Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Most of our vacation rentals have been in the U.S., most recently in Block Island where everything always goes smoothly—no snafus, no unpleasant surprises. Not the case in Italy.
We wanted a base in Tuscany and chose Fiesole, which is close to Florence and a good base for exploring the Tuscan hill towns. We wanted a hilltop villa with a wonderful view of the Tuscan hills. We hadn’t considered that if the villa is on the top of a hill getting there just might be a challenge. Actually it was a nightmare. In order to drive into town from our hilltop house we had to make our way through through a maze of incredibly narrow—albeit incredibly picturesque—streets. We finally learned how to navigate the streets but not before doing some serious damage to our rental car. Moral of the story: if you are staying in a hill town, ask questions about driving conditions to the rental property, and if you are dealing with a situation like ours, by all means rent the smallest car you are comfortable with.
One problem with rental properties is that often you do not know what questions to ask. It never occurred to me to ask if there was a landline. When we got to the house, we looked around for a phone, and when we saw none in sight, I realized it was a good thing I brought my cell phone. If I had known there was no landline, I would have bought a European cell phone plan and would have avoided an astronomical cell phone bill.
Also, ask questions about bathrooms. Since an old friend was joining us, we needed 2 bathrooms. We rented our house both because it had a view over the Tuscan hills and because it had 2 bathrooms. I assumed they would be adjacent to the bedrooms, but to my surprise, the second bathroom was in the basement down a steep flight of stairs. The Italians don’t share the American predilection for at least as many bathrooms as there are people sharing a dwelling, and it turned out to be difficult to find an affordable rental property with 2 bathrooms. Moral of the story: if you are renting a place with more than one bathroom, ask questions about its location. In Italian houses, second and third bathrooms are often recent additions, and can be in very inconvenient places.
But despite all this complaining, I love, love Italy. It’s worth putting up with a few inconveniences.