Tuscany Villa Rentals at Toscana MiaTuscany Villa Rentals at Toscana Mia

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Tuscany Villa Rentals - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Tuscany Villa RentalsMany of the questions below pertain to Lucca and the northern part of Tuscany, because the greatest concentration of villas available is in that general vicinity.

The "General Villa Rental Question" section, however, pertains to all Italian villa rentals available through Toscanamia, irrespective of location.  Choose an area of interest for Q & A's pertaining to each topic.

General Villa Rental Questions

  • Where is Lucca in Tuscany and why are there so many villa rentals available there? VIEW
  • Is Lucca a good place to take kids? VIEW
  • When is the best time of year to rent a villa? VIEW
  • What is the minimum period of time that I for renting a villa? VIEW
  • How far in advance do I need to book the villa I choose? VIEW
  • How much do I have to pay in order to book a villa in advance VIEW

Questions Regarding the Villa Descriptions

  • Do all bathrooms have at least a sink, toilet and shower? VIEW
  • What’s the difference between bathrooms described as "en suite" versus those simply described as "bathroom"? VIEW
  • How many bathrooms will we need? VIEW
  • What is a "French" bed? VIEW
  • I have been to European hotels where “twin” beds are placed right up against each other. Is this common in Europe? VIEW
  • What do I do after I’ve picked the villa I want from the inventory? VIEW
  • Would any villas be available to groups smaller than the number indicated at a lower rate? VIEW
  • Are children welcome to stay in villas? VIEW
  • What is “Villa Rental Insurance” and why is it mandatory? VIEW
  • When is the balance of the payment due? VIEW
  • In addition to the villa rental price, will I incur any unexpected or “hidden” costs? VIEW

About the Villas and Grounds

  • How do we get there? VIEW
  • Will someone be there to show us around? VIEW
  • Do we really have to bring our own towels or just pool towels? VIEW
  • What about kitchen equipment? VIEW
  • Do most villas have outdoor eating areas and/or barbecues? VIEW
  • Are most villas equipped with washer/dryers? VIEW
  • Do all properties have a telephone? VIEW
  • Will we have access to the Internet? VIEW
  • What if something breaks or needs repairing during our stay? VIEW

Services and Extras

  • Is housekeeping service included? VIEW
  • How much does additional housekeeping cost? VIEW
  • At what time do housekeepers typically show up? VIEW

Getting Around

  • Is it possible to rent bicycles? Or is it suicidal to ride on the Italian roads? VIEW
  • Are helmets required? VIEW
  • Is renting a car necessary? VIEW
  • What about hiring a driver? VIEW
  • Is it easy to get around by train? VIEW

About Tours and Sightseeing

  • We’d like to hire a professional tour guide. How do we go about doing that? VIEW
  • What are some of the “must see” sights in the Lucca area? VIEW
  • Are there beaches in the vicinity? VIEW

Shopping and Dining

  • What are the best shopping areas near Lucca? VIEW
  • I heard that restaurant dining in Italy is now quite expensive…$200 per couple for a casual dinner with one bottle of wine. Is that true? VIEW

Other Things You Need to Know Before You Go

  • What is the weather like? VIEW
  • What are some good wines in Tuscany? VIEW

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General Villa Rental Questions

1. Where is Lucca in Tuscany and why are there so many villa rentals available there?

The Lucca area in Northern Tuscany is one of my favorite places. Geographically, Lucca is about 45 minutes from Florence and 20 minutes from the beaches of the Italian Riviera. It’s also in close proximity to the Carrara marble quarries in the Apuan Alps and the Cinque Terre in Liguria

Since the Middle Ages, Lucchesi (people from Lucca) have been renowned merchants, bankers and businessmen. In fact, Lucca is sometimes referred to as the "Switzerland of Italy," because, even during the turbulent times of Medici rule in Florence, the Lucchesi remained focused on commerce and largely managed to avoid being drawn into local conflicts among the other warring Tuscan city-states. While waging perpetual war eventually impoverished the Florentines, the Lucchesi were instead able to retain most of their wealth, much of which they chose to spend on constructing large, palatial homes. The wealthiest Lucchesi built stately mansions on vast territories just outside the city walls in order to have self-sustaining farms and summer homes. In later centuries, as transportation improved, they built magnificent summer villas away from the city—in the hills above Lucca. Many of these properties have survived over the years, and most have been recently updated and refurbished. There is a large inventory of these restored villas available for weekly or monthly rental.

