Thursday, July 22, 2010

The land of few rules - Italy, May 2010

We’ve rented vacation houses around the world. They have many commonalities in terms of the processes involved: security deposit, cleaning fee, which towels can be used at the pool, whether pets are allowed, etc… etc.. Returning to Tuscany after 5 years away, our first rental was just outside the small town of Colle di Val D’Elsa, at the Residenza Antica Canonica. While we unfortunately did not have the address of the house - but had instead the address of the restaurant run by the owner of the house - we eventually did find the restaurant (in a pedestrian area of Colle Val D’Elsa which made our Nav system fairly useless), which led to the owner and a promise to guide us to the house, as soon as he had finished with an important business lunch. Having just landed that morning in Bologna, we were immensely relieved to have solved the house-location-problem, and more than happy to settle in for a late lunch in the delightful garden area of the restaurant. Several plates of pasta later, we followed his black Mercedes out of town and along twisting roads through fields of green wheat with splashes of red poppies.

Once we pulled into the property gates and parked in the road of cypress trees, the owner proudly showed us around the beautifully restored 12th century manor. None of the commonly applied processes surfaced – I waited to hear things about which towels to use where, or when the shared pool closed, or how the security deposit would be charged … and none of it came up. Instead we discussed local wines, frescos in Siena, and the soon to be released IPad. In addition to a stately home in a beautiful location, we were treated to perfectly charming owner, who seemed prepared to behave as if we were his long-lost guests from the United States rather than commercially contracted renters. Long live ‘la bella figura’ and the exquisite politeness and charm of Italians. In the end we paid neither a cleaning fee nor a security deposit, and we (as we always do) treated his home with the same care we would have had it been our own.

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