There is no better way to experience a destination than to “live” there and to share a lifestyle, instead of being simple visitors. However, there are many aspects of living here which our guests are often unprepared to face. Here is a list of the most common aspects to be aware of when renting a holiday home in Tuscany and, in most cases, Italy in general.
We are very pleased that you choose the Tuscan country as your holiday destination and we think this is a great place to live. However, if you are not used to country life, keep in mind that farming is the way of life here and it does run on a different clock. Roosters start crowing well before sunrise and, especially in the summer months, farmers are active with tractors and lawn mowers very early in the morning, since they want to avoid the mid-day heat.
Tuscany is a region rich in game (wild boar, roe deer, hares, pheasants, foxes etc.) and hunting is widespread. The hunting season lasts about 4 months, generally from the end of September to the end of January: during this period hunting is allowed for 5 days a week, with the exception of Tuesday and Friday; therefore, hiking in the countryside and in the woods is recommended only during these "safe" days.
Insects & co.
Mosquitoes are everywhere in Italy, and in the countryside you have to pay attention also to wasps and horseflies. All these pesky insects may be active from May through September, depending on the weather: of course their number increases as the weather warms up. Our apartments, here at "Il Colombaio", have all the windows protected with screens however, when you stay outdoors, we suggest you use skin repellents, mosquito coils and, around dusk, clothes to cover yourself (long sleeved shirts, long pants, socks). If you are bitten by a horsefly or a wasp (it may sound unbelievable but horsefly bites are very common), you should immediately apply ice and/or an ammonia based roll-on (e.g. “After bite”) then, according to your level of sensitivity, you may need to use an antihistamine or cortisone cream, and also to take oral antihistamines.
So don't let bugs ruin your holiday: take all the necessary information and precautions, and come prepared.
Don't be surprised if you happen to see little miniature scorpions, outside and sometimes inside home: they are fairly common in Italy and no more dangerous than a bee.
Italian wildlife also includes snakes and most of them are harmless. Italy’s only dangerous snake is the viper, but it is very unlikely to be bitten if you take some easy precautions: wear hiking shoes or boots, socks and long trousers when walking through undergrowth or tall grass, and don’t put your hands into holes and crevices.
Please be advised that here at "Il Colombaio", as well as in many Italian rural areas, the Internet connection may be slower than expected and, in the event of thunderstorms, temporary interruptions may occur. If Internet is your priority, we suggest you search for an accommodation that ensures a reliable and fast connection (cities and towns are generally better served than rural areas).
Please understand that the quality of the internet connection does not depend on us: we share with our guests the same service that the Companies give us. As always happens, rural areas are left behind by technological advancements but, on the other hand, it is precisely this "slow time" that makes the Tuscan countryside so appealing as a holiday destination.
Shopping hours are usually 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm until 7:30 pm, Monday through Saturday. Food shops are frequently closed on Wednesday afternoons. Department stores may stay open all day and until 9:00 pm.
Open-air markets are very popular in Italy, they are lots of fun and offer clothing, leather goods, and household items in addition to food products. These markets usually close by 1:00 pm. Here is a schedule of the largest outdoor markets in our area:
Tuesday: Figline Valdarno
Friday: Terranuova Bracciolini
Saturday: San Giovanni Valdarno
As in large part of Italy, there is no direct house garbage collection in Cavriglia. Everyone brings their own garbage to the main containers that are located on all major streets. Usually there are four different kinds of containers: one for organic waste, one for paper, one for glass, plastic and metal, and one for non-recyclable garbage.
Italians are very energy conscious. The conservation ethic is deeply ingrained and everyone is urged to assist; this can be done by turning off lights when you leave the house for the day, and ensuring that lights are off in unused rooms during the evening hours. All your efforts to avoid waste will be appreciated!
As a consequence of the attention to energy consumption, and in order to avoid misuse, it is common practice in Italian holiday homes to charge for some utilities separately, based on usage. Here at "Il Colombaio", our energy policy concerns air conditioning and heating: as these services are just occasionally needed and their use varies with lifestyles and personal tastes, they are included in the rental price up to a "basic" consumption of 2 units per day. Over this amount they are charged as extra, according to meter readings taken upon guest arrival and departure and based on the current energy cost per unit. The meters are located inside each apartment so our guests can check and manage their consumption at any time.
Please be also aware that water is a very precious commodity in Italy, especially during the dry summer season. We are all urged to practice water conservation.
Dryers are rare in Italian homes and rarely used: we take advantage of the sun and hang our laundry outside. For this reason we usually do the laundry in the sunny days and every home in Italy is provided with outside lines and/or collapsible drying racks.
Coin-operated laundromats have recently become very popular in Italy and can be found in every village. They have both washers and dryers and are open every day, including Sundays. In Cavriglia there is a laundromat (“lavanderia self-service”) in the main square, the address is Piazza Berlinguer 8; it is open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm and the cost is 4,50 Euro washing, including soap, and 4,00 Euro drying. Both washing and drying takes about 30 minutes.
Air conditioning is quite uncommon in Italian homes, especially in the old buildings, as the thickness of the stone walls, tile floors and wooden shutters to keep out the midday sun, helps to keep homes remarkably cool naturally. On summer nights Italians keep their windows open and prefer to sleep with the natural freshness of the night breeze. If you plan your trip for April, May, June or September consider that the weather is pretty mild in these months, and chances are you will use A/C just occasionally during July and August, and only in the hottest hours of the day.
Italian law regulates heat usage in order to control national energy consumption and in our area heating is scheduled between October 15 and April 15. Our apartments here at Il Colombaio are provided with independent heating, this means you may use it when you want. Anyway, in the event of a cold snap during spring or fall and to help control your heating expenses, we always recommend you to come prepared with warm clothes and slippers: our terracotta floors are pleasantly cool in the summer, but they are cold in the other months!
We also suggest you to check the weather forecast before leaving, so you can plan accordingly (sometimes it rains…even in Italy!). These are two of the many web sites that you can check: http://weather.yahoo.com/italy/tuscany/cavriglia713645
Whichever way you decide to spend your holiday here, keep an open mind. Of course not everything will work like it does at home, and you may have to make some adjustments. However, experiencing life in another culture is one of the most rewarding aspects of travel.
We want your holiday to be enjoyable and we encourage you to ask questions so that you know what to expect when you will arrive here, and can be ready for what life in Tuscany is really like.