Dear Visitor to Villa Tutto,
Welcome to our home in Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. We are thrilled to have you stay with us and we know that you will come to appreciate the wonders of Puglia, just as we have.
But southern Italy is not like your home and you will find that things are different here. What you measure in centuries, the Pugliesi account in millenia. What are old systems for you are even older systems in the “mezzogiorno” of Italy. The differences can be both challenging and enlightening, but they become the things that make memories so we suggest that you embrace them. The “Rules for Guests” of Villa Tutto will help you to do that.
RULE #1: LIQUID GOLD
No, not oil, but water. The water supply to the villa is the rain that falls on the rooftop and collects into two large cisterns buried deep in the ground on opposites sides of the property. One of these cisterns provides water for domestic use (toilets, showers, kitchen, etc.) and the other holds water used for irrigating the olive grove, orchard and vegetable patches. During the hot, dry Pugliese summers, the cisterns are depleted, to be replenished by the winter/spring rains. Some years the rains are not enough to provide the water necessary to last through the dry period and it must be brought in by tankers. To reduce the prospect of trucking water in, we treat it as the precious thing that it is. Among our conservation methods:
- We take as long a shower as we need, but no longer, and we take them together as often as possible (though that’s not for saving water, really) .
- We flush when necessary, but only when necessary. (That’s a judgement call.)
- When we shave (well, when I shave) and brush our teeth, we don’t leave the tap on between rinsings.
- Oh, and we don’t drink the tap water. We have bottled stuff for that.
RULE # 2: THE TP PROTOCOL
It surprised us to learn after we bought the place that Villa Tutto was in need of a new septic system, but it was. The new one meets all of the European Union codes and is sized for fourteen people. Since there are only two of us who live there, it seems unlikely that the system will ever receive much of a challenge to its ability to do what a septic system does, though I’m not sure what all that is. In any case, I do know that it can be sabotaged. Avoiding inadvertent damage to the system is very simple though: aside from what you “deposit” in the toilet, the only other thing that gets flushed is the toilet paper you use. Anything else could cause a problem.
Oh, and appliances like garbage disposals are not common in southern Italy so please don’t shove anything down the kitchen sink drain, expecting that it will be ground up and washed away with the flip of a switch. There is no such switch at Villa Tutto.
RULE #3: LET THERE BE LIGHT, JUST NOT TOO MUCH
In Italy, as in most of Europe, electricity is very expensive. The fact that we don’t have a clothes dryer or a dishwasher that we would be tempted to use is evidence of the fact. But, in addition to denying ourselves conveniences, we do our best to conserve power. We turn lights off when we leave a room. We unplug power-consuming devices (rechargers, televisions, radios, etc.) when they’re not being used, and we are generally diligent in avoiding wasting energy. We ask that you try to think likewise.
RULE #4: GET OUTTA HERE!
A sub-rule of Rule #4 is “Rent Your Own Car.” Please understand what we’re saying here. It’s not that we won’t be spending time with you during your visit or that we won’t be taking you to see some of the incredible things Puglia has to offer. We most certainly will. But you owe it to yourselves to strike out on your own, to do some exploring and have some adventures, so that the memories you make of your stay in the heel are your memories. Go get lost a couple of times, for example. Some of the strongest remembrances Jessica and I have of our time in Italy are of becoming deliciously lost on narrow, winding back roads of the Valle d’Itria, driving through groves of ancient olive trees or through fields of poppies so thick you couldn’t see the green leaves. Or, find yourself in a situation where you have to communicate with someone who has no English. We have some hilarious stories that have come from such encounters. You can even find your own stretch of secluded beach and pretend that you are the only people on the planet. Whatever adventure you find, having a car to go find it will make your visit even more rewarding. Besides, if you hang out with us all during your visit, you’ll have to pitch in and work in the olive grove. You don’t want to do that.
A word about driving in Italy. Do not assume that the driver of the car behind you is rude or inconsiderate just because he/she is eight inches off of your rear bumper as you drive at sixty miles an hour down the highway. Nor should you take it that someone taking his/her half of the road out of the middle means that they are drunk. That is the way Italians drive and you should simply let them do it. This Italian philosophy of driving semi-maniacally is genetic, I think, sort of like tax evasion for Italians. They mean no disrespect and there is nothing you can do about it anyway, so just sit back in your driver’s seat and enjoy yourself.
RULE #5: TAKE SOME RISKS
This is less a rule than some advice, but it’s good advice. You have an opportunity to do things that you can’t do at home, so try some of them out. You’ve never eaten octopus or horse before? Give them a try. You see a road that looks interesting? Take it. Drive into a small village and have lunch where no one but you speaks a word of English. Make some friends without having a common language. Or, if you really want to step out, try the bidet. If you don’t know how to use it, find out on YouTube, because we’re not going to show you. It is experiences like these that will be the bases of your memories and your stories. Don’t pass them up.
Benvenuti a Villa Tutto. Enjoy your stay with us.
Jessica & Scott