I researched the internet for several months, although there wasn't too much information readily available. I was lucky to run across Patsy's blog http://guardia-italy.blogspot.com, which explained her house-hunting adventure and provided names of who to contact in Guardia Sanframondi. You should read her blog, as it is inspiring and a very good read packed with good information. Because there isn't a lot of information out there, and inspired by her blog, I created one also. Right before publishing my own blog, I have recently learned that Patsy's friend, Glenn, also has a blog http://guardia-italy-living.blogspot.ca/ and I wanted to include it. Great job, Glenn!
I had never travelled internationally before, but always dreamed of doing so. My daughter, Courtney (affectionally dubbed "Cornelia" by Pasquale - her new alias in Guardia) had travelled to Italy last summer on a high school senior trip, fell in love with Italy, as I did, too, listening to her adventure. So she was definitely supportive and on board. She is majoring in International Studies in college and would receive college credit for this trip, regardless of whether or not we found a home. We asked grandma (my mom) to join us who has always wanted to visit Rome & Vatican City (after coming so far how could we NOT see the Eternal City), so we added Rome to our itinerary and she was on board, too! Three generations bound for an exciting adventure in Italy! WooHoo!!
With this first blog entry I will not be giving a blow-by-blow account of our wonderful adventure because I could go on and on about it (I'll save it for another entry perhaps). The main purpose for this initial blog entry is to help those of you out there who believe owning a little slice of Italian heaven is too good to be true...it CAN really happen. If I can do it (this single mom, government employee, one income only), anybody can. I want to provide the information and tips to make your dream come true too. Pasquale and Roberto and the wonderful people they will introduce you to have made the process very smooth and almost seamless. I guess practice makes perfect!
The very first contact you should make is with Pasquale Orso (Orso means "bear" in Italian). He owns and operates (with assistance from his mother, Anna, and his father, Luigi) the local B&B in town. The website address is www.tanadellorso.com or you can contact Pasquale through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pasquale can be found on Facebook, too. Once I started an email dialogue with Pasquale, he introduced me to Roberto Adamo from the Municipo, a "truly unique and enthusiastic individual who is incredibly helpful and full of interesting facts about the history of Guardia, the houses that are available and the vision that the Municipio has for the revival of the township." (I couldn't have described him any better than Patsy-thanks) Roberto is the person who actually took me & my daughter hunting for houses in the Centro Historico area of Guardia. Pasquale and his mom & dad are the kindest, warmest, and most generous souls you will ever meet, but they have a business to run and most likely will not personally house hunt with you. However, they are the most gracious of hosts and I would highly recommend you book your stay with them. They are centrally located within walking distance of the Centro Historico area and their house specialties, roasted chicken and wine (red & white), are out of this world!
Communicating back and forth in two different languages isn't as hard as I thought it might be, thanks to Google Translate. And I learned en route to Italy that Pasquale (correct pronunciation is Pask-WOLLy) does speak English well enough that if you need to call him to let him know that your plane is delayed, he will understand - thanks Clare Galloway for that vital information. In person, you can do without a translator to communicate with the Orso family at the Bed & Breakfast and with Roberto, as they have picked up some English and we all have a way of "shorthanding" to express our needs and wants. But it wouldn't hurt to try and learn a little Italian before your trip. My daughter and I used 'translator apps' on our iPods which turned out to be very helpful at times. The only instance we truly needed a translastor was when we were ready to make an offer on a house, and fortunately for us, our lawyer(Daniel), his wife, Sabrina, speaks English perfectly.
There isn't much house-hunting that can be done before you get there with your boots on the ground, so relax. You only need to decide which airport you are flying in and out of and how you'll get to and from Guardia. We decided on Naples, rather than Rome, and arranged to have Pasquale pick us up (you can take a bus or train or rent a car maybe cheaper, but for our first visit, we felt better leaving the driving to Pasquale). Pasquale is able to arrange a shuttle service to and from the airport or train station - contact him for details. Myself, my daughter, and my mom visited Guardia for a total of six short days and our typical day was spent with a delicious cappuccino & croissant served downstairs each morning when we awoke (included with lodging), we explored Guardia on foot on our own and ate our own lunch (not included with lodging) and Roberto picked us up at the B&B each day (on the days his schedule allowed it) around 3pm to look at houses. Roberto is NOT a realtor and receives no money. He does it out of friendship and his vision for the future of Guardia. His son, Benito "Benny" Adamo, is a very knowledgeable and trustworthy contractor and quite talented. His knowledge and experience can be quite helpful when making a determination about your prospective house. We plan on hiring him when it's time to do the renovations that myself and my daughter cannot do alone.
