Velina

Buying a Place in Italy

We decided to do a series of BLOGs on our experience in buying a house in Italy. We are not saying that the way we did it, will be for everyone. It did work for us and we are very happy with the decision. Many books talk about the horrible red tape in dealing with Italy but we had a very smooth ride through the whole process. Things do go slower in Italy which is really good for your health and blood pressure. The main advice is to remember things are done differently there than here. So relax and enjoy the experience …

We started looking in Tuscany (as all Americans do) but the prices are just too high. We wanted it all, a Seaview, a mountain view, a nice place with modern conveniences, a real Italian city void of tourists and the right price. Impossible right? Well we got it all and at our budget. We saw a place that was in a newly constructed building (a rarity in Italy) and it had fantastic mountain and a Seaview. It was a few kilometers from the beach. When we saw the price we thought it must be a time share but it was to purchase. It is a building with 4 units per floor and two main floors. There was a penthouse occupied by one of the owners children and two more units in the basement opening out onto the yard.

We actually put a non refundable down-payment on it without seeing it in person. We walked the city it is in on Google Earth and the beach towns near by but never went to see it first hand. Finally iin May of 2013 we were on the Amalfi coast on our honeymoon and met the realtor and made the 1.5 hour trip south to the small town of Velina. We saw it for the first time. It is VERY small but the views are to die for. No kitchen or closets which are normal in Europe. We loved it.

Over the next 6 months we had a kitchen installed, a bed and a table with chairs. We then went to stay in our place for the first time over Thanksgiving. We bought a love seat and wo chairs which can be used inside or taken out on to our deck to enjoy the views. Having wine and cheese out on the deck was what it was all about. We couldn’t wait to explore the area.

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Our beautiful new home

We had to get closing money from dollars to Euros and from our American bank account to an Italian one. At closing you need the equivalent here of a certified check (actually two – one to the people you are buying from and one to the person doing the closing and covering taxes etc.). This was quite a chore! First, as I have said in this BLOG, exchange rates were high when we bought. Banks tack on 4-10% extra on a transaction. If you are getting $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation it is bad but too bad. If you are moving $100,000 plus it really hurts. I investigated how to get around this. I found a company in the UK that lets you wire dollars to them (no bank fees at this end) and buys Euros for you. They deal in billions of Euros so they give you the World Bank Rates (no extra fees added on) for large sums of money. We did not yet have an Italian bank account because our country requires foreign banks to only open accounts for Americans if they are present. The UK firm held the money and we departed on our honeymoon to Italy.

We were scheduled to open an Italian bank account in Positano the second week of our trip. Then I would text the account number to the UK and our money (in Euros now) would be transferred. After meeting with the bank manager in Positano, he informed us that we can not open an account at his branch because we did not live in Positano. He suggested going to the branch near our new home in Agropoli (1.5 hours away). We were scheduled to go and see the new place on that Wednesday but closing was Saturday in Rome. Not much time for error. We went to Agropoli and had no problems opening an account. I wired the UK the account number and they transferred the money instantly. The catch is Italian banks don’t always deposit wired monies instantly. Thursday came and no money yet. Friday showed our money. So we did it with no room for error.

Now we had to go back to the branch in Positano (where we were staying) to the manager that had rejected us and get the required certified checks. To our amazement he did it quickly and with no problems. The next day Saturday we drove to Rome (about 3.5 hours). We checked into a hotel for one night (we had a morning flight back to the states on Sunday). At closing we met the owner and his family and the man doing the closing. Our realtor was our translator. All documents were in both Italian and English. The family we bought from was Gina Lollobrigida’s family (her cousin). The closing went well. We were asked questions and owner stipulated our parking spot and the fact that we could use the common property. Everything was written in the official document describing the property. Monies were paid and we were given a set of keys. After closing we all went to a bar for a coffee. È normale!

The saddest thing for us was getting on a plane back to the States with a set of keys to an Italian house we had never used.

There is no kitchen or furniture in our new place. It would be like camping out with a bathroom to stay like this (Jo is not a camper – She has always told be camping is staying in a Hilton with only one bathroom). So we look for a kitchen. Kitchens come in modular form with cabinets, sink, refrigerator, stove and cook top. You can also get a dish washer at the expense of cabinets. We decide on not getting a dishwasher. We did not like the kitchens in the other units of our place. Our condo manager (the owner’s daughter) helps us remotely. We look at kitchen places in Rome but delivery is way too expensive. Maria manages to find a wood cabinet (dark stain) kitchen with everything we want.

