Travel Tips - Lodging
Many Americans (especially surfing Internet sites that have lofty descriptions of villas) have an idea that country homes are MORE elegant than hotels. Rather, Europeans (this is telling) refer to country-rentals as economical, do-it-yourself accommodation. We are very much in favor of country-rentals because they mean you save money, and that you have the intention of exploring an area in depth rather than rushing through it.
The vast majority are farm-stays - either agriturismo (a working farm which by law must make at least 51% of their income from farming,) or case-vacanze (vacation homes created out of age-old country homesteads.) Few are an actual villa in the Italian sense of the word, as in a palatial noble residence.
You SHOULD spend less on a country-rental than on an average hotel because no one will make breakfast or your bed for you, or clean for you (unless you arrange and pay for maid service), and there is no restaurant. The vast majority of rentals have no phone, at least not for outgoing calls (consider buying a cheap Italian cell phone)
The minimum booking period for many of the high-demand country-rentals is two weeks in high season. Nearly all have a one week minimum. The standard rental period is from Saturday to Saturday.
Tips to Enjoy a Villa Rental
- ASK a lot about where you will be staying.
- Get a good map. Try mapblast.com. or www.expedia.com- maps section.
- Get photos of the house inside and out, and the view.
- Be sure to ask the DISTANCE in DRIVING TIME and not just in kilometers, preferably from specific areas. Realize that curvy roads mean more driving time.
- When calculating COSTS make sure you've added all the extras, such as maid service, final cleaning, etc. Be honest with yourself about maid service; will you clean up after yourselves?
If you plan to be on the go every day and travel in many regions of Italy, returning only to sleep in an out-of-the-way farmhouse, you may end up spending in gasoline and frustration what you save on that farm-stay rental cost. In this case you might well be better off taking the train between major cities and staying in hotels.
On the other hand, you might love a country-rental more than any holiday you've ever had if you instead plan to spend most of your time within a two-hour or so radius of the farmhouse, and take evenings or full days of 'down-time' to relax by the pool or shop locally, or you are reuniting with family.
We work with local agents and local owners to place our package tour clients, and are happy to pass on some names and numbers to you if you contact us. There are lots of villas-to-rent over the Internet but renter beware!
Tips to Enjoy a Country Rental
- Grocery shop on the day of arrival. This is inevitably a Saturday, and though you are tired, DO it, because Sunday everything will be closed. Don't go hog wild, though, as fruit and veggies spoil quickly, and bread goes stale the day after it is made.
- If you plan to do laundry, look for small boxes of detergent in tabs on that first grocery run so you can do this annoying chore in the least amount of time. But don't delay in getting started as Italian washers take 2 hours to do a load. You will almost never see a dryer. Plan to leave time for clothes to drip dry on racks (always supplied).
- On your first or second day the owners, by law, will want to register you for the police. If they "forget" to do it, though, don't worry; you're not in trouble. If you're stopped by the police (highly unlikely,) be vague about your arrival time and tell the owners (immediately) that you've been stopped so they can get that paperwork done! It's a simple form to fill it out, or give your passport to the owners for them to do it.
- Write the required details, usually on the line below.
- Note last name is COGNOME; first name is NOME; date of birth, written as dd/mm/yy, is NASCITA; etc. English translations are usually next to the Italian word. ONE person in each family fills it out, and then on the right side lists all the other family members.
- Summer renters, learn to use window shutters. Americans love to throw open windows for the morning sun but shutters serve the important purpose of keeping the room cool, especially for the night. At least make sure you CLOSE the shutters when you leave in the morning.
- Another Italian trick is JUST AFTER YOU TURN OFF THE LIGHT at night to sleep, only then open the WINDOW, and keep SHUTTERS closed. The fresh evening breeze will cool your room, no one will see in, and the mosquitoes won't bother you if you open up in the dark!
- Fall renters, learn to be frugal with the thermostat. Lower it or turn heating off when you're out, unless you're happy to pay. You will be shocked at its cost in Italy. Make sure you thoroughly understand how you'll be charged; by the hour?, cubic meter? Ask about firewood, generally a cheaper way to heat as you hang out in the evenings.
- Italian bathrooms sometimes contain the boiler (your source of hot water.) So, be suspicious of light switches that do not turn on lights; you might have just turned off your hot water! Hang out your towels to dry right after you use them (outside, even) so you won't be disappointed the next day that they are damp.
- Gas cook tops, and electric ovens, are the norm. Please learn where is the source of gas, a tap usually, and know how to turn it off when you leave the apartment.
- If your hosts are around, get friendly to the extent you can. It will make your experience much more memorable. Try their wine or oil; agriturismi are working farms. See if they sell fresh eggs. If it's harvest season maybe they will show you the process up close. Some places do a meal once a week with guests, and the food is almost certain to be terrific and reasonably priced, as well as an opportunity to socialize with Italians.