Thursday 31 October 2013

At Last I Can Withdraw Cash

Santa Maria di Castellabate

Well, 3 years 2 weeks & 3 days after my PIN 
for my Carta BCC Cash was issued, I finally
got round to going into the Bank to collect it.
And, for the first time I actually used the

Hubby tried to withdraw some cash at the Bancomat
in La Torretta on Monday
but the machine wouldn't let him. 
He didn't really register the message that
came up before it told him to remove his card,
so wasn't sure if it was a problem with 
the card or if the Bancomat had run out of cash.
The next day he tried at the Bancomat near the
Poste in town - that was out of order.

He tried again at La Torretta on our way to 
Campania Marcianise yesterday morning - 
still no luck, but now he was almost certain
that the message was telling him it wasn't possible
to withdraw cash on his card.

So this morning we were up, dressed & in town by
9 am, where hubby tried once more - definitely
a case of not being able to withdraw any cash on the card.
Our friend Angelo had agreed to meet us at the Bank
to see if we could resolve the issue.
And it was quite simple - hubby had withdrawn the
maximum monthly limit allowable on his 
card. He could go to the sportello & get cash 
over the counter, could still use his card to pay
for purchases, he just couldn't make any further 
Bancomat withdrawals until tomorrow.

That's when we told the rather nice guy in the Bank
that I had a carta but no PIN. He took my card, entered
the details onto his computer & then smiled as he
asked how long had I had the card - 3 years & 3 weeks.
'Your PIN was issued on 14th October 2010' he said.
I knew that, but by the time it arrived in branch I was
back in the UK & just somehow I've never got
round to going to collect it.

But now, I have my PIN, know how to 
use the Bancomat following the Italian instructions
rather than English AND I have cash! (Well, I did,
briefly, until I had to hand it over to hubby).

Monday 28 October 2013

28th October 2010

Il Sogno, viewed from higher up Leila's Mountain
It is 10 days since Mario & his team commenced working
to turn Il Sogno into our new home.
Hubby is up there every day, taking photos to e-mail 
to me so I can see how things are progressing.
Already the house has gone from this....
To this.......
My 'soggiorno' is full of building supplies

The room layout is taking shape so quickly, I'm just a little excited....
All the bedrooms have been defined

That will be the doorway to our bedroom

Our bedroom is going to
be so tiny, but the view
from our bed will compensate.

And outside the digger has been carving our new driveway between the trees,
huge amounts of earth having been moved....
This will be gravelled eventually

Hubby stood where our carport is now sited for this shot

Sunday 27 October 2013

From Tree to Table

September & the olives are looking good
In October the nets go out

The olives are ripening beautifully

Time to begin harvesting

Sacked up ready for the oleificio
Oleificio San Francesco

The process begins with sifting prior to being washed

Washed, ready for pressing

These are OUR olives being pressed!

And the 2013 vintage comes out of the press

Transfer to our oil can begins the old fashioned way

But hubby prefers this way
35 litres of extra virgin olive oil now rest in our kitchen
And our final bottle of 2011's oil is waiting to be started at lunchtime

Saturday 26 October 2013

And We Have Olive Oil

If someone had told me back in 2007 that, six years on,
I would be tromping around just under an acre of
garden in bikini bottoms & flowery wellies
towards the end of October, I would've said
they were mad. 
But for the past couple of days that's precisely what
I've been doing....harvesting our olives.

It's back breaking work and when your back finally locks as you 
go to straighten up, it's no joke. But with the sun on your back
in temps of 24 degrees, there can be no better feeling.....
apart from when hubby returns from the olieficio with 
35 litres of extra virgin olive oil.

I explained that putting the nets out is not a simple job - 
even with our small number of trees, it took us
a couple of days.
And then came the waiting game - waiting to see how
many windfall olives there are to decide that it's the
right time to harvest them....which involves hubby climbing
into the trees to shake the olives off, me standing beneath
and discovering just how painful being hit by falling
olives actually is, sifting leaves out by hand before
sacking the olives ready to take to the oleificio.

Bianca loaded up & ready to go

We spent this morning harvesting what was to be our final couple 
of sacks before hubby took them to the oleificio this afternoon.
He was gone a couple of hours, as the whole pressing
process is very much a communal and 'hands on' thing
in Montecorice - you turn up, you wait your turn & then 
you empty your sacchetti ready for the sifting of the olives
and you can press the buttons for the 
machinery yourself. Everyone stands around chatting,
helping each other offload their crop.

Hubby starts the process

Our 6 sacchetti weighed in at 155kgs and yielded 35 litres of oil.
We can't compare that to our 2011 harvest as the oleificio didn't
ask hubby to weigh them then - all we can say is, for €20
a pressing, it's a bargain!

Our olives turned into our own extra virgin olive oil

Friday 25 October 2013

And Today's Excitement Was.......

