Frequent Questions updated July 2012
1. What are your favorite places in and around Teramo?
Museum of the Abruzzo People in Pescara - House of Gabriele D'Annunzio
Civitella del Tronto - fortress and museum
La Scala Sacra (Sacred Steps) in Campli
Santuario di San Gabriele (Santuary of Saint Gabriel) in Isola del Gran Sasso
Castelli - ceramics
2. Is smoking allowed?
Best to smoke outside on the patio. Grazie. Keep it legal because Franco, the guy two houses down, answers to "Poliziotto."
3. Are children allowed?
4. Is Paolo our private tour guide?
Au contraire. Paolo has a store to run and looks after Casale as a sideline. He points you in right direction and gets someone (usually not Paolo) to fix small problems. He speaks English rather well.
5. When should we arrive?
If possible, arrive during daylight and when Paolo's store is open. His hours are 08:00 AM to 1:00 PM in the morning and 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM (occasionally 1/2 hour later during summer) in the evenings. Paolo is closed Wednesday in the PM and all day Sunday.
6. What does it mean to conserve utilities?
Italian utilities are double or triple those in the USA. So mind the water, heat, and electricity usage. Lights off when leaving a room, minimize use of hair dryers, kind of short showers and on. When you turn on the faucet keep the lever all the way to the right if you do not need hot water. If your spouse fusses you can blame Stefano.
7. Can you eat well in Abruzzo for “pochi soldi” (inexpensively)?
Head to an agriturismo. Usually pay cash so have some handy. Fabiocchi is close with great food. Go 3 km on road leading to SS80 and Teramo. When you hit a “T” in the road, instead of taking left turn to Teramo, go right towards Frondarola. 100 yards (meters) on left. Best to call ahead (see Nearby Attractions on this website). Fabiocchi serves pizza also. Another nearby pizzeria is Tizzone in Torricella Sicura. Good pasta at lunch but pizza is only at dinner. You can try (I did) to get pizza before the oven is fired up at 8:00 PM but you will likely fail (I did). Some pizzaioli (pizza makers) don’t take a bribe (bustarella).
8. Is there a tourist office in Teramo?
Yep. Abruzzo Promozione Turismo, 17 Via Carducci Giosue', Teramo (TE) 64100. Maps, information, and free Abruzzo posters.
9. Is the house heated?
Wood I lie? There is a woodburning stove (stufa) in the main room. This keeps the living, dining and cooking areas nice and toasty. Have not figured out how to toast marshmallows however. But the two bedrooms and the and bathroom tend to remain a bit chilly in the winter months when the temperature drops. A stocked woodpile is a happy woodpile! When three people do the work of one keeping things in order often turns into quite a producation - see 2007 kerfuffle: Replenishing the Woodpile.
10. What about coffee?
There should be a bit of coffee and sugar left over from the previous renter. Hey, leave some for the next guy! Both available at Paolo’s store. Hard to find American coffee in Italy. A reasonable facsimile is just use less grounds. You can have a caffe at the Bar 90 with my cousin, Francesca, the friendly barista. You can have weaker coffee by asking for “caffe lungo” (with extra shot of hot water through the grounds), requesting "caffe Americano” (extra hot water added to the prepared coffee) or by scowling at Francesca while pointing to your expreso and saying, "Troppo forte!". There is a stovetop Italian coffeemaker in the house. It unscrews into three parts. Fill bottom ¾ with water. Put the coffee container in and fill it ¾ full without pressing the coffee down. Screw top back on tightly and put onto a medium-low flame. When you hear a gurgling sound that is not coming from your stomach, the coffee is ready. Take off flame. While cleaning it best not to bang the coffee holder to get the old grounds out because if it gets bent then no more coffee.
11. Where is the nearest place to get some cash?
Branch banks are in Montorio and Torricella Sicura. Look for Bancomat ATM’s with “Star” or “Cirrus” logo. But the $ not worth a lot at the moment. Before coming to Italy I suggest that you first take all of your money and divide it into two piles. Then bring both piles.
12. How about telephone usage?
The house has no telephone. Cellphone information is on Slowtalk website. You can sign up with Rebtel to make 20 cent/minute calls if you have a cellphone. WIND chips do not work in VSG. There is telephone at Bar 90. Francesca keeps track of things. Or buy prepaid phonecard at a tabacheria and call “800” number before connecting to your destination. With a phonecard you will owe Francesca nothing for the call. Best to offer her a couple euros, a bacio (kiss) if her husband Giovanni is not looking, and/or buy some Dom Perignon. Emergency numbers: 112-Carabinieri 113-Police/Fire/Ambulance 116-Road Assistance 118-Medical
13. Does the house have toilet paper and paper towels?
Should be some when you arrive. Serious worriers bring one day’s supply. Paolo stocks these at his store. Please leave some for the next person. Merci de nouveaux!!
