Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Confessions from a B&B

Pienza entrance - apropos of nothing.
When did people become so attached to their i-thingy electronic notebooks? Broadband isn't an option so far from the exchange I explain; and explain again. We even tried very hi-tech but the surrounding hills block the satellite signal. Thanks to our dodgy dongle 3G connection we'll get by at mere kilobytes per second when the wind is blowing in the right direction. Meanwhile fibre optic cables are inching towards us and as I write they are about 6.5km down the long and winding road. Perhaps before they arrive we might have launched our own satellite. There's bound to be an internet guide to DIY space hardware. If only we had a better connection!

Perhaps we should make a virtue of our unplugged status. (We recently astounded a nine year old who simply couldn't believe we don't have a telly. Clearly, he's never seen Italian TV!). Ditch the hand held devices folks and really get away from it all.

We've been receiving guests since mid-March and, at varying levels, there are guests from now until the end of September. We've worked out that only about 10% of enquiries result in a booking. This is probably down to the internet with folks firing off half a dozen speculative emails at a time. You couldn't do that in the days of snail mail or usuriously expensive international calls. We've also noticed that the likelihood of booking decreases as the number of questions increases. You can get quite pally corresponding with some people - and then suddenly, nothing. Nobody has yet asked about WiFi access by email. However, it's a popular first question when people first arrive. Is it just taken for granted now?

Based on queries I have to confess that if you're looking for sandy lagoons, nightclubs or theme parks then you're probably barking up the wrong tree. If you want clean air, the sound of birds, deer and wild boar, the sight of a big pink moon, and crystal clear night skies, then it might fit the bill. That with a bit of art, culture, Italian food and conviviality thrown in. In actual fact – believe it or not – there are those who come to Italy for the first time who think the 50 miles to Florence is a bit much. Others want to do it all – Rome, Venice, Verona, Milan, Guarda, Como, Maggiore and Pompeii! Good luck with that unless you can teleport. To those who want a private terrace and pool & a cookery course I have to say gently; you need to up your budget quite a bit. And sorry, but you can't stay B&B but self-cater using the outdoor wood oven.
It's been a long dry season with the mercury reaching 40ºC (104ºF old money) yesterday. The lawn has gone beige and a bit crispy. We must be due a good storm I would have thought which should see us right... but please not until we've repaired the lawnmower after it's encounter with a big stone. With a lot of watering our tomatoes, chill-peppers, aubergines, courgettes, rhubarb, beetroot, sunflowers and corn are bearing up. The scent of the sage, thyme and basil seems only intensified by the heat.

Our third apartment – La Luna – is finished I'm happy to relate. It's painted the lovely clotted cream colour that complements the chestnut beams. We've built a patio off the bedroom . We've rehabilitated an old wardrobe and an old bed (new mattress, don't fret!) and installed some new hand-made bedside tables which are attached to the wall so there's nothing to dust underneath or behind. Wish all the rooms had these. One day! The bathroom is cleverly tucked in under the stone staircase that leads up to the loggia of Il Sole. Intrepid motorbiking Brits arrive today – it's first occupants.

La Luna bedroom
Four finches have finally flown the nest which was on the loggia of the B&B house. It was lovely to see, but the mess made the loggia unusable. As soon as they'd gone other birds began to bring nesting materials. In an effort to prevent it I've hung little mirror ball Christmas decorations and placed a soft toy near where they nest. It seems to have done the trick. Another bird repeatedly attacks its own reflection in the windows leaving little marks of wagtail spit that require daily cleaning. Mirror balls have done the business there too. Now, shards of light dance all around the dining room. I wonder if our night fever 70s disco breakfasts might compensate in the promotional stakes for the lack of WiFi.

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