Sunday, June 9, 2013

Helpful hints

Why am I still writing in this blog when I'm not in Italy anymore? My last entry from Italy was sitting in Trattoria Dardano taking pictures of my empty plate where I wrote "The end"...... The reason is because it's too soon to give it up, I'm having nightly, vivid dreams of being there which is kind of brutal considering the obvious-I'm not actually in Italy......

This kind of sucks because I'm constantly trying to figure out how I can get back. Go work on another farm (over my dead body), e-mail every agriturismo in Italy asking if I can stay for free if I write about them in my blog, scour the internet looking for the cheapest but most decent accomodation possible which would be a great idea for a blog by the way-except I'm supposed to be here looking for a job (which is how I was able to take 3 weeks to roam around Italy in the first place) and I have to think about Toby. I would love to bring him with me but the idea of him having a panic attack in the bowels of a plane for 8-9 hours doesn't seem very appealing to me.The idea of him running around Possum Place with a new girlfriend seems like the better option (sorry Frances).

Until I figure out how to get back I keep playing the lottery like a maniac. I've somehow convinced myself that I will win, I'm sending positive thoughts out into the universe and I can only hope it will pay off in the end.

Until then going down memory lane is the closest I can come to actually being back there. I never really took the time to recap all of my advice, useful lessons and mistakes properly and all in one place, so here goes:

  • When you get the crazy idea of working on a farm thinking that it will be the coolest thing ever and a great learning experience, think again! You need to be realistic about your standards of cleanliness and ask to see pictures of the house when you notice that the only photos of the house are from far, far, far away. Alarm bells should have been ringing but the beautiful country side won me over. Imagine how I felt after flying for 8 hours and driving ,completely lost, for 5 hours and the first thing I see is a moldy mattress leaning against the wall near the front door. I'm not a diva but I do expect to sleep in a clean bed-meaning the sheets should be cleaned before new guests arrive and if a pillow is stinky from hundreds of other dirty heads-I'm thinking the pillow should maybe be thrown away or disinfected.  That's just my opinion.....
  • Don't be tricked into renting the cheapest car possible. I usually rent my cars from Maggiore and I've always been very happy with them. Their prices are reasonable and they were always very professional and reliable.  This time though I found a cheaper rate with Locauto, they did end up charging the balance however after I brought the car back due to some fine print that I missed-in the end I paid more than if I would have had I stuck with Maggiore. There's also the obvious, check the car carefully for bumps and scratches before driving off.  Driving in Italy is a little insane and not for the faint of heart-your car will amost certainly have a few nicks when you pick it up so be careful that you're not blamed for them.
  • Before leaving I downloaded the "H" hotels app on my iphone and I used it constantly.  It's how I found my hotel in Cortona and I loved it there. I would have never found this hotel on my own. You can even find hotels near you that have availability for that night which is great to have when you've been driving back to a farm for 6 hours and are asked to leave when you finally arrive at 6pm and are completely traumatized by a dog on the higway incident.
  • Regardless I was so lucky because I stayed in the most amazing hotels when I left that place.
  • Agriturismo LeSelve (Communanza):  Amazing.  This is a 15th century hamlet that has been brought back to life and turned into an agriturismo. I would love to be there during the summer as there's an amazing pool that I never had the chance to use.  The owners are sweet and quite funny, making sure you leave with a jar of home made jam. The location was amazing as there's a grocery store at the end of the winding road so you can easily pick up any necessities you may need (wine)! I was in shock when I paid my bill, I mean I knew it was low season and that I was the only guest staying there so my room was only 40 euros per night but I was eating at the restaurant every night and my week only cost 283 euros. That means my meals ended up costing an average of 9 euros including a half litre of wine. On top of everything I'm not exaggerating when I say that young chef is amazing, I wish I had asked his name-those delicious pizzas coming out of that kitchen!!!!!
  • Villa Marsili (Cortona): I originally had planned to stay for 3 days and ended up staying a week. I mean really! A 4 star hotel for $63 canadian a night? This hotel was immaculate and I fell in love with the staff. They all knew my name! How many hotels do you know where the staff takes the trouble to know your name? How great does it feel when the receptionist is so happy to see you she loudly yells out " hello Leen" the minute you walk through the door. Don't even get me started on the beautiful breakfast buffet or the evening 5-7 where you could have a glass of red with some cute little crostinis. I really loved it there, the location was so easy to find and I always found parking. It was the perfect home base to take off and discover other little Tuscan towns.
  • Palazzo Coco (Maori): A little hotel up on the side of the mountain in Maiori. Antonio is a young guy (with a big heart) who owns and cleans the rooms himself and also happens to make the best cappucinos ever. He even woke up at 5AM to pick us up in Positano. I loved the beautiful view from our little patio and anyone who has been to the Amalfi coast before knows that it's almost impossible to find a hotel for 70 euros a night. Just make sure you are in shape.  The stairs are a killer!
  • If you have the guts, don't book any hotels before leaving. I did this one year and my friends all thought I was insane. It was amazing! I never really had a plan of where I would end up. I just drove the car and pulled over when I would see a sign that looked familiar. On this trip I did alot of driving through Tuscany,mostly because I was always lost ,but all I saw were Agriturismos after Agriturismos.  They're everywhere!  Even during high season you will have no problem finding a room. It also gives you the freedom to discover a small hill top town, like I did with Orvieto one year.
  • Last piece of advice! Try to learn some basic Italian before you go.  The locals really appreciate it when you make the effort. You need to remember that you're in a foreign country and not everyone speaks English-especially if you decide to venture out to more remote areas.

Beautiful Amalfi coast