14. What about the fridge?
Close door & turn the knob to “3” when you arrive. At departure throw away perishables, turn knob to off (light will go out). Leave door open. Please let me know if the little light does not go out when you close the fridge door.
15. How does the washer work?
Add clothes. To save energy and time, best to wait until you have a full load.
Open drawer on upper left hand side of machine. Fill middle section 1/3 to 1/2 way with detergent.
Find the row of three buttons. Push in first button (start). Ignore second button or push in for half load. Ignore third button or push in if you want the machine to stop and wait before completing the final spin (very annoying).
Set temperature dial to minimum (or 30 degrees) unless you want to donate your clothes to orphan children.
Set big dial on right (cycle selector) to "2".
Close door, make sign of cross and machine should start. If does not you should (gently) re-open and re-shut the front door (of the machine not the house). This is most common reason machine does not run. Door will lock while washer runs.
Open some wine. Two bottles later machine will stop. One glass later front door (guess which one) will unlock.
There is clothes rack in kitchen. Clothespins are somewhere. Look for clotheslines around the shed. To avoid damage, do not tie the clotheslines to the gutters of the house.
16. Can you buy local olive oil?
Come no? (why the heck not?). See the "Nearby Attractions" section. Check out their race cars while you are at it.
17. What about flies, mosquitoes, and (oh no!) flying bugs?
The folks in VSG keep their windows open during the day with no problem. We put screens on the living room and two bedroom windows. Be gentle. The screens are fragile (Managgia!), will break easily (FIAT=fix it again Tony), and were very expensive (Costa quanto?). To lower, with both hands pull down gently along the upper rail until it is at the bottom of the window and you hear two clicks. Voila! To raise, pull down and out gently on the cord attached to the rail. You will hear a click. Then with two hands guide the screen to the top of the window. Italian screens and women appreciate a gentle touch from a strong guy like you.
18. Is Casale air conditioned?
Would cost a gazillion dollars and not necessary since the walls (but not our wallets) are 18 inches thick. House is cool in the summer if you follow one rule – don’t let afternoon sun blast directly into the rooms! Around lunchtime close the shutters almost all of the way, keeping them cracked a bit. This blocks sun, lets in a bit of air. You will be cooler than Leonardo's 1964 motorino.
19. Where do I check my email or use the internet?
Wifi available at local Bar 90. Check email for free at the Teramo public library Melchiore Delfico. They give you 1hr/day; 3 hr/wk. Or go to internet point (cybercafe) in Teramo or Montorio al Vomano. There is open WiFi site in corner of large bedroom (best to give Eugenio's son some moola for this favor if you use it.
20. Does the house have a terrace?
Certo (surely!) Take white plastic chairs outside for a picnic. Some strays, a random animal or a neighbor might stop by. Share some vino and they will be sure to reciprocate.
Power is 220V/50cycles. American power converters mess things up (ours sent the neighbors’ TV’s on the fritz until they could figure out who to fuss at.). The laws of physics say that plugging a 110V American appliance into 220V socket will give you .002 seconds of use. 50 cycles means dual voltag things (e.g., certain clocks) will run 5/6 as fast in Italy. You will have extra time to sleep in the morning but, according to most theories of relativity, this will not extend your lifespan. Like most Italian homes, the supply of electricity is limited. If you try to run a couple big appliances simultaneously, bye bye power. Avoid this by conserving electricity and by plugging a minimum # of things into the wall. If the power fails, first unplug whatever caused the problem. Then check the fuse box by the front door. Finally, you can check with Paolo who may have a minute to see what’s up or fetch our cousin, Silvio, to assist.
23. How do we pay?
Cash to Paolo, bankwire (bonifico), American check (yeah!), postal money order, or credit card (boo!). No zlotys. Any bank charges are on you as it recently cost 12 euros to receive a payment from a mideastern country. Even cousin Giovanni the banker was unable to help me. Those visitors with memory problems are required to pay in advance.
24. Possible to rent the house by the month?
Most certainly! It is better to have someone in the house than to have it sit empty. We frequenly work out reasonable monthly prices with several tenants. But we often use the house ourselves in April and mid summer.
