Your dream has finally come true. After many years of dreaming and persuading your partner that moving to Italy is a good idea you finally arrive. With satisfaction you remember handing in your notice to your old boss and laughing when he said “you’ll be back”. Finally you are here, in Belle Italia. Hopefully the Italian subsidiary of your freight company has only misplaced your furniture and hopefully it will turn up in a couple of weeks.
Do you remember your last visit to Italy, the time you were walking around the house that you and your partner decided to rent / buy? Can you remember how the sun shone in through the kitchen window and made the shiny taps and stainless steel sink sparkle? I bet it was a shock when you finally entered the house and realised that not only had they removed all the door handles and light switches but the beautiful kitchen cupboards and sink are also missing. If only they had left a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom you could wipe the tear from your eye.
I really am not exaggerating, Italians view their kitchen cupboards and sink the same way they view their leather sofa or their bed. When they move house, they will take it all with them. What you are buying / renting is a house, this means something that has four walls, a roof, windows and a door. But don’t worry they will leave you the bidet although the chances are you will use it for washing your feet and not your bum.
Last week I was talking with Georgette from Girl in Florence and we decided to write about our experiences of renting houses in Italy so please go and read her post, it is full of sensible advice.
Mrs Sensible and I have lived in Italy for seven years and in that time we have moved house three times, we have viewed quite a few houses in our search, so here are a few of our experiences.
House no 1 Rent 220.00 euros a month
Mrs Sensible chose to rent this furnished house, she took this decision without my input, because she was tired of living in a nunnery with a collection of nuns, whilst I enjoyed eating bacon sandwiches and drinking pints of beer in the UK. Honest, the nuns rented her a cell room for 2 months while I was still in the UK
This first house had one bedroom, a kitchen sink and a little problem with rising damp. The bathroom had been built over the septic tank, which meant the bathroom always had a funky smell to it, regardless of the number of times we scrubbed it with bleach. We loved the little house, for Mrs Sensible is was a short walk to her school and I didn’t have far to walk to the bar. There were two reasons why we moved house, the first was the funky smelling bathroom and the second reason, was the embarrassment of asking friends who had flown over from the UK if they minding sleeping in the lounge on a blow-up bed next to the table..
One afternoon when we were driving in the countryside I suddenly stopped the car and pointed to a house that had the sign AFFITTO nailed to the wall. I demanded that Mrs S phone the woman and ask her for some information.
Mrs S: Hello, we have just seen your house with the for rent sign, can you tell me a little about it.
Crazy Women: It has a bathroom, kitchen, lounge and a bedroom.
Mrs S: So it doesn’t have a second bedroom?
Crazy Woman: How many will be living in my house?
Mrs S: Just me and my Husband
Crazy Woman: So why do you need a guest room?
Mrs S: In case my parents want to visit or if we have friends from the UK to visit.
Crazy Woman: Oh I don’t think I am happy about guests staying.
I dragged Mrs Sensible to look at a beautiful villa in Conzano overlooking the valley, the rent was 550.00 a month which was over the budget we had set ourselves. It was furnished with Sicilian antiques; there were 4 bedrooms, a study, lots of balconies, a large private garden; I was in love. We both walked around the house and discussed if the rent was affordable, I was like a child in a sweet shop, almost skipping with joy. Every time I passed Mrs S I whispered into her ear just tell them yes.
Mrs S started to discuss something with the owners, I knew there was bad news coming, I just felt the atmosphere change.
Me: Just say yes.
Mrs S: The boiler is fired with gasolio.
Me: Just say yes.
Mrs S: The boiler heats air and then blows it around the house through those air ducts.
Me: OK, say yes.
Mrs S: It will cost a fortune to heat this house; this is really a house only to be used as a summer house.
Me: But it is fab, please say yes.
Mrs S: No
One afternoon Mrs S took me to look at a house that she had found in Terruggia. Terrugia is a rather nice village and the rent for the house was €500.00 euros a month. The house had been split up into 2 apartments, one on each floor and the owner kept a private studio on the top floor. The apartment we looked at was on the second floor. As we climbed the communal staircase (I was still thinking about the dream villa) we were shown into the apartment. It was spectacular, the dinning-room and lounge were open plan and furnished with leather sofas, there was a nice kitchen and a small but adequate bathroom. While Mrs S wandered around the kitchen I suddenly realised the absence of anything that looked like a bedroom.
There was a very impressive wooden wardrobe in the lounge and I opened the door to see if the bedroom door had been cleverly disguised. Nothing, it was just an empty wardrobe. I walked over to Mrs S and said “I don’t want to appear stupid, but where will we sleep, I can’t find any bedrooms.
Mrs Sensible: My husband has just asked were the bedrooms are.
Owner: Ahh! You are in the day side of the house; let me show you the night side of the house.
Me: What did he say?
Mrs S: Wait!
The owner walked to the front door and opened it; he walked across the communal staircase and unlocked another door.
Owner: The night side of the house is through here, look there are 2 bedrooms and a shower room.
Me: You are kidding me! So when I want a glass of water in the middle of the night, I have to go in search of the keys to open 2 doors and walk naked across a communal staircase to get to the kitchen!!!
Mrs S: You will have to wear pyjamas.
Me: I don’t wear pyjamas.
Mrs S: You will have to put on your dressing gown.
Me: And if I forget and the neighbour sees me streaking across the staircase?
Mrs S: PN!!!
I think part of my dislike for the house (a really small part) was because I wanted the magnificent villa with the Sicilian furniture and diesel fired central heating.
The third house we looked at was frankly just amazing. We were made to stand outside in the rain while the owner showed some other viewers his house. While the rain ran down my neck I asked Mrs S how much the rent on the house was. €600 a month she told me. Wow it must be fantastic.
We entered the house and walked down a hallway, there was a sofa in the hallway that we had to navigate around. The hallway opened into a good sized dining room complete with a very large table. There was a very, very small kitchen through a door. As we stood in the kitchen I showed Mrs Sensible how I could touch all four walls without moving my feet. Stop it she told me, there will be another kitchen elsewhere maybe upstairs.
I walked back to the hallway and sat on the sofa.
Owner: (in Italian) Ah you have found the lounge.
Me: Sorry I don’t understand, I am English.
Mrs Sensible: She said you are sitting in the lounge.
Me: (hysterically) ask her where the kitchen is.
Mrs S: Can you please tell me where the kitchen is.
Owner: It is small but it is through that door….
Me: Let’s go home.
We went upstairs and viewed a large bathroom, down a corridor there was a door that led to bedroom number 1, on the other side of the bedroom was another door that led into bedroom number 2, and if you walked through that room there was yet another door leading to bedroom number 3.
Me: This is bizarre, if we have guests in bedroom number 3, they will have to walk through two bedrooms if they need to visit the bathroom. This house is just a mass of corridors with no proper rooms.
Owner: What did your husband say?
Mrs S: He said you have a very nice house.
To this day I am not sure how they fitted three large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and only a corridor and a dining-room downstairs.
To end this post I want to direct you to one of my earlier posts on the hazards of owning a summer house in Italy.