How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 9

We have been talking about living in Italy, touring small towns, the beaches and eating great food. Now we have two topics that are near and dear to our hearts. Italian wine (especially locally made wines) and Gelato. Gelato is not ice cream! Ice cream is made with cream and gelato with milk. Therefore gelato has fewer fat and calories. Ice cream is also made with egg yolks but gelato uses fewer if any eggs. Gelato is always served cold but not frozen, similar to our soft ice creams. The taste is so much better especially better than bland store ice creams. The Italians chop up all kinds of things from fruit, nuts, chocolate to candy in the gelato. It is finely chopped so much you never get a piece in your mouth but every bite has full flavor. You can find gelato in every town big or small. It is a national pass time in Italy. You can get it in different size cones or cups even a waffle cone. The choices are usually vast. Undecided on which flavor to get? Ask for a taste. They will give you a small amount on a tiny spoon so you can decide. Try several then order. On a hot day, gelato is what is need to cool down and enjoy life again.

Wine is Italy. Italians all drink wine. They have reds, whites and sparkling. You can sweet (dolce) or dry (secco). Every area of Italy makes their own wines. I think to be a true Italian, you must have olive trees and grape vines on your property. There are stores that sell wine, Enotecca that let you taste different wines and serve small amounts of food. Every restaurant has a wine list. The best wines are often locally produced and don’t come in a bottle. They come in large casks or glass containers to be dispensed at the restaurants. You can order a glass, half liter or full litter carafe of these wines. They are much less expensive because there is no bottle, cork, labels, etc. They are just as delicious if not better than most of the commercial wines.

When you visit a new area seek out an enotecca. Ask to try the different local wines. Tell them your preference (white/red and sweet/dry). Make note of the ones you really like. Now at a restaurant ask what the local wine is. If it is one of the ones you liked, you will enjoy it. Wine is everywhere in Italy. It is served at lunch, dinner and in between. People take it to the beach and parks to enjoy with a panini (sandwich). Amazingly you do not see drunk Italians running around. I have seen a few drunks in Italy and almost always they were tourists visiting Italy.

We leave for our place in Velina, Italy tonight. Our next BLOG will be on Monday September 8th. We will discuss this trip in detail and the beaches we visited.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Campania, Champagne, Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 8

Eating is a big part of Italian life. It’s a social and gastronomical thing. One of our first quests was to find good restaurants in our area. We started at the sea town of Marina di Casal Velino. It was off-season so some of type restaurants were closed. We were told by friends in Italy about a restaurant near our town called Ristorante La Campagnola. So off we went to this place.

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It had a fire-place in the center for warmth and a very friendly staff. We ate way too much food. We wanted to try everything. The pizzas here were fantastic cooked in a wood oven. The crust was crispy and the taste delicious. Next we tried some fish. Caught fresh locally and cooked to perfection. As Americans you do have to get used to heads on all the fish including shrimp. Italians eat right off the bones. Getting a piece of fish on a plate would scare them. It might not be fresh! How can you tell? George once had friends in from northern Italy. We went to one of our supermarkets. They were amazed by the size and aghast at the frozen foods and canned foods. In Italy almost everything is fresh. They were totally blown away when we passed the fish counter. All the heads were missing. They asked me, “How can you tell if they are fresh?”. Evidently they look into the fish eyes and can tell freshness.

The next quest was to visit some mountain towns in our area. We already spoke about one. Our quest was to a mountain town near Agropoli called Castellabate. There is a very small windy road going up. You are on the outside part of the way with no guard rails. This is where you pray no cars are coming down. The town is a pedestrian only town. You have to park in one of several parking lots and walk in. Before we could park, George was overtaken by a feeling of doom. He wanted to drive back down. As we did it started to rain, snow and hail. These would not be great roads to get caught on. Safely at the bottom, we vowed to return on our summer trip.

