It is the 31st July. I am sat at my desk in front of an open window looking at the old town with the ceiling fan on full. Today it is extremely hot. It is around 34°C in the shade and it has been hot for the whole of July. I don’t think it has even rained. This is the Calabrian summer and looking at the long range forecast it will stay hot for a good while yet.
As it is summer, more people have arrived. Everyone who can come to Scalea and wants to seems to have done so or are planning to. It is pretty busy now with internationals as well as Italians. So, it is pretty much back to normal, with social distancing taking place. Officially, we must wear masks going into any office, shop, bar and restaurant. Hand sanitiser is in the entrance of everywhere. But it is still relaxed once you sit down to eat and drink. Normal events have been cancelled this year or amended to stop people gathering.
Even so, it does seem busier than we remember compared to last year, but it could be the shock of post lockdown. It is fantastic to see people back and local businesses having customers.
We have good news. We both now have our health cards (tessera sanitaria). I am still shocked that our post box works! John’s card lasts 6 years but I must renew mine every January. It is also a codice fiscale card and for me an EU health card. John is still covered by the UK health service, we think. So now we can have medical treatment if and when necessary.
As soon as we received our health cards, we decided to go through the process of exchanging our UK driving licence with an Italian one. We were told that once you get residency, we must exchange our licence within a year, otherwise we would have to go through the Italian driving test. We had our ID cards in November last year so we are slowly but surely running out of time. Covid did not exactly help. Also, Brexit coming up. The UK licence will not officially be an EU one as from January, so an international driving licence will possibly be needed to drive in Europe. And, Italy has changed the rules recently. I have been told you must change your licence within 30 days of arriving if you plan to live here. Which would be virtually impossible as it took at least 3 months for us to get residency. But hey, we’re in Scalea and it is a little more relaxed.
Although, this licence thing is taking some effort…
So off we went to the local Auto Scuola (driving school) with our ID cards, UK driving licence, health/codice fiscale cards and photos of ourselves. We were told that we had to return in the afternoon. OK.
We were then told we needed medical certificates and one of our photos needs to be verified by the Anagrafe in the Comune building.
As we now have health cards, we have a family doctor which we had not visited yet. So, this was an opportunity to meet him, I guess. We had no idea of what was involved in getting a medical certificate to say we are fit to drive, so thought it would be a long process. We found out his working hours. They are posted on the wall outside his surgery and we went first thing in the morning, wearing masks of course.
His surgery is on the first floor, so up the stairs we went and there was one person in front of us, and he rang the bell. The doctor opened the door. He is quite an elderly man, so a doctor for many years. He dealt with the person in front of us and then it was our turn. The night before, we decided to write a letter in Italian describing what we need. John also needed verification that he is still alive for the UK Pension service by a person of good standing in the community, like a doctor. So, we gave him the letter to read. The doctor told us to sit down in the waiting area which was empty. Then a few minutes later a patient left his office, so he asked us in.
His desk was covered in boxes of medication and lots of paperwork. He had a standard healthcare type of computer to the side of him, just like the UK. He read the letter again and looked at us. I handed him John’s proof of being alive form. Can’t remember what it is actually called, ha-ha. He completed and stamped the form with no problems. We just had to specify what he had to write as it was all in English.
For the medical certificate, he asked if we are taking any medication. We said no. He completed the certificates, signed, stamped and er… that was that. All done in less than 15 minutes. Result!
So off we toddled to the Comune to get our photos verified. We took a deep breath and went in expecting lots of people queuing. But it was actually quiet. We went to the Anagrafe who deals with all things like residency, ID cards and photo verification. Basically, a registry office. There was one person in front of us and we were seen and dealt with quite quickly. We felt great.
As we were on a roll, we returned to the Auto Scuola with everything required. They copied everything and was told to return in the afternoon of the following day.
On this visit, we made an appointment for an eye test with a doctor. OK we were getting irritated now, well John is mostly, if you know John you will understand. I was thinking it is starting to get amusing. No idea why we could not have made an appointment during the previous visit.
This was eye test day. We were quite nervous as John recently had a cataract removed and knew his eye is far better than before but has not had an eye test to check. I am slightly late for a 2-yearly check-up so not entirely sure I would be OK either. Also, John was getting more annoyed with each visit.
John was first. I held my breath. He went inside and then the manager Paolo (yep, on first name terms now) was called to go in to where John was. I was worried. My imagination was going a bit wild. Did John rant? Did he punch someone? Did he fail his eye test? After a little while, I was called in…
John was just about to leave the office smiling (I can tell even though he was wearing a mask) and said to me, it was dead easy. Phew!
So, I went in and there was a doctor wearing a mask like we all were, stood behind glass with an eye chart behind him on the wall and coloured blind test charts on my side of the glass on the desk. He spoke English and was happy we were there so he could practice. OK great for me but I want to practice Italian. He said not this time. So, it was all conducted in English. His English was very good. He pointed at random letters on the eye chart on the wall, with me covering one eye at a time and I had tos ay what they were. Then asked me to read out the numbers on the coloured charts.
I passed, phew.