I was, as usual, awake at 'silly o'clock' this morning, although
I did manage to stay in bed until 5.50 am, which is almost
a lie-in for me. Opened the lounge french door shutter
to watch the daybreak, made myself a
cuppa & then hubby was up before 7 am,
moaning that it was too early & too dark. 
Opening the rest of the lounge & kitchen shutters
didn't make it much lighter.

Hubby doesn't normally surface that early
but today we'd got Nicola coming to empty
our 2 fosse biologiche & he'd said he would be here
at 8 am. Needless to say, because we were up &
ready, it was nearer 9 when he arrived.

First of all his truck trundled on up the mountain - the turn into
our steep driveway is a very sharp one so is best
approached by coming down the mountain 
by anything bigger than our Land Rover.
Nicola got out, grumbling about that but soon set to
doing the job required, with the help of his brother.

The lids were lifted from the fosse, the blue tube inserted
and the removal of all the waste began.
Whilst this happened hubby & Nicola chatted about
the olive harvest - Nicola suggested we use
mechanical means to get the job done in a day,
but this would mean our oil wasn't extra virgin.
Not that it matters, seeing as we only use it for ourselves,
but it is quite a 'buzz' to know what we've produced
would be classed as extra virgin commercially.

Fosse emptied, Nicola then tried to overcharge us by
€50. Hubby told him if he wanted paying more
than the price agreed on the 'phone he'd have to speak
to me. Nicola wasn't that brave!

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Let Building Works Commence

Me, Maria, Alfredo & Alfredo 'Vecchio' 12/5/10
When we first saw Il Sogno back in May 2010 she was a newly
completed 'shell'. The date she was 'finished' had been
tapped into a stone by the front door & it was
the day after we'd set off from the UK in 'Mouse' 
on our second house hunting trip together.

20/4/10 - the date Il Sogno was 'finished'
We bought Il Sogno 'as seen', giving us the freedom to design her
layout and choose our own geometra & costruttore.
As soon as she was legally ours, on 13th October 2010, 
we negotiated with Mario to complete the works & to use his 
geometra, Domenico, to draw up the plans for approval by the
       Il Sogno 'before'
However, the works could commence
before approval had been granted & so we spent
the morning of Saturday 16th October
working out the room layouts, with Mario laying
lines of bricks to our instructions.

We appear to have a digger in the garden
And on Monday 18th October, whilst I was back at my desk in the 
UK, diggers turned up to level the ground in preparation
for a terrace to be laid, builders arrived to begin 
constructing the internal walls & hubby was left
wondering how the heck he was going to communicate with
any of them, when his Italian language skills were 
absolutely 'niente'.

Mouse got used to trundling up the mountain

Sunday 20 October 2013

Four Break Ups And A Stabbing

No one knows what goes on behind closed doors
Santa Maria & Castellabate are magical places and when you first
arrive you will soon be caught up in the spell.
However, for some people, the magic eventually wears off. 
Since our arrival in 2010 four couples we know have separated.

Firstly there were Tom & Grace, our American friends who
live at the foot of Leila's mountain (or should I say 'lived', as
Grace threw Tom out & he now lives in Perdifumo).
They relocated to Italy from Brooklyn about 12 months
before we came here & Tom made the mistake of
being back in the USA when it was their Silver Wedding 
Anniversary - if I was Grace, I'd have been none too pleased either.

Second were Maria & Francesco from the Estate Agency - we'd 
noticed that Maria was making an effort with her appearance &
losing weight for several months before we heard the news. 
No guesses as to who had a new guy in her life then.

Next up were the lovely Danilo & Maryda from Sulle Onde.
Maryda had fallen out of love with Danilo & in love with a
married guy from Naples. It seems fairly obvious that the married
guy won't leave his wife & family - you could say he's having his
cake & eating it.

And finally it was Silvia & Angelo's turn. Together as a couple
for 15 years, married 12 months and a week after their
first anniversary Silvia announced that she didn't love
Angelo any more. She's even managed to have the
marriage annulled. English logic questions how that can
possibly be but, hey, this is southern Italy we're talking about - 
anything's possible if you know the right people.

So that's the four break ups, what of the stabbing?
Well that was Alfredo 'Vecchio' (who turned out to be a
Giuseppe, not an Alfredo), father of Alfredo Niglio, the guy 
we purchased Il Sogno from.
Old Alfredo was accused by a 16 year old girl of attempted rape - 
he was supposed to have given her a lift to college when she
missed her bus one morning in May last year, made a detour 
& stopped to try and rape her. She waited until lunchtime to 
tell anyone though.
That same afternoon, as her family were going to report
the incident at the local questura, the girl's father spotted Alfredo
& an argument ensued, resulting in Alfredo being stabbed to death.
The girl's story has been proven to be false, so Alfredo has
lost his life for nothing & her father has received a 10 year
prison sentence. 

