Thank goodness for kind cousins. “WhatsApp my cousin, Cinzia, when you’re a half hour from Guardia Sanframondi. She’ll meet you with the keys to my Airbnb place,” our host instructed. It turned out that we needed Cinzia for a lot more than keys. Our Apple Maps goddess could not get a grip on how to get to our host’s place and thought some of the small Italian town’s vertiginous footpaths were roads. Cinzia’s hubby ran down to meet us and walked in front as I drove behind him. He then instructed me to drive up a steep incline on a road clearly marked “wrong way.” OK then!
They helped us unload our intrepid rental Peugeot in the Piazza San Filippo, right in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, then we drove the right way down the incline and parked; a friend of the cousin drove us back up again. We sure hope that cousin gets a cut of the Airbnb fees — she deserves it.
We got the keys, opened the door and were met with a blast of mildew so strong it was close to overwhelming. However, we’re exploring the Campagna region of Italy, so what’s a little mildew? It soon became white nasal noise.
I am an expert Airbnb host. My husband and I have been Five Star Superhosts for over 10 years. I decorated, designed and stocked two in-demand units, so I know a little bit about what it takes to provide an excellent Airbnb experience.
The newly renovated Airbnb in Guardia Sanframondi was set up by Carlo, who is obviously a man. I won’t penalize him in my review because a two- or three-star review can hurt a host for a long time. We will send him a private message, though, as he’s clearly trying to do well. He gets kudos for the abundance of electric outlets in every room. The decorating is spare and OK. The problem is, I don’t think he’s stayed in the place, so he doesn’t know what’s missing that any woman would immediately figure out.
There’s no full-length mirror. There’s a bedside table on one side only. The kitchen cupboards were seemingly mounted by someone well over 6 feet tall; I couldn’t reach anything on the first, let alone the second, shelf without standing on a chair. (No stepstool provided.) There were no pans, and the fridge didn’t work. There’s no peephole in the front door. We let the cousin know that the heat in our bedroom wasn’t working, and within 30 minutes, there was a very loud knock on the door, but with no peephole, we couldn’t look first before opening it. Turns out it was the cousin’s nephew with a portable oil radiator. Yay for response time!
Worst of all, cell service was virtually nonexistent, and there is no Wi-Fi. We would have gladly paid an extra $5-10 per day if we could get on the internet, which is essential these days. We’re not sorry we stayed there, and we’ll happily mentor our host if he’d like some tips. They say God is in the details, which is also true of hosting.
Compare and contrast with Anna Franza, our Airbnb host in Pompeii. What makes her a gem is that she puts herself in her guests’ shoes. She anticipates everything a traveler needs to feel at home: coffee-making paraphernalia, a tea kettle and teas — both caffeinated and decaffeinated. She has Wi-Fi! There was even a tray of goodies waiting for us. She has a nightstand and lamp on both sides of the bed. She explains recycling rules for Pompeii along with maps and tips. She even sent photos on WhatsApp to help us find the place and park, and in Italy, parking is often impossible. Carlo must be barefoot, as he can’t put himself in anyone’s shoes.
Regarding our Airbnb guests, we want to know what’s not working for them while it’s happening. Our spaces are on the same lot as our house, so we can correct problems immediately. One space is a studio apartment with a private entrance and yard that’s safe for dogs. The other space is a restored 1954 Prairie Schooner, a now-defunct former competitor of Airstream. It attracts vintage trailer aficionados and dog lovers since both of our spaces are super dog friendly.
We pride ourselves on responding quickly to questions, needs and complaints, no matter how trivial. One woman couldn’t figure out how a light switch worked. Um … OK. We showed her, and then not another peep. One person wanted to hang out with us because she was lonely and let herself and her huge dog into our kitchen without knocking. She was a talk therapist by trade and obviously needed some basic boundary therapy herself. We’ve kept our door locked since.
But other than a few random bumps, we’ve enjoyed our guests and the income they provide, which helps us stay in our home. We “live and die” on reviews, so I will give Mr. Guardia Sanframondi five stars despite his deserving less. We are super guests as well as super hosts.
Ellen Snortland teaches creative writing online and has a few rare openings in her classes. She can be reached at [email protected] to get more information regarding tuition and schedule. New! If you’d like to access her other writing, visit https://ellenbsnortland.
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