10 and more Things a Host can learn from being a Guest

Or what a guest knows from being a host - An Airbnb Experience

Recently we traveled to Japan during a school break. I had planned four nights in Tokyo and three nights in Kyoto and was excitedly looking with Airbnb for some awesome places to rent. I was overwhelmed about how many people are renting out private rooms, apartments, penthouses, entire houses or traditional ryokans in both cities. It almost looked like there is an airbnb around every corner. 

To reduce the sheer amount of options it did not help much entering the number of guests, playing with the price range and the amount of bedrooms. Even when narrowing the location to a certain district it seemed more airbnbs popped up. So the question was:

How does a guest select a rental?

I decided I need to use the filter that is offered to guests on the airbnb platform. It allows to search for more than just location, date, amount of guest, price and bedrooms. I selected we want:

- WIFI - a must, for soccer game results of the Italian league for my husband and occasionally business emails, as well as for my gaming teenager, and of course for me as a traveler to consult about opening times of museums and restaurant phone numbers.

- English speaking host - wheather the host is on site or not, I wanted to be able to communicate with my host before and during our stay, especially in Japan where all might be a bit more confusing when you are staying at someone's apartment in a residential area and not at a well-known hotel with a concierge that can help answer your questions and that can be found by a taxi driver.

- Super Host Status - yeah, I tried that, because being a superhost myself I thought that - beside a 5 star rating - it is a sign of quality and reliability (no surprise cancellation). Our first airbnb experience should be a great one.

The rentals I found were awesome. But "awesome" and "spacious" in Tokyo come with a price tag. And my husband not convinced of trying an airbnb in a city suggested to check hotels if we need to pay these amounts per night. I laughed first, as I knew the price tags for hotels in Tokyo, having worked there a couple of times, would be about two times higher (not talking about the small rooms). Nevertheless, I checked on expedia and - wow - what a surprise, my favorite hotel ranked first with an incredible low rate (they were about to demolish the main building, but I decided, regardless possible renovation side effects, that I wanted to be back staying at this legendary hotel). So Tokyo was booked - not with airbnb. And we appreciated the breakfast, the concierge and that taxi drivers knew the way a lot!

Last chance for my very first airbnb experience during our Japan trip was therefore in Kyoto. 

Using the above filter, and reading carefully all reviews by previous guests and the profile of the host, I booked a place that sounded a lovely mix of traditional Japanese (tatami room) and modern design. I did some small talk with the host to get a feeling for each other, as I used the direct booking function, but that seemed not necessary. Probably because the host did not plan to interact much with guest as he did not live on site (which I only knew from another guest review that I studied). After having booked our train in Tokyo, I did what I expect from my guests: I informed the host right away of our arrival time at the train station. I used the airbnb communication system which worked well for me as guest and I was happy that the host replied always within 1 or 2 hours. Thanks to the profile picture, I recognized him waiting in front of the house and asked our taxi driver to stop. He gave us a brief introduction to his neighborhood from the roof terrace and showed us the apartment. At the end, when we thought all initial questions were answered, he said we could check out ourselves by slipping the key below the door. At first, I was a bit disappointed that we would not see again our friendly host, but totally understood that this was convenient for him since he lived a 20 minutes drive away.  

Then he left and we were alone, on our own. In a not familiar apartment, in a house we did not know, in a neighborhood I had hardly glanced at through the taxi's window. It was a strange feeling. It was really quiet around us. No reception to go to ask for directions or to call a taxi. 

Somehow I pictured the neighborhood between the Kyoto university and the Philosopher Path - there was no picture of it in the listing - and the listing being above an art gallery as lively and full of little restaurants. That was a bit of a wrong assumption. 

When we walked down the street in the direction the host had pointed out a supermarket, I realized we were in a very, very quiet, purely residential area. And that felt fantastic! Adventurous! It was living like a local! That is what airbnb is all about. It's true. It works. 

But the bike shop the host had vaguely indicated on the main street, was nowhere to be found, initially. This was a bit of a disappointment as I had not many questions with my booking some weeks earlier - just to organize a third bicycle for our son and to provide information about two festivals taking place the next day. 

