Saturday, December 12, 2015

Buon Natale and Happy House Hunting from Guardia Sanframondi

Today I received the most incredible Christmas gift from my dear friend. Pasquale Orso. This lovely hand- made tile from San Lorenzello, is in Guardia, and waiting to be installed at the front door of my home!!. Thank you so much to Pasquale, Lilliana, Anna and Luigi Orso for everything you have done for me over the past years. I am eternally grateful for having you in my life. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope to see you all this spring!

Later that same day, I was reminded by a recent post on facebook that it’s been 3 years since I arrived in Guardia, excitedly hoping to find my own dream home in a medieval Italian Village.. and not quite sure what we would find.

Three ago and the beginning of this crazy adventure. (and the beginning of a great friendship!)

..and just like that, I find myself spending the day dreaming about a little town in Italy called Guardia Sanframondi..

Ongoing renovations - pictures by Antonio Lucia Foshini

Phtoto by Antonio Luci Foschini

It’s unbelievable to think how much has changed in such a short amount of time.. in a town where nothing has changed for centuries.  Guardia is going through a period of renaissance and revitalization, with significant restoration projects currently underway in the Centro Historico. Outside investors, locals and the local government has started to appreciate and invest in much needed preservation works and deferred maintenance.

One of the most significant renovations going on right now is the restoration of the Church of St Rocco. (Chiessa di San Rocco).  This octogonal church from the 16th century has been closed to the public for many years.  I am beyond excited to see this treasure brought back to life!  

With 50 houses sold to foreigners in the last few years, it is impossible to think that such an incredible story of rebirth, and growth, could happen without growing pains, and differences in opinions on how this should best be accomplished.

What has made the magical fairy tale like story of Guardia possible, has been the countless, and mostly very disjointed efforts of many many people who all love this special place that want to see it restored and preserved to its full potential.. House Hunters episodes, blogs, facebook sites, government offices .. none of this existed 3 years ago.  The efforts of some would rival the efforts of an entire marketing department of a large company.

The amazing Galleria Pietre Vive (photo by Grazia de Mezza) supports a growing artist community in Guardia - simply stunning!

Studio owner and artist Carmine Carlo Mafei during a live event (photo by Grazia de Mezza)

The story of Guardia so far has been one of passion, determination and endless hours of hard work to ignite the embers of what once was a lifeless, almost abandoned ruin.  Having watched this story incredulously unfold before my very eyes has left me humbled, and incredibly inspired to continue to challenge myself in this life and to never be afraid to dream big.

Rumors of a new House Hunters episode will surely bring a whole new wave of house hunters to Guardia sometime next year. My best advice to the new house hunters is to find out all the information that you can from all of the available sources before you go.  The opinions and advice will vary and at times seem contradictory but each one has its own perspective and a truth in its own way.. I think it’s similar to other experiences I’ve had in Guardia, like walking down one of these beautiful cobblestoned streets...

 Some will notice the beautiful worn marble that can only get that way after centuries of use, the incredible patina of the buildings as they reflect a lifetime of smiles and tears.. and some will inevitably be drawn to the dog poop in the corner J .. it’s all part of the reality.  Get all of the opinions and advice and then form your own opinion. There is no one right way to do this.  Just know that once you get there, it is much easier to do than you can imagine.

A few things you should know..

House prices have gone up.. The $12,000 fully functioning house does not exist anymore! However, the prices are still very reasonable.

People in Guardia are generally honest.  I’ve met almost everyone that bought a house in Guardia.  The houses have sold through different individuals and different processes, but ultimately everyone I’ve talked to was happy with their home and felt that they paid a fair price.  I haven’t noticed that anyone got a particularly good price by negotiating really hard or putting the screws to someone.  That’s not really how they do business here and ultimately you end up offending people that will be your neighbors.. the best approach is to assume people are honest, but don't suspend common sense. Have a lawyer verify any documents you sign, and have an engineer evaluate the property if you’re worried about any structural issues. 

For me (and many others), everything has been possible because I had the good fortune of meeting Pasquale Orso and his family after staying at the Tana DellOrso, (owners of the best B&B in Guardia) on my first trip to Guardia.  Thoughout everything, Pasquale has been my advisor, project manager, and trusted friend. If it seems that I shamelessly plug the Orso family, maybe one day you will have the good fortune of meeting them, and then you’ll understand why.

The first of many nights that we would spend at this table at the Tana Del Orso!

I am very excited and optimistic to see what 2016 will bring to my life and to Guardia. I am hoping that above all else, it keeps its kind and quirky soul.  At this special time of year, I would like to wish all my friends in Guardia and around the world a very Merry Christmas, Buon Natale and a very Happy New Year .. and most of all the hope for Peace on Earth.