Is Lucca a good place to take kids?

Lucca—and Italy in general—is great for families because Italians love and welcome kids. There is something there for all ages.

When is the best time of year to rent a villa?

Not surprisingly, availability is better in Spring (March, April, May) and Fall (September, October, November) than in Summer (June, July, August), however May, September and October are becoming almost as popular as the Summer months. Many villas are unavailable for rental during the Winter months (December, January, February) with few exceptions.

What is the minimum period of time that I for renting a villa?

Most villa rent by the week (Saturday to Saturday). Some villas have a two-week minimum, although the published prices are almost always quoted at a weekly rate. So, as you review the price list, bear in mind that your cost would be double the published cost for a two-week stay. In other words, a villa listed for “$3850 USD” would actually cost you $7700 for a two-week rental.

It is also important to note that all villas rentals run from Saturday to Saturday only—no exceptions. If, for example, you were to arrive on a Tuesday, your rental period would still begin on the Saturday before, and you would be charged accordingly.

How far in advance do I need to book the villa I choose?

Your best selection will be proportionate to the amount of lead-time you give yourself. If you’re interested in going during the summer months, you should try to book at least 8-9 months ahead. (It is not uncommon for people to reserve a year in advance, especially if they are planning to go in July or August, the busiest months of the year.)

While it still may be possible to find properties only a few months in advance of your trip, be aware that your selection will be very limited. You’ll probably have better luck if you can be somewhat flexible with regards to your time frame and/or are willing to split your time between two properties (if you plan to stay for more than one week).

How much do I have to pay in order to book a villa in advance?

A non-refundable deposit of 30% of the property rental price must be received and confirmed by the villa rental agency in order to secure the rental.

If I book in advance, but the price for the villa rental rate goes up in the interim, will I be responsible for the additional amount? If so, is there any way I can protect myself against a larger than expected price hike?

The new villa rental rates for the following year are published in December of each year, and yes, you would be expected to pay whatever the updated published price is for the villa you booked. They rates aren’t automatically increased annually, but when they are, the amount of the increase is usually around 10%. Recently most villa rental agencies have introduced a “lock-in rate” option whereby if you send them a 30% deposit based on the current price plus 5% to hold the property, they guarantee that you will pay no more than 5% more for the villa rental next year. I recommend this option to all my clients, because it limits their risk at no additional cost. The way it works is that if there were a 5% increase or less in the price of the villa rental, you’d pay only the actual published price. In other words, if the rate were to stay the same next year, you’d pay nothing extra (and the extra amount you paid with your deposit would be applied towards the total villa rental cost.) If, however, if the price were to increase by more than 5%, you’d be locked in at a 5% maximum increase over this year’s price. Even if the updated published rate turned out to be 10 or 15 % more than this year’s rate, your increase would be limited to 5%. 

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Questions Regarding the Villa Descriptions

Do all bathrooms have at least a sink, toilet and shower?

Most bathrooms have a sink, toilet and tub/shower. If there is no tub, the description says, “Shower Only.”

What’s the difference between bathrooms described as "en suite" versus those simply described as "bathroom"?

First, keep in mind that these villas are homes, not hotels, and do not necessarily have a bathroom for every bedroom—although some do. The bedrooms that include bathrooms within the room are described as "en suite" bathrooms, while others are simply described as "bathroom."

How many bathrooms will we need?