Interestingly when we arrived, the host mentioned to be kind of nervous about hosting another super host! And I, as a guest, was surprisingly much more relaxed than I am as a host myself! It was exciting to see the apartment and discover the area though. However, when it came to check-out, I was very attentively tidying up and cleaning. I was nervous about the guest review by the host!

Overall, we were really lucky with my airbnb choice and our host. Very lucky also as our host was able to allow a (free) late check-out which was extremely helpful for a smooth journey home.

New lessons learned for hosting:

  1. Guest might not read completely the listing, therefore explain important things upon arrival and don't assume guest have or will study your house manual. 
  2. Use a good profile photo that guest can recognize you. Mention if you live on site, and if not, how far away is someone who could assist. Guest will most likely read your profile as well as they read other guest reviews. It is not important if you are a local national or a foreigner living in the country as long as you know your city and what is happening around. 
  3. Airbnb is sending the guest reminders before check-in to contact the host and provide arrival time. Also Airbnb reminds of check-out and review.
  4. If the host answer promptly and professionally your guest will feel taken good care of and looking forward to their stay.
  5. Upload photos from the neighborhood, including nearby restaurants and supermarket, indicating how far they are away when walking to avoid surprises.
  6. Add to your guest folder, or hand to the guest directly a small map of your area and mark the places where you can find food like a bakery, super market, coffee or noodle shop - and other useful things like a bike rental, bus stop etc., especially when you cannot show the guest around or do not live on site.
  7. Take notes of what guests mention in their first inquiries. Provide these information or things (extra bike, extra bed, taxi booking, festival itinerary etc.) upon arrival.
  8. Provide enough mineral water for your guest! They might arrive thirsty after probably many hours of traveling and don't want to go shopping in the first hour. (Remark: beer or wine is fine too, but not everyone drinks beer when thirsty). 
  9. Providing some complimentary local snacks and sweets in an basket is a fun surprise and showing extra attentiveness. We liked that!
  10. If an extra person is booked and has paid extra then provide the extra bed ready made. Don't expect the guest to figure out the technique of your sofa bed.
  11. Don't ask the guest to strip off the bed linen at the end of their stay. If they do, fine. Stripping bed linen off is adding a bit of sadness to the departure... does that sound wired? 
  12. Surprisingly, guests are less nervous than the host when checking in. But nervous when checking out. So keep cool, host.
  13. If you furnish and decorate your vacation rental make sure not to add too much IKEA stuff and add local unique things instead. Travellers want to discover typical local things. 
  14. If guests arrive early or have a late departure flight, try to accommodate them as good as possible to make their journey smooth. Some guests will be really thankful (not all, I know).
  15. Clean the fridge after check-out by taking out expired / soon to expire food, vegetables, fruits etc. Through away or take home open packages of whatever food.
  16. Always put a new sponge to the kitchen sink and make sure basics last for a short stay (dish liquid, toilet paper, soap, shampoo etc.). No guest wants to go shopping for these things when staying only 3 or 4 nights.
  17. Letting the guests check-out themselves can add a bit of flexibility and convenience to both parties.
Coming home to our airbnb in kyoto

Coming home to our airbnb in kyoto


Although my husband still would have preferred a hotel, where you can have breakfast or a concierge to call a taxi or book a restaurant - I would say it depends. (On what it depends can make another post.) But I liked to be in an airbnb in Kyoto. It is a good alternative to a traditional ryokans (especially when those are already fully booked and sharing a bathroom with strangers is not so much your cup of tea.) 

I enjoyed the entire experience of being with my family on our own, in our own apartment, in a residential area, living like locals and being adventurous at the same time.  And for our own rentals in Italy I will organize a basket with local snacks and implement some other of the above ideas.

I definitely can recommend to stay in a vacation rental, especially with airbnb as there is in general a bit more of interaction between host and guest as it is usually on other platforms and therefore airbnb is probably even more suitable for a short city stay. Actually, this is how the idea was born. The founders of airbnb offered an alternative for accommodation seekers in the city of San Francisco during a busy fair. And finally, I can recommend every host to try the other side of the story. Even if your are an experienced host, maybe even a super host - it is really eye-opening to be a guest - and fun!



