Packing for villa travel? We recommend you approach it with a view towards really settling in, and enjoying that ‘ahhh’ feeling of being home as soon as possible. Here are our recommendations for getting right into vacation mode — as soon as you arrive.
For starters, unpack completely right away – and store the suitcase out of sight. This simple yet significant step will immediately help you get into living locally. One of the great advantages to staying in a villa is you are not living out of a suitcase.
Times have changed in Europe and your villa will likely have a washing machine, but maybe not a dryer. Even if your rental property is equipped with both, they will be substantially smaller, much more complicated to use and slower. Line-drying clothes in Europe is their preferred way, faster and with no environmental impact plus your clothes smell divine, full of sunshine and fresh air. Extra benefit? At a staffed villa, they will certainly iron everything, beautifully. What a lovely surprise on the bed when you come back from a day exploring.
[Side note; Italian cleaning products can also be strong and are often heavily scented. If you have intolerances, allergies or preferences, be sure to advise in advance.]
You can often free up suitcase space by leaving hair dryers, robes and slippers and at least your generic toiletries at home. This depends on the standards of the property (and perhaps the company) you have selected. All Homebase Abroad properties have hair dryers in each bathroom and at least bath soap and shampoo. But hair conditioner, an essential for some, is usually an extra. Even if not included, we will make sure your provisioning includes conditioner and whatever additional bath products you prefer so your bath feels like home on arrival. OTC remedies – ibuprofen and the like – are readily available as well, at least in Italy.
Ok – but what to pack? Not jeans and sneakers. Please. Besides being impractical they mark you as an American even at a distance and make it harder for you to slip into the Italian stream of life. In warm weather, linen is what you want. Looks great wrinkled, feels fabulous, washes beautifully and fits in with Italian style. Or anything that is light-weight, good looking and restrained. Modern, quick-drying fabrics, even those with SPF protection are fine. Natural, neutral and soft colors more suitable. All your statement t-shirts can take a break in your dresser at home.
Sturdy comfortable walking shoes are key. And chose ones that look good. Italians tend to look at your feet first, for them it says a lot about who you. From a practical point of view, you will be walking on a lot of cobblestones, marble floors and treading up and down stairs. You will miss out on a lot if your feet cannot carry you up or in to for those moments of amazement and wonder which is why we travel.
For ladies and young women, covering up and choosing looser clothing is highly recommended. This is principally for your own comfort as Italian men are not shy about appreciating the female form. Bring along a large, light scarf that can roll up and tuck into your tote or pack. A scarf provides modesty, sun shade and ensures you are properly dressed for churches, museums and the like.
Choose nicer and dressier whenever that is an option. Slovenly dressing for any visitor to Italy is frowned upon and will be seen by locals as a legitimate reason in its own right for keeping you at a distance, denying you a good table, etc. Remember, if you are wanting the most authentic experience and the most natural exchanges with Italians, blending in as best as you are able is a good place to start.
Weigh the bling and bring only the essentials. If you will be heartbroken to have something lifted off you in a crowded city street, leave it behind. Money belts and other secure ways of carrying cash are essential, especially when moving around near train stations and popular tourist destinations. Petty thieves are after liquid assets like cash. They do not want to hurt your person but can spoil your day. Be smart and carry a copy of your documents separately. Remember, you are visiting another country no matter how welcoming and familiar.
Make room for a handsome re-useable shopping bag and keep it in a good-looking closeable tote or day pack. Italians bring their own bags, especially to outdoor morning markets. Why pass by all those fresh figs if you don’t have to? They will go beautifully with that gorgeous sheep or goat cheese you picked up a few stalls down. And when you get back to your villa you can hand it all over to the staff and let them set it out beautifully with your lunch. If you find yourself at a supermarket without your bag, you will be obligated to pay € 0.50 or so for each one.
Also, be sure to pack a small pair of binoculars. They’re invalauble for viewing artwork especially in crowded locations. They will make your visit to the Sistine Chapel or other sites where the artwork is far away, that much more memorable.
It is lovely to bring along a small memento from your home for the staff of your villa, along with photos of where you live, etc. These are wonderful tools for getting to know each other. If there is a small memento you can leave behind as a thank you to the owner to find on their return, it will be very much appreciated.
The most important thing to pack is your manners. Besides please and thank you this includes your interest and curiosity, your appreciation and your willingness to say yes to the opportunities for meaningful exchange when they are presented.