for Americans if they are present. The UK firm held the money and we departed on our honeymoon to Italy.
WE were scheduled to open an Italian bank account in Positano the second week of our trip. Then I would text the account number to the UK and our money (in Euros now) would be transferred. After meeting with the bank manager in Positano, he informed us that we can not open an account at his branch because we did not live in Positano. He suggested going to the branch near our new home in Agropoli (1.5 hours away). WE were scheduled to go and see the new place on that Wednesday but closing was Saturday in Rome. Not much time for error. WE went to Agropoli and had no problems opening an account. I wired the UK the account number and they transferred the money instantly. The catch is Italian banks don’t always deposit wired monies instantly. Thursday cam and no money yet. Friday showed our money. So we did it with no room for error.
Now we had to go back to the branch in Positano (where we were staying) to the manager that had rejected us and get certified checks. To our amazement he did it quickly and with no problems. The next day Saturday we drove to Rome (about 3.5 hours). We checked into a hotel for one night (we had a morning flight back to the states on Sunday). At closing we met the owner and his family and the man doing the closing. Our realtor was our translator. All documents were in both Italian and English. The family we bought from was Gina Lollobrigida’s family (her cousin). The closing went well. We were asked questions and owner stipulated our parking spot and the fact that we could use the common property. Everything was written in the official document describing the property. Monies were paid and we were given a set of keys. After closing we all went to a bar for a coffee.
The saddest thing for us was getting on a plane back to the States with a set of keys to an Italian house we had never used. But the story continues …. Next I will describe the process of getting a kitchen, bed and table with chairs remotely. We will also discuss filings we had to do with our Homeland security.
George Jo Anne
We decided to do a series of BLOGs on our experience in buying a house in Italy. We are not saying that the way we did it, will be for everyone. It did work for us and we are very happy with the decision. Many books talk about the horrible red tape in dealing with Italy but we had a very smooth ride through the whole process. Things do go slower in Italy which is really good for your health and blood pressure. The main advice is to remember things are done differently there than here. So relax and enjoy the experience …
We started looking in Tuscany (as all Americans do) but the prices are just too high. We wanted it all, a Seaview, a mountain view, a nice place with modern conveniences, a real Italian city void of tourists and the right price. Impossible right? Well we got it all and at our budget. We saw a place that was in a newly constructed building (a rarity in Italy) and it had fantastic mountain and sea views. It was a few kilometers from the beach. When we saw the price we thought it must be a time share but it was to purchase. It is a building with 4 units per floor and two main floors. There was a penthouse occupied by one of the owners children and two more units in the basement opening out onto the yard.
We actually put a non refundable down-payment on it without seeing it in person. We walked the city it is in on Google Earth and the beach towns near by but never went to see it first hand. Finally last May we were on the Amalfi coast on our honeymoon and met the realtor and made the 1.5 hour trip south to the small town of Velina. We saw it for the first time. It is VERY small but the views are to die for. No kitchen which is normal in Europe. We loved it.
Over the next 6 months we had a kitchen installed, a bed and a table with chairs. We then went to stay in our place for the first time over Thanksgiving. We bought a love seat and wo chairs which can be used inside or taken out on to our deck to enjoy the views. Having wine and cheese out on the deck was what it was all about. We couldn’t wait to explore the area.
Tomorrow we will discuss the closing process, opening an Italian Bank account and owning your home.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Beaches, Casal Velino, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Owning a home in Italy, Velina
Tags: Italian, Italian people, No Tour Touring, Owning a home in Italy, Tourism, Travel, Velina, Wine
Italy is the land of great food. It is easy to find great food and wine everyplace. The Italians like simple food. They don’t like fatty sauces or a lot of mixed things. Keep it simple and tasty. There are some rules:
- NEVER eat at touristy places unless you want bad hamburgers or hotdogs or well done pasta.
- Trattorias are inexpensive and almost always will serve you a great meal (as long as it is not a touristy one).
- Ristorantes are more expensive with table clothes and also serve great meals
- Pizzerias are for a fast pizza.
- Bars serve coffee and sweet rolls in the morning, Panini (sandwiches) at lunch or dinner times. You can always get a drink, beer, soda or wine as well.
