So, it’s coming up for 6 yrs into my Italian adventure, and still every day someone asks me ‘but how did you come to be in Guardia Sanframondi?’

They ask it in a variety of ways – from incredulous to inspired to cynical – locals and foreigners alike.

The response I give them depends on my assessment of a) whether or not they’ve seen the house hunting TV show, b) how much time we have, and c) what I think this person’s capacity for hearing truth might be.


I launch into whatever version is appropriate to the mood, then we quickly end up on a tangent, with questions about whatever aspect intrigues or challenges them…. There are many myths as to how and why I came to Guardia, and initiated this fascinating dynamic of intercultural, happy-life experimentation, so here are some corrections:

  • I was here for 2 and a half years, before I had even heard of the TV show.
  • My house had been 16 yrs abandoned, and I’d already been living in it and restoring it for a year and a half, before the filming.
  • The real cost of the house was precisely €10,000 (around £8,600 at the time, or $11,380 today), and I’ve a total of approx. €2,000 on renovations: lots of things I was gifted – from a windows and doors to toilets, furniture, plates and the tripod I filmed the video with – everything else was either reused or recycled.
  • The other two houses on the show were never for sale; not then, not now; they belong to folks who live in the city but come to Guardia occasionally. Neither was my ‘estate agent’ an estate agent – though in real life he did help me with the initial contract on the house, before I’d learned enough Italian.


  • I was never so bothered about the “earthquake damage?!!” – that is, until an actual earthquake happened – that freaked the hell out of me, quite honestly. But I was totally amazed at how a medieval abode can loup about, and yet sit down solidly again afterwards; feels like, if anything, the tremors actually helped my building to settle.
  • Before I came to Italy I had a flourishing career in Scotland and other countries, as an artist and a visionary. I’ve been involved in various fields, always working with concepts around creating abundance and inspiring positive change. My artwork and social entrepreneur projects have received many rewards, and I am known for having inspired positive change in the least likely of places. Making the choice to appear on House Hunters was an intentional tactical move, to bring Guardia into the spotlight, with the vision of stimulating a new community: it wasn’t a chance event, by any means.


  • When I arrived, I met literally no-one in town who spoke English, bar a couple of younger folks in the bar, who – meno male! – took me under their wings, and helped me learn quicker.
  • I drove here from Scotland, with my cat and all my worldly possessions (that would fit in my car, but leave room for the cat, and for rear-view-mirror visibility). It took 3 ½ days. Then I drove to Scotland and back again, to pick up my paintings.
  • Very little of my first 5 yrs in Guardia was the glorious utopia which I’ve now achieved. To varying degrees, I was weighed down by – in no particular order: being harassed by lecherous old men; being psyched out by a stalker who followed me here from Scotland, then vented his rage on his blog, after I told him I was going to report him to the carabinieri; being threatened and intimidated by a dodgy guy who was trying – and succeeding – to rip off foreigners; being bad-mouthed by an American woman who had taken a severe disliking to me – she told a few folks that I was mad and evil, and that she was scared I was going to take a pistol to her; a clique of foreigners who subsequently cold-shouldered me (to do with the previously-mentioned person), despite my having gone well out of my way to welcome them to the town; a nasty and completely untrue story which was passed around by many in town (particularly those who wanted to scoop up all the B&B clientelle) that I’d sabotaged this previously-mentioned woman’s work (!); huge water and rubble damage being done in my beautiful house, due to shoddy workmanship on the house above me, then subsequent aggressive bad-mouthing of me in emails, by the owners, when I very diplomatically flagged it up; raging aggression from my neighbours, for no particular reason I could understand at the time, but before I could decipher shouted Italiano; being consistently patronised-beyond-belief by men (like, being patted on the head and told I was a good girl – that hadn’t happened to me since I was about 6 yrs old); being ripped off by lots of folks, from petrol attendants (Solopaca: vergonga!) to chimney sweeps – until I learned to assert myself; being asked to tone down my blog and only write nice, happy things about the town – and to not mention all the sordid tomfoolery which was going on around selling houses; occasional preoccupying gut-wrenching fear that I’d made the really, really wrong choice to come here; being manipulated and pushed and pulled by almost everyone in town – from the initial house hunters’ onslaught, to annoying old men who insist I should be helping them sell their house, ADESSO, whilst leching horribly over me; annoying old ladies who ask really intrusive questions in order to try and humiliate me; mean folk in one bar who went round saying I was sleeping with ‘everyone in town’ early on; the ex-wife of my (now ex) partner who had a screaming fit at me during the busiest market of the year; persistent ill health and severe poverty and overwhelm and disillusion of every imaginable variety, which at several points has convinced me I should pack up and leave…. etc.

