All posts by Janet Simcic

IS A VILLA RIGHT FOR YOU?

 

In my book, “An American Chick’s Guide to Italy,” I have a chapter entitled…To Villa or not to Villa.  And how times have changed since writing that book several years ago.  The first big change is the enormous growth of websites now renting villas.  Not only are the exclusive ones still available, but people are renting their own homes and apartments through several sites like VRBO, AirBB, Luxury Villas, Parker Homes.

My caution is this.  Know the facts before you send in your credit card information.  We have rented apartments in Rome.  One looked great on the Home Away site.  However, no one happened to mention that the second floor apartment had eight-five steps, STEEP steps, with only a rope for support.  In addition, and to be fair they mentioned this, it was over a British Pub. A single line warned Thursday evenings might be noisy.  The truth was every night was noisy, people were falling-down drunk, many vomiting on the sidewalk in front of our entrance.  Fortunately we were very busy during the day and fell into bed each night worn out.  However, the two nights that went too late in the morning hours…we did some complaining. The rep for the apartment scheduled a 10 a.m. departure and said we could not leave until she inspected the apartment.  She was, of course, late, causing us some anxiety getting to our plane.

One “villa” in the country outside Rome, and I use the word villa loosely, had been photo-shopped.  We had no idea the family lived on the premises, it was in the middle of nowhere, and the promised short walk to the bus stop into town—it wasn’t close.

On another occasion, the owner failed to mention there was a switch to turn on the water heater.  After two days of cold showers, we managed to find her.  Not a well-run villa.

Here’s what I’ve learned.  Either hire a trusted travel agent or use a rental company who is trustworthy and has been vetted.  Or even better…word of mouth.

Tastes and expectations are very different.  I prefer high end with amenities and conveniences.  I don’t expect things to be as they are in the States.  Others want a place sleep and shower.  Some of my friends like to be isolated and hike, bike, and enjoy nature.  I prefer to be near a city and have convenient transportation available since I won’t drive in Italy.

The last two villas I rented along with five other women were superb. Each of us had our own bathroom, bedroom and a beautiful living room for gathering plus a full service kitchen and dining room.  One was close to Florence, and one close to Sorrento.

But each had issues even though they were “perfect.”  The lovely villa in Florence was a ten-minute walk to Florence.  However, the walk was on a winding road with no sidewalk and cars drove like they were in the Indy 500.  Not safe enough for us.  So we depended on taxis which upped our budget to an extra 150 EU per person while we were there.  On the other hand, the owner had a fabulous driver available to us.  And splitting the cost to use him was convenient and comfortable.

In Italy, mosquitoes are a problem.  This past October I was armed and ready for the little critters.  Part of the issue is Italians don’t like screens.  Why?  It spoils the view and interrupts air flow.  For me, I don’t mind looking through teeny tiny holes to see the view.  But this is Italy.  When in Rome….etc.

The villa we rented in October of this year was in Sorrento.  We chose it because of location through a website called “summerinitaly.com”  Luca and his friends were thorough and helpful and spelled out every single thing we might encounter as Americans so we were prepared.  Things like…ants are considered clean in Italy and they are a welcome visitor.  Hmmmm!  Beds in Italy are not the luxurious kind we are used to and may be hard. Italians don’t use washcloths.  (I brought my own.)Washing machines are small and may take up to 3 hours to do one very small load.  Let’s not even mention the dryers.  Better to hang things on racks to dry.  Even better, have the maids do the laundry.

But what was fabulous about this Sorrento villa was the beauty, privacy, location and convenience.  We were in downtown Sorrento but so surrounded by gates and foliage, we could hear nothing.  The gardens were lush.  The owner had a huge meal waiting for us when we arrived plus wine, water, and limoncello.  The table was set with lovely china and flowers from the garden.  Sorrento was a five-minute walk from our front door where we had the pleasure of finding a coffee bar (Café’ MoMo) for our breakfast.

It was ten minutes to the boat docks.  A round trip ticket was available from Sorrento to such lovely places as Positano, Isle of Capri, Naples, Amalfi, Ischia, and many more.

There is another fact that many people don’t realize.  Some villas are listed on multiple sites for different prices.  It’s usually better price–wise to rent from the owner.  But for security reasons, I like having the extra protection of a manager should anything go wrong.  Also, the same villa might have a different name on various websites.  For example, our villa was “Anacleta” on the www.summerinitaly.com website, but the actual villa by owner is called:  Villa La Contessina.

Hidden costs…taxes, deposits, electrical, etc. should be calculated.

Villas afford you the luxury of having a place to meet after a long day, in your jammies, curled up on a comfy couch, having snacks or food in the kitchen, and feeling like you’re in your own home.

Since it’s fresh in my mind, I’m highly recommending the Villa La Contessina.

www.lacontessinasorrento.com

Five bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, and fabulous patios with each bedroom and an outdoor space with amazing beauty.  A lovely garden, and easy walking everywhere.

If I had the money, which I don’t…so don’t buy that plane ticket, I would rent Villa La Contessina for a month and invite my friends to come and stay as they pleased.  We all need to have a dream, right?

Questions?  Leave a message at the end of this blog!

 

 

 

THE MAN AT THE VILLA FONTE

I am happy to announce that my new book, The Man at the Villa Fonte, is available on Amazon and Kindle.  It will be my final “The Man at…” series.

I had the privilege of speaking and presenting my book recently at the Women’s Growth and Empowerment Organization…better known as WEGO.  I want to thank everyone for their support of me as an author.

I am going to be doing some alternate blogs on travel to Italy as well as bits and pieces of my upcoming book, Family Secrets and God’s Grace.  This memoir is based on the stories of my two sets of grandparents…and what secrets can now be uncovered due to the internet and family history sites.

It has been an exciting journey so far.  To look back and discover the pain and difficulties my grandparents endured makes me love, appreciate, and respect them more than ever.

I hope you will join me on these journeys and sign up for my blog.

Janet-3

EDITORS…LOVE THEM OR LOATHE THEM…OR APPRECIATE THEM

Often when I get together with other writers to share, critique, complain, express our frustrations, the conversation inevitably comes back to editors.  If you are traditionally published, an editor is provided for you.  But, even then, they sometimes change things that may not be your voice.  Line-by-line editors are like accountants…detail oriented and precise.

I happen to like my editor.  He not only does line-by-line but concept, telling me to add information, take out too much information, or describe “this.”  Knowing authors who flit from one editor to another, I stick to one.  The more editors you use, the more opinions and thoughts are given.  This builds up frustration for the writer and makes them doubt themselves.

I’ll give a plug for my editor.  I use Dr. Jim Hills exclusively because I trust him.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way by listening to multiple points of view.  Dr. Hills is not only professional, but kind and thoughtful, often spending a lot of time on the telephone, email, etc. talking you through rough parts of your manuscript.

It’s simply my opinion, but stick to one editor, two beta readers, and a friend who loves detail work.  Then trust yourself!