I arrived in Santa Domenica, Talao, on September 2, 2015, to begin my new life. To begin to live the life I dreamed of while reflecting on the previous history and holding onto hope. I arrived full of wonder and fatigue. It has taken until this last week to feel as though I have truly put my feet on the ground; nearly two months have passed. But it is a great thing in every way.
Unfortunately, and I will apologize to everyone reading this, I have been ridden with technological issues, from no reliable internet to dropping my camera, breaking it, and thus losing most of the photos I had amassed. My apologies for the tardiness of this update; I do hope it is understood.
My departure from Canada was very quiet. I had orchestrated the final weeks of practical and social events so that I could remember to breathe and take in all that I was about to treasure in my soul but no longer in my eyesight.
The days were filled with loving people, and unfortunately, some missed opportunities for a final hug or smile. There were some very difficult good-byes, in which we both smiled tearfully, albeit awkwardly, and agreed to say nothing and walk away.
I truly believe that this departure came upon a lot of us quicker than we thought it would. Although it had been talked about for years, it remained surreal as it quickly approached. Once my belongings shipped to Italy on July 31, 2015, it seemed like a never-ending waiting game of just filling in time.
My dear friend, a man I am honored to have in my life and who often acts as a father figure for me, drove me to the airport for my departure. I would not have it any other way. He was the perfect send-off for me and my puppy. When I had tearful eyes and a frightened look, he knew the perfect words for me. I am blessed for all that he is and has been in my life.
My son and I had agreed not to say our good-byes until the end of his visit a few weeks later, and that is what we did. We hugged, and I cried as he and his girlfriend left Italy together.
My flight (click for the way I find the best flight deals), arrival and transitions were all smooth, easy and seemingly like many of the other trips I had taken. I needed to keep reminding myself that this was THE big move, that I would not be returning back to Canada in the immediate future.
I arrived in Lamezia Terme looking like an overstuffed turtle, tipping over with large suitcases, my paraglider pack, a puppy and a large smile. I was so thankful to have the welcome of dear friends at the airport. The friendly chatter allowed me to breathe and just absorb that I had arrived.
Many people ask me about travelling to Europe with my puppy from Canada. The most prevalent question is always about quarantine requirements.
There is none.
In fact, no regulating body inspected or asked about my puppy during the journey. In Canada, prior to departure, I am required to have vaccinations and paperwork completed, including an official stamp from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The airline looks at all this, assesses fees for his carriage and that is the end of it. As my puppy is small, he is allowed in the cabin of the airplane with me. Which is lovely, and as he is unique, most crew and passengers are completely enthralled with him. This trip was no different.
I drove to the village solo, meeting a friend in the main Piazza to obtain the keys to my rental house and then make my way home. It was a wonderful welcome to the familiarity of village life as all eyes turned to us in curiosity and interest.
Some of this has not yet waned as the weeks have passed. I immediately met some of my immediate neighbours upon arriving at my temporary house. It was a hot late afternoon and many people were out and about. I was met with questions, suggestions and laughter as they pondered aloud why I would move to Santa Domenica Talao, a ponderance that again has not waned over the weeks. In these people, I knew I had an immediate friendship.. camaraderie.
As I began unloading my vehicle of suitcases whilst the neighbours watched (yes, that is correct- not one aided!)
The lovely English couple that are the immediate neighbours to my new house wandered up the hill towards us. My temporary accommodation is only about 100 m up the hill from my new house, a perfect vantage point really.
It was lovely to see them again and I was quickly informed that work had indeed begun on my house over the summer. I was elated! I quickly learned that I had walls and rooms- on the first level, which is mainly below road grade.
What a great surprise to see this progress when I arrived!
My first few weeks were filled with catching up with local friends, the builder and associates, setting up telephone, wi-fi, mail service and the likes. It was a time to begin to learn my way around the village, as well as the village people to begin to become familiar with myself. My pup and I had arrived not very discreetly it seems, and the village was abuzz with speculation about the Canadian woman… this has abated in the recent week, but it is still prevalent at times.
It has been fun to unwind the belief that I am a 35 year old Canadian police woman with a bald dog and tattoos. But is also interesting to watch the response as I make the corrections to the facts. I have learned quickly that no subject is off limits to a curious Italian, mainly the women. Yes.. some have even asked my weight while we have chatted in the street!
One of the tasks that I had to settle within the first 8 days of arriving was obtaining the ‘permesso di soggiorno’ which is required as a condition of my Visa, and is the beginning of all other processes needed to remain here for the rest of my life.
Without raising my blood pressure or boring you all with details, suffice it to say that the assumptions and reaction of one public official at the Questura in Paola, a nightmare ensued as I tried to sort out what direction to turn in order to achieve what I needed within the time frame.
Fortunately, the village operates a family unit, and although new in the village I had the support and help of a few key persons to sort out the problem and within 24 hours the process had begun, as required.