He then said to me that he is very sorry but I will not be allowed to drive a bus or a lorry and asked me if this is OK? I said aww, that is a shame, but no problem. He properly looked concerned. But luckily, I will be able to drive a car and a motorbike. Motorbike? Oh OK. I’ve not even sat on a motorbike. Hopefully he means a scooter? Time will tell.
And that was it.
When I went back outside with John, I asked him why they called Paolo in when he first went in. He was told the same thing as me about not being able to drive a lorry and a bus. They were very concerned for him so asked Paolo to verify this is correct. So, no issue whatsoever haha.
We were then told to return a few days later at 10.30am. So yes, another visit.
This visit resulted in the completion of the application forms. Paolo completed the forms with us there and we signed and then paid the fees for everything. He then said return in a week. We are assuming and hoping the 7th visit will be to collect our Italian licences but we shall see.
We are car owners now
Whilst all that was going on, we decided we should own a car. We have coped really well without one and we like walking around and not relying on a car. But the main issue was grocery shopping, even if we ordered a taxi for the return journey, we could not get a big shop. The taxi stops at the top of the hill so we have to carry it all down anyway. We walk to the supermarket a few times a week and we pull a shopping cart but John’s back is struggling with the pulling of the cart and carrying of bags. We have lots of stairs to go up and down, over 100 in fact. Also, the pavements here are uneven so it is not easy. Also, if we want to go a bit further afield to friends or other places, we have to either take a taxi there and back or ask friends. Which has been fine as we have great friends, but we want independence.
Therefore, we researched online on used car sales sites and asked around so found a few. We started with a Peugeot 1007. We asked Tony H to call the owner when he was free as he speaks Italian and a few days later, we viewed the car. It is a good little car. It is a 2005 so 15 years old with a price of €1,400 so a good price for us. We only want to use it around Scalea for shopping and seeing friends so don’t need a big car. It is different to other cars as it has electric sliding doors which is a novelty. After a test drive, we said yes as it drives well and it quite tidy for its age even though it has been driven around the hills of Verbicaro where the owner is from.
To buy the car we met the owner a couple of days later when we had the cash and his son came down from Rome. We went to the registration office in Santa Maria del Cedro to pay for change of ownership. In Italy, the buyer pays for change of ownership and it is not cheap. The price depends on the type of vehicle and engine. It is so different to the UK. We are used to paying nothing. Unfortunately, the owner did not have all the necessary paperwork so we all had to go to Diamante where the car was originally registered. It is never easy is it? It was a good opportunity to see the car drive on a run. John went with the owner and Tony and I went with the son. After about 40 minutes in Diamante. We paid €360 for change of ownership and gave the cash to the now previous owner for the car.
So, we now own a car.
Insurance is expensive though as we have got to start from the beginning, they do not take into account our UK no claims. But after searching online we found a relatively cheap price of €590 for basic insurance, driver cover and roadside recovery. Fully comprehensive seems to cost over €1500.
Trattoria Il Gallo Bianco
In between doing admin stuff and buying a car, we have also met with our friends over the month. We visited a trattoria called Il Gallo Bianco (The white cockerel / rooster). It is a lovely place. They grow their own fruit and vegetables and keep chickens for eggs. We’ve been there once before and had a huge number of antipasti dishes and then spaghetti carbonara. We were so full we couldn’t finish the pasta. This time, there was a special deal one evening so a few of us went.
As it is so hot, we ate outside. They had lovely antipasti, meats, cheses, deep fried veg. Everyone, me especially went crazy for their bean and guanciale dish. It was so tasty. The prima, a pasta dish was a tomato beef ragù and was beautiful. I stopped there but others had secondi which was grilled meat which they all enjoyed. The price was great value and the staff is friendly and helpful. So, a place we will return to and I would definitely recommend.
After one our regular nights out at Il Corsaro we, well I decided we should go for a night-time walk by the sea. The beach lidos are also bars in the evening and it was pretty busy down there. We had a lovely walk on the beach and took some photos of the rocks at the end of the beach at Ajnella. Afterwards we had a negroni at Bar da Pietro and walked home. It is so nice to be able to do that whenever we feel like it. Lockdown has made me appreciate the simple things more. So, I thought I would share a few of the photos I had taken.
Summer means more are open
A good thing about the summer is that bars and restaurants that close over winter start to open. One of our favourites is a bar called Ottocento which mean 800. It is situated in Centro Storico in a piazza called Piazza de Palma Maggiore. It only opens in the summer as it has only outside seating. That piazza is such a lovely place to sit and people watch. It looks across to the Talao Tower and the sea, and people have their photos taken with those in the background. It is interesting to see the poses people do for a photograph. Over the way is a restaurant called Tarì where I had my birthday meal last year and there is a late-night bar called Valhalla. It is quiet in the day but it all comes alive in the evening.
More and more people are having the opportunity to return to Scalea, hopefully that will continue. It is great to see visiting friends again. Obviously, it has been difficult for some as flights keep being cancelled, especially to and from the UK. And of course, people in the US and other countries cannot visit at all yet. With a bit of luck, things will get better.
It still is a very strange time, but we are seeing some normality and we are incredibly happy to live here.