Last year the platform I used for my blog unexpectedly bit the dust and I lost all of my archives. Pity as a lot of interesting information is now sadly floating in cyberspace. For example, that of Clare Galloway.
Clare is a creative and energetic young Scot who fell in love with the medieval Italian town, Guardia Sanframondi, and decided to revolutionize her life by leaving Scotland and moving to southern Italy. She bought a house that had been boarded up for 16 years and, with some of her special Scottish elbow grease, transformed the stalls into stars.
Not only did Clare remodel her house, she created an art gallery (she paints!)and a Bed&Breakfast as well. Plus she somehow managed to organize a Scot’s Night in Guardia with imported Scottish men in kilts. She also hosts weekly English classes. Where does she get all of her energy?
A few months ago she was filmed by HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL [Scottish Painter Finds Solace In The Medieval Village of Guardia Sanframondi, Italy] stimulating a new interest in Guardia . In fact, many people have been inquiring about property in Guardia since then and two houses recently have been sold to Americans who plan to make a lifestyle change similar to that of Clare’s.
Guardia Sanframondi, getting much recognition now.
What Clare has done is incredible. With limited funds and a surplus of courage, she dramatically changed her life but also positively influenced the village she has adopted as her new home. Clare has all my respect and admiration!
So I am re-posting this description Clare wrote about her Italian life (it was written last year) in hopes of having her words inspire someone to take a chance and follow a dream, too.
Clare: «I have a great pile of tiny grapes on my knee- the ones called “strawberry grapes” in Italian, which you eat by squeezing the contents of each wee fruit into your mouth like a candy out of its wrapper. I am all dressed up to go out for breakfast, as is my morning ritual here; fresh croissant and the best ever coffee, in the bar up on the main street. It is going to be the hottest day, so I need to plan it carefully, to avoid being cooked alive in my British car (which doesn’t have air conditioning)… but apart from that, there is little else to be overly concerned about, on this typical summer’s day in rural south Italy.
Contrast this with my life just 15 months ago: chopping wood before it’s warm enough to sit down to a rather less romantic breakfast of porridge; working intensively from the moment I wake, to get heat into a freezing cottage deep in a Scottish glen. Then thinking “how the hell do I go on paying my rent/ council tax/ petrol, etc; how can I possibly manage to sustain this effort-full existence, at the same time as being happy and relaxed and creative?”».
«There is a vast difference between a frugal lifestyle in the Mediterranean, and a frugal lifestyle in the UK: here in Med, the weather, character and community are infinitely more suited to the simple life -and I am infinitely more suited to all of it! But the admiration from afar by friends and colleagues “how lucky you are to have landed in such an advantageous situation!” really jars with my memory of the past two years’ challenges in getting here. I now -extraordinarily!- own my first property, I have an Italian identity card, and am well know (and mostly loved!) in the town; my work is beginning to be talked about, paintings commissioned, and my life is balancing out and deepening in every direction. But only 6 months ago, I was yet again at a point of extreme crisis in my life: I was homeless and without income, without confidence or ability in the language, and hugely undermined in multiple senses by a dreadful relationship. I sat at Christmas time in a cold dark room, in the basement of the country house of my ex, and tried to see the bright side of my situation. When I am at the most difficult points in my life, I make myself write down a list of 21 reasons why this moment is a fabulous gift; why is it enhancing my life experience and opportunities; without fail, I come up with a strong array of perfectly valid positive takes on the challenge! And this time was no different: though I was cold, afraid, unable to see how I could possibly forge a new life for myself here, alone and without resources… equally I was free, independent, had (just!) managed to hold onto my sanity, had loads of good fodder for my book and my paintings… and so on. Nothing is without use; I think of all the crap in my life like the manure or old scraps of food which go into the compost heap- yeh, they stink something awful, especially in a hot country, where it can be a very unpleasant task to go and empty into the garden, stirring up the flies in the heat of the day… but what comes out, way down the line, is pure nourishment. Food for the soul, like food for the garden, is something that we can do without, but our lives are vastly less meaningful, deep and/ or satisfying».
«I am still prone to bouts of chaos, as in these past two months, where one summer festival in Guardia Sanframondi has run into the next, and there have been few nights without excess of vino, dancing, food and silliness. Superbly enjoyable, but hard to sustain beyond 10 weeks, and in the scalding heat of August! My life is careening in and out of its usual organised state, but it is beginning to resemble something peaceful and pleasant; dynamic equilibrium. The most important things; my weight is back up, I am creating/ exhibiting/ selling paintings, and the house is slowly becoming increasingly like an arthouse and less like an abandoned medieval abode!».
«It is hugely entertaining to learn how to go with the flow like the folks here in south Italy do. I laugh thinking back to my initial despair at e.g. people not turning up on time -if at all, shops being closed for a minimum 4 hour lunch, restaurants not having menus, not knowing where or why I am being directed, and/ or whether or not they understood what it is I’m looking for… The bumper-car ride of the first months has somehow transformed into a subtle mesh of synchronicity, of which I am an integrated working part- a well-woven thread in the fabric of this community and lifestyle. I certainly stand out still, not least of all with my right-hand drive car and my hats with large flowers attached. But it feels less l am the village outcast, and more like I’m a minor celebrity, as my work and contributions gain respect, and as my love for this place stretches deep into every crevice».
«My methods are not always clear to me at the time; it is often a mysterious process, how one sets up a new life. But mostly I: focus on thinking wildly positive thoughts; concentrate without distraction on my dreams and highest goals first before I get caught up in the hurdles; use laughter rather than frowning as my main mode of communication; and am open to all possibilities at all times: mostly I say yes, and think yey! With these daily habits, I’m currently pulling together a dynamic wee hub of creative energy and inspiration -Arthouse Guardia. The nine quirky rooms of my higgledy-piggledy casa will -perhaps within the year, perhaps in the next decade- take a neat and colourful form, and serve as residential and events spaces, for visitors and locals: a vessel to contain an intensity of creative outpourings, like a magical ship of celebration sailing merrily on the churning grey seas of modern western consumer culture. As with permaculture design, I am likely to spend much of my first year just observing; watching how the weather, cycles and seasons affect the house, and seeing how my living in it functions, or doesn’t. I am going with this process, and allowing it all to form in its own sweet time. And it is a sweet time: out of the bitter dregs of a difficult situation, the acidic soil of conflict, tension and disharmony, have come unexpected blooms and brews. As in my gardening, I intend to nourish this dream with all my energy and inspiration, to build on my blessings, whilst sharing them wherever I can with others».
«You can read more about my project Arthouse Guardia, and see my artwork, on www.arthouseguardia.com. You can also join the group of the same name on Facebook, as well as seeing an extensive archive of my paintings on the ‘Art by Clare Galloway’ page».
To keep up with Clare’s developments, check out her blog.
More Clare: Clare Galloway // Guardia Sanframondi video.