- There are new Happy Hour places that discount drinks and provide simple hor d’oeuvre in the early evening.
- Eating standing up (especially at lunch) is the cheapest while a seat will cost a fee.
- Wine can be ordered by the bottle but you can also get a carafe of local wine must cheaper and it is excellent.
- Don’t forget to save room for a gelato or some chocolate.
Wherever you decide to eat, try local specialties and wine. Eat slowly and enjoy the food. Smell it, taste it and savor it. Look around you and enjoy the other people. This is Italy. Time slows down (as does your blood pressure). Life is to be enjoyed not worried about. Enjoy your trip!
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Chocolate, Cooking, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Wine
Tags: Cooking, Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Ristorante, Tourism, Trattoria, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Wine
Who doesn’t! Even if you don’t like to sit in the sun all day, most people enjoy a walk on the sand and a dip in the sea. Europe has a system of classifying clean beaches. They are awarded the coveted “Blue Flag”. Italy has some of the best beaches in the world with a total of 269 Blue Flag beaches. My favorite area, Campania has 33 Blue Flag beaches. As everyone who is a regular reader of this BLOG knows, WE have a place in Campania in a small town of Velina. It overlooks the sea and beaches. The beaches we love that are near us are:
- Casal Velino Marina
But the Amalfi Coast also has Blue Flag beaches including
Some beaches are not the normal white sand we have here and in the Islands but lava sand. They are more rocky than most Americans are used to. The beaches near us in Campania are soft with sand. The Italian government stopped all new construction in the Cilean National Forest. Many of the Blue Flag beaches are located here. There are beautiful old cities but no modern high-rise resort hotels blocking the sea views. There are smaller hotels, B&Bs and Agriturismos. The later are small farm-house hotels that grow organic vegetables, meats and fish. They serve great meals and have modern accommodations.
Italy’s beaches are to be enjoyed! Many beaches and parks allow you to drink beer or wine but Italians do so with something to eat. It is considered bad taste to just drink. If you see drunk people, they are usually tourists. Enjoy Italy and abide by the customs! Fodor’s publishes 15 points of etiquette while visiting Italy.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino, Cilento, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Positano, Regions of Italy, Velina, Wine
Tags: amalficoast, Beer, Campania, Capri, Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, Etiquette, Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italian people, No Tour Touring, Positano, Tourism, Travel and Tourism, Velina, Wine
Exchange rates can make or break your vacation. I remember years ago traveling in Italy. It was the Lira then. One trip I was walking by the street with all the designers in Milan thinking these prices are ridiculously high! The next trip the dollar was high and walking the same street, I thought prices are high but I can do that. A small swing in exchange rates can give you more money to spend or end up costing you more. The dollar and Euro has been favoring the Euro. The price of a Euro is dropping! It is expected to drop to around $1.28 (currently at $133).
You have to afford a vacation but money should not be the only criteria. What makes memories are your experiences, who you travelled with and what you saw. Enjoy your trip. Immerse yourself in the life of the country you are visiting. It is NOT America so don’t compare things. Just enjoy and have fun.
George & Jo Anne
Europe is on most people’s bucket lists. It is a fun place with much less crime than we have in the US. The food is healthier and tastes great. Most of the people are friendly and helpful. The scenery is fantastic. The wine is great and cheaper. Need I say more?
So you want to go to Europe for the first time or you want to return. Maybe you got engaged there or married there. Or you went to school there. When should you go? If you have kids traveling with you, you are limited to times school is out. The worst month is August! It is very hot in most cities and all of Europe is on vacation during the month of August. Everything is crowded. July can be almost as bad. I prefer May, early June or September if you can. May and September are cooler months with much less crowds. Investigate weather conditions in the areas you plan to go.
Winter is a possibility for more southern parts of Europe. We serpent New Years Eve in Rome a few years ago. It was great. Rome is warmer but can get snow. The time we went had days that were spring like and evenings need a jacket. There were no crowds at all. We could easily navigate the streets without being bumped into. Crowded streets bring out the pick pockets so be on the alert.
Whenever you go allow yourself to change your schedule. If you find something really interesting, spend more time there. Don’t be a slave to your plan. You may want to go to a nearby city. Trains are fast and efficient throughout Europe. Use them! Remember to get your tickets validated before boarding your train (except certain E-Tickets). Enjoy yourself, be romantic and adventuresome. Stop for lunch and dinner and snacks or ice cream. Drink wine and observe the people around you. Have fun!