- Patsy 

Holiday Calendar of Events in Guardia this holiday season

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Guardia Summer - by Victoria Ranzino

Since I started this blog, I have met some really amazing people and have LOVED hearing each of their stories as they discover the magic of Guardia for themselves. I thought you all would enjoy seeing Guardia through the younger eyes of the beautiful and talented Victoria Ranzino.

Victoria, thanks so much for sharing your heartfelt story!! - Patsy

Victoria's Story

Ciao tutti! My name is Victoria Ranzino. I’m 20 years old, and I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. My dad, Guy, bought a house in Guardia Sanframondi, Italy, in April 2013 after seeing the first House Hunters International episode. Since then, he has made several trips to fix up the house and get things situated before he showed us (me and my 3 siblings) this little investment he made. We went for the first time this spring, and we absolutely and completely fell in love. We had visited our grandfather’s hometown in Sicily many times and have explored all around Italy, but something made Guardia different.
Anyway, the last couple of days of our first visit there I got to wondering what it would be like to immerse myself in this little hillside town. I don’t think I slept the last night we stayed there because I just couldn’t shake this question and others like these off of my mind. What if I stayed here for a month or two? Do you think anyone would want to stay here with me to do it? Would I be too scared to stay here alone? I’ve been studying Italian for almost a year; maybe I could come here to practice or do I not speak well enough for them to understand me? I had so many questions and so many emotions towards this little idea I brewed up in my head. Long story short, the next morning I woke up and told my dad I wanted to move there for 2 months during the summer. He looked at me like I was crazy. “Two months is a really long time,” said he and everyone else I told. You see, I had spent many summers in Cefal├╣, Sicily, but only for three to four weeks at a time; not to mention I always had at least my sister and my grandfather with me. By the last week of all of these Sicily trips we were always homesick so I knew none of my siblings would want to come with me for that long. I also knew that this is why everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to stay for two months. I didn’t really care though; as soon as we got back to the States I booked my ticket. June 11- August 12. It wasn’t until after I bought the ticket that I started to feel a little crazy. What am I going to do away from home, away from my family, for two months?! Luckily, my little brother Giovanni was eager to spend some time with me. He planned to meet me July 9th. Then my sister, Julia, and my boyfriend, Mark, decided to come meet us for the last two weeks. We arranged it to where we would all fly home together. All of this planning was done in late April and, as I just said, I’d be leaving in early June. That left me with about a month to prepare myself f

or what I was about to experience. I say prepare myself because I was starting to get pretty worried! I was worried that the people wouldn’t have patience when I’d speak. I’d worry that I’d get too lonesome away from everyone that I was leaving behind. I’d worry that I would get bored without a car. I was worried because maybe I didn’t know enough people there. As I type this, I smile at how wrong I was and how silly I was for worrying...

This was on June 11, around 7 a.m. (hence our appearances). I had to say goodbye to these babes [from left to right: Giovanni, Julia, Me, Mark, and Emilia]. I cried when I had to tell them goodbye, but it was so cool to know that the next time I would be seeing them would be in Italy. That is all of them except for Emilia because she’s the baby of our bunch and she couldn’t miss her first week of school. Also, her social life is a lot more alive than the rest of ours, and she never seems to miss a beat with her friends;) 
My tears dried up after I passed security; I was so excited and ready to go.
Roughly 24 hours and three flights later, I finally saw a familiar face.
Luigi, or as he prefers I call him, “Nonno” Orso, was waiting at the gate for me. He’s the best, and anyone who knows him will agree. He and his family own La Tana dell’Orso, the B&B in town. After maybe quite a few pit stops, we finally made it to Guardia. FINALLY! First, we stopped at the Orso’s bar, where Anna, Luigi’s wife, and their son Pasquale, welcomed me back. I was also welcomed by a big ole plate of delicious tuna pasta, grazie Anna! Pasquale made me the best (as always) cappuccino, and then he took me to my house...
This is the view from our terrace. The view I’d wake up to for the following two months; I was so excited.
After unpacking and settling in, it started. By it, I mean everything. I did not stop for the two whole months.
I went there with no expectations of what I would be doing with my days; however, Pasquale Orso did. He was determined to completely maximize my experience there, and he did just that. I’d spend a lot of my time eating and hanging out with the Orso family. They treated me like their own, and I will never be able to thank them enough for it. If I wasn’t sitting at the bar drinking a macchiato and talking to Pasquale, I was in the kitchen watching Anna cook (or eating what ever she cooked) or I’d be outside on the picnic table teaching Luigi random English words. Whatever I was doing at the Orsos’ bar, I was always happy to be doing it. 
 I also spent many days at Pasquale’s house in Puglianello with his beautiful daughters, Anna Luna and Elin, his wife Liliana, and his mother-in-law. We’d all eat lunch together before I’d take the girls outside to play for hours. They are polar opposites, but both so beautiful and smart. I made so many sweet memories with the two of them, and I’ve grown to love them both so much. I spent a lot of time with Liliana, too. She doesn’t speak any English, so I learned a lot of Italian from her. She was always very patient in teaching me and communicating with me. I really, really appreciated that. She has a little salon at home where she works, so after playing with the girls, she would take me in there and pamper me like a doll.  She does nails, makeup, waxing, you name it. And FYI, ladies: she’s really great! My eyebrows have never looked so good, honestly. Lili is one of the people I’m really glad I got to know. Pasquale and his family are the best. I could write this whole post on them, but I have so much more I have to say. Here are some pictures to sum up some of the memories I made with the Orsos:

