All about Booking
Describe your travel plans and where you might like to stay. Tell us something about yourselves, your prior experience in Italy, ages of the children if any, when you’re planning to go, whether you want a fancy place or a regular place. If you’ve already made some tentative selections, tell us those, too.
We’ll respond, generally within 24 hours, often within moments. Most of the time, we also like to speak with you, in order to have a real give and take, judge whether we’re on the same wavelength, etc. We’ve been in this business over 25 years, and we know what to ask you and what we think you’re not asking us that you should be. We want to be certain you are considering properties which will meet your expectations.
We’ll then send you an email with the following attachments for you to print out:
– a formal letter provisionally confirming your booking and setting out all of the relevant terms and conditions specific to the booking. The letter will, among other things, explain precisely how to make your initial deposit.
– a Booking Form outlining the charges and listing the individuals in your group, which you should complete, sign, date, and return to us within 3 working days by post or, preferably, as a scanned .pdf attachment to an email. When you sign the Booking Form, you do so on behalf the entire group, singly and collectively. In addition, when you sign the Booking Form, you confirm that you have read and accept in their entirety Vacanza Bella’s Rental Conditions, a copy of which we will also attach for your easy reference.
If you are making your reservation a year or more ahead of time, we will sometimes ask for 25% upfront, a further 25% later on, and the balance 60-90 days prior to arrival.
For 25 years, we have not accepted credit cards. We accept personal checks or bank transfers.
If you are making payment by bank transfer, you should FAX or email a scanned .pdf copy of the transaction slip or other document confirming the transfer. That way, we can know to look for its arrival.
We will send you an email confirming our receipt of your Booking Form and payment.
About a month before your actual arrival, we will contact you to discuss the final details of your arrival day and answer any last-minute questions you might have.
If you will be wanting extra services at your villa like additional housekeeping, a cook, advance food shopping, or other such services if they are available, then you should communicate with Vacanza Bella about these as early as you can, indeed during our initial conversations even before booking.
There’s one caveat regarding references: We won’t give you references for “theoretical” purposes. That is to say, we will be happy to have you call a former renter if you’ve chosen a property you want to rent from us, and we’ve determined that it’s available. You are essentially committed to going forward; you just want to reassure yourselves by phoning a reference. Fine.
What we won’t do have you call a dozen former renters of five different properties while you’re simultaneously still shopping other properties from a dozen of our competitors.
City flats are often much more flexible in this regard, though arrival on Sunday can always be a problem no matter where. Often, there’s simply no one around to let you in on a Sunday. Not to mention the requests we get like: “Our plane arrives on Christmas Eve at midnight. How can we get into our apartment?” The answer to such a question is: You can’t.
That’s the rule. But ask us anyway. Especially for city flats any time, but also in low season for country or coastal or lake properties we will consider make an exception. But four nights is our absolute minimum. Please don’t call us asking for a 1-night stay in Assisi for your group of 14 nuns, each of whom wants her own private cell with en-suite chapel.
We don’t have an exclusive relationship with most of our property owners. So often we’re only 95% certain of what’s available when. We leave our owners free to rent through others or on their own. Why? We don’t want the pressure. If we had that pressure, we might feel compelled to “sell” you a place that wasn’t really suited to you, just in order to “fill it up”.
If a place you’re initially interested in isn’t available, maybe there’s another that is. In fact, one of the major reasons for our insistence on having some sort of personal interchange with you means that we may discover that the place or the location you initially asked about wasn’t really right for you anyway, but that another place you had ignored is. Had the unavailability of that first place been known to you, you might have abandoned us a competitor, and we do want at least the chance to demonstrate to you that WE are the ones to guide you to the right place for you. Again, you have our solemn promise that will not place you in a place we feel isn’t suitable, even if taking such a position goes against our mercenary interests.
Prices in euros are also designed to protect YOU. To protect you from prices in dollars or sterling or other currencies, prices which have been inflated to protect the agency from currency fluctuations – and which also potentially give the agency an unfair advantage if currency fluctuations go their way. We don’t want you to be subject to currency adjustments of any sort. The price quoted is the price you pay.
