Moving to Calabria

Part Two

For the first part of this incredible adventure please click here. Now it's on with Tammy's update...

Sitting back in Canada now, a few days after coming ‘home," has provided me much time to process all the wonderous things that transpired in Calabria these past few weeks.

Not only in the legalities of moving forward to establishing my physical home but also in realizing that this trip was the time to begin to make connections into a lifestyle and with people with whom I would be associating, making friends with, and living life, outside of the wonderful expats that I had already connected with.

I arrived excited, setting myself up in a small apartment in Scalea for the time there and renting a car to provide me some freedom of movement in the area and independence. A way to understand and experience my new region!

The day after my arrival, I was to sign the final legal papers for the property purchase.

Everything was suddenly becoming very real to me.

Buying the House

The previous owners of my new home are a delightful, older couple from the UK, and own the home directly behind what is now my home. They will be my neighbours when they visit and have become a lovely part of my life, and experience.

We were prepared for the notary appointment by the realtor that we had used, and each had a translator assigned to us, as in spite of the fact that both myself and the sellers are English speaking, the paperwork and legalities were all in Italian.

One thing I learned in this meeting was that the role of the notary is much more serious and business like than what I had experienced in Canada. We went through all the paperwork ensuring that the small details were correct and the translators were absolutely wonderful, making the uncertainties of the property buying process seem logical and understood all at once.

Part of the process of transferring property involves a symbolic exchanging of the key for the property. Somehow, our ultra serious notary has missed a detail of the transaction- the fact that I was purchasing ‘il rudere’.. a ruin.

When it came time to exchange the key, he asked for it and all of us, including the translator broke out into giggles and laughter, expressing that there was ‘NO KEY!’ and the realtor explained to the notary that the door was held closed by a wire and a nail!

At this point, the notary lost his composure and joined in the laughter. It turned more interesting at this point as he proceeded to review the documents a little closer, although we had already as a group reviewed them.

A moment later, he looked at me quizzically, exclaiming "NO MARITO?" to which I had to respond with another laugh and tried explain in broken Italian that in fact I was not married and doing this project on my own. I have never seen such a shocked look on a persons face, but learned in that moment to accept what I already knew. That in Italy, what I am embarking on, is unheard of for a single woman of my age.

Choosing a Builder

The celebrations of the next days and hard work were about to begin. From reviewing and selecting the builder to revisiting some of the quotes for windows and doors that I had obtained this summer, but was not satisfied with.

The builder that I have chosen to oversee the project is a local builder from my village, very well known and well respected. And as I see things, if you are using the skills of another community member from such a small village, what could go wrong. I suppose I will find that out in due time!

In Italy, building permissions are a two stage affair. The local 'commune' must approve the project and then the 'region' must approve them. At this stage, the project has been approved by the commune and we are waiting for the region to approve the plans for my home. I am told this can take a couple of months, and then we will be dealing with some rainy season problems.

The build, which I was hoping to be able to participate in part of the demolition phase, will not begin until the new year. The wonderful thing about the contract I signed is that it not only has a set payment schedule of financial amounts for the work done but it also has an end date.. my home will be finished by the end of March 2016. Again, I am hoping that this holds true and the old adage of "Time will tell" applies. It IS Italy is it not?

Life in the Village

By the time that I had spent a few days wandering in the village and visiting my 'home', the village had become aware that I was in fact the woman who was embarking on renovating the ruin on Via Ortora and as I stood in front of my home there were many who came out to their balconies to watch me, not yet speaking to me, but just watching with curiosity.

I also learnt quickly that the one way road and steep hill in front of my home is merely advisory and a feat of bravery for those who choose to go down it! I visited my home frequently to remove some items that had been left by previous owners (old keys, photos left behind and a handful of rosary beads) to clean up in order to return them to the new home in a display case.

I could not help but notice how the landscape and views had changed since the summer, but also that although the grape vines were depleted of their fruit the orange trees and fig tree were still abundant with their produce.

Fruit Trees - Calabria
Neighbours Chickens
The House in CalabriaView from the House
Window ViewWindow of the House

Unfortunately, on my final day, the reality struck as I stood on my crumbling terrace during a dreary grey day, listening to my neighbours chickens enjoy the cooler weather, that this was the last time I would see these beautiful trees or this vantage point.

It struck me how attached I had become to this ruin in the form that it was. Melancholy is an inadequate term for how I was feeling to know that when I return in March the physical presence of the ruin will not longer be as it is. The end of an era, and time to let go and accept the change that was to come.

