Saturday, January 30, 2010

Guest Blogger: Pauline Kenny

Today we're joined by Pauline Kenny, the queen of slow travel and the brain behind the successful website,  She currently runs two informative travel sites, Slow Europe and Cotswolder.  We have been friends with Pauline and her husband Steve for about a decade now.  She is fun, witty, and *the* authority on vacation rentals.

I Love Vacation Rentals in Italy
Pauline Kenny, January 2010

Maybe it's because I’m a do-it-yourselfer. Or maybe I’m just a nester. Now that I think about it, I am probably a little of both. This is especially true when I’m on vacation for a few weeks. A small hotel is fine if I am spending a few nights in a city or doing a short driving tour of an area, but if I am in the Italian countryside for a week or two I want to be in a vacation rental. I want my own apartment or house with a fully equipped kitchen and room to spread out. I don’t want a concierge to hand me a map with all the “must sees” marked; I want to spread out my maps, consult my guidebooks and figure out exactly where I am going.

A perfect small house in the Val d'Orcia, Tuscany

I love historic Italian houses with their thick stone walls and uneven tile floors, with doorways that I have to duck to go through, with lush gardens where I can find a spot to sit and enjoy the views of the magnificent Italian countryside. I like to learn my way around the kitchen, see where the owner has stored the glasses, figure out how to work the stove. There is a great feeling of accomplishment sitting down to a meal that I made myself with fresh market ingredients in an Italian kitchen.

Living in a vacation rental makes me head out to the local shops for household things and ingredients for our meals. I love wandering around an Italian grocery store (alimentari), seeing the different items they sell. I have purchased way too many “Made in Italy” clothes pegs just because they are different from what I see at home. I love the personal interactions with the shopkeepers. I like to examine each cafe in the village, pick one to be “mine”, then go and introduce myself to the barista (actually my husband Steve, who speaks Italian, is in charge of this). Then we go back once or twice a day and become “regulars”. These types of things make me feel like a local and give me a strong connection to the area.

You are spoiled for choice when looking for a vacation rental in Italy. Do you want to stay on a wine estate in Tuscany? In a medieval village in Umbria? In a place with a view on the Amalfi Coast? Up a narrow lane in the historic center of Rome? They got all that and more.

The terrace of a house in Cetona

Italy has more vacation rentals per square mile than any other country in Europe. The Italian government encourages farms to offer vacation rentals through their agriturismo program, adding to the availability of interesting properties. Northern Europeans have been traveling to Italy for sunshine, great food and wine for decades. In the last couple of decades Americans have fallen in love with Italy and flock to the beautiful countryside.

To help travelers navigate the world of vacation rentals in Italy and the rest of Europe, Valerie and I are writing “profiles” of various vacation rental businesses on my Slow Europe website – highlighting locally-run agencies, agencies based in the US, and owners of farms with vacation rentals. We are trying to put a human face on this sometimes bewildering world of vacation rentals, to make it easier for travelers to make that “leap of faith” booking a place you have never seen, several months before your trip, and sending off that large deposit.

These profiles let you meet the people who run the vacation rental agencies, get to know them and their businesses, find out how they operate and how they got started, and see what kind of insider tips they offer. We are adding new profiles every month. Read our Travel Company Profiles, then check out their websites.

My husband Steve with the owners of a villa near Assisi

If the world of European vacation rentals is new to you, read my Vacation Rentals Guide, which tells you everything you want to know about finding and booking vacation rentals in Europe.

Valerie and Bryan followed their dream of living in Italy for several years. Maybe we can’t manage that, but we can live the dream for a few weeks by staying in a vacation rental. Start by visiting the vacation rental websites, look at places and prices, then find the guidebooks and great Italy Travel blogs (like this one) and read, dream, picture yourself there – then take the leap and book a vacation rental for your next trip. You’ll be glad you did!

“Don't dream it, be it”, Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975.

Pauline Kenny lives in Boulder CO with her husband Steve Cohen and cat Buddy. She runs two travel websites: Slow Europe, guide to finding vacation rentals in Europe and Cotswolder, travel guide for the Cotswolds, England.


Evey said...

Just what i was looking for...I'm a friend of Valeria's and will certainly watch the websites you list but just in case you know of something - I'm looking to rent a place ??? for the year 2011. "Place" depends on the best deal I can find, I love it everywhere, city, countryside, hidden...I'm open to ideas!!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting my article Valerie! Remembering our wonderful times in vacation rentals in Italy makes me want to book a trip now!

Evey, there are tons of places to rent in Italy. If you are looking for something less expensive, stay away from the expensive areas - Amalfi Coast, Lake Como, Venice, Rome, Florence. Tuscany can be expensive, but there are lots of good agriturismo (farms) that are well prices.

It also depends on where you have been in Italy before. If it is your first trip, I recommended Tuscany or Umbria as a good introduction to the country.

Have a look at my site Slow Europe and start looking through some of the resources I list. Best prices will be with local agencies, local apartments or farms.

(Oops, screwed up the link when commenting so deleted it and re-commented.)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Slow Travel is a great resource! It was very helpful when I was planning my trips to Italy.

Loved the guest post.

Evey said...

Thanks, Pauline, I was so excited to read your story that I really passed over telling you how lovely it was and that I've enjoyed some of these experiences as I prefer to rent and do the shopping and on and on. I haven't done much cooking but I'm a very good "antipasto" shopper!!! Easy enought in Italy!

South of Rome said...

V. Cool!

Jeff said...

Le marche is a good place to rent if your looking for a costal property.