Evening at the park with Pasquale’s daughters: Elin, Me, and Anna Luna.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I spent a lot of time with Anna and Luigi. They always said they’re too old to be fun for someone young like me, but I had more fun with them than I do with most people my age.

This was one night in Telese after dinner. 
We were with some of Pasquale’s friends, Rafaele and his wife Lia and their son Michele. Rafaele and his family own the hardware shop in Guardia, La Ferramenta. They are all such nice and helpful people. Left to right: Liliana holding Elin, Lia, Rafaele, Me, Michele, and Anna Luna.

This is Anna’s uncle who spent some time with them when I was there. Zio Vittorio. He’s the cutest!

Liliana and me at a party at Cappuozzo.

My Italian style nails thanks to Liliana!

Fun day with the Orsos at Rainbow Magicland, an amusement park right outside of Rome. Me, Elin, Lili, Pasquale and Anna Luna.

One day G and I took a ride with Anna and Luigi to Minturno, a beach not far from Rome. Another reason why Guardia is so great is because it's only about an hour and a half from the beach, in pretty much every direction.

Another cool thing about hanging out at the Orso’s bar was getting to know the locals. I saw many of the same people everyday. I’d drink my macchiato as they’d drink their fourth beer. Some would buy their scratch-off lottery tickets and then hand them to me with a coin. I think they think I’m really unlucky because I never (ever) scratched off winning numbers. I have so many stories from the bar. I was at the bar when Pasquale signed me up to work with his cousin Maria and her husband Emiliano Assini at the pescheria. It happened like this: Emiliano jokingly asked, “Victoria, do you want to come to the pescheria tomorrow to clean the fish with my wife?”
Before I had the chance to open my mouth, Pasquale answered, “She’ll be there at 8 o’clock.” I definitely would have shot for 10 o’clock, but I knew there was no use in arguing with Zio Pasquale. “It’s for the experience.” So for anyone wondering how I got a job selling fish, that’s how. I was there for 8 o’clock the next morning.
I met Maria, and she taught me how to weigh the fish and work the register. I think I caught on pretty quickly. After the first day, she welcomed me back to help her every Wednesday and Friday morning. I was there for almost every Wednesday and Friday morning for the rest of my trip.
I had so much fun working with her and getting to know her and her family. If you are coming from the Orsos’ bar, the pescheria is on the left of Via Umberto, right before you would merge right to go to La Meridiana. If you go, tell them I sent you! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Besides the fishmongers, I also became very close with the butchers at I Piaceri della Carne.

This is the meat shop not too far past the Municipio on the right. If you haven’t been there yet, you haven’t had the best sausage in Guardia. Elvio Sanzari owns it and runs it with his wife Ada, his younger brother Gabriele, and Ada’s brother Dario.
These are some of the most entertaining people I met while I was there. They too felt so much like family that we just started referring to each other as cousins.
Gabriele (Elvio’s brother) acted as my older cousin while I was there. Since, I didn’t have a car, he was always kind enough to drive me wherever I needed to go, and he was there as soon as or if ever I needed something. He was by far the best companion I could have asked for who showed me and taught me so much about the way of life there in Italy. Gabri is only 3 years older than me so we had a lot of things in common, leaving us with so much to talk about. Not to mention, he speaks English very well (which makes it very helpful when ordering meat at the meat shop, just ask for Gabriele). He also introduced me to all of his really cool friends, so I had a group of people my age to hang out with, so that was nice. We would have so much fun. We would laugh, and laugh, and laugh. I found a friend in him that I don’t even have here at home in America. The world needs more people like him and his family.