You need to decide first whether you want each bedroom to have an “en suite” bathroom inside the bedroom (as in a hotel room) or if it would suffice to have a bathroom that is dedicated to a particular bedroom (e.g., down the hall, across a hallway). Just be aware that most of the smaller villas do not have all “en suite” bathrooms. While it would be ideal for each room to have its own bathroom, this is hard to find and, and usually more expensive. You might want to compromise by choosing a property that has one less bathroom than the number of bedrooms, with the understanding that there will be some shared facilities.

What is a "French" bed?

A “French bed” is a bit narrower and shorter than an American standard-size full bed.  (Not recommended for basketball players.)

I have been to European hotels where “twin” beds are placed right up against each other. Is this common in Europe?

I have seen rooms with twin beds arranged various ways—with beds pushed up together to beds positioned in opposite corners of the room. The way the beds are placed in a room is determined more by room size and how the other furniture is situated, than by custom or country.

What do I do after I’ve picked the villa I want from the inventory?

Please email me the names of your favorite three properties and indicate your order of preference. We’ll check on the availability for the dates requested and get back to you with the information (and alternate recommendations, if necessary).

Would any villas be available to groups smaller than the number indicated at a lower rate? For example, if they can accommodate 8-10, would they consider a group of 5 at a discounted price?

The short answer is “no,” unless it is specifically indicated on the price list. For example, Villa Clara can shut off one floor and become a villa for 12. Villa Igea can close off one section and accommodate eight. Please be aware however, that even where indicated as an option, there may still be restrictions depending upon whether you are renting during high or low season.

Are children welcome to stay in villas?

Almost all of the properties are “child- and family-friendly.” However, there may be a few exceptions (specifically among the very high-end properties). If you have questions regarding a specific property, contact us and we can make sure that kids are welcome there.

What is "Villa Rental Insurance" and why is it mandatory?

The villa management companies require travel insurance for your own protection. The reason for getting travel insurance is so that you are covered for the expense of the vacation in case you need to cancel during the period when your money is no longer refundable.  Below is a “Cancellation” clause from a typical villa rental contract:

CANCELLATION BY YOU

It is agreed between us that should you wish to cancel all or any part of your booking, or that the booking is cancelled by us due to non-payment, then we shall be entitled to the following percentage of the holiday cost:

  • 8 weeks or more before departure: 30% (deposit amount)
  • 8-6 weeks before departure: 50%
  • 6 weeks or less before departure date: 100%

Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive and I can help you with that if you like. I have my own travel site where you can get quotes. It is www.toscanamiatravel.com. Click on “Extras,” at the top bar and look for "PURCHASE INSURANCE" under “Travel Resources. Fill in the blanks and you are on your way.

There are many travel insurance companies to choose from as well. Whatever you do, please use a very reputable insurance company such as TravelGuard or AIG. The cheapest is not always the best. Please make sure to read the fine print very carefully.

I had a friend whose family’s electronics (laptops, cell phones, iPods, game players, etc) were stolen while on vacation in France. When they went to make their claim they discovered that they had only $500.00 coverage in aggregate for electronics. There are two lessons to be learned here: 1) read your insurance carefully and: 2) don’t take lots of valuables with you when you travel.

I never used to buy travel insurance and now I always do when I take a trip. I’ve had people on my tours with emergencies—from life threatening medical situations to lost luggage—and those 24-hour numbers have been a Godsend.

When is the balance of the payment due?

The balance is due eight weeks before the rental date. If the balance is not received by the due date, the villa management company reserves the right to cancel the booking, and retain the deposit. For bookings made within eight weeks of departure date, you’ll be required to pay the full amount at the time of booking.

In addition to the villa rental price, will I incur any unexpected or “hidden” costs?

The only charge I add is $100.00 to cover the wire transfer costs the bank charges me.