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We have a new kitchen

She negotiates a kitchen with a table and 6 chairs for the price of the kitchen. We then decide to get a bed (mattress and frame – Italians do not use a box spring) from the same place. They come and install the kitchen and setup our bed. We are not ready to come back to Velina without camping out.

We find online that our Home Land Security requires a form documenting any foreign deposits over $50,000. If your account had $50,000 or more, even for a day, you must declare it. This is NOT an IRS form. So I download the form and fill it out. The fines are huge if you are caught without doing this. We are now ready for our Thanksgiving in Velina Italy.

As we get familiar with our town, we keep staring at the views all around us. We look like tourists that have never seen a beach or mountains. The views are so spectacular here. The weather is tropical and always great. Some mornings we wake to see snow on the mountains around us. We are interested in buying some furniture to sit on in our unit. We want some that can be taken out on the deck as well as be inside. There are many furniture stores around us (called Mobili in Italian which literally means furnishings). We find a store with very interesting furniture next to our supermercato. It is closed but we window shop and make a note to return after 4 pm when everything reopens. This store has everything. In Italy they don’t like to turn the heat on in the winter. The manager of the store greets us (Buon Giorno) with a heavy coat on. It is actually much colder inside these thick walls than outside where it is mild. We look at bedroom sets as well but decide to buy these at a later time. We do find a wicker set that has two chairs, a table and a love seat. It’s a perfect size for our small apartment.

I ask the man if they take credit cards (carte di credito). But he says only cash (solo contanti). We have an Italian ATM card for our Italian Bank Account and we know there is an ATM in town. He loads the furniture onto his truck without any payment and follows us into town. We stop to get the cash and he continues to follow us up the hill to our place. He unloads all the furniture and carries it up to our unit refuting any help. He waits for us to arrange it and sit on it and smile. He then accepts the payment. Why are we so shocked when people act so kind?

After taking all the wrappings off the pillows and seat cushions, we arrange the furniture about 5 times. It fits perfect and looks great.

The Condo and the Mountain beyond

It provides us with ample seating inside to relax and when we take it outside we can have some wine and cheese while we take in the views. This is Italy! Life moves at a slower more enjoyable rate. We can feel the tensions drain off after a few days. We are Italians while we are here. We shop only for today and maybe tomorrow morning. We buy only what is grown or made fresh. Italians take a lot of pride in their food and will only buy what is made in Italy. This very small place seems adequate and almost spacious as we settle into Italian life. Life is good.

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The New Furniture

The furniture is portable so we can move it out onto our deck to enjoy the views.

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Categories: Amalfi Coast, Banking, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Cash, Cilento, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italian Banks, Italy, Mountains, Owning a home in Italy, Shopping, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Velina, World Bank Rates | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Bella Italia

We just got back from almost 3 weeks in Bella Italia. As usual it was a great trip. We flew from Florida to Philadelphia to Rome and then drove the 4.5 hours south to our home in southern Campania.

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Our mountain through a screened window

As we opened up the house to face a years dust, we discovered that our refrigerator was not working. When we closed the place down last year, we turned off the main circuit breaker and opened the refrigerator door. As I thought about this new and frustrating problem, I remembered we had an air conditioner installed while we were gone. We also changed electric companies and had requested an automatic withdrawal from our account in Italy, which did not happen. The AC people told us that there was no electric in the house. Our electric was turned off since the bill was not paid. After many calls and emails the bill was paid and the electric turned back on. The AC people must have left the circuit breaker turned on. The refrigerator started up since the door was open and ran and ran until it burned out.

Oh well we were on vacation and needed a refrigerator. We bought a new one and a clothes washer and had them installed.

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New refrigerator and washer

Now we were ready to enjoy ourselves. As we did our wash, we were reminded of how nice it was to hang clothes outside to dry. They dry very quickly in the brisk mountain air and smell so good. OK now we needed a glass of wine …

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Views with a glass of wine

More to come on this magnificent trip!

– George

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Small Towns, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Magnificent Views of Italy

It doesn’t matter where you are in Italy. There are views and eye-catching sights everywhere. You can be in a big city looking at a famous monument, on a small street, looking at a small city high up on a mountain, at the beach, climbing stairs or sitting at a small trattoria. Italy is all about its architecture. It has a personality all to itself. Here you stand on ancient roads, some dating pre-Roman. You feel and see its history. At the same time there is a modern culture all around you. iPhones, iPad and computers are everywhere. Most bars have free wi-fi service.

We come to Italy for the food, the people and these views. I love the feeling of being in an ancient place. Thinking about those ancient people and what they did, what they felt. Was their life that different from ours? These views can talk to you! Just listen and hear what they are saying. This is not a country to be rushed. Stop, relax and take in these views. Listen to them. Imaging yourself back in those times. Soon your modern problems give way to an appreciation of this great history.

