June is the month that Italy has reopened. We can now move around without any reason to. International visitors can visit but still depends on the country at the moment. Although when Covid numbers spike, the municipalities close their border and a mini lockdown happens. And when I say spike, I mean from 4 new cases. So, they are tough.
Luckily, we live in Calabria and Calabria has always been one of the regions with the lowest numbers. So of course, the tourism promotions shout “Come to Calabria we are Covid-free”. Scalea has not had one case so when phase 2 happened everyone was happy knowing that we can wander free with little risk. Now it is basically open, there was a bit of nervousness at the beginning, receiving all these new visitors, but all seems OK. We are basically back to normal now. The only difference is we wear a mask in places that are confined like shops, supermarkets and where you can’t keep 1 metre distance.
Obviously as Italy reopens, Scalea reopens. Pretty much everything is open apart from those that don’t usually open until July or August anyway. The shops, bars and restaurants are open, and finally the lidos are too. If you are not aware, Italy has lidos on their beaches. These are places that you pay for a sunbed, chairs, umbrella etc and the use of their showers. They are often linked to either a bar or restaurant. The bar that we go to quite a bit is called Lido da Pietro. The bar is open all year round and their lido is usually open from the late spring and through the summer months, this year has been different.
It has been an exceedingly difficult time for a lot of businesses in Scalea as it is a holiday resort. There was a slow opening as business owners were not entirely sure how it was going to work, especially when it came to the lidos on the beach. There were lots of ideas going round about division of sunbeds and if Perspex screens were needed. This would have made it far too expensive for lidos to even open. Also it would be like lying in an oven with the high temperatures we get here. It turned out to be basically the same as normal but with fewer beds so they can be spaced out and hand sanitiser scattered around the place.
This month we finally got closer to receiving our Italian health cards (Tessera Sanitaria). As John is a pensioner he can claim for free care. His card is virtually ready and he is now registered with a family doctor. He has a photocopy of the card, but is waiting for the actual card to be delivered. We have no idea how long that will take, so we check our post box on top of the hill every day. But it is good that he has a family doctor if needed.
Mine is a little different. I have to pay a yearly fee which I guess is like National Insurance in the UK that covers basic medical care. I have paid that (thanks to Ivan who went to the hospital in Praia a Mare for me, so I did not have to go again) and now I wait. There is also another certificate or form that we both need. It is so complicated and takes so long, the Covid situation has not helped. We have been fortunate to not need to see a doctor, but there are check that us ladies need, so I am behind in all of that. Fingers crossed it will be soon.
Talking of the health service, we all had a worrying time, as our good friend Tony E had to go to hospital. He had been suffering with his leg for a few days and it was difficult for him to see his doctor. We think his doctor is retiring after the Covid scenario, so he was difficult get hold of. Tony also lives up some stairs so access is not great if you can’t use your legs. Anyway, one early morning he messaged John to say that he was in a hell of a lot of pain. John was very worried and as we do not have a car, he called Tony H (estate agent) who just lives around the corner from him to check on him. He took one look at his leg and called an ambulance.
He was taken to physiotherapy first, but they said he needed urgent care at another hospital in Belvedere Marittimo. He was tested for all sorts of things in 3 different hospitals very quickly and found out it was thrombosis in his leg. There was a lot of worry, especially from his family as they do not live in Italy and there was no way they could come over because of Covid. Also, we could not visit him in hospital. So, us outside of the hospital had no idea what was going on. Luckily, Tony had his mobile so could communicate once all the tests were done and he was settled, but because his Italian is not great, he was not completely sure what was going on either. We did have a video call with him in our regular restaurant, Il Corsaro.
The good news is that he came out of hospital a week later which was also his birthday. He is spending a few days with Tony H so he can be somewhere without using stairs. He came to Il Corsaro restaurant on Sunday evening, obviously looking weaker, but we were incredibly happy to see him. So, we wish you well Tony and we will celebrate properly when you feel better.
Tony did tell us that the care he received was outstanding, they were fast, caring, thorough and made sure he was OK. So, we all say grazie mille to everyone at Belvedere Marittimo hospitals. This is proof that the healthcare here is great.