Tomorrow will be the last post for 10 days. WE will be going to Velina, Italy to our home. When I get back we will continue and talk about our trip. Tomorrow we will talk about gelato and wine. A great experience.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Campania, Casal Velino, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Owning a home in Italy, Small Towns, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 7

As we get familiar with our town, we keep staring at the views all around us. We look like tourists that have never seen a beach or mountains. The views are so spectacular here. The weather is tropical and always great. Some mornings we wake to see snow on the mountains around us. We are interested in buying some furniture to sit on in our unit. We want some that can be taken out on the deck as well as be inside. There are many furniture stores around us (called Mobili in Italian which literally means furnishings). We find a store with very interesting furniture next to our supermercato. It is closed but we window shop and make a note to return after 4 pm when everything reopens. This store has everything. In Italy they don’t like to turn the heat on in the winter. The manager of the store greets us (Buon Giorno) with a heavy coat on. It is actually much cold inside these thick walls than outside where it is mild. We look at bedroom sets as well but decide to buy these at a later time. We do find a wicker set that has two chairs, a table and a love seat. It’s a perfect size for our small apartment.

I ask the man if they take credit cards (carte di credito). But he says only cash (solo contanti). We have an Italian ATM card for our Italian Bank Account and we know there is an ATM in town. He loads the furniture onto his truck without any payment and follows us into town. We stop to get the cash and he continues to follow us up the hill to our place. He unloads all the furniture and carries it up to our unit refuting any help. He waits for us to arrange it and sit on it and smile. He then accepts the payment. Why are we so shocked when people act so kind?

After taking all the wrappings off the pillows and seat cushions, we arrange the furniture about 5 times. It fits perfect and looks great.

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                            The furniture delivery truck                                     The furniture                                                On the deck

 It provides us with ample seating inside to relax and when we take it outside we can have some wine and cheese while we take in the views. This is Italy! Life moves at a slower more enjoyable rate. We can feel the tensions drain off after a few days. We are Italians while we are here. We shop only for today and maybe tomorrow morning. We buy only what is grown or made fresh. Italians take a lot of pride in their food and will only buy what is made in Italy. This very small place seems adequate and almost spacious as we settle into Italian life. Life is good.

Tomorrow we will talk about our favorite restaurant La Campanola and a trip to a mountain town called Castellabate.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Campania, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Italian Banks, Italy, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 6

The beaches by us are great! They all have the coveted “Blue Flag” award. This is an award given to beaches worldwide that are clean and beautiful. Europeans come to this area in droves for the beaches. We have not seen any Americans here and it is a place Americans would love. Clean beaches, beautiful green and blue water, waves, sandy beaches, bars on the beaches, alcohol allowed on beaches and great restaurants. What more could you ask for? We have two great beaches within a few kilometers of our house:

  1. Marina Casal Velino – This is the closest and the road along the beach has stores on one side and the beach on the other with many palm trees. It gets crowded in summer especially in August when all of Europe is on vacation.

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  1. Ascea – This is the next town south of Marina Casal Velino and has beautiful beaches, great restaurants, a train station (to go up to Salerno, Naples, Rome and all of Europe). It also has a great Greek ruin. It is onto of a hill as you enter the town.

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There are so many coastal towns in this area. Some have great beaches others just little tiny ones. They all have a great sea view. The sea here is the Tyrannian Sea (which is really the Mediterranean separated by a few islands).  In the summer the waves are mild, the water is warm and the temperature is tropical (low 80’s in daytime and mid 70’s at night). The winter brings rough currents and big waves as well as cooler temperatures (by about 10 degrees). It also brings the rain. There are still enough nice days to enjoy the area.

Many towns in this area were built on the sea. Pirates would raid them, forcing the people up into the hills to a sister town fortified by walls (castle). We were visiting our towns version of this. A beautiful old castle high on a hill.

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From there we saw a small mountain town in the distance. We used our iPhones to determine what the town was a plot a course to it. The town was called Salento.  The road up was very small with many hair-pin curves and no guard rails. We were coming around a curve when right in front of us were cattle. They all had eye contact with us and did not move. The man who owned them indicated to us to back up. We did so unblocking a driveway that lead to home for the cattle. They all walked up the driveway. We finally arrived in the small town. Parked and went to a small bar for coffee and breakfast. The town people were curious since they don’t see many foreigners. We walked all the small streets and walkways of this town.