Most properties include basic housekeeping services (typically 2-3 times a week), final cleaning, water and electricity, however you will be required to pay extra for the following:

  • Heating costs (you should also be aware that heating costs are expensive in Italy; more so than other countries)
  • Air conditioning
  • Additional housekeeping services (over and above those included with villa rental)
  • Babysitting services (should be requested in advance and payable at the end of each day the services are used)
  • Food, Beverages, Supplies

You are responsible for all food, beverages and basic supplies (toilet paper, soap, etc), but you can arrange to have the property stocked with some basic necessities for you, if you don’t have time to stop at the local supermercato (supermarket) before you get there. There is a small fee associated with this and it varies from property to property.

Incidentally, you can find some great wines at the local supermarkets and wine merchants at bargain prices. Wine is one of the few products that are still relatively inexpensive in Italy. You can still find a great “Brunello,” for half the price of what you’d expect to pay for it at home.

  • Cooks and meal service

While a few villa rentals include the services of a cook, most don’t. If you want to hire a cook for one, some or all of your meals, this needs to be arranged in advance. Payment will be due at the end of each day (or meal) in EUROS. There are many excellent cooks available, and prices typically vary from about 25 to 45 EUROS per adult per meal (less for children between 6 -10). The price of the meal will depend on the cost of selected ingredients, complexity of preparation and number of courses you request, and also includes food service and clean-up. These cooks use only the best and freshest local ingredients to make their meals, so it’s always a treat. “How fresh?” you ask. Let’s put it this way, if you have an omelet, the chicken that laid the eggs may be across the road (and that’s no joke.) By the way, for those properties where the rental rate includes the services of a cook, you will still be responsible for the cost of food and beverages.

  • Security and telephone deposits

A security deposit is payable upon arrival at the villa. You can find the security deposit amount for each villa listed on the price list. The deposit is required to cover the cost of any damage or breakage to the property or its contents during your stay. This is standard procedure for all villa rentals and the deposit amount will be returned to you on the morning of departure. The only time they retain all or part of the deposit is if there has been actual damage to the property.

IMPORTANT: The deposit prices are quoted in EUROS and you will need to hand over the deposit amount in cash upon check-in. You may be refused entry to the property if you do not have the required cash deposit amount.

Also, if the property has an outgoing telephone, you will be asked for an additional deposit of 250 EURO (also in cash). This amount—less any phone meter charges incurred—will be refunded when you leave.

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About the Villas and Grounds

How do we get there?

Once the villa management company receives your final payment, you will be sent detailed driving directions to the property. For more information regarding car rentals, or getting there by train or taxi, see below.

Will someone be there to show us around? I am concerned about learning how everything works (appliances, phone, coffee pot, etc.)

The house will be available after 4 p.m. Saturday. Someone will be there to let you in, give you the keys, show you how everything works and answer any questions you have. That person will also collect your cash rental deposit and phone deposit, if applicable. You’ll be given two sets of keys. (This seems to be a standard rule.)

Do we really have to bring our own towels or just pool towels?

Most guests are able to use and wash the regular towels provided by the villa. I have never brought pool towels, as they are too bulky to pack. You can easily find reasonably priced towels at an outdoor market, supermarket or store.

What about kitchen equipment?

Most villas have the typical kinds of utensils, pots, pans and other equipment that you would expect to find in an average Italian kitchen. Be aware however, that appliances such as microwaves, drip coffeemakers, toasters, or alas, even panini presses, are not usually found in Italian kitchens. If the villa has a dishwasher, it’s usually mentioned in the property description.

Do most villas have outdoor eating areas and/or barbecues?

Many do. If they do, that information is usually mentioned in the property description.

Are most villas equipped with washer/dryers?

All properties have washing machines, but in Italy dryers are rare. Wash is usually dried on the line…under the Tuscan sun! Incidentally, I have often found that if you offer the housekeeper a little extra compensation, they are willing to wash, dry and iron for you. (They typically charge somewhere between 12-15 EUROS/hour for additional services you ask them to perform.)