1 Euro Properties for Sale in Calabria
We have noticed that the press was saying a lot about a place called Cinquefrondi who are selling properties for €1 through the mayor of the town. Therefore, Tony H our estate agent friend was receiving calls and emails about it. So, he decided to visit the town and of course we went with him.
Cinquefrondi is a town in the hills of the Reggio Calabria province, quite a bit south, about 2 hours 45 minutes from us, but Tony was driving it so it’s a lot quicker…
So when we arrived, we had a wander around to get a feel for the place and look around the old town. It is a lovely town, full of life and quite busy. So not a sleepy little village. The locals were curious. I suppose we stood out wearing summer gear and having cameras. I do not think they get a huge number of tourists.
As we were wandering, we had various discussions with the older people, who are the main residents of the old town. One woman even invited us in to her home for a coffee. It’s nice that the old town is not in the middle of nowhere or up a huge hill. It is close to the local large church and the new town and has good access. While we were looking and taking photos, there was someone who worked for the municipality and again was curious. She asked who we were (in a friendly way). So, Tony explained. She then made an appointment for us with the mayor for the following morning to discuss the properties for sale. All this happened literally minutes from when we arrived and checked in to the B&B. Who says Italians are slow?! Anyway, we continued to wander around until evening.
We had a meal that evening in a restaurant called Meating in the next town Polistena which was recommended by the B&B owner. As you would probably guess by the name, it had a meat-based menu. It was lovely although it did take 45 minutes for us to find it. After we left, we realised we went the very long way and it was only 10 minutes from where we were staying. Oh well, at least we got our steps in!
The following morning was the meeting with the mayor, Michele Conia. He is quite a young man, was relaxed and smoking a cigarette whilst sat in his chair in his office. There were about 8 people around him, obviously people working on this project with him. They were definitely prepared for us!
We learned that there are a few properties for sale at 1 euro. There could be more for sale, but locating the owners is a problem. He wants to stop the old town being abandoned and keep life in it. The properties have been available since 2017 but because of the recent press interest there have been thousands of enquiries. This has been difficult for them to manage. The team has to filter out the real possible buyers from the dreamers which will take some time. Also they told us, as well as the €1 price the new owner will have to make the property safe to live in within 3 years of purchase and pay €250 each year as a sort of insurance policy to make sure the work will be done. Seems reasonable.
It was great to see that this town of 7,000 people has a progressive mayor who wants to grow the area and to start doing something about it now. It was a good discussion and Tony now has more information he can pass on. Before we left, they also gave us lots of leaflets and a DVD about Cinquefrondi, which reminds me I need to watch.
It was an interesting couple of days and the people from Cinquefrondi were so lovely and friendly. This is what the real Calabria is about. You fall in love with the hospitable people as well as the fantastic scenery of beaches and mountains. You can only experience this with a visit.
Lunch at a different place for us in Scalea
We thought we would visit somewhere different and so we went to the restaurant at La Bruca Resort which is about 8km from where we live. We had a lovely meal. We got talking with the owner and found out that all places including his are struggling following the restrictions because of Covid. He wants to attract international visitors as they tend to visit at different times of the year. This is compared with Italians who mainly visit in July/August. Considering the weather here is good from April to October this is a shame. He asked for our thoughts.
We had a look around and they were in the middle of getting it ready. It is a beautiful place they have good facilities 26 rooms, a swimming pool, restaurant, tennis courts, horse riding facilities, chapel, can host parties and events and it is just 1km from the Marcellina – Verbicaro – Orsomarso train station. In the summer there is a shuttle bus to the beach as it is about 1.5km away. They even offer transport to and from the airport at Lamezia. The staff we came across were very friendly. It seems to have all that is needed for a good holiday. Once it’s ready, I am sure it will be amazing. They, along with Scalea itself need a way to get international visitors to know about it. The hotels are on all the reservation sites, but Scalea is still a hidden gem.
So, I thought I would do my bit and share what I know. Hopefully it will inspire some readers to a holiday in Scalea and see the reasons for us to live here.
Well, that is it from me. Hope you have a lovely July. I wonder what I will be writing about in a month’s time.