·       Us in our butcher’s aprons with the cutest little Giuseppe (Elvio’s son)!

One of the nicest days spent on the Amalfi Coast with our big cuz Gabriele! Only about an hour and a half drive from Guardia to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Ada teaching us how to make the most amazing cookies in the world. She bakes and decorates beautiful, delicious cakes too. All of the best sweets and pastries I had while in Guardia were from her and her sister-in-law Lucia.

This is us with Elvio (right) and Gabriele (left) right after we inhaled Elvio’s amazing sausage sandwiches that were sold at Vinalia. Vinalia is the annual wine festival in Guardia, when the streets are full of people who have over-consumed some of the best wine ever to be drunk, most of which actually comes from Guardia (how cool: you’re drinking wine with the people who grew it’s grapes!). It lasts from August 4-10 and is full of amazing food, music, but especially vino. It’s a fun time for sure.  

Another family I had the pleasure of getting to know was the De Lucia's.  I spent a lot of time with Stefano (another one of my cousins) and his beautiful girlfriend Miriana. Before coming to Guardia, Stefano and Miriana invited Giovanni, Julia, Mark and me to go with them to Milan for a couple of days to see the Expo. So we all trained from Naples to Milan towards the end of our trip, and all I really have to say about that is wow.

 The Expo was too incredible to put into words. Honestly, if you’re going to be in Italy sometime before it ends in October, GO! You would not regret it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Anyway, Stefano and his family were great. Mr. Enrico, Stefano’s dad, owns one of the biggest and most beautiful pieces of land in the valley, which I was lucky enough to get to see.
They gave us tractor tours of their gorgeous piece of land full of grape vines and vegetables. It gave me a whole different perspective on how beautiful the Earth is; the experience was surreal. Stefano and his friends were also nice enough to welcome us into their friend group.
This is Stefano, his dad, Giovanni and Julia harvesting vegetables at their farm. It’s such a beautiful piece of land that we were lucky enough to get to see.                      
Seriously, look at the vegetables we picked from Stefano’s farm. Aren’t they pretty? They tasted even better than they looked!

They would always take me to the events going on in the different towns near Guardia. It's always refreshing to be able to see things through a local's perspective and they really allowed me to do that.
Stefano and his friend took G and me to swim in these beautiful natural pools about 20 minutes from Guardia, right near Pontelandolfo.
Miriana, Stefano, and me one night visiting the Medieval castle in the little town of Faicchio.
 Faicchio is
 only about 20 minutes from Guardia. Their castle isn’t always open to the public, but occasionally they will hold events in it (much like the castle in Guardia). There was some kind of festival going on there that night so we decided to take a ride. The inside of the castle was insane. It was literally a storybook that came to life. Definitely worth the ride if the castle is open.

The squad at Vinalia cheering to Stefano’s birthday! Cin cin!
All in all, my summer in Guardia Sanframondi was so unbelievably amazing. I couldn’t have lasted the first month alone there if it weren’t for all of the new family I made there. I will never, ever be able to thank the people I met enough for touching my heart in the way they did or the memories they placed there. I could not be more blessed to have a home in one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. It’s not trendy like Rome or Florence or Venice, but it feels like home, regardless of where you’re from.
I can’t wait to go back whenever that may be. I know I have a whole town’s worth of people waiting for me to return, and it’s so unreal how comforting that is for me. I’m so proud of myself for deciding to take this two-month adventure over seas despite my nervousness. I knew there was a reason I couldn’t shake the idea of going on this adventure, and it wasn’t until I returned home and flipped through my thousands of pictures that I learned why.

Thank you Patsy for letting me share my little piece of Guardia! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

La Dolce Vita in Guardia

Spring time in Guardia

I've lost track of how many homes have sold in the Centro Historico of Guardia since the househunting adventures began. In the last few months alone, five houses have sold! , and people continue to arrive.  It has been an incredible experience to connect with people thinking about going, encouraging them to take the leap, and hearing them excitedly tell the tale of how they found "the one"!!.  

Bella Guardia Magica at Dusk 

This April, there was one week when the stars aligned and everyone's plans to visit Guardia overlapped.. There would be almost 20 of us that bought homes as well as a few new house hunters in Guardia all at one time!  There was no way that I could miss out on all the fun! 

One of the beautiful courtyards in Guardia 

My travel to Guardia was much less dramatic than other times. I traveled with just a carry-on to avoid the lost luggage issues (How many times can one person lose their luggage, before they get the message and learn to pack lighter!!) .. as a good friend reminded me, "it's not the stuff the you carry with you, but the memories that you bring back that count"

Fun Times with Glenn and Derrick!