Do all properties have a telephone?

Some do, but not all. If there is a phone, when you leave you’ll be charged for any phone meter charges incurred. The amount will be deducted from the 250 EURO phone deposit you gave when you checked in and any remaining amount will be refunded when you leave.

If there is no telephone, the local villa agent/representative's will usually allow you to use their phone or fax in case of emergencies only. In addition, nowadays many cell phones can be used internationally as well. Check with your cell phone service provider before you leave, to make sure that your phone can be used abroad and for dialing instructions from overseas.

Will we have access to the Internet?

A few villas have dial-up or DSL connections, and WiFi is available in limited areas. If Internet access is critical to you while you are in Italy, please let your villa rental agent know at the outset so they can steer you toward the Internet-equipped properties.

What if something breaks or needs repairing during our stay?

All properties are maintained and managed by local property managers. You’ll be provided with a phone number for a local English-speaking person who can assist you with any problems you may encounter.

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Services and Extras

Is housekeeping service included?

Most properties include a final cleaning service. Weekly or semi-weekly housekeeping services are included with some villa rentals. You can check the property description for details. A few properties charge extra for a final cleaning.

If we’re willing to pay for additional cleaning services, can we make arrangements to have someone come in more frequently than regularly schedule? If so, how much will it cost?

Additional maid service may be arranged in most locations. Typically there will be an hourly charge of approximately $12-15/hour.

At what time do housekeepers typically show up?

Housekeepers show up at different times, depending on property size, location, their schedules, etc. They usually try to schedule housekeeping during times they think guests will be sightseeing. You can ask the rental agency representative who meets you when you arrive about the housekeeper’s schedule.

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Getting Around

By Bike

Is it possible to rent bicycles? Or is it suicidal to ride on the Italian roads?

Yes, it’s possible to rent bikes in most places, and you need to be as careful when bike riding in Italy as you would anywhere else. As to whether it’s more dangerous, I’d have to say that since bike riders are more common there, and motorists are used to sharing the roadways with them, I actually feel a bit safer riding a bike in Italy than I do in the US. By the way, if you are near Lucca, you might want to rent bikes to ride around the city walls. (Cars aren’t allowed on the road on top of the city walls, so it’s a very safe, fun way to explore the city.) Bike rentals are available by the hour or by the day.

Are helmets required?

Yes, all European countries require bicycle helmets.

By Car

Is renting a car necessary?

If your rental is in a remote, quiet location, the answer is “yes.” While taxi and bus service may be available, public transportation is notoriously sporadic and unreliable in the countryside. If your rental is in a city, or within its immediate vicinity, you can get around very well on public transportation.

What about hiring a driver?

You can make arrangements to hire a driver by the day, week or even the whole duration of your stay. If you plan to spend a day touring the Tuscan hill town wineries, hiring an experienced, native to navigate the narrow, winding roads for you might be the best and safest way to go…Drivers may be booked in advance through the local villa rental or tour agency. 

By Train

Is it easy to get around by train?

The train service in Italy is outstanding and reasonably priced…as it is in all of Europe. You can catch a bullet train and get to Milan, Rome or Venice in about three hours from either Florence or Lucca. For more information on Italian train service, including schedules and prices visit their English-language website: http://www.trenitalia.it/en/index.html

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About Tours and Sightseeing

We’d like to hire a professional tour guide. How do we go about doing that?

Your villa rental agency may be able to recommend some expert local guides. I would also be happy to suggest some top notch travel agencies and tour guides who have helped me with my past group tours throughout Italy. The cost for a personal, professional tour guide is typically in the range of 110-130 Euros for ½   day, payable the day of the tour.

What are some of the “must see” sights in the Lucca area?

In addition to Lucca, Florence, Pisa, the Tuscan countryside and the Versilian Riviera, other places you may want to visit include the nearby Cinque Terre or world-renowned Carrara marble quarries.