A tear slid down my face and I suppose I understood that I was in fact going to go through the similar transformations during the next year as my house would.. old becoming new.. creating a strong and healthy life ahead.

Initially I had chosen to use my realtor as a project manner and although it is wise to have someone there to be hands on in my absence and knowledgeable about the local process, I chose to step out on my own for the selection of a few things- from suppliers to the actual items that I want in my home including sanitary ware, flooring tiles, kitchen, doors and windows. In Italy, these items are not included in the building contract but are considered finishes- yes, that is correct, doors and windows are considered finishing items and can become quite costly very quickly!

The one benefit of my stepping out to do some of these things on my own at this stage, is that if put me in a position to use my limited Italian language skills without anyone to assist. True to previous experience, the Calabrese people were so warm and wonderful, patient and kind with my language that I felt at ease with my fumbles and at the end of the day I walked away with the 'preventivo' or quotes that I needed in order to make my decisions.

I knew that this return trip to Calabria, I needed to begin to make my path into the lifestyle that suited who I was. The summer trip was amazing and I am so very grateful to all of the people and friendships that became part of my new life. But my path is a bit different from most ex-pats in the area as I am a young and vibrant, an adventurous, athletic, retired woman. Some of you have become contacts and friends on FB with me and understand why I describe myself this way.

Others do not, so let me explain. I have a penchant for doing this independently (obviously) but I am also an endurance runner and paraglider pilot. Again, as a woman in southern Italy this is going to set me out to be different! It has not been a stressor but it has been a thought in the back of my mind as to how I would find like minded individuals in a country where my language skills are limited and the social norm is opposite to what I enjoy.

Praia a Mare

Praia a MarePraia a Mare
Horses in CalabriaPraia a Mare

During my summer visit, I had managed to cross paths with the local paragliding club in Praia a Mare and through Facebook had made contact with them to arrange to meet some of them and fly while I was there. Yes.. I travelled to Italy with a large suitcase and my paraglider pack on my back.

To avoid a long and drawn out, but passionate dialogue I will summarize this part of my short Italian visit by saying that I had three days of flying with not only the local club guys, but with some amazing pilots from Austria and Germany.

After the first successful flight in less than ideal conditions, my presence was known and two days later many of the visiting clubs had heard of the Canadian female pilot who was visiting. The local pilots are all male and do not speak English for the most part, so again my Italian language was put to the test and observation skills were honed in to understand all they were trying to tell me.

At the end of three days of flying, I had been accepted into this club atmosphere, obtaining a nickname to help as many cannot pronounce my first name and invitations to fly with other clubs in both Italy and Germany. I have to say that the smile on my face for being successful at starting to make my path within the local community was pretty large and very sincere. The warmth of these pilots is heart felt, sincerity at its finest. And again the true Calabrese friendly and helpful character came shining through.

Praia a Mare is a lovely seaside town near to Santa Domenica Talao and many paragliding clubs visit to fly. It is not uncommon each day to look up and see a number of paragliders flying out over Dino Island or coming towards the beach to land. The cafe where we meet after the flight is fun and quirky.. and yes, has a chandelier on the beach! It was wonderful to be here in October and see that people were still swimming and enjoying the heat of the day!


The aspect of my life for training for ultra marathons and such is really an individual matter and the routes and places I found to run are breathtaking, and as connections are made and life unfolds I also found a paraglider pilot who is a runner and cyclist with similar nutritional habits. It amazes me how with each step of this process, as I step out boldly to discover what is possible, everything that I need is found right in front of me. I feel very blessed at this moment.

As I have mentioned to many over the last year, the scenery is breathtaking in this area, and I am so blessed to be able to see and enjoy it from a different viewpoint! I found great views as I ran from Santa Domenica Talao out to Papasidero, along the side of the valley, winding my way along a 'mountainous country highway' and discovered a small park with amphitheater in Tremoli that was so peaceful I returned after my run to enjoy the sun and fallen leaves.

Autumn TremoliPark in Tremoli
TremoliPark in Tremoli
Tremoli ParkPark in Tremoli


Papasidero is at the far end of this valley, a beautiful area! Rich with history and recent archeological discoveries.

View PapasideroPapasidero

Santa Domenica Talao

My tiny town of Santa Domenica Talao perched on the hillside.

Santa Domenica TalaoSanta Domenica Talao
Tammy Front Door

And finally, I will bid farewell for now, from my front door - the final photo opportunity at the entrance of my new beginning.

Find out how things are progressing with Tammy here.

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