I am thrilled to be joining Slow Travel Tours and all that is offered by others who enjoy travel on this site. Right now, we are chomping at the bit to walk down that jetway to be whisked away to countries on our bucket list or to return to our beloved travel destinations. When it is safe to do so, Italy has her arms wide open to welcome you. I am very excited to have you visit Italy like a local and not as a tourist.
Where do I start…? I’m a retired Flight Attendant and grandmother of four and if it were not for a very good friend of mine, I never would have reconnected with my distant relatives in Italy. For this, I am eternally grateful to him! My job as a flight attendant had given me many opportunities to visit Italy for work and for pleasure.
I love Italy… it is in my blood. My father’s family, the Bottieri’s, are from a small village, Alta Villa near Naples. My mother’s family, the Santagapita’s, live south of Rome, right in the ‘spine’ of Italy, in a little village named Carpinone.
I have vivid memories of my first trip to Italy which I took with my parents in 1969. It was like going back in time. I woke up one morning to the sounds of voices outside my window. I opened the shutters and saw a bunch of women washing their clothes in the stream behind my cousin’s house. When they were finished, they put the clothes in baskets which they then placed on top of their heads for the walk back home. No wonder they had such great posture! We ate fresh fruits and veggies straight from the garden, and of course, freshly made pasta. I don’t remember seeing many cars, but there were donkeys and horses with buggies, and this was in 1969!
Fast forward to 2001. I was visiting Italy with my (then) husband and suddenly I had this urge to reconnect with my long-lost relatives in Carpinone. I called my “Aunt Antoinette” in New York and asked her to call our relatives in Italy to see if it would be possible for me to visit. Of course, they said yes! I hopped on a train and headed south. When I reached Carpinone I had a general idea of where their house was located, but I wasn’t sure which door to knock on. All I had to do was ask a local “Dov’e la casa di Santagapita?” A very nice man walked me to the door.
When I knocked on the door my mother’s cousin answered and when we saw each other the tears just wouldn’t stop. They welcomed me with open arms. Back then I spoke very little Italian, so I just kept saying “Si” to everything… we laugh about that now.
Since I could not get enough of Italy I kept returning as much as possible. I enrolled in a basic Italian course at the Universita Per Stranieri (University of Foreigners) in Perugia. For six weeks I went to school and went home to an adorable little cottage that I had rented with an entranceway of grapes vines entwined in an overhead tunnel. I was the “Momma” of the class, at least that is what the students called me. How I loved the time I spent with them. When I left, they took me to the train station and we cried, a very touching moment that I will never erase from my mind. I still keep in touch with them to this day, thanks to Facebook.
My leap of faith all because of a book and a movie!
Frances Mayes wrote the book: “Under the Tuscan Sun.” She doesn’t know how she changed my life forever, because I haven’t met her yet, but I will because she lives very close to me in Italy. Her book and movie gave me the courage to make my dream of Italy a reality. When the movie was over, in the theater mind you, I jumped up and yelled out, “That’s it, I am moving to Italy!” Everyone clapped and cheered.
The Birth of Village Vacations in Italy
I met a wonderful couple on the Slow Trav website years ago, Art and Barbara Skinner. Barbara would always write fantastic articles about things going on in Umbria and Tuscany and we became friends online. In fact, I stayed with them before I started classes at the university. They graciously took me under their wing and introduced me to their friends. All these visits to Italy became more frequent, and I kept wondering what I could do to be able to live here.
I went out to lunch with four of my new friends who just opened a Real Estate/Information Office in San Venzano and all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks!!! The words came out of my mouth and I asked them, “If I build a website and fed you, clients, for your rental properties, would you pay me a commission?” All four said yes at the same time! I told Art and Barbara what happened and we pondered for a name. Barbara came up with Village Vacations in Italy because my main focus would be to bring tourists into the small villages and towns to enjoy the locals. I rented a villa to four older women but they had one stipulation. They wanted me to be their guide.
As they say, the rest is history. I now offer rental properties and tours from one to 16 people, and I love showing off this incredible country. You can learn more on my website at www.villagevacationsinitaly.com.
Citizenship and Home Ownership
This was HUGE. I was able to get dual citizenship through my bloodline and I am so thankful for this. This made purchasing my home so much easier. I took a drive one day to the village of Piegaro and met a very nice couple, Colleen Simpson and Tom Web. Since I was going to be sending them clients I wanted to meet and talk about our collaboration. We had a lovely lunch at the local restaurant and afterward took a stroll around. I got this warm and fuzzy feeling about Piegaro and asked if there were any properties for sale. They showed a few from the outside.
I left to go back to the States and when I arrived home, there was an email from “Marco” the realtor, yes gorgeous Marco.He sent me five different listings. Two weeks later I jumped on a plane and headed back to Piegaro. I asked to see my favorite listing first and as soon as I walked in, I knew this was it. I fell in love and told him “lets go make an offer.” He thought I was CRAZY! He never had this happen before. You have to imagine this very handsome young man waving his arms up in the air saying, “This is not possible!” They made me go look at the others, but my mind was made up.
The sellers accepted my offer the next day and without signing any papers or money being exchanged Marco handed me the keys. I was in shock!!!! Here I was dressed in my best boots and a nice outfit! I headed for the market and bought cleaning supplies, a broom, mop, bucket, etc. came back “HOME” and started cleaning. My only heat source was a little wood-burning stove. I was cold, but I was in my little slice of heaven and I still pinch myself when I am out on my balcony having my cappuccino in the morning or a chilled glass of Prosecco in the evening.
Once Italy gets into YOUR blood you won’t be able to get enough either. You will want to return again and again. I live, laugh, and love (La Dolce Vita) whenever I’m in Italy. I cry each time I must leave. I love EVERYTHING about this country.
If you have relatives in Italy, I strongly suggest you try to find them. You will be happy you did. If you do not have any Italian relatives but just want to have the experience of living in Italy like a local, come unpack once and enjoy.
Chase your dreams and live them!
Trust me… Anything is possible!!
|Former flight attendant Nedra Bottieri made a life-changing trip to Italy twenty years ago to re-discover her family heritage. Now with dual citizenship, she has a second home in Umbria. |
Through her company, Village Vacations in Italy, she organizes and hosts small group tours based in small villages in Umbria and Tuscany, normally customized tours for private groups. Groups have included yoga workshops, writing workshops, and groups of family and friends. Nedra draws on her extensive experience and relationships to plan special accommodations and activities to meet each group’s needs and dreams. Experience “La Dolce Vita” in Italy!
To learn more about her tours, see www.villagevacationsinitaly.com
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.