And the worst part of Alfredo's story? This all happened the day
before young Alfredo was due to get married. 
So many lives ruined through a girl crying 'wolf'.

Friday 18 October 2013

I Left My Heart In Santa Maria

Hubby & me in Punta Licosa
It's the morning of Monday 18th October & I wake up at some
ungodly hour in a strange bed - a single bed at that.
Then I suddenly realise that I'm back in the UK
and it is my son's second bedroom I've woken up in.
And the hour is even more ungodly than I thought, as
I've forgotten to put the clock on my 'phone back an
hour - oh joy!

My last weekend in Santa Maria had been a bit of a whirl;
an evening spent celebrating Mario & Anna's wedding anniversary 
- 14 of us at the table, 12 of whom spoke no English, one with 
limited Italian (me) & one with no Italian whatsoever (hubby),
Saturday morning spent up at Il Sogno with Mario using
bricks to work the room layouts before building
works could commence, Sunday spent enjoying the October sun 
before packing my hand baggage
and getting rather emotional at the thought of leaving hubby
behind & flying back to Stansted alone.

As we set off in 'Mouse', leaving Villa Caterina & Il Cenito
behind us, I was very close to tears.
'Mouse' in the car park of Il Cenito
By the time we got to Naples I was really wound up; 
I didn't know how long I was going to be back in the UK
and the longest hubby & I had ever been apart was a week.
As we hugged each other & said our tearful goodbyes, I wasn't 
just upset about leaving hubby, I was sorry to be
leaving the magic of Santa Maria behind.
Santa Maria di Castellabate

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Nets Are Finally Out!

2013 - 'Anno si'
The feeling of satisfaction when the
final olive tree has been
netted is immense, but
that's the 'easy bit' of olive season over.

Not that it feels easy at the time - it's not just
a question of unfurling the nets & staking
them under the trees; each net has to be
checked painstakingly for holes & each hole sewn because even the smallest one will allow the olives to slip through.

We started putting the nets out on Monday, hopeful of finishing the job on Tuesday but it was a bigger & more time consuming job than we remembered from 2011 (2012 was our 'anno no' when very little fruit was on the trees so we didn't bother harvesting).

Nets laid out for staking
So we took a rest day on Tuesday, with the intention of finishing the job on Wednesday, but Wednesday proved to be a day of heavy showers so no more nets went out until today. We managed to stake out all of the nets in the olive grove before lunch, which just left us 2 trees to net this afternoon. These particular trees are on the edge of the driveway so a little more inventiveness is required - we can hardly have nets staked across the drive!

Final 2 trees
  And now we can keep an eye on just how many olives drop into the nets over the next week or so before we begin to hand harvest in earnest - that's the backbreaking part!

Il Sogno is ready for the olive harvest

Tuesday 15 October 2013

15th October 2010

It is 2 days since Il Sogno finally became ours - we've become 
the proud owners of just under an acre of 'heaven'
Google Earth pic of Il Sogno's plot
on the side of a mountain in the Cilento, where
wild boar roam free & have total disregard for
boundaries. It is 6pm & we are sitting in the
Agency's office with Flavio, waiting for
Mario the builder to 
arrive, so that we can agree the contract for him to carry out the 
building works required to turn Il Sogno into
our home.
Mario was late - very late! Flavio became impatient & 'phoned 
him; Mario had forgotten about our meeting but was on his way.
Fifteen minutes later Mario & his daughter Maddalena entered the office, all smiles and

Il Sogno
We'd had a quote for building works sent through to us by the 
Agency back in June. However, we had since discovered
that the Agency's brief to the builder had been 'don't quote for
everything, the costs will scare them off'. 
Needless to say, the figure in that quote
was set to be more than double by the time ALL the
essentials had been included.

As we run through everything that Mario had quoted us for, we
bargain for all we are worth to squeeze as big a 'sconto'
as possible. Mario tell us we drive a hard bargain but
agrees to drop his price by a quite considerable amount
(it may be in our favour that our friend Angelo
is related to Mario, so we are considered to be
'almost family' by association).

Price is agreed, deposit cheque written out, contract typed
up by Maddalena & duly signed by both parties, grins & 
handshakes all round & then comes the 'surreal moment'
- the one where it feels like being in a book written by an 
Expat about their experiences in their new homeland.
Mario tells us, via Flavio, that today is his
Wedding Anniversary and he'd like us to join him & 
his family for dinner. Maddalena phones her
mum to ask her to set 2 extra places at the table
and we duly set off following Mario to
Case del Conte to meet his wife Anna, their
sons Giuseppe & Antonio as well as Anna's sister & brother-in-law,
and 'Nonno' (Anna's father). 