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There are so many small towns in this area of Italy. Each has a story, local wine and local food. The people are all so nice especially to Americans. We were in our town and in the Supermercato were asked if we were Germans. We said no Americans. They gave us a big hug and smiles all around. Tomorrow we will discuss buying furniture in our small town and having it delivered.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Campania, Casal Velino, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Owning a home in Italy, Small Towns, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 5

Finally we arrive at our place in Italy. Staying 11 days here is a joy. It is off-season here. This area has many permanent residents but also it is a huge beach resort area. Our building is empty except for us. Our first task is hoping our clicker works on the gate. As we drive down the driveway we click it and viola the gate swings open. Now to get into the building and our unit. The keys all work flawlessly. We open our unit and it is clean and the kitchen looks great. We have a bed and a table & chairs to sit at. We have all the necessities! I have to go out on our deck and turn on the water and gas lines so the furnace can make hot water and heat at night. The electric is on already. We turn the thermostat on and in a few minutes we have some heat. We don’t need much because the temperature is very mild. After unloading the car and getting settled we are ready to buy supplies, silverware, glasses, etc.

We drive about an hour back up to the A3 autostrada in Salerno to an IKEA store. It is the same blue and yellow as here. We park in their huge parking garage and enter the store. We had gone to IKEA in Philadelphia and noted everything we would need. So we walked around and found things pretty much in the same order here. We found everything we needed. Two shopping carts full! We headed to the checkout. A woman directed us to a lane that was free. It was self checkout. WE used the wand on everything and completed our checkout. Now to pay by credit card. Oh no the credit card machine was missing! She transferred out purchase to another teller (with a long line of Italians waiting). We jumped in front and paid by credit card. What an experience. We headed back home. Along the way we went through a main area of Buffalo Mozzarella. We stopped for lunch at a nice little Trattoria. Inside were groups of Italian families having lunch. It was Saturday so everyone was taking their time. We ate the best Pasta con vongole (Pasta with clams), wine, fish and dessert. It was wonderful. The last thing I wanted to do now was drive back but we did.

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Missing Credit card Reader at IKEA

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Loaded car at Supermercato

After unloading everything at the house we still need some food and lights, lamps, glasses for water and wine, etc. There is a Supermercato in our town. It was food on the first floor, glasses, lights, lamps, dishes, mirrors, trash cans, etc on the top floor and washing machines and TVs in the basement. We bought some for and all the remaining items we needed to set up our home. In Italy business shut down between 1 and 4 pm. We were the last ones out of the store. They closed and locked the door behind us.

Italian refrigerators are very small compared to those in America but you don’t need a large refrigerator. Everyone buys fresh and only for today and maybe tomorrow. So we were in Italy … when in Italy … do as the Italians do. At 4 pm when the stores opened we shopped at a pastry store, cheese store, homemade chocolate store, pasta store, buffalo mozzarella store and bread store. Finally we found a fresh fruit & vegetable stand. The father and son brought everything in from the farm fresh. Things still had dirt on them and all the fruit had leaves. This produce was wonderful. The tomatoes were so much better than even the best Jersey tomatoes in the summer. The pears were juicy and so flavorful. Buying fresh each day is so wonderful and we have lost it here in America. Fruit and vegetables are picked early so they transport better but they never taste great. We pay a hefty price!

Eating breakfast on our deck looking at the sea and mountains puts you in a great place. It is better than meditation. Unfortunately the week is going way to fast.

On Monday we will discuss touring the area we live in and the great beaches there.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Closing a property in Italy, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, IKEA, Italy, Supermercato, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 4

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.

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Paestum Ruin

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Our House

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 3

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.

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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: , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 2

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


Categories: Closing a property in Italy, Europe, Italian Banks, Italy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Buy a Place in Italy

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: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So many places to eat and so little time!

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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