The point of this list and the video is a) to get it all off my chest, so I don’t have to keep repeating myself (either in my own head, or with others), b) to illustrate that ANY REALLY HAPPY LIFE contains all manner of stress and unpleasantness, and c) to explain that it was not luck which brought me here: I am not ‘lucky’ to have a life like I do: it was faith in the divine creative intelligence, and then lots of humility and super hard graft.

For me, the Guardia ‘magic’ is not about finding a place in the sun, where everything goes slowly, nothing costs much, and where there are few loud noises and little crime: it’s about superando (overcoming) the hard stuff and creating the dream, slowly, painstakingly… no matter what comes up.


It’s about keeping on your happy path, and nurturing your vision by appreciating the moments of perfection, which nestle like jewels amidst all the chaos and projections and nastiness and pollutions. Over the years, these jewels become polished, and all the dirt in the world around them just makes them shine all the brighter.

Here’s the definitive, uninterrupted story: or at least as much of it as could be crammed into a 25 min video!

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  1. Robin says:

    Love your sense of adventure and i wish I had your courage. I have always loved all things italian. I had an uncle who was 100% italian. He had passion and a joy of life itself that was infectious. Good luck with all things, especially our art.


  2. Robert Quist says:

    It is refreshing to read your post as it is the first I’ve seen that has the ring of truth– neither discouraging nor encouraging, just real. I have seen the show and was moved by it and by my frequent travels in Italy to consider living there full (or mostly full) time. It kept occurring to me as I heard all the glowing testimonials that there HAD to be another side, and you’ve provided it in what I feel is a fair and balanced manner. Thank you.


    • claregallowayartist says:

      You are most welcome, Robert! If you’d like to read more, I wrote an Insider’s Guide to the town too: which gives further honest insight … Guardia is going through a wonderful, multi-faceted regeneration right now, and I and several other stranieri are contributing a great deal of energy to the pulling back of veils 🙂 This is a town with a great deal of authenticity, but which also needs a good deal of hard work to keep it on the ‘straight and narrow’ – and to prevent it from becoming colonised by overly-enthusiastic foreigners who think it needs to be more ‘whatever’ 😉


  3. Karen says:

    appreciate your words. This is true , life is hard, but you can make the dream happen by your own positive, faith action as to the life you want. I hope your years ahead are peaceful and joyful and that you find your life spouse, marry, have children. take care, Karen


  4. pbenjay says:

    Hello Clare,
    We met you on the Main Street in Guardia, just outside of Dolci Delezie just about two weeks ago. We were very happy to introduce ourselves to you as your name came up in many conversations and in my research thru blogs about buying property in Guardia. We haven’t stopped talking about the town and our visit since we returned to NYC. I think we will return!
    Your story is wonderful and real. I hope we will cross paths again;perhaps in cyberspace for now. Peter and Lori Press


    • claregallowayartist says:

      Ciao Peter and Lori! It’s lovely to hear from you again, and to hear your enthusiasm for Guardia – that’s fab you had such a good trip. And thank you for promoting us in NYC ;-D Heheh! Yey – I hope we see you again – there is a wonderful international community here; you’ll love connecting with them all! Tante belle cose, Clare


  5. Marcy says:

    Hi Clare
    I have followed you since HH and still think about coming over for a visit to see if I would really want to live there. Are there still cheap places to buy? Thanks and best wishes!


    • claregallowayartist says:

      Ciao Marcy – it’s lovely to hear from you, and great to know that you might come and join our community! There are still ‘cheap’ houses to buy – it just depends how you approach it – spending a longer period here is a good idea, and I can put you in touch with trustworthy people who can support you in house hunting 🙂 xx


  6. Jack Degelia says:

    Clare: Thanks so much for this video and your inner views about choosing from fear, yet keeping that internal dream alive. I have the same and have been coming to Italy about once a year looking for my retirement home where I can have a quiet life and create anew. I will be there in November to search about and purchase as soon after as I find a home. I will retire from my college professor position in May and will move to Guardia full time in the summer of 2018. I hope to some day meet you and thank you personally for your courage, engagement of self and spirit, and being an inspiration to all through your words and deeds. Best of luck always! See you soon!


    • claregallowayartist says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Jack – and the best of luck and love with your move – yes – I’m sure we’ll bump into each other eventually 😀 and you are so welcome – tante belle cose, Clare 😀


  7. Jon P says:

    Saw a house hunters tonight with a pair of American women buying s house in Guardia. Comments about “buying before the prices doubled.” No mention of the earthquakes!


    • claregallowayartist says:

      Haha – si! Hi Jon – the prices are sort of rising, but only because most foreigners want to use a local agent – most of whom are creaming great wads of cash off of sales/ house management, repairs and improvements being done, etc, etc… 🙂 There are plenty of good folk still selling properties at very affordable prices, though – just depends who you get connected with! And yes – earthquakes are a part of life in Italy, but we’ve been lucky in past years to have had relatively few tremors: long may that continue 😀 Good wishes, Clare


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