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!!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Inspirational Guardia

I hadn't planned to go back to Guardia until the spring, but I just couldn't resist the inexpensive fare I found at the last minute. I found myself impulsively hitting "buy" on a ticket leaving on the 29th of December and returning on the 11th of January.

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
I had been awake now for more than 30 hours, but feeling confident again once I reported the lost bags, found my rental car, and plugged in the GPS. I was now leaving the airport at 10pm, without my suitcases, but thinking the worst (and all the snow) was behind me. All I had left was a 2 hour drive to Guardia where visions of a glass of wine at the Tana Dell Orso and my cozy bed were dancing in my head.  
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!
 I turned around and went back to the last gas station I had passed, and within a few minutes, Pasquale had arrived..I have never in my entire life been so happy to see someone!!! We went back to his house, where is family was waiting for me with a warm meal, and a cozy bed.. and finally some sleep!

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
This year, all party plans had been cancelled due to the weather, but we still rang in nothing short of a a magical New Year with Luigi Anna at the Tana and with Carlo and Martha from South Africa. 
Martha and Carlo

Happy Birthday Luigi!!
Anna whipped up and amazing 5 course meal, we drank Luigi's finest and celebrated Luigi's 65th birthday!!

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

Guardia Blues

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:
    1. The refuge or trash tax. It will run you around 175 Euros annually.  
    2. 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 :)
A la prossima bella Guardia!

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!