Vacation rentals at il Poggiolo a Codiponte…

All 3 houses of il Poggiolo a Codiponte in the Lunigiana are available for vacation rentals… La  Casa Padronale is the summer residence and is available until the 31st of October. Its season re-opens on the 1st of April 2016. L’Appartamento Azzurro is the spring, summer and fall residence and is available until Epiphany on the 6th of January and it re-opens on the 1st of March 2016. No chilly New Year’s, thanks to a wood-burning fireplace. La Casetta is available through-out the year!!! Steam heat + a wood-burning fireplace. Please contact us at either… forrest@forrestspears.com… or through the custom travel and event planning service, Your Italian Concierge, at… advice@youritalianconcierge.comHope to see you soon!

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Vacation rentals at il Poggiolo…

All 3 houses of il Poggiolo a Codiponte in the Lunigiana are available for vacation rentals…

La  Casa Padronale is the summer residence and is available until the 31st of October. Its season re-opens on the 1st of April 2016.

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L’Appartamento Azzurro is the spring, fall and summer residence and is available until the 30th of November and its season re-opens on the 1st of March 2016, thanks to the wood burning fireplace.

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La Casetta is available all year-round!!! Steam heat AND a wood-burning fireplace too.

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Please contact us at… forrest@forrestspears.com… or through our travel & event planning site of Your Italian Concierge at… advice@youritalianconcierge.com

Hope to see you soon!

Vacation renting business…

IMG_1057The first year You & I decided to rent out parts of il Poggiolo… L’Appartamento Azzurro and La Casa Padronale… we thought 5 to 6 reservations would be a nice start. We had 9. Great. For our 2nd year, we set the bar at 8 to 9 and we got just 5. Not the best of trends. This year I had still hoped for 8 to 9 reservations and to date we have had only 4. Worst still. Well, 5 really but, I don’t count the 2 night stay of an American family with too many XXL suitcases and tablets to book everything beforehand so as not to actually touch Italy. All the others who came were quite wonderful as guests… interesting, engaging and very considerate. We want them all to come back.

The odd thing though about this 3rd year is we have received lots of inquiries, something like 25 to 30. The previous two years we had maybe 10% more to our bookings. And yet, a dearth of paying & staying for 2015.

What’s wrong with my renting Kharma?

What’s wrong with the Kharma of la gente in vacanza?

Many of the emails sent through the various vacation rental websites we belong to are so complimentary… We love your house, it’s so charming and intimate, we wondered if it would be possible for us to stay in La Casa Padronale from July…? I quickly reply with equally friendly terms to any request and, especially to those complimenting me on my house. And, I am often alerted by a squealing cellphone message, since all these websites keep accurate records of how quickly you respond. They also feel so obliged to menace further with monthly statements of how you did. But then… NOTHING.

A friend who rents her house in the village above Codiponte complained to me of the same lack of solid bookings this year too. She went on to hypothesize about a world rife with too much competition and/or the growing nightmare of house trading… someone comes to say in your house while you go to theirs. Ever see the movie The Holiday? Cute, very feel-good and highly romantic about switching abodes. Superb cast of Cameron Diaz… quite a comedienne, Jude Law… sexy, sexy, sexy, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, who I do not understand why he even exists much less stars in movies and, Eli Wallach, Bless his now gone heart, what a great actor. The novelty often does not entail lucking out with a beautifully manicure home in Beverly Hills with abundant Staffing, as in the movie. And the new found custom bodes ill for us who want to earn enough money to pay the ever rising taxes on a 2nd home in Italy.

What I think is many vacation-folk rummaging around on the Internet pick & place several inquiries to see what pops ups best with respect to price and location. Ah yes, the old adage of location, location, location. Doubles the intrigue when price, price, price is added on too.  Ignorance does not help either. The Lunigiana, Codiponte, il Poggiolo are better situated to see Pisa, Parma, Genoa, Florence, Lerici, Versilia, Forte dei Marmi AND the le darn Cinque Terre than any old place down near the heartland of people’s conception of Tuscany, San Gimigniano. Yeah, right. Every 50 yards there are signs for B&B’s, agriturismi, country frigging hotels and their ilk amongst the Disneyland of tall cypresses along a climbing dusty track to a lone chapel. But so… HOT.