 I also decided to take the train all the way into the closest train station from Guardia, which is Telese, Cerreto (just a few minutes drive from Guardia) . I really didn't need a car this trip since everything in Guardia is just a 10 minute walk away, and I thought this was more economical than renting a car. 

Waiting for my train in Termini

From Rome, the train runs every few minutes from the Fumicino airport to the Termini, the main train station in Rome (costs 14 euros each way). Once in the Termini station, I purchased tickets from Termini to Telese Terme.  (costs approximately 14 euros each way).  Total cost, round trip 56 Euros. There are several trains every day that will get you there, some faster than others.  The Termini station is huge! and has plenty of shops and places to grab an expresso and a panino, so not a bad place to sit and watch the world go by. 

Views from the train

You can go to the Trenitalia website and check train schedules and prices.

I arrived at to find Luigi's smiling face waiting for me at the train station,and was instantly home. 

Our new kitchen table (seats 12) and just perfect!

The view I've come to love..

It was so exciting to see how everyone's houses had come along!!. Some had purchased real fixer uppers, and had completed major renos.. while others were just starting to get settled in.  It is incredible to see some of the transformations that have taken place...

Glenn and Derricks kitchen before..

...and wallah!!! the magical transformation of the kitchen today!!! 

Kerry just found her dream home :)   So happy for you!!

Odd things you find in these ancient homes! 


Someone's got renos underway!

Glenn & Jody doing some DIY projects in their home..

The week passed quickly in a flurry of dinners, parties and social gatherings.  Not surprisingly, everything seems to revolve around food, wine and friends.. 

Just an afternoon out and who do I run into?? - Melanie, Pam,& Jeff,  Annette, and Glenn - all homeowners in Guardia. 

  • My favorite way to spend an afternoon.. at the Tana dell Orso catching up with Anna, while she gives me an impromptu cooking lesson in her kitchen.  

Stuffed artichokes anyone? Yummmm!! 

  • A night of magic at Capuozzo..  

Welcome to Capouzzo! 

An international gathering for sure!

So much incredible food!! The grilled lamb was a big hit! (after make your own pizza, appetizers, pasta, and more food than any one person should eat!!)

Four sets of musicians came from as far as as Naples! . Amazing Jazz!!. nice accompaniment from Glenn on the harmonica and Thomas on the guitar 

..and these margarita glasses are still around.. who knew they made good wine glasses! :) cheers B!!

One incredible cake by the famous cake designer Doriana

Thank you Pasquale for bringing all of this together for one very special night!!

  • Wonderful housewarming dinners..

Thank you Leila & Ken for one of the most amazing spreads I have ever seen!! So excited to finally meet you in person! 

...and for reminding us that its not the size of the kitchen that determines the meal..

every bit as delicious as it looks!!

Your house looks amazing!

  • Thank you Roberto V and Garry for a night none of us will ever forget! The laughter (and wine) was non-stop! 

Garry welcoming us to their newly renovated casa!! -  Stunning!!!

Sometimes you find the most amazing things in these old cantinas.. recycled wine jug

Vino on  the terraza - what a view!

RV - The life of every party!! and my favorite Cuban!!

Garry - the hostess with the mostest! 

This was the wine from the grapes we harvested in September.. it was really really good! .. and did not last long with this bunch :) Grazie Gigia & Francesco!!

  • and dinners at some of our favorite restaurants...

After dinner limoncello at La Meridiana.  Grazie Govanni!!! 

  • Sometimes its as simple as spending an afternoon visiting with these four beautiful ladies of Piazza Croce. You can find them on this park bench on any sunny day in Guardia. They have lived here all of their lives, and have so many stories to share.


  • And sometimes when you're just walking around Guardia, you stumble across some of the most amazing places that you had no idea existed..

Just on the other side of an ancient door I've walked past 100's of times,,,

..lies a cantina with a multimedia hi tech sound video system .. (includes interactive shredded paper)

.. and underground art studio that seems to go forever!! 

Am I still in Guardia??!! 

Just like all the other times, the departure from Guardia was abrupt, suddenly its just time to go! .. and I hurriedly packed my bags and boarded the train for Rome, and thinking about all the great memories I was bringing home from this trip.

Being part of this shared experience has grown into many beautiful friendships. We will one day, hopefully be neighbors, and share joys and sorrows.  Mostly, we share our passion for adventure, memories of wonderful meals, and side splitting laughter. 

Salute.. alla prossima bella Guardia!!