Like many others, we were worried that we had arrived too late to still find a great deal on a house, as we arrived in Guardia on November 1, 2014, over two years after the original airing of the House Hunters International episode. However, we still found a wide range of homes for any budget. Here are some of the homes we looked at. Please remember that any prices listed here are subject to change and are listed only to give you an idea of what to expect. **These examples of houses and prices were what we were shown at the time we were there, so they may not still be available or the prices may be different.**
House #1 - 25,000 Euros
|Completely renovated - ready to move in|
|(My kind of entertaining!)|
|Ground Floor - Kitchen & Dining area|
|First floor bedroom|
|Stairway leading up from kitchen to 1st floor bedroom|
|1st floor window - but no balcony|
|Looking away from window towards bathroom|
|1st floor wardrobe|
|1st floor bathroom|
|Stairway leading up to 2nd floor|
|2nd floor looking back down the stairway|
|Teenie Tiny balcony on 2nd (top) floor|
|2nd floor bedroom|
|2nd floor bathroom|
|So, 2 bedroom/2 bath, 2 flights of stairs(3 levels in all)|
|Looking back from kitchen table at your front door|
House #2 - Right across the street, Total Restoration Required, 5,000 Euros
|No electricity, so it was pretty dark.|
House #3 - 25,000 Euros, Large Terrace, 2 bedrooms
|This is the area where the 3rd house could be found.|
|Ground floor, bathroom.|
|Full tub. Common for bathroom to be on the ground floor.|
|Stairs leading up to the first floor.|
|Up to first floor landing.|
|Living/Dining area, peering into kitchen|
|Kitchen - no appliances|
|Cabinets, but no appliances|
|It's common practice to take appliances with you when you move|
|Hold on, there's a stove.|
|Peering into a bedroom|
|View from Master Bedroom Terrace|
|Looking down from Master Bedroom Terrace|
Furnished, Pizza Oven
|View from the Terrace|
|Looking back from Terrace into house|
|Looking down from street side balcony|
|Looking out your front door at the neighbor's door across the street|
|Looking in your front door|
|Your street side balconies|
|Looking straight up at your balconies from the ground|
House #5 - Small, but cute (2 rooms basically, stacked on top of each other) 1 Bedroom/1 Bath, 9,500 Euros - no appliances, but a very nice view from the top floor (bedroom)
|Nice views from this lower floor window|
|Small balcony on upper floor|
|Do they call these Juliette balconies?|
|Very high ceilings - maybe bunk beds or mezzazine bed?|
|Roof has been recently renovated|
House #6 - Part of the turret of the castle, really cool, has a pizza oven, but needs roof & balcony renovations, 15,000 Euros, Hugely Historic!
|Great view from the bedroom window|
|Master bedroom looking into small bedroom with attic access|
|Leads up to the attic. Roberto feels it can be converted into a terrace|
|back on ground floor as we're leaving|
|There is a toilet behind the curtain|
House #8 - Shown to us by our lawyer, Daniele - price unknown
|This house has a cantina(cellar,basement)|
|Right next door to the church|
Once we advised Roberto of the house we were interested in (might be important to note that these are not 'stand alone' houses we have become accustomed to in America, but rather more akin to apartments), he then introduced us to Daniele & Sabrina, recent newlyweds. Daniele is a lawyer and his wife, Sabrina, acted as an English-speaking intepreter for us. Daniele drove us to a neighboring town (not even sure if it was Telese or Benevento really) to an official government building to sign a document that I believe acted as a tax registration of sorts. It is free of charge and is necessary to purchase real estate or open a bank account in Italy.
On our last night there, me and my daughter, Roberto, Daniele and Sabrina, and the seller all met at Daniele's office in their home in Guardia. I signed a document giving Daniele power of attorney in my absence to sign whatever documents would be necessary for the sale, and in the document it stated that he would contact me via email before signing anything on my behalf for my approval. He drew it up in Italian and Sabrina transcribed it in English and we received a copy of each. And still, no one asked for any money at this time...not even a deposit. We learned from the seller that there may be a third party that has a partial interest in the cantina (cellar) portion of the house, so until Daniele researches that snag, there was nothing more to be done, but go back to the B&B and get some shut eye before Pasquale drives us to Rome in the morning. We will celebrate when we return, when the sale is final - I can promise you that!
Rome was fantastic and now we are back in Florida, USA - still waiting for the purchasing sales agreement. We'll be sure to keep you posted. Good Luck to You!
|I asked Pasquale how did we manage not to get one single photo of him!|
|Me and Roberto Adamo|
|Aaahh - wine & pizza! Delicious!|