Yesterday, a straw arrived which broke my camel’s back. And I will name names… Francois sent me a message through House Trip which arrived at my email’s proverbial door-step at 11:40 AM. He requested an arrival for that same afternoon… yesterday!!! Caspita. I was on my laptop so, I immediately replied and hit SEND at 11:44 AM. I kindly asked if he could let me know ASAP to have time to put to the ready & perfect L’Appartamento Azzurro… wine, cheese & bread included… which he expressly asked for. I HEARD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FROM FRANCOIS!!! Thanks to his inconsiderate behaviour… besides asking the same day, would it be so hard to reply with… Merci beaucoup mais nous avons trovee un’autre maison? I HOPE HE BURNS IN VACATION HELL!!! Thank you. Now, I can let go… ahhhhh! Big gads.

First Guests of the season…

Wouldn’t you know? As the date neared for the arrival of My First Guests of the Vacation Season… a young South Korean couple traveling through Italy on their honeymoon… the weather took a mighty grim turn for the worse… IMG_4447SNOW!!!

I suppose I ought to be content it only did so about 200+ meters above Our Fair Village and not right on us. Instead, we got four days of cold, wind, a snowy air and about 3/100ths of an inch of half-ass precip. I wanted more 02 after seeding the grass but, t’was not to be. Just the cold, the wind, etc. The Cold was My Big Worry. I only have a fireplace to heat L’Appartamento Azzurro. No prob to scaldare the open-space but, the Master Bedroom receives less of that scaldare.

Already anxious, the couple’s arrival was made more so by the huge lack of back-‘n-forth emails experienced with the Aussies, The Brits and the Yanks from last year. Zilch with the South Koreans. A language problem? Perhaps. It dawned on me later that I could’ve Google Translated the English text of an email into South Korean and hit SEND!!! But, the groom did confirm reading the one email with the kind request to call when in Aulla to alert me of their imminent arrival in Codiponte 30 to 40 minutes later. It was a dark & cold night when the groom bounded out of his mega-grand Peugeot monovolume to hug me Hello! I was caught by surprise. A nifty tactic to disarm me of My Worries & Concerns. Greetings to the stylish new bride and up to the L’Appartamento Azzurro we lug their suitcases, I gladly showed-off the house… a fire ablaze in the fireplace… and gave instructions to a nearby restaurant and that was it.

The apartment became their happy camp-ground. It’s always a threatening experience to see what is, actually, My Bedroom, decorated with clothes exploded from an over-packed suitcase, towels draped from open doors and the furniture re-arranged. The couple would leave about 10AM for parts unknown… I had given a list of places to visit nearby, such as, Lucca, Lerici and the like… while late in the afternoon, I would re-start the fire so that when they did return, L’Appartamento Azzurro would toasty warm. They seemed delighted with it all. Even the outlet mall outside Florence they had heard about back in Seoul. In fact, the couple gave me a lovely gift of a fancy sort of Nutella in an adorable glass jar… one to save absolutely for You… thanking me for the best place they stayed in on this trip to Italy. Well, come back… and soon too!!!

They’re gone now. I am waiting for the Cleaning Lady to hit after 2PM for the next onslaught… a Canadian family from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Let’s hope they can stand the chill too. At least there is some sun. Gads.

Spring Cleaning…

Not an veritable explosion of flowers in the Garden al Poggiolo but, there are a good many varieties… from the ???… yellow flowers in the Fish Pond to the camellias on the Courtyard.  I hardly have had time to notice…

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I don’t remember Spring Cleaning being so arduous in years past. This year it has been my Mt. Cavalry. Given the Green Light for bell tempo by the RAI Weather Capitano, I descended with The Dogs to Codiponte and spent a solid week + one day… for me this means a morning AND afternoon bout of physical employment… and, in that time, I cleaned the three cantine, the Esseccatoio… and the oven too!!!… the Stanza dei Tini and its bathroom and the Courtyard. In between, I cut the grass and bush-whacked what the lawn-mower could not reach. Our Little Man & Wife came to severely prune all Our Fruit & Olive Trees and a couple of recalcitrant willows. Their attack left me with four solid days of gathering, cutting & stacking what was felled to be burnt next Winter. Then… PUFF!!!… The Dogs & My Aching Hip & Back returned to Genoa.

