You’ve finally decided to reward yourself and take that dream vacation you always wanted – you’re going to rent a villa in Italy! You browse the internet and all the villas you’re seeing look beautiful, so how do you pick the right one? We thought we would offer a few tips on how to pick the right rental villa in Italy and particularly in Tuscany so your holiday finds you living la dolce vita as opposed to la dolce shita!
Tip Number 1 – Air Conditioning
Villa owners will often claim that if you keep your doors shut the villa will stay cool even in hot weather due to the building’s thick walls. The owners may sincerely believe this, but we have learned the hard way that this is often not true. Over the last decade summers have been getting warmer. Especially in the months of July and August Air conditioning is recommended! Many villas have been retrofitted in the last few years with air conditioning, but the owners often charge you for the energy consumption to run this. Check and see if the cost of air conditioning is included in your rental, and if not ask your agent how much this is going to run you – as it often can run in excess of 1,000 Euros per week for a larger villa.
Tip number 2 – Do I need a rental car?
Ask your agent whether you are going to need to rent a car. Because villas were usually built by wealthy people to use as their summer homes away from the congestion of the cities, most of the nicest ones tend to be in rural areas. There are a few nice villas within walking distance to town, but they are generally highly in demand so if this is a requirement for you, we recommend that you reserve your villa up to a year in advance for the prime summer vacation weeks. For those who want to walk to town from a great villa, we particularly recommend Villa Mareli in Montemagno just outside Lucca and La Veduta di Vertine, a short walk from the town square of Gaiole in Chianti.
Tip Number 3 – Does the person I’m renting a villa from actually know the villa?
Make sure that whoever you chose to rent your villa from has actually been to there and knows both the owner and the neighborhood! If the find your villa on a website featuring villas throughout the world, there is a good chance that the company you’re dealing with may be renting you the villa through a middle man, and not only is marking up the price, but won’t know what’s really going on at the villa. If your company represents only villas in Tuscany and has staff regularly inspecting the villas, like TuscanDream does, you will be able to rest easy that your villa is being well maintained, as well as you be able to get tips on the best local restaurants and shops!
Tip Number 4 – Have I seen this villa under a different name?
There are hundreds of websites featuring villas for rent in Tuscany. You visit them and you notice you’ve seen the same villa pictures on these different websites, but the villas have different names. What is going on? The answer is that many villa companies don’t want you to know you to be able to do comparative price shopping, so they will change their villas’ names. At TuscanDream we will not change the names on you – but regardless of which company you chose to rent your villa through you should ask them if they are furnishing you with the actual name of the villa, and if not, what it is. If they are hesitant to give you the information, you might want to reconsider.
Tip number 5 – Pictures can be misleading
We have Photoshop in Italy too! Owners are constantly sending us beautiful staged pictures of villas and asking that TuscanDream represent them on our website. We get excited by these pictures and jump in our car and drive over to the villa, only to discover that the reality is nowhere near as beautiful as the villa itself! Pictures only show you what the villa owner wants you to see before you get there. Ask the agent if they’ve seen the villa and it if the pictures give you a truly accurate feeling for the villa.
Tip number 6 – Don’t over-schedule!
You bought every tour guide book, from Rick Steves to Frommers and you’ve seen there are literally hundreds if not thousands of museums, historical sites, spectacular restaurants, and fabulous wineries to visit. Don’t try and see them all! If you do, you will turn an easy-going vacation into a survival march, there are just too many things to do in one week, one month and even one year! Pick a few things from your bucket-list, for instance a trip to the Uffizi and l’Accademia museum, a trip to Cinque Terre and a Vespa tour to one of our amazing Chianti wineries. But make sure to relax, have a glass of wine or two or three, enjoy the beauty and serenity of your villa, use the swimming pool, maybe even have a group Tuscan cooking lesson, sleep late one day and don’t try to turn it into a military march through Tuscany!