We are welcomed with huge smiles and even bigger hugs, given a 
guided tour by Maddalena & then told that we are waiting for
Anna's brother & his family to arrive. 
We make as much 'small talk' as we can with our limited
Italian; well, I do - hubby has no Italian at all. 
Eventually Anna's brother, wife & their 2 children arrive
& introductions made. More 'small talk' & then we
are asked to take our places at the table as the first
course is brought out - spaghetti con gamberi.

The table is laid with knives, forks & spoons and Mario proceeds
to pick up a knife & fork and we follow suit to attack the
gamberi. Anna tells him off in no uncertain terms -
fish & chicken are all 'finger food' here & just
because there are guests doesn't mean usual eating etiquette
will be dropped. Although I don't understand a single word 
of the heated telling-off, I most certainly understand her
'Anche voi' as she points to our hands before disappearing
back to the kitchen to bring more bowls of pasta to
the table.

Monday 14 October 2013


After I tweeted the link to today's blog post - 13th October 2010 
one of my followers asked me the question
"What made you give up here and go?"
The simple answer....

recalls the beginning of the dream.

Leaving behind our family & friends and the comfortable life we
had in the UK was pretty scary, but hubby & I 
both agreed that we'd rather grasp the opportunity
and maybe fail rather than spend the rest of our lives
thinking 'If only'.

13th October 2010

October morning
The morning of Wednesday 13th October dawned bright & sunny 
- warm enough to sit outside with our post-breakfast cuppa.
Today was one of excitement mixed with the knowledge that
it would be a LONG day; today, Il Sogno would finally
become ours (although she was known as 'Our Little House' at the time).
'Our Little House' aka Il Sogno back in April 2010
We had an appointment with the Notary in Salerno at 5 pm & had
been warned to expect the formalities to take at least 4 hours, so
we'd already decided we would have lunch at Lido Santa Maria
by way of an advance celebration.
Lunchtime arrived & the skies were still blue as we took our
seats at the Lido. 5 minutes later the skies out beyond San Marco
were an ominous shade of grey, but hubby dismissed the
likelihood of a storm - how wrong was he!
The thunder began to rumble, the skies grew even darker,
the lightning began & the heavens opened....
Not an October storm, but a storm nevertheless
A deluge of biblical proportions ensued - a river was literally
running alongside the Lido and 3 hours later there was no let up in sight.
We were supposed to be meeting Flavio from the Agency
at 4 pm for him to drive us to Salerno; it was becoming
obvious that we were still going to be stranded at the
Lido at the appointed hour. At 4.15 Flavio phoned,
"Your car is in the car park, where are you?"
"Stranded down at the Lido"
"OK, I'll drive down & pick you up" said Flavio - hero of the hour!
We set off for Salerno, the car windscreen wipers battling
against the torrential rain & all the traffic trundling
along at snail's pace. The drains couldn't cope with the deluge -
never before have I seen water spouts 2 or 3 feet high
gushing at the roadside.

Flavio fretted for the whole journey that we were going to
arrive late - I've never known an Italian turn up on time for anything.
However, the rain had eased somewhat by the time we reached
our destination. Loredana, one of the partners from the Agency
was waiting for us, & when we got to the Notary's we
found Alfredo 'vecchio' & his son (also Alfredo), the vendors, plus
Tiziana, the official translator who was costing us €400, had
all arrived before us.
The Notary & a couple of assistants kept entering & leaving the
office, introductions were finally made and, after a wait
of about 30 minutes, the proceedings began.

Notaio Capobianco inspected our passports & our carte di codice
fiscale (an essential requirement to be able to buy property in Italy
- no codice, no contract), and typed the details into
his computer before asking for 'young' Alfredo's details.
We had to state exactly how we'd paid for the property - €30k
deposit by International transfer back in May, the balance
on the day of completion. Then the details of everyone
present were entered - I think if the cleaning lady'd popped
her head round the door, she'd have been included in the
contract too!
Then followed the details of what commission had been
paid to the Agency by both parties, and even Tiziana's
€400 payment for her translation services formed
part of the contract - hubby had to write her cheque
in front of the Notary to satisfy him that we had indeed
made the payment.
Next the contract was translated into English by Tiziana before
being printed off in both English & Italian. Then
the interminable reading through of it began.

Firstly it was read out by Tiziana in English so that
we understood perfectly the contents and knew
what we were eventually going to be signing.
After the Notary read it out in Italian we finally came
to the signing - and that took another half an hour.
Each alternate page has to be signed by both parties,
and the witnesses. Tiziana signed it to confirm
she'd translated it into English for us & then
Notaio Capobianco signed it with a great flourish
(and we had to do this for both the English & the Italian
contracts). After which, he was first to congratulate us
on becoming the proud owners of our little bit of
heaven on a mountain in the Cilento.