Now, The Dogs & I are back again al Poggiolo and, ably accompanied by Our Dynamic Cleaning Woman… The Dogs sun-bathed out on the Courtyard… La Casa Grande & You’s Terra-cotta Kingdom are Spic ‘n Span. Monday, the Dynamica Una will tackle the Appartamento Azzurro to render it spotless too.

While Order & Cleanliness are restored inside, I have assessed the rain-damage & chill- killed bushes and have attempted to make amends by planting 20 new plants. And, I ain’t done yet. There is still to seed the grass, rebuild the ramp and weed till I drop!!!

What is all this fury about beyond eradicating the traces of Our Winter’s Absence? Well… on Tuesday, a South Korean couple arrive to spend four days staying in the entire house. Eee, gads!!! They leave on Friday morning and in the afternoon a family from Edmonton, Alberta Canada drive in. Less Eee, gads ’cause they answered my emails. We are nearly best friends. Once I have survived the week, I will gather Dogs & Myself, return to Genoa and hop aboard Lufthansa for North Carolina to see My Dear & Aged Mom. Gads.

Vacation scams…

Thank God, we are finished with January! February’s running now and is next door to March and Spring! Spring!! Spring!!! However, the new month came in wet. Real wet. This cramps My Two Weimaraner’s Life-style of 4 w-a-l-k-s a day. So they get 2 with the added treat of tussling them into their respective rain-suits… RED for Nina-beena and BLACK for Mr. Moses. They HATE them. Fine. Can dogs catch pneumonia?

In the meantime, I have been manning The Reservation Desk for Il Poggiolo. Not too much coming down the pike. One wrote and asked if a chef could be arranged for a 4-day visit in March. I suggested eating out instead. There’s more local Culture & Atmosphere at a trattoria and the food would be the same, if not better. Nothing beats the ravioli la signora del Bar Cecchi prepares for pranzo! Have not heard back. Another asked if the whole house could be taken for just 2 persons for a week in July. I sent an immediate why-not. Who am I to say what 2 persons would want/need/other with 3,000+ square feet of farm-house on two floors plus garden even though, I must say myself, the entire house is splendidly decorated & furnished. And then, there have been the entertaining and once-a-week Con-mails. Or, that’s what I call them. Usually sent from the UK and written in an extraordinarily creative though grammatically alarming version of English, these con-requests seek sorts of accommodations which have nothing to do with Il Poggiolo like, for example, to house a wedding party of 30 and the absolute need of a swimming pool! These con-folk must pick up My E-mail Address from hacking vacation rental sites rather than paying a kind visit to Il Poggiolo’s website at: http://forrestspears.com/ilpoggioloacodiponte

I cannot figure out what the swindle would be beyond the Terms & Conditions set in the first Con-mail expedited from a Gentleman From Glasgow last year. I thought at first that the request for availability in June for 6 persons plus costs was legitimate. I promptly replied though mildly suspicious from the mail’s bizarre English. 48 hours passed then, a reply. Il Poggiolo’s accommodations were confirmed for 6 persons in June. I sent another e-mail explaining payment options through PayPal, etc. All seemed on its way. 48 hours passed and then, another reply. And what a reply! The Gentleman From Glasgow demanded that I accept not only the payment for the week’s stay at Il Poggiolo to My Italian Bank but, tons more cash too for the guest’s living expenses while staying at Il Poggiolo and for which I would be responsible to make payments to restaurants, bars, etc on their behalf. ??????? What crossed My Mind as I read & re-read the Gentleman’s Terms & Conditions was this might be a scam to funnel money out of the UK… drug money, prostitution money, oil $$$S, whatever… hidden by the common pretext of expediting funds for a vacation rental in a foreign land. Or, with the bank account number, a sly method to hack its balance. Who’s to say? I’m not that smart nor conniving. I sent back what was My Final Communication to the Gentleman From Glasgow reconfirming My Terms & Conditions and only they were to transpire between us, nothing more, nothing less than those. I got one last e-mail from the Gentleman From Glasgow re-demanding his. I read it for its entertainment value and then hit DELETE.

