If you decide it’s a country vacation you want, be sure to remember the following:
The countryside means real country: not a condominium built around a golf course.
The Tuscan and Umbrian countrysides have been largely kept free of pollution and pesticides. Thus, the natural environment is populated by insects and lizards which are natural and necessary for a balanced ecosystem. Their presence has nothing to do with lack of cleanliness. If you can’t deal with the possibility of finding a spider in your bathroom, ask yourself if the countryside (or renting) is what you really want.
Water is at a premium in the countryside, and water conservation is a must. If a party of 8 people insists on all taking half-hour showers each day in August, water will run low and may run out. You will not be happy campers. The Queen of the Netherlands sits in her country house in Tuscany with the same water limitations as everyone else. If you can’t do the same as the Queen of the Netherlands, then you should be in a hotel in Vegas.
The same story goes for electric power. It comes as a surprise to some guests that an Italian castle, for example, was not originally constructed to house American tourists on holiday. The Italian government deliberately limits the amount of electricity supplied to the countryside. Interruptions do occur, particularly in the height of the season, and especially when more than one major appliance is used at once. Turning the dishwasher and a hairdryer on at once can result in electricity cut-off. You must be prepared to adapt to such occurrences with a sense of humor. If you know you are the type who won’t adapt, we will respect you far more if you choose to go to hotel than if you insist on going forward with something you’re inevitably not going to be happy with.
What about window screens? The likelihood is your villa won’t have them, but the situation is changing slowly – glacially slowly. Italians cannot accept the concept of window screens. They argue that it makes them feel claustrophobic. Or that the house would feel too “closed in”. On the other hand, if you’ve ever walked down a street in Rome, say, in the heat of the summer, you can tell where the foreigners live because they’re the only ones with their windows open. All the other windows (and shutters) are closed tight. Go figure.
A bigger problem in a country villa is that the windows do not conform to any standard size, as the building was often constructed centuries earlier. Installing screens would mean special ordering each and every item.
Again, things are changing. If it’s a big deal to you, ask us, as we know what the story is in each case. We try to keep our written descriptions up to date in this regard, but it’s worth asking anyway.