What does “everything” mean? “Everything” means that the villa will be delivered to you clean, with beds made and linens in the bathrooms. Bed linens and bath linens are meant to last the week, on a one-week booking. For a longer stay, linens are changed at the end of each week. That is the basic “everything”.
Generally speaking – but by no means always – electricity, gas, and water charges are included.
Any extras or supplemental charges will be outlined in the confirming materials we send you at time of booking.
Possible extras include:
- A recently introducted government-mandated tourist tax which generally runs 1-3 euros per night per person. We may not have 100% accurate information on this, even at time of your departure, as it’s a constantly changing thing and differs from village to village, region to region.
- Heating and air-conditioning are almost always extra and are metered or charged at a flat daily rate. These cost vastly more in Europe than in North America. So if you go at a time you need to turn on one of these items, please be prepared for the consequences if you aren’t careful with your usage.
- Final cleaning charges. Sometimes imposed, sometimes not. It can seem higher than expected because sheets and towels are normally sent out by the owner for cleaning. In Italy, that costs several times more than in North America. Laundry is often sent out by the owner because of the time it takes for European washing machines to do a load of wash, plus the fact that there are not generally dryers in private homes. If up to 14 sets of sheets need to be washed, dried, and ironed, it’s simply not possible for an owner to take that task on.
- Domestic help. You don’t want to cook for your group of 14? Often, it’s possible to hire a cook to shop for food, prepare it, serve it, and clean up afterward. This costs money, and you are responsible for it. You want advance provisions, or extra towels, or daily maid service, or a babysitter? Those items, too, can often be arranged. But they have to be arranged well in advance – don’t call us a week before your arrival to say that you want us to find you an English-speaking babysitter in the middle of August! And such services have to be paid for. By you. Sometimes even in advance of your arrival, often at time of final payment. Why? In order to guarantee to the service provider that s/he will be paid.
Sometimes, for important villas, the security deposit is substantial, as much as 5000 euros or even more. For a moderately sized upscale villa, it runs 1000-2500 euros. For a city apartment or for a 1- to 3-bedroom accommodation on a multi-unit estate, it is usually 300-500 euros. The precise amount will be specified in your confirmation materials.
This deposit is to be paid IN CASH IN EUROS immediately upon your arrival at the property. Even if your arrival is, as most arrivals are, on Saturday, payment of the cash security deposit cannot be postponed until the bank opens on the following Monday morning. If you’re traveling from Britain or North America and arriving in Italy on the very day you take occupancy of your villa, you must obtain euros in cash before your departure from home, in order to pay the security deposit upon arrival. No exceptions are made to this.
If during your stay, the cost of extra domestic services you employ begin to approach the amount of the security deposit being held, you will be asked to replenish the security deposit IN CASH. This is a very rare scenario indeed, but it can happen under exceptional circumstances.
To avoid it, clients are asked to pay domestic service providers directly, on a daily basis, IN CASH, for their services, in such a way that the security deposit remains intact. How and when should we pay for any extra domestic help we hire?
You should volunteer to pay a housekeeper, for example. Housekeepers in Italy are vulnerable and embarrassed about asking for money. If, for example, you’ve had initial provisions put into the house to be there upon your arrival, you should take the initiative and pay the housekeeper for those provisions – as well as for the time s/he spent in doing the shopping – as soon as practicable on the very day of your arrival. The housekeeper can’t be expected to advance such costs.
If you hire the housekeeper to shop for food on a regular basis and to cook, babysit, launder and iron your personal items, you should settle up with him or her at least every couple of days for out-of-pocket costs and time. Our strong advice is not to wait until the moment of departure to do the accounting.
The owner or caretaker will return your security deposit to you, less extras, on the morning of your departure, and there will be absolutely no flimflam about it. We have known the vast majority of our owners personally for over a quarter-century, and we can assure you that you need not worry about rip-offs.
If you are leaving very early in the morning on your departure day, or if you are vacating on a day earlier than your official departure day, you should advise the owner or caretaker, so that you can effect the process of retrieving your security deposit on the evening before or on whatever day your departure is actually taking place.