Day 2 Pizzo - Badolato

Sundays are still Sundays in Italy. Shops are closed, people go to church, families meet for lunch or do a 'passegata' together. So do we.

That Sunday we decided to meet at 11 am at the bar in piazza, Angelo would drive by, we hop in the car and off we go. On my wish list was Badolato - ever since I came across 'bleeding espresso' and Michele's stories about her alternative life in a medieval Calabrian village.

Angelo said, they would know a 'trattoria typica' and - because during their last trip to Badolato not a single table had been available during lunch - he would book a table.

We drove across the Calabrian hinterland and along the coast of Soverato. After about 1 1/2 h drive from Pizzo, we reached Badolato. The medieval village, famous for being abandoned (the village was "on sale" in the 80 ies to attract new residents) is nestled on top of a green hill, out of reach from any conquerors landing on the Ionian Coast.

We drove around a curve, and there it was. A breathtaking sleeping beauty. I think, I had tears in my eyes, so overwhelming is Badolato's appearance and its church Immaculata, a stairways below the village.

We arrived a bit too early for lunch and strolled around the narrow alleys. There have been some significant renovations. Foreigners, sometimes returning younger generations and Italians from other regions have invested here and made this village their home.

We had a nice family lunch at 'Le Botte'. I said to Angelo, it would have not been necessary to book the entire restaurant for us - as we were the only customers on that Sunday after Easter.

It was a beautiful day. And we bought the Badolato guide from Franco, the photographer from Genova who calls Badolato his home for many years. His photos of the 'Settimana Santa' are showing impressive processions in traditional costumes in this medieval setting before and during Easter. This would be definitely a great time of the year to visit this magical village. But when in Calabria, any time is good to stop here for a couple of hours. We learned that Badolato counts 12 churches its own - two more than Pizzo!

On our way back home we had initially thought of stopping in Soverato. But then decided to keep that sea side town for another day.

Fly directly to Calabria from many cities worldwide

Pizzo, old village center in Calabria (photo by S. Crosetto)

Whenever we are suggesting a holiday in Pizzo to our friends I realized how lucky we are in Pizzo (aka Pizzo Calabro or Pizzo di Calabria) being located so close to the international airport of Lamezia Terme (SUF).

Lamezia airport brings thousands of passengers every year to Calabria in Southern Italy from around the world. There are business men among tourist on the daily Alitalia flights from Rome or Milan, but most tourists come with budget airlines which fly directly into Lamezia Terme (SUF) once or twice weekly from allover Europe and even overseas.

I was impressed to find out from how many cities you can fly directly to Calabria, and of course vice versa, to where you can fly directly from Calabria. I am happy to share my list. Check with your airline during which months and which days direct flights are available. (Let me know, if I missed any city or airline).

Direct Flights to Lamezia Terme (SUF) :

Austria Vienna
Austrian Airlines
Belgium Brussels (CRL) Ryanair / Jetairfly
Czech Republic Brno (BRQ)
Prague (PRG)
Ostrava (OSR)
/ Czech Airlines
France Paris Orly (ORY) Easyjet
Germany Berlin Tegel (TXL)
Koeln Bonn (CGN)
Düsseldorf (DUS)
Frankfurt Hahn (HHN)
Hanover (HAJ)
München (MUC)
Stuttgart (STR)
Weeze (NRN)
Airberlin / Alitalia
Airberlin / Eurowings
Airberlin / Lufthansa
Italy Bari
Bologna (BLQ)
Bergamo (BGY)
Milano Malpensa (MXP)
Milano Linate (LIN)
Torino (TRN)
Pisa (PSA)
Roma (FCO)
Venice Treviso (TSF)
Easyjet / Neos
Luxembourg Luxembourg Luxair
Netherlands Amsterdam (AMS) Transavia
Russia Moscow
Spain Barcelona (BCN) Vueling
Sweden Goeteborg
Switzerland Zürich (ZRH) Airberlin / SWISS/Edelweiss / Alitalia
United Kingdom London Stansted (STN) Ryanair
Canada Toronto (YYZ) Airtransat


Pizzo is located just 25 km from Lamezia Terme airport, and can be reached by rented car or taxi in less than 30 minutes drive.