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Cooking, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Wine
Tags: Cooking, Food, No Tour Touring, Rome, Tourism, Travel and Tourism, Wine
Campania Italy is a beautiful place that many Americans visit. Many Italian-Americans are from here. When we think of Italian food in America, most of it comes from this region. At the north of Campania is Naples. A very old city with many residents. New York style pizza originated here. Pizza was probably first made here. Pastas are wonderful and seafood is abundant. Naples sits on the sea next to Mount Vesuvius. It is connected to Rome and the north and the south of Italy by well-built autostradas. These roads are wide and cars travel very fast.
In the middle of Campania is the world-famous Amalfi Coast. Real estate is very expensive and limited here. It includes Sorrento (across the bay from Naples) to Salerno. It also includes the island of Capri. Many famous and rich people can be seen here. The Amalfi Drive road is a windy narrow road originally built for horses by the Greeks and widened by the Italians. The scenic beauty here is unimaginable. My favorite town in this region is Positano. Positano is a hillside town built on a mountain. When you look at the construction you wonder how they ever accomplished it. Farther south is Pasteum a Greek ruins town with better ruins than in Greece. Then comes the town of Agropoli. From here to the southern end of Campania are wonderful beaches that have won awards for cleanliness. Boating and fishing are big here.
Compania is also where Buffalo Mozzarella comes from. This cheese is made from Buffalo milk instead of cows milk. It is creamier and tastes wonderful. They use it on everything here from pizza to salads to pasta. Discover Italia has a site on Campania that is worth a read. Campania also includes one of Italy’s largest national forests, the Cilento. Enjoy
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Campania, Capri, Cilento, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Greece, Italy, Naples, Positano, Regions of Italy
Tags: Amalfi, amalficoast, Campania, Capri, Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, Cooking, Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Positano, Sorrento, Tourism, Travel and Tourism
Phones have become a part of our daily lives. We rely on them for everything. I have an iPhone 5 and use AT&T cellular service. I was grandfathered into an unlimited data plan so they have me until that changes. When you go to Europe (or any place outside the USA) your plan no longer stands. If you have unlimited free calls, that is only in the USA. In Europe you will be charged for all calls made as well as incoming messages even if you don’t answer the call. If the phone is off or in airport mode, then the in coming messages are not charged unless you listen to them. Data is you ability to do internet searches, maps and run your various apps. Your home data plan does not include foreign data usage. You will be charged a hefty fee for the use of data. You can buy a phone plan that reduces the cost of calls. Only do this if you must make or receive calls for your work or an important personal matter at home. You can also buy a data plan. AT&T charges $30 for so many MB of data usage. This can easily be exceeded if you stream video or music or send pictures and videos to friends or Facebook. The experience can end up costing you a lot of money.
OK what to do? I keep my phone in airport mode all the time. If I am at a hotel I either get free wi-fi or I buy it (usually around $10/night). This is much cheaper than the data costs from your phone company. You can keep your phone in airport mode and still connect to wi-fi. There are no additional charges from your phone company. You can also go to a free wi-fi area (like a town, cafe or restaurant). Once you are on wi-fi you can get your email, check Facebook, etc. Avoid texting since that costs extra (except on apple texting to another iPhone – iMSG). Send emails and you can include all the pictures and videos you want. It’s free! I use a Tom Tom app for Europe when driving. It costs a one time $50. It is a great app that does not use the internet. I can keep my phone in airport mode and still get GPS directions. If you have to go off airport mode to make a call, Make sure you turn off data over cellular in your preferences. If not your apps could start using data.
Phones are important in Europe as is directions. If you get lost it is nice to find your way back to your hotel with a GPS app. Make sure you have it in walk mode. Get an app like Tom Tom that does not use the internet for directions. I usually save a favorite for my hotel so I can easily use it when needed. Happy travels!
George & Jo Anne
Categories: General Travel, GPS, Hotels, Phones
Tags: GPS, IPhone, No Tour Touring, Phone Charges in Europe, Phones, Smart Phones, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism