While Guardia is beautiful at any time of the year, the weather in Guardia is less than ideal in the winter time.. not terribly cold, but a lack of central heat in my house makes for a chilly stay and I'm not a big fan of cold weather.
I had gone to Guardia at this time last year and had decided I wasn't going this year... too cold, too rainy, just not practical!! However, I found myself longing for that feeling of being inspired and recharged that I felt when I came back from my trip last year. I usually suffer from the post holiday blues.. and I realized I had zipped right past that and started 2014 off with a bang.. and never looked back.
This trip to Guardia was probably the most chaotic ever.. a freak snow storm had blown through Europe wreaked havoc on all my flight connections.. which led to the now expected lost bags and delayed arrival.
|Dallas to Frankfurt|
|Berlin to Vienna to Rome|
|My cozy bed .. calling my name!|
I called the Orso's at the Tana to let them know I was running very late, since I knew they would be waiting for me and getting worried. ..
|La Tana Dell Orso|
..they answered, happy to hear I had landed safely, but I could hear the concern in their voice.. heavy snow was falling in Guardia!! snow like they have never seen!! I was now about an hour out of Rome, and hadn't seen any snow yet.. I optimistically thought maybe its only snowing in Guardia.. and then it started snowing!!
|My only picture of my 2 hour drive in the blizzard.!!|
big, thick heavy flakes, that covered everything quickly.. I knew it was now too late to turn around... and with no options of where to pull over, I could only focus on moving forward.
I said a few prayers, I also think I cashed in anything I had banked with Karma during this drive!. The Orso family stayed in contact with me .. tracking my progress, giving moral support and offering to come and get me anywhere. I knew I needed to get as close to Guardia as possible and so I drove for what seemed like hours, until the road started to go up the mountain, signaling that I was within 20 minutes of Guardia.. and my little car simply could not go up without sliding backwards.
As I clenched the steering wheel a little bit tighter, I thought of my good friend Glenn who has been my partner in crime from the very beginning, and along for so many adventures in Guardia. (As my eternal ray of sunshine, a source of countless inspiration.. you were terribly missed on this trip!)
|Please check out Glenn's blog "Dare to Live the Dream" if you haven't already.. He is a wonderful writer and his positive |
energy shines through in everything he does! - "life isn't easy.. if it is... your playing the game all wrong" - Glenn T. Martin
|The end of the road for my little car on this night!|
|2 of the sweetest little Orsos you will ever meet!|
|The lovely Orso family!|
The next day after a great lunch, the snow melted enough that I was able to make it to Guardia.
|View of Guardia up ahead!|
Snow covered Guardia was just beautiful!
But the Centro Historico was stilled iced in.. ..and so I spent a 2nd night and a very special New Years Eve as a guest at the Tana Dell Orso.
Last year's 2013 New Year's Eve party had been a raucous affair with so much food, a band, dancing, karaoke and tons of laughs.
|New Year's 2014|
|Martha and Carlo|
|Happy Birthday Luigi!!|
So with borrowed clothes, I finally made it to my house the next day as things started to warm up and the ice melted. I love the feeling of stepping into my little house.. while my feet and hands were cold, my heart is always warmed by the site of it!
|Home sweet home!|
The rest of the week was filled with dinners with friends, attending different Natale functions in Guardia and exploring some of the surrounding areas with Guy, my good friend from Louisiana that purchased a house in Guardia last year, and was visiting at the same time.
|Cooking with Anna Orso|
|A night of Blues at the Castelo in Guardia|
|Looking for the perfect Gumbo ingredients|
|Evening out in Benevento|
|Catching up with Thomas and Melanie|
|Me and Guy in front of Leila's house|
Touring Cantina Foschini
|Inside the family beautiful Foschino winery.. the building has been incredibly restored and a must see if you go to Guardia!|
|The Foshino wines.. very very nice!|
|Hanging at the Tana|
|Castelo de la Limatola about an 45 minutes away from Guardia.. this castle was stunning!|
|Getting a little work done and drinking my coffee in office in Italy|
Pasquale Orso my personal superhero and project manager, also had a list of business items that that he recommended I take care of while I was there. I'm sharing this for those of you that have houses or are thinking of buying a house.. great information to have!
- Bank Account - Once you have a house, you can set up a bank account at the Banco di Napoli in Guardia . It costs 4 Euros a month, and comes with 2 debit cards, one to use in Italy and one that works internationally. This is important because it allows you an easy way to transfer money to Italy and also allows you to set up your utilities to be paid directly from this account. You can't use an american account to pay your utilities over there. Its located on the south side of Corso Umberto past the Municipio. (Ask for Rita, she speaks english).
- Insurance - I was able to purchase a standard insurance policy that covers fire, theft, other damages and personal indemnity for 110 Euros annually. It seems like a very worthwhile cost to protect my investment. It does not cover earthquake damage. I bought it at Vittoria Assicurazioni on the north side of Corso Umberto, across the street from the bank. The staff here is very friendly! I would recommend an appointment though, it is a very busy place and the wait can be long.
|The wonderful staff at Vittoria|
- Taxes - There are 2 types of taxes that you must pay on your house:
- The refuge or trash tax. It will run you around 175 Euros annually.
- This tax is the US equivalent of annual property taxes. The property tax is based on the size of the house and not the value. While I was in Guardia, I met with the mayor of Guardia, Floriano Panza and with the City Tax Assessor to discuss options for reducing the taxes in the Centro Historico to stimulate restoration and investment. They both agreed that it is very important to reduce the taxes in order to keep the momentum going for the recent economic stimulation in the Centro. Consequently they agreed to reduce this tax by 50% for homes purchased within the Centro Historico of Guardia and to suspend taxes for houses under renovation if the renovations pre approved. For a reference point, for me this means that my annual taxes will be less than 300 euros annually on my house.
- Best advice is if you've purchased a home, go talk to the Tax Assessor at the Municipio and find out how, where, and how much tax you owe. The taxes are not high, but the late fees and fines are steep if you miss the payments.
Ok, so enough business!! While necessary, not particularly inspirational!
The thing about inspiration is that it is contagious. When you are around inspired people, you are lifted and energized in amazing ways. For me, the journey to Guardia is punctuated by amazing people and unexpected kindness. Every trip to Guardia has been its' own adventure, with its own series of mountains to climb and hurdles to overcome. I seem to arrive on the other side, slightly disheveled, with a giant smile on my face and a confidence in my heart that comes from conquering something that I wasn't totally sure I could do, but knowing that if for some reason I couldn't make it.. help was on the way.
And so it seems that the sometimes quirky but always kind and gentle Guardia, continues to draw a wonderful magical group of diverse and talented people. It's not a huge wave of people, but what used to be a few drops at a time, is a now steady stream of people feeling drawn to this town and falling in love before they've even been. Guardia Magica is catching!
Like most visits to Guardia, I felt like it went by too quickly. (if the story line transition seems abrubt.. it always feels a bit like that when I leave.. suddenly its time to go.) I was running late and swung by the Tana for one last goodbye and hugs, where Luigi handed me a panino and what I thought was coke for the road (which turned out to be wine!), and then I was on my way back home.. feeling inspired, energized and comforted, but knowing that I would be back shortly for another tall drink.
|Driving down the road.. eating my panino :)|
I had to add this link to a video and original rendition of an old classic recently created by Jim Perkins that he dedicated to Guardia
.. he's never been to Guardia, but hopes to go soon.. Good luck Jim!