Tropea is located further down the coast, 60 km from the airport and about 1h 15min drive.

The central train station in Lamezia Terme is about 1 km from the International Airport. There is a shuttle bus to the station. Some people with light luggage even walk along the road, but you could also hire a taxi. However, if your destination is Pizzo, we would recommend to take a taxi directly to Pizzo or pre-book a pick-up service (both around 40 Euro one-way to Pizzo). Pizzo is a great place to start to explore la bella Calabria.

At the airport you will find different car rental services. You can pre-book a car online or book one at the airport. If you plan to drive into historic old towns, we recommend to rent a SMALL car as the alleys are very narrow.

Please note, if you plan to just spend a relaxing holiday in centro storico di Pizzo, the old town center, no car is required for your holiday as restaurants, bars, shops, tourist sights and the beach are in walking distance.

Other airports in Southern Italy: Reggio di Calabria, Catania (Sicily) and Naples.


update June 2015:

After daily checking Lamezia airport's website for arrival and departure, I update the list above accordingly. There are surprisingly many more direct flights than initially listed!

update February 2016:

Lufthansa's budget airline Germanwings is rebranding as Eurowings since fall 2015.

Winter in Calabria

Camigliatello in La Sila National Park, Calabria

So far this blog was all about renovating and decorating a Beach House.

Now, we did it. Okay, it still needs some improvements and probably constant re-renovation work - but mainly we are done. And we are really happy with the result.

Strangely, when I saw the latest interior magazine AD during our skiing holidays in Europe, with lots of snow outside, and all these cozy homes and restaurants in the mountains with wooden fires inside ... I started dreaming ...

Sounds crazy, I know. - Shouldn't I focus on our beach house?

But then I remembered, that Calabria has not only 800 km of coast line to offer. Calabria is quiet hilly and has mountains up to 2,000 meters high above sea level. And when it snows, you can ski! Yes, there are a few ski lifts!

The most important "ski resorts" in Calabria are Camigliatello and Villaggio Palumbo in La Sila and Gambarie in Aspromonte. Both mountainous regions are National Parks.
Pizzo --> Sila  app. 120 km and 1,5h drive (via Google Map)

La Sila is about 120 km North of Pizzo and the Aspromonte about 100 km South.  We could reach a ski resort from Pizzo in aobut 1,5 hours drive ! 

From the sea to the mountains in no time. The highest mountain in Sila, Botte Donato (1,928 m) is covered with snow right now. Information about snow levels at Camigliatello via Skiinfo. There are two ski lifts only, but this will do for us when in Calabria in winter!

This is an excellent reason to push forward the installation of a chimney in our beach house. We could drink hot teas and wine in front of the wooden fire after a day skiing up in the mountains. :-)

And I really enjoyed this magazine, especially the featured home of Aerin Lauder in Aspen.

AD German Edition Dec/Jan 2012

Living room of Aerin Lauder's Aspen home

Wishing you all the best for 2012!

I thought this is funny: Palazzo Pizzo Team on skiing holiday

the interior, finance and construction team of Palazzo Pizzo (from left)

We took a week off and met in Switzerland for a skiing holiday with family and friends. In this picture above you see from left: me, myself, my husband CC and his father Angelo, our major help at Palazzo Pizzo.

I thought it is a very funny picture, not only because we were all wearing helmets, like construction workers, but also you can tell who is in love with GREEN bathrooms, who's idea was the RED bathroom and who painted the entrance hall in APRICOT. Can you ?!

And if you ever happen to go to Klosters, don't miss the Berghaus Alpenroesli, it is such a beautiful and romantic spot for lunch or dinner:

two pictures above via Alpenroesli

However, now we are all back at work. Angelo drove down to Pizzo and I am awaiting updates soon. I will keep you posted, a presto.