Cleaning etc.

Is the flat delivered clean?
How does garbage get collected?
We’d like a fresh set of towels each day. Can we arrange that?
How often are bed linens changed? Can we have them changed more often?
Can we get maid service?
Can we get someone to do childcare for us?
How and when should we pay for any extra domestic help we hire?
What about tipping the housekeeper?

 

Is the flat delivered clean?

We have always been tempted to answer, "Oh, we’re very sorry. Our home is a filthy rathole. Please go elsewhere."

The fact is that the flat is delivered to you cleaned by a professional. But there is another fact : People's standards of cleanliness differ dramatically. We make it a policy of trying to call our guests for feedback about their stay. The first question is: Was it clean? You can't imagine the variety of responses we get to this question. One person says, "It was immaculate." The next person, who stayed one week later, replies, "It was OK but it could have been cleaner."

Also, often the cleanliness of the flat depends largely on who occupied it immediately before you. If they weren’t the greatest at washing their dishes or their pots and pans, you may find that you need to do some work yourself. It is simply not possible for an owner or a housekeeper, with just a few hours between renters, to control the cleanliness of every single pot, pan, plate, fork, small and large appliance. Everyone does his very best, but there are real limits.

The fact is that if you demand that the house you rent pass the white-glove test, that the tops of armoires be spotless, that you can see your reflection in the shine on the kitchen floor, you're not going to be happy renting a flat. We ourselves have rented houses on many occasions in the US, in Italy and throughout Europe. One time, we rented a place in the States and discovered that the dishes were simply not washed to our standards. What did we do? We washed them ourselves, of course. We didn't call the manager and get angry about it, or demand that someone come in and do them for us. If you're not flexible enough to adapt to situations like the ones we've just described, then be honest with yourselves: renting isn't for you.

How does garbage get collected?

It doesn’t. Garbage is not picked up from one's door. You have to take it downstairs in the bin placed in entrance hall . This is true all over the city. Streets are too narrow to accommodate garbage trucks. Therefore, dumpsters are placed strategically for citizens to use.

We’d like a fresh set of towels each day. Can we arrange that?

No. If you want this, please go stay in a hotel. Why? Because it’s just not a service we want to offer. Even the crummiest American motel has more towels than you need. But Italians don’t live that way. The norm is that you get one set of towels (one bath towel, one hand towel, and one face towel) per person which are meant to last the week. If your stay is for longer than one week, the towels will be changed at the end of each week.

You’re always welcome to launder towels on your own, of course, during the week.

You say you’d like to pay for fresh towels daily? Well, it simply isn’t a question of paying. It’s simply not objectively possible most times for us to keep up with demands for towels.

One final consideration: Europeans have this stereotype of Americans as big wasters. No European traveler asks for more towels when traveling than the supply outlined above. Let’s try to improve the image...


How often are bed linens changed? Can we have them changed more often?

Once at the end of each week. No exceptions, we don’t care if you’re Martha Stewart..

Can we get maid service?

Sometimes, and it depends just what you have in mind by “maid service”. Renting our flat is generally entirely self-catering. It's like renting a summer cottage in Maine: You make the beds and wash the dishes and do the laundry. Linens are provided once a week, and that includes towels.

Domestic help in Italy is not cheap. Many of you may have rented houses before in the Caribbean or Mexico. If you have, you know that even a moderately-priced house will come – at a minimum – with a maid, cook, laundress, and gardener. In Italy, this is not the case. Most domestic workers have union contracts which cost an owner a minimum of $30 per hour and often more. There is no such thing as "finding" someone locally who has nothing better to do than iron your sheets or cook you pasta. Such people exist, but they know how much their services are prized. The Italy of "non far niente" no longer exists. The standard of living in Rome is now among the highest in Europe, higher than in Germany and France, far higher than in the US. And labor relations are not quite as one-sided as in the US. Work is paid at a rate which at least bears some minimal relation to its actual value, and domestic workers do not come cheap.

In most cases maid service can be arranged or is included in the rent. Maid service most often means someone who comes once, or twice a week, to do housecleaning. Bed linens are never changed daily or even every other day. We change our sheets once a week, and this is the standard in Italy. If you want more frequent changes than that, then please go to a hotel.

If housekeeping is included, it means just that: keeping the house clean. It does not mean doing your personal laundry and ironing, nor does it mean doing your food shopping, babysitting Junior, or cooking your breakfast. Such services are sometimes available, but not automatically. And you must pay extra for them at rates of between ¤12 and ¤20 per hour. Hours contracted between us and the housekeeper to clean the flat cannot be transformed into hours dedicated to cooking and ironing. The housekeeper is hired by us to maintain the house for your and our benefit. Extra services are between you and the housekeeper and must be paid by you on the spot.

Cooking? We can arrange for it, but do you really want one? Some of the best restaurants in town are just a few steps from home, and they do not need to be horribly expencive either.

Can you hire somebody from outside to come in and cook for you? Sometimes you can, but we must approve. You can’t just invite unknown staff into a luxury home without the owner’s approval. To us, frankly, it’s an invitation to theft.

Can we get someone to do childcare for us?

Often, but not always, baby sitting can be arranged. You should not, however, expect to find an English-speaking childcare person, but we will do the outmost to find one for you.

How and when should we pay for any extra domestic help we hire?

First of all, you should volunteer to pay the housekeeper. Housekeepers in Italy are vulnerable and embarrassed about asking for money. If, for example, you’ve had initial provisions put into the house to be there upon your arrival, you should take the initiative and pay the housekeeper for those provisions – as well as for the time she spent in doing the shopping – as soon as practicable on the very day of your arrival. The housekeeper can’t be expected to advance such costs.

If you hire the housekeeper to shop for food on a regular basis and to cook, babysit, launder and iron your personal items, you should settle up with him or her at least every couple of days for out-of-pocket costs and time. Our strong advice is not to wait until the moment of departure to do the accounting.

What about tipping the housekeeper?

If you have had a regular housekeeper, and you’ve been happy with the services provided by him or (more likely) her, you should leave a tip. This tip is over and above any final cleaning charge, as the final cleaning charge has nothing to do with the housekeeper’s services. The amount of the tip depends. Since we’re talking about a 1-bedroom apartment, we recommend between 30 and 100 euros, depending on length of stay and the types of services rendered.