Since then, the Con-mails have been more far-fetched & financially complex and quite frequent too. They all continue to rigorously maintain a complete ignorance of Il Poggiolo as a vacation rental in the most ludicrous English and coupled with Terms & Conditions for some other Financial Time & Space Continuum.

So, there’s been a little fun while I yearn for real people desiring to partake of Il Poggiolo in the Lunigiana’s Delights & Pleasures in an eclectic ambiance to knock on My Cybernetic Door. Any takers amongst you? Gads.

Marketing…

While during the autumn & winter seasons plants grow roots, I too have been with marketing Il Poggiolo for the coming vacation rental season 2014. Last year I found 6 sites on a pay-per-booking basis. T’was not an easy task. Most want the money up front. I do too but, have little recourse. Late in Season 2013, one P-P-B was knocked off the roster…

do you all know about this already?… I knew deep, deep, deep down inside I shouldn’t have signed on the dotted line with that Dutch site from Amsterdam. There were too many nagging points of disaccord cut with big incentives to join. A Big Controversy was an iron-clad exclusivity for bookings made three months in advance. How generous. The agent, after his personal inspection of Il Poggiolo & Codiponte, led me to believe climbing aboard with such terms to join a global network of vacation sites would glitter with $$$. I asked for a pen. Scribbling My John Hancock meant I could take any & all of the three-night minimum stays of Hey!-We’re-coming-to-Italy-next-weekend-on-Ryanair-into-Pisa-and-we-fell-in-love-with-your-place bookings between the proverbial Now and 3 months hence, but not the ones of Hey!-We’re-coming-to-Italy-in-the-fall-and-your-house-would-be-perfect-Are-the-first-two-weeks-in-September-OK? made the January before. Bucking thanks either way, I received no reservations. Well, until one appeared on the boards the very moment I was given a date for my hip-op. I cancelled it. See… it’s important for me to be present for Our Guests. I like to meet them, show them around, explain how to get to the Cinque Terre by train and not get lost or mis-directed… for instance… and make sure they haven’t trashed what was wonderful up in L’Appartamento Azzurro. The annulled booking provoked a fire-storm of telephone calls & emails, mostly from the agent loosing his cut, but a few came galloping at me from Amsterdam HQ for a flagrant violation of the contractual terms. Gosh. I persisted. The agent & HQ gave up, but not before kicking me off their global team of vacation rental owners. Tsk-tsk I thought.

Since last November though, I have gladly found another five to add. But what work! To find such a beast requires frying one’s eyes & brains Googling the Internet for hours & days at a time. I don’t think anyone was born to preform such tricks. I certainly wasn’t. I persisted. Then, for two of the sites, I had to drop My Pants to demonstrate certain items of Privacy which, not even My Dear Aging Mother in North Carolina knows and she’s seen me in My Birthday Suit! Well, not recently and certainly not since I have discovered white wine. Does anyone really need to have even the last 4 digits of My Social Security Number? Fat lot it will ever do me. But really. Then, there were the hours & days of plugging in the myriad info of descriptions, amenities, photos & tags, things-to-see-&-do-&-eat. One of these sites rammed a Trip Advisor Guest Guide up on my laptop’s screen to fill out before receiving the Green Light to go LIVE. Well, trying to hunt & peck places in the out-back of the Lunigiana I normally recommend in person… drawing cute litte, easy to read maps… nearly sent me to a psychiactric ward at L’Ospedale di San Martino in Genoa, Italy. If curious, you may go to: http://forrestspears.com/ilpoggioloacodiponte at the very bottom of the page and have a go at it. Cannot tell you though how proud I am of the folk at Bar Cecchi, the keenest place to park & eat anywhere in the world. Their ravioli are yum-yum.