25. When is my reservation confirmed?
Not until Stefano or Paolo or somebody has some loot in their mitts (denaro nelle loro mani). Will contact you to confirm. Nonrefundable 50% to reserve; the rest before arrival.
26. Is there train from Rome to Teramo?
Hard to do because you have to change lines. Most folks take the (big blue) intercity pullman bus from Rome Tiburtina train station to Teramo bus terminal. Trip lasts about 2.5 hours. Weekdays six buses Teramo to Rome 5:05 to 16:30. Rome to Teramo seven buses 08:30 to 21:00. Less on weekends and holidays. See the ARPA website. If you have a car it is best to catch the bus near the autostada in Villa Vomano. The cost is only about 13 euros each way. 2011 Update: There is a new busline, Gaspara, that runs from Rome Airport (Fiumicino) to Teramo.
27. This is my first trip to Italy. Should I stay at Casale?
Maybe, but probably for only part of the trip. One hearty soul made a 12 hour (travel time) day trip to Venice but the word “pazzo” (3 centesimi short of a euro) comes to mind.
28. Did Madonna’s family come from VSG?
No. But they did come the small town of Pacentro, about two hours away, which is also located in Abruzzo.
29. Is a car necessary?
Not mandatory but perhaps a good idea. VSG has only 350 people with few English lit majors. If you want to chill and hang with the locals you could survive without a car. To see the sights you will need some wheels.
30. Is there parking for all?
There is parking on the street. Best not to park your car directly next to the front door of the chiesa (church) so as to allow the churchgoers easy access. If you look on the back of the church door you will see a surprise and will have a much better understanding of the mysteries of life. Sorry, no hints, you must seek out the revelation yourself. OK, one hint: Look on the back of the door for a word that starts with the letter "U".
31. How do I get from VSG to and from Teramo?
Except Sundays, the bus from Valle San Giovanni to Teramo leaves at 07:42, 08:50, 12:05 and 16:05.
Except Sundays, the bus from Teramo (Piazza San Francisco) to Valle San Giovanni leaves at 08:25, 11:40, 13:40, 18:40.
See the local bus schedules.
32. Can you bear a moment for us Yoga fans?
There is a major Yoga center, Centro Arjuna, in Villa Ripa, just 4 km from Valle San Giovanni. Ohhhmm.
33. Do you know any collective nouns?
As of 2009 an advanced degree in Garbagetology is required to figure out the system of what goes where and when (see Trash Pickup). Chances are 100% the three widows who live on Via Casale will point you in the right direction. Then can it.
34. Where can you mail letters?
The Valle San Giovanni post office is open three mornings/week. Tue & Thurs. 0800-1330/Sat. 0800-1330. A fun thing for guests to do is buy a stamp and then ask the clerk, "Shall I stick it on myself?" Some jokes are equally unfunny in Italiano and English.
35. Have there ever been evil spirits lurking on Via del Casale?
Not to the best of our knowledge. The local townspeople work in collaboration with higher authorities for protection from evil as well as blessings from above.
36. How many males from Valle San Giovanni does it take to change a door bolt?
Best estimates in the year 2009 are a minimum of ten:
37. Are there any Roman antiquities nearby?
Some notable Roman Statues have recently been discovered but they are not in the best of condition and await restoration.
38. Are sheets and towels and such included?
Mais oiu! With the exception of your favorite blankie all is included. But best not to do like one of our pirate guests who wore a paper towel as a hat. Not good to advertise you have a bounty on your head.
39. Is it right and just that Villa Casale rents for less than 1/3 the price of place in Tuscany?
Microeconomics not Stefano's strongest subject. So from each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need. Not too far off the Marx.
40. Do you have any inspirational quotes for us?
41. Pretty please? (Per favore, gentilissimo Stefano?)
"Non importa il Paese dove viviamo ma il Paese che vive in noi"...Giuseppe Garibaldi. Translation: It is not important the country within which we live...but rather the country that lives within us.
42. How about one more?
"Non c'e' cresima senza padrino." Translation: You can't have a baptism without a godfather (You need friends to get ahead).
43. What slogan best describes Casale?
We didn't build this house and you are not going to Italy to add problems to our/your lives. Take it easy, enjoy the scenery. Tutto e' gia OK! (everything is already OK).
44. Do visitors and potential visitors ever experience sadness?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. (Remember: click the pictures for more information).
45. Do you have to pick up after yourself?
Usually best not to leave things lion around...
46. Are the wines of Abruzzo any good?
Bet you can guess the answer to this one...!