My wish to all my readers is to be able to travel. experience another culture. Enjoy life more. There is so much to experience and learn. Pick a place you are passionate about and visit it. Put it on your bucket list. life is short but memories are forever.

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My passion is Italy, what is yours?

George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino Marina, Coliseum, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italy, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Perugia, Planning a vacation, Ravello, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Siena, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Spanish Steps, Stairs, Traveling without a tour, Tulli, Tuscany, Umbria, Velina, Venice, Villa Brunella, WiFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Feel of a Trip to Italy

What does it feel like to go to Italy? Everyone deep down wants to go! Some people don’t because:

  1. Afraid of a long flight
  2. Afraid of not speaking Italian
  3. Terrorism
  4. Cost of trip
  5. Fear of getting lost
  6. Fear of leaving home

These are all real fears that people feel. They are hard to overcome. Everyone of these fears are just fears. So what do we feel when we go to Italy?

First we plan our trips out several months to a year. We are excited and keep thinking about the trip as it approaches. If we are going to a new city or area we investigate it. As we arrive at the airport the excitement reaches peak levels. We are on our way!

Italy is a very friendly country. For my American readers, it is a country that really loves Americans. When we return to our small town in Campania, people get a look as they see us of excitement. We are back!

As we got off the plane and go through customs the excitement returns. We are here! After getting our rental car we are on the Autostrada heading south toward Naples. It is very hard to focus on driving. The scene all around us is mountains and small towns perched high on cliffs. We want to exit the highway and explore every one of them but we also want to get home to our condo in Velina.

The vistas are so dramatic that you are forced to look at them. Our thoughts are on Italian food. Real Italian food is so different from what is served in other countries. We want to taste it so bad that we stop at an Auto Grill on the Autostrada. It is so satisfying. Our taste buds go crazy and our brains know what is in store for us over the next few weeks.

Get over your fears and decide to go! We are here! We are eating real Italian food! We are with truly friendly people who understand love, friendship and family. We are home!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Campania, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memories

As Jo Anne said in her BLOG Mezzogiorno Living, We had no idea of what was in our little area of Italy when we bought. There were no resources to find restaurants, stores, bakeries, bars, etc. We felt lost without good internet knowledge. This is one of the main reasons she is so passionate about her BLOG. She provides this information to all.

I remember thinking, I can go on Google Earth and walk the streets of our town. I did just that and found what looked like an industrial area. The buildings all had metal shutter doors pulled down with graffiti on them. This was in the afternoon! Where was everyone and why was our new town so industrial looking? Was it a ghost town?

After our first trip we found out that the metal shutters protect store windows. When they were up the town was transformed into this cute little village. There were bread stores, pasta stores, delis, candy and pastry shops, a bar, a buffalo mozzarella store and a vegetable stand. There were also clothes stores, digital photo store, Gelateria, Pizza place, Wine store  and a mobile telephone shop.

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Looking down on our little town

But how did this magical transformation happen? What we forgot was the passeggiata (walk). Stores close from around 1pm to 4 pm. Store owners meet with friends and family to walk and have lunch together. During this personal time all stores are closed. The metal shutters are pulled down and the town is transformed. After 4 pm the town transforms back to a wonderful small town.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Bread, Buffalo Mozzarella, Campania, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Pastry, Pizza, Small Towns, Traveling without a tour, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Journey to Own a Home in Italy

 

Many of our readers ask us about owning a home or condo in Italy. What is involved? How did we do it? We bought a condo with a sea view in Velina Italy in Campania. It was a scary and wonderful experience at the same time.  This BLOB is about what you must do after you bought the new place. You need furniture, kitchen ware and storage (Italy doesn’t have closets).

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OK now you bought a home in another country. You bought a kitchen so you could cook (these are typically not included in a sale). You bought a bed to sleep on maybe a couch and table and chairs. Oh the fun is just beginning! What about all those small things around the house you need but don’t have in your new place. Here is a small list of items we had to get at a local IKEA in Italy:

  1. Bed linens, pillows and a blanket
  2. Mattress pad
  3. Mirror
  4. Toilet brush
  5. Hooks for towels
  6. Math mat
  7. Kitchen towels
  8. Hot pads
  9. Silverware
  10. Pots and pans
  11. Cooking utensils
  12. Wine & water glasses
  13. Bowls
  14. Cork screw and beer bottle opener
  15. Sharp knives
  16. Cheese grater
  17. Cutting boards
  18. Callender
  19. Can opener
  20. Pasta spoon
  21. Napkins
  22. Place mats
  23. Storage containers
  24. Tools (metric system)
  25. Scissors

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Oh the necessities of life are fun. The other problem we will have is we are planning on stopping at IKEA on our way from the airport to our new home. No problem you think? The cars in Italy are tiny. 2 American suitcases and a bunch of stuff from IKEA may strain the car’s capacities. Even so it will be fun and an adventure! We actually had to make a trip back up to the IKEA (about 2 hours) to get our stuff.