I have one last site to prepare… the bug-a-boo of the lot since, I must go through a call-center to speak with a signorina for any desired changes/clarifications/modifications. Then, hopefully, I can sit back & watch the bookings roll in. No big roll yet. I have one reservation from a family from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. I can hazard that an Italian vacation will be greatly appreciated by the time of their visit in late-March. Beyond that, only a few nibbles. Let them come though for I am almost ready. Gads.

Vacation websites…

…or, My Winter’s Work. Since returning to My Genoese Home-front, I have begun Googling for new vacation websites to enroll Il Poggiolo for the forth-coming Vacation Season 2014. My Quest for expanding Our Farm-house’s exposure to the vacation market. It may just be lunacy. Lots out there on the net. Too much. And, at the end of many long pre-Christmas days before a laptop, few have become viable candidates. See, I have this preference for pay-per-booking plans. This is often contrary to many of the vacation websites. They’d like their money up-front with a pre-paid ad, customers come what may. I want to pay these sites after they have earned it first. No customers, no $$$. Here’s the lunacy = I think the pay-per-booking makes the sites more responsible. The Google adventure led me to select five prospective sites. Enrolling with three of them became a via crucis…

one was so ridiculously simple to apply & post, I should’ve known. All the site required was to create a logon name & password and off I could trot to post photos, prices, savory blurbs right & left about Il Poggiolo, Codiponte & the Lunigiana. When it came the moment to actually enroll Il Poggiolo with the pay-per-booking option, seemingly slipping cybernetically into another Time-Space Continuum, the site turned punitive. A series of auto-emails, some in atrociously written & spelled English… smacked of fraud. I get 2 or 3 emails a week similarly attired which are sure-fire attempts to rip me off… appeared on the screen… necessary bank details beyond the standard account number & IBAN… required several phone calls to my bank… my passport and a utility bill scanned & sent for investigation by an associate payment company to identify me as the property owner…???… another attached form to be signed & scanned & sent for further investigation by the home company and the completion of an enrollment form for the pay-per-booking plan… a Do-not-pass-go… obligating me to guarantee obedience to the plan’s procedures, which, to me, negates the proper transparency to prices, fees & cancellations. The Big Bug-a-boo was the site’s cancellation policy… a full 100% refund even for a cancellation on the day before. None of the above exists on the 8 sites I have signed up from last year’s adventure into vaca-. But, I did it all, mumbling to myself that I can always cancel the listings. Che sara’ sara’?

another site required a telephone conversation to post any details… baring photos, which I would be given permission to upload only after the telephone call… of Il Poggiolo yet, with a language & terminology akin to a hotel room. It was confusing to hear room spoken to imply house or apartment. I got fed up during one appointment… Christmas Time Nerves, I suppose… and it eventully took three calls to get through the process… and the poor operator/consultant/other pleaded with me not to cancel. I felt bad. So, I made My Amends and am now listed. Whoopee?

and for the last, another site constrains property owners to incorporate all fees & deposits into the one price for nightly, weekly & monthly. Thus, a 3-night stint will cost per night nearly as much as one for 5. And, I said so to Customer Service. The reply was the vaca-site thought it would be better for the clients. I hazarded to write back that the program should be better for both… client & property owner. A reply has yet to grace my electronic mailbox. What will be next?

Tedious, Onerous. Wearisome. I remembered the first vaca-site I had signed-up with, one which required all the Patience of Job = days + days + days of back ‘n forth emails & telephone calls to fathom the site’s IT-system, policy & posting requirements… whatever… and I have still to enjoy the luxury…???… of A Paying Customer.

So, there’s A New Rule for the boards…

sites which are the biggest pain in the buttocks are more than likely the ones which bear little paying fruit.

Live ‘n Learn? 2014 will tell the tale. Gads.

 

 

 

Tedious. Onerous.