If you’re an opera lover, you’ll be interested to should know Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca and there is a famous opera festival held annually during the month of July in Torre del Lago Puccini, the nearby town where he lived.

Are there beaches in the vicinity?

Some of the most famous and exclusive beach resorts in Italy are near Lucca (about 20 minutes away on the Riviera della Versislia). However, you should be aware that most beaches are privately owned by “Bagni” or private beach establishments.

A very exclusive area such as Forte dei Marmi is very expensive but has wonderful, upscale establishments.

More moderately priced/family-friendly Viareggio offers a variety of bagni for the whole family.

An example for a "Bagno" that would work for both adults and kids is Bagno Teresita in Viareggio. It has been recently remodeled and includes a spa, a restaurant and a pool. Plus it is in a good location at the north end of the Passeggiata (the promenade with all the shops and cafes). The clubs closer to the pier and on the other side of Viareggio (Darsena) are extremely chaotic and the umbrellas are really close to each other.

If you are intent on finding a public free beach, there are some free stretches of beach in each town.  Please ask the local tourist office in Lucca or in the town itself for indications.

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Shopping and Dining

What are the best shopping areas near Lucca?

There are two central shopping areas in Lucca—along the Via Fillungo and the market place inside the Piazza Anfiteatro (built on top of the ruins of an old Roman Amphitheatre). Don’t be surprised if you find the prices in Lucca a bit lower than in other Italian cities. Since the Middle Ages, the Lucchesi have established their reputation as shrewd bargainers and careful shoppers throughout Europe. As a result, goods (and even some restaurants) are often priced more competitively in Lucca. There are also very exclusive shopping districts in the nearby beach resorts of Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio, and the spa town of Montecatini.

Restaurants…

I heard that restaurant dining in Italy is now quite expensive…about $200 per couple for a casual dinner with one bottle of wine. Is that true?

It depends on the meal. I had some friends go to the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence and spend $700-800 per person. The best known restaurants in the more touristed cities are expensive. However there are so many wonderful restaurants in the less traveled places that are delightful and still a good deal. I checked on the internet and found a couple of sites that might be of interest to you:

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Other Things You Need to Know Before You Go

Europe is expensive

While there are still bargains to be found but it takes more hunting than it used to. In large part it’s because the Euro is currently worth $1.50 USD, and just a few years ago it was worth roughly the same as the dollar. My best advice is to check prices of restaurants, beach resorts, tours, etc., before you go, so that you won’t be unpleasantly surprised when you get there.

What is the weather like?

The weather is actually comparable to parts of California, though it’s somewhat colder in winter and hotter in the summer. Here is a website I found that talks about the weather in Tuscany.

If you need to convert the degrees from Celsius, here is another website for you.

What are some good wines in Tuscany?

Many books have been written about Tuscan wines (and I am certainly not a wine expert) but here are a few of my favorites:

The king of wines (rated one of the top 5 in the world) is Brunello di Montalcino, a robust red.  1999 and 1997 and 2001 were good years. This wine is rich in tannins and ages very well. Another red I enjoy a lot is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano There are a lot of excellent Chiantis at great prices from different parts of Tuscany.  Just be sure the label reads "DOCG."

Tuscany is a mixture of many microclimates so wines that are made a few miles apart can taste very different. The three most important wines (mentioned above) are all made from the Sangiovese grape but all taste very different.

Rosso di Montalcino is also quite good. It is a younger version of Brunello.

There is also a group of modern, expensive wines called the Super Tuscans. These come from experimentation with different grape varieties. A couple of examples are Solaia and Tignanello.

A well known white wine is Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

There is a local wine area near Lucca called Monte Carlo where a lot of winemakers are producing good wines.

The famous dessert wine in Tuscany is Vin Santo.  It is traditionally served with Cantuccini (small cookies) that you dunk in the sweet wine.

A great site to learn about Italian wines is at Weimax Wines and Liquor in Burlingame, CA.

   

 


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