The kitchen is small by American standards and the refrigerator is tiny but we must remember we are in Italy! You don’t shop for weeks, you don’t buy processed foods or even frozen foods. You buy fresh each day for what you will need. Suddenly the refrigerator seems large. If you are planning to buy in Europe or live for an extended time, live like the locals. Forget the way you do things back home. It  is, after all, an adventure into learning.

On subsequent trips we bought furniture and a bedroom set with a large armoire. Now we had a place to sleep, eat and lounge. We also had plenty of storage. As we write this BLOG we are having a AC unit installed to help on those few still hot and muggy nights. This summer was the hottest anyone remembers. Be adventuresome!

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Campania, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, IKEA, Italy, Velina, Xpats | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Positano Ceramics

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast (Photo credit: The Consortium)

We took a two week trip to the our home in southern Italy a few years ago. We decided to take a detour to Positano for ceramics. Many tourists around the world travel to these rocky cliffs. Tourist stops like Sorrento, Capri, Positano and Amalfi are here. This is a place to enjoy good food, great wine, nice people and as we said yesterday, Good Lemoncello.

We flew into Rome because we can get direct flights on US Air (now becoming American) from Philly to Rome. We rented a car and drove down the autostrada (A-1) towards Naples. We drove past Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii toward Sorrento. From Sorrento we drove over the mountain and took the Amalfi Coast Highway to Positano We spent a night in this wonderful city on the hill. We had a room at Hotel Villa delle Palme on Via Pasitea, number 252. This is the city of a million steps and one road. Of course we had lunch (pizza) at our favorite place, Lo Guarracino in Positano on the walkway between the big and small beaches. We stopped here to buy ceramic plates for our new home in Italy. The ceramics here is unique and colorful.

Positano Dishes

The next day we went on the Amalfi Coast Highway past many small wonderful Italian towns including Amalfi itself. Finally reaching Salerno where we stopped at the IKEA and then got on the Autostrada south again. Exiting the autostrada and going to the larger city of Agropoli and then onto Velina. Getting there takes us right through Italy’s largest national park, Cilento.

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Ceramics, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Positano, Sorrento, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buying a Home in Italy

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We have posted this before but so many people ask about buying in Europe that We are reposting it.

It has recently occurred to us that we may be a bit crazy.  After all, We don’t personally know anyone who has purchased a home or condo in Italy, sight unseen and several hours from any major airport in parts unheard of in Southern Campania.  Yup, we did that . . .and we weren’t on a lot of wine.

It all began with innocent web browsing of rental villas, which led to innocent web browsing of villas for sale which led to the “find”, which led to our decision to pursue until we hit a road-block.  No, we were not currently “on the market” to buy an Italian villa, apartment or piccola villa when this began.  We were simply looking for some villas to rent while in Italy.  We have always had a latent interest in real estate;  you could say our hobby was browsing properties anywhere that may currently intrigue us in the interest of understanding what you can get for your money.  This hobby turned international as we traveled to Italy (first time for Jo Anne) over New Years in 2011/2012 and fell completely in love with Roma, Pompeii and Orvieto and continued as we planned our honeymoon in Southern Italy to Capri, Sorrento and Positano.  One day, as we were reviewing options for rental villas, we thought ” We wonder how much it would cost to buy these villas?”  It never occurred to us that we could or would actually buy one, this was just pure curiosity.

Initially, We located some properties that Americanos would call “fixers” in the region of Abruzzo.  The Italians would refer to such properties as “storico” or “historic” and the properties would basically be noted as in need of full renovation, BUT, one could purchase a free-standing small house with a beautiful view in this condition in this beautiful but somewhat isolated area for as little as $35,000 to $50,000 euros.  Wow, our minds took quite a detour thinking of all the possibilities and how romantic that would be.  This incredible find encouraged us to continue exploring options all over Italy.  We found something in a city called Agropoli (which neither of us had ever heard of) with a beautiful crescent-shaped view of a curved bay along the Mediterranean ($165,000 euros) and no mention of renovations needed.  Now, We was really hooked.