Mystified by Guests…

IMG_1064OK… Guest Groups #1 – 5 so far and here is what I have noticed about Guests… much to my mystification… and horror too…

they never open a window… ditto for the shutters… they lock themselves in & on purpose… they turn every frigging light on & leave them on!!!… only one group, the current one, makes their beds… they take showers in the AM AND PM too!!! Is tourism such a dirty pursuit?… towels get hung wherever… they drink tons of water… picking up their clothes, as You would say, is an optional… flip-flops are the key footwear item, regardless of age, nationality or, sex… they get lost, a lot!!!… they love any & all ristoranti, osteria or trattoria I send them to… driving three hours to Volterra & back is nothing. Their dumb Good Luck they do not have me in the care belly-aching to stop for a cappuccino, please!!!… they love the antique furniture, but then, they’re over it… many who inquire about availability through the several websites Il Poggiolo is listed, apparently, do not read what took me hours & hours & hours to post, i.e. Il Poggiolo is not available for a one night stand for a family of 2 adults & 3 kids touring Italy. God invented hotels for that sort of behavior. And, many, again apparently, find using a last name tiring to type in the ill-worded message… and, finally, You & I CANNOT WAIT for the sun to stay out in the all important afternoon hours to read & sunbathe in chaises up on one of five grassy terraces yet, our guests CANNOT WAIT to crowd into a rented FIAT & drive to see things. I suppose that is what Italy is mostly about. I must have it all wrong. Gads.

 

Why I do it…

In a post-Easter visit, some friends & friends of those friends passed through Codiponte on their way home… and it had stopped raining long enough for Question-time, darn-it… one of the friends of friends asked why we put up with the bother to rent-out Il Poggiolo? It seemed to be such a personal AND private home for You & I. Yes but…

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…the bother pays the taxes on the place, I wanted to fire-off. Oddly for me, I didn’t. I managed something else quite unusual for me… I paused to reflect a moment. And, in that 7.2 seconds of keeping My Big Mouth shut, I noticed we all were standing beside this…

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… the little Easter Bunny Hut left by the Irish Paying-guests… my heart melted to reply…

I do it because I really enjoy meeting the people who come to stay at Il Poggiolo.

No foolin’.

The Irish who camped out in L’Appartamento Azzurro for the Easter Rains were a Mom & Dad & two Grown-girls. They were interesting, lively, appreciative, non-invasive and I got a kick out of their lilting accents while we chatted in front of the fire or outside under an umbrella. From the minute I discovered there are two Bar Mario in Aulla… they had accidentally discovered the original one in downtown metropolitan Aulla, whereas I knew only of the Bar Mario at the autostrada exit… until our parting Hugs & Euro-kissing, these four perked up Our Life & Times at Il Poggiolo and in a 4-day downpour. Can’t beat that!

I thought back to My First Paying-guests, an Australian couple from Cairns, four years ago. They were interesting, lively, appreciative, non-invasive and I got a kick out of their Hey, mate! How’re ya? accents. And from the minute I learned Cairns is in Queensland… below what would correspond to the Baja California peninsula, if you could flip Australia to imagine it as the US… until our Good-byes the night before they left… at 5 in the morning!!!… the two graciously allowed me to share something important of myself… Il Poggiolo.

My doors are not being knocked down… yet. But still, I look forward to new Paying-guests. Just this morning, I received an inquiry from another Australian couple wishing to spend a week at L’Appartamento Azzurro, mixing a vacation in the Lunigiana with business in Europe. I quickly dashed off an e-mail to reassure them that… Yes, there’s Internet!

And, yesterday morning, an American woman confirmed her booking for the entire Poggiolo in June. Its posh title is… La Casa Padronale. I had met her last year, while I tackled the weeds on that famous Upper Slope… You said tall grasses attract snakes!!!… and she was tugged by a cousin & summer-time Codiponte resident needing help with, naturally, English-Italian translation. This year she’s bringing her family, who have never seen where & how their Italian relations lived… above Codiponte.

And, again in June, a couple who hale from the same town in North Carolina as My Mother have reserved L’Appartamento Azzuro for 10 whole days of… and get this for expanding one’s horizons… playing golf. Gives me the idea of building a putting green on our Scenic Overlook of the yonder Commie House rather than the mega-public works of a swimming pool… and on a slope too. Anyway, they should be new & different and hopefully fun.

So, come on dear Paying-guests. Can’t wait to meet ya’!!! Gads.