One of these lovely persons has become a dear friend and has aided me in the study of Italian through practice sessions and has also encouraged me to join the Protezione Civile in the village, a group of volunteers that offers relief and disaster planning in the event of natural disasters.This is a natural fit for me with my emergency services background although the language is posing a great difficulty as the majority of the volunteers speak in dialect. Something that is beyond my scope of comprehension at this point.
My youngest son visited with his girlfriend shortly after I arrived. It was a great few weeks of sunshine and relaxing as he saw and learned what his mother was embarking on, and in turn, what is now part of his life.
He had been to Venice a number of years back, and during this visit, he gained new insight into Italian life and culture. The weather was amazingly warm and time at the beach ensued. The sea here is amazing, from Belvedere to Praia a Mare it is a never ending playground of warm and salty waves. The high salt content took us all by surprise as it washed across our faces and into our mouths the first time. That briny burn is not one that I will forget anytime soon!
One of the highlights was a day spent on a ‘pedalo’ or a paddle boat going over to Isola di Dino to explore the grottoes. This lovely island in near the shore in Praia a Mare and had a few grottoes of azure water with fish that you can swim in. It was a lovely day that filled my heart with joy to share with my son.
I have also been familiarizing myself with some of the local mountain, rivers and back road areas. I do feel at home in these mountains, although there is a lot for me to learn still about snakes and such.
One of the men involved directly in my house project offered to teach me about snakes on a hike (aka hill climb) above the village a month or so ago. It was a hot hot day.. and we set off- bamboo sticks in hand to ward off any waiting vipers. Yes, that is right. Vipers. Sigh. None were seen and we had a great day out!
A few days later we hiked above Verbicaro on a road this time, not the rock scramble we ensued above Santa Domenica Talao. We covered a lot of terrain and saw amazing but varying views along with cows, and sheep in the distance.
The distant mountain (with the peak in the cloud) is where we climbed to a few days previously- photos above, from Santa Domenica Talao...the village is nestled on the lower left of the mountain (if you look closely).
I have also discovered the lovely river in Orsomarso where my puppy can run and play in relative safety in the woods. He loves it there where there is a wonderful road that leads to a seasonal restaurant with a peaceful outdoor, rustic eating areas beside the river.
There are artisanal wells, and a lovely narrow waterfall along the way, as well as a garden dedicated to the newborn babies of Orsomarso, where a tree is planted in their honour upon their birth.
And the small waterfall at the end of this portion of the road and path.. a great place to ponder the passing days.
My house, is unfolding in front of me. As it does, I am getting to know the construction crew and their families. Progress is at a stop for the moment. This is part in due to me and part out of necessity. They were not aware that I would be arriving in September - and not returning to Canada. A detail that was lost in translation I suppose.
Regardless, we all still giggle about the reaction of the construction crew leader when he found out. I, at that time, reassured him that there was no pressure or stress from me as I realized that he had other commitments to finish up with. The following photos document where the process is at currently… and after a lively dinner this week with him, his wife and 12 others.
I have been assured it would be completed by 2017. My simple response was that I would move into his family home and he could reside in my building project. Much laughter ensued and it is understood that his crew will return shortly and great strides and progress will be completed in the next few months. We are still on track to finish in the new year… 2016, not 2017!
The garden doors from my future bedroom… with an orange tree firmly in the middle - it will be removed once they tidy the site..
It was over 30 degrees this day, and for nearly two days, these men hand mixed, poured, levelled and set what would become the terrace, parking and second level concrete floor. Amazing men.. in every aspect.
Hazy sunset from my future terrace… followed a few days later by this sunset…
The road is now a little wider at the curve and thus safer, the drainage has been installed and now I await for the second story to be added…
My life and heart are full here. I cannot imagine a better position in the world for me to be. For years, I clung to the fact that my feet loved to be planted in Venice, to the extent that I considered that I would want to maintain a small apartment there, while living in the south.
I had the chance to visit Venice in September, and woefully missed my new life I was creating here, in Santa Domenica Talao. Venice is always dear to my heart.. but no longer pulls me back as it once did.
In addition to all these wonderful things, I realized a few short days ago that I had long ago tucked away another dream, that also has come to fruition in this short time of being here. In my youth and early adult years, I had fondly spoken of animals - of having a hobby farm. A desire to care for and be with the animals and a producing garden.
At the beginning of October, I was introduced to 15 goats, a few hectares of land varying in olive trees, natural vegetation, vegetables, pomegranates, cats, and chickens. I quickly became part of daily functioning, informally claiming two of the goats as mine, and had the joy of tending to them lovingly for a few days recently.
It was amazing to wander and feel the peace of this space. It is not mine, but I come and go to work or relax. A beautiful partnership, really—what is better than eating fresh pomegranates on a hot summer day, after a few hours of midday work and mushroom hunting? I really cannot think of anything...
How could I not love these goats and all that it involves..
The partnership grew this week as I purchased my own chickens for the farm… yes, I have chickens.
The dreams of a young girl slowly being realized alongside the dreams of a tired single mom who wanted a better life for herself and a better future for her adult children and grandchildren yet to be realized.
The future holds much promise… I am excited!