As our searching continued, we located a stunning NEW property in an area called Casal Velino, that was beautiful.  Although we had no intent of buying a property in Italia, when we saw the price, we could not stop ourselves from inquiring with the realtor about it – surely at this price, it must be a time-share property, we thought, not even knowing if that concept existed in Italy.  The realtor from Property Organisers, promptly replied that no, there was no time-share involved, but rather that price included outright ownership of this condo which was located high on a hill about 2 kilometers from the Mediterranean (actually the Tyrrhenian Sea there) with panoramic view of both the sea and layers of nearby mountains.  WOW!

We decided to continue this remote (both in distance and in possibility) dialogue with the realtor and received additional information including floor plans, interior pictures and GPS coordinates.  We “Google Earthed” the general vicinity, and virtually traveled the nearby roads down to the ocean, but were unable to actually “find” the building through Google Earth and the view in the pictures we received did not seem to match the location of the coordinates.  It seems that Casal Velino actually includes several nearby areas, some of which are interchangeably called other names, such as Velina, Castelnuovo Cilento and others including the original centro storico.  This entire area is located between the town of Marina di Casal Velino, a designated Blue Flag beach on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Cilento National Park (the largest national park in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site).  Additionally, the street on which the building was located, Contrada San Nicola, popped up in multiple nearby locations with at least two different roads in the area using this name.  After receiving a new set of GPS coordinates, we were able to locate the exact building.  During this time, we were also able to determine which condos were still available and which of these had the best view.  Our favorite was the highest floor available that faced the sea.

By now, our wedding and honeymoon were two months away.   Our “innocent” inquiries took a sudden turn in the direction of seriousness when we decided to place a non-refundable deposit on this property that we did not intend to buy and scheduled settlement for two months later on the last day of our honeymoon.  At 4:00 pm on that day (the day before we were to return to the States) we received the keys to our condo.  The next morning we were on a plane back to the U.S. Our honeymoon might technically be over, but our apartment is the insurance policy that will provide many return adventures “happily ever after”!

We were about to live our own Under the Tuscan Sun experience in Southern Italy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Castelnuovo Cilento, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Owning a home in Italy, Romance, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thinking of Better Weather

As we deal with heat waves all around the world, my thoughts are of Spring or Fall. Here in the North-East we have had very hot and muggy temperatures. In Velina, southern Italy, it has been hotter than anyone remembers. We were in Paris last Spring and at our house in Velina Italy in late August and early September. I can feel the sun and smell the beach at Casal Velino Marina, Italy. I am tired of the high heat! Bring on Europe in the Spring and fall.

Where do you want to be now? We all survive by thinking of those happy moments in our lives. They energize us. Go out, plan and take a trip to someplace new. Create some new moments for yourself. You deserve it! Wherever you go, take time to relax, watch the locals, be romantic. Life is short. Enjoy it!

Eifell Tower Basecilento

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Campania, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Europe, France, Italy, Paris, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drive to Rome and Home

At the end of each of our trips to Italy, we drive to Rome Fiumicino Airport the day before our flight. This allows us to get rid of the car and have a good night sleep in a hotel at the airport. The drive from Velina to Rome is about 4 hours.

As we leave Velina, we drive north past the train station to the entrance of the SP 430 highway. This takes us north-west to Agropoli and then onto the A 3 Autostrada at Battipaglia. There is a spot on the SP 430 that is damaged and we have to detour onto a mountain road. It is just past one of the tunnels.

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This rout passes Paestum and follows the Mediterranean coast. Once on the A 3 we head north-west to Salerno. At this point we leave the sea behind and head inland to the mountains. Soon we are passing Vesuvius. This is a very daunting volcano. You feel small and helpless near this huge volcano. Soon we are at the A 1 Autostrada (Italy’s main Highway). We are just north of Naples heading North-West to Rome. Along this stretch we usually stop at one of the many Auto Grills. They have bathrooms, gas, food and tourist items. As in most bars in Italy, you pay first and then with your ticket in hand get your food.

At Rome we head West around the loop on the A 90 that circles Rome and onto the A 91 to the airport. Fiumicino is near the sea again. We typically stay at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport. You can drop your luggage at the hotel, check-in and gas up the car. Then drop it off at the airport and catch a shuttle bus to long-term parking and the Hilton Garden Inn. Now we relax with a drink and wait for dinner at 7:30 pm.

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Soon it’s dinner time and the food is pretty good here. The free WiFi allows you to catch up with your Facebook and emails. The next morning we have breakfast and take the shuttle back to the airport.  Soon we are onboard and leaving our beloved Italy behind.

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Nine and a half hours later we are landing in Philadelphia. The trip was awesome, the people friendly and warm and the food & wine the best. Until our next trip!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Bars, Driving in Italy, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Paestum, Rome, Velina, Vesuvius, WiFi, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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