Extend your summer in Southern Italy

UPDATE: It’s mid-November and you can still swim in Pizzo! This year the summer is endless! And we extend our golden season offer (see below), special rates are now available until December 2018!

 
Enjoy empty beaches in and around Pizzo on the Costa degli dei

Enjoy empty beaches in and around Pizzo on the Costa degli dei

 

Buongiorno,

We hope you had a wonderful and joyful summer. How about extending your summer in Southern Italy? Enjoy the dolce vita in one of our beautifully restored apartments in Pizzo Calabro (Vibo Valentia), just 25 min drive from the international airport of Lamezia Terme (SUF).

We offer up to 20% discount on our standard rates during some selected October weeks.

 
Learn Kitesurfing in Gizzeria (30 km from Pizzo)

Learn Kitesurfing in Gizzeria (30 km from Pizzo)

 

Travel tips: 

Learn kitesurfing in Gizzeria, just 30 km from Pizzo, at Hang Loose Beach where the latest kitesurfing world championship in July 2018 took place. Here you can find instructors (English and Italian speaking) or just rent your gear. (photo above)

Combine your stay in Pizzo with a visit to the famous 'sassi' of Matera (photo below) in Basilicata, the UNESCO world heritage site since 1993 and the next European Capital of Culture in 2019 ! Matera is only 300 km (3h20 drive) from Pizzo and 65 km (1h drive) from the Bari airport in Puglia. Matera worth to stay two nights See my latest blog post about a trip to Matera.

 
Matera (300 km from Pizzo)

Matera (300 km from Pizzo)

 

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Grazie mille & saluti cordiali
Susan

Road Trip Pizzo - Matera in Basilicata

Matera (Basilicata, Italy)

Matera (Basilicata, Italy)

Visiting Matera was always on my mind since I first heard of Matera and the ‘sassi’, the stones, which are cave dwellings in rocks. Until the late 50ies, peasants families lived in these caves with many children and their animals to keep warm, without electricity, fighting malaria and other diseases when the Italian prime minister (back then De Gasperi) declared it the “disgrace of Italy” and forced the inhabitants of the sassi to relocate into a new town, built especially for this evacuation into modernism. But they wouldn’t be Materani if they would not be strong characters. The young generation is proud of their heritage and creative enough to invent and build a future for their city and youth.

Matera, once capital of Basilicata (or Lucania, until 1806) became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, mainly because of the rediscovered underground water cisterns system. And in 2019, Matera will be the next European Capital of Culture! The Materani are ready to welcome visitors from around the world. They have renovated many caves and abandoned houses and rent rooms to visitors, sell handicrafts in caves, or revive Lucanian cuisine in cave restaurants.

This summer it was time to go. It is 300 km from Pizzo, and just a 3 h and 20 minutes drive. I was bitten by the travel bug for several reasons but that would be an entire separate post. So one Monday morning I sat in the car with my young companion, our son of 15 years. With a map of Southern Italy on his lap (yes, a real map!) where I had marked with a yellow marker our 4 day round trip (Pizzo Calabro, Matera, Polignano, Monopoli, Ostuni, Lecce, Otranto, Lido Pizzo and Gallipoli and back to Pizzo Calabro. Later we added Alberobello, but this is another story/post).

I was so totally in the adventure mood. But since we live in modern times, I thought better to book us some airbnbs (2 nights Matera and 2 nights Lecce). Our airbnb host in Matera was informed about our arrival around 1pm. My son’s favorite songs were playing over and over out of a speaker. The sun was shining and the car was running smoothly on the autostrada A3 which was just recently renamed to A2, autostrada del mediterraneo. With my marked Italy map I thought to be well prepared. And Angelo had said, “at Tarsia you head east on the superstrada”. Well, first little mistake. Instead of leaving A2 at Tarsia North, we left the autostrada at Tarsia (one exit too early) which led us on tiny little streets through picturesque villages and landscapes over the mountain. When we finally reached a larger road we made a pit stop at a deserted petrol station. Just two trucks and a bar, which reminded me of a road movie on Route 66 in a similar wild region. Actually, everything around us made me think of California. I kept talking to my son about California. Look, these yellow hills with that single green tree and that awesome blue sky. So California!

After a long drive we finally hit the Calabrian East Coast and drove North to Basilicata. It really was nice driving. You are not allowed to drive over 90 km/h most of the time and you are warned about 10 times before any speed control, most of them are signaling that they are inactive anyway, so you I felt very relaxed (far from the stress on a German Autobahn).

Finally we reached Metaponto, built by ancient Greeks, and turned left towards Matera. Our airbnb host had called me just now and I told her where we are and that we will probably reach her in around 45 minutes. Well, I did not foresee that we will get lost in Matera. We found the street with the free parking zone that she had recommended (thanks to Waze, my navigation app that we used for details in addition to the paper map). Regarding the very dark clouds and strong winds, and the predicted soon coming downpour, we left the car quickly and I run in the wrong direction - uphill - since I had that picture of Matera on a hill in my head … I wondered why my 12 minutes walking distance became suddenly 19 minutes. So I started asking locals. Well, the new town is higher than the old town and you have to walk downhill. When we reached Piazza Veneto the downpour hit us. We aquisted some colourful umbrellas and tried to make it to the Piazza del Duomo. We arrived totally soaked, and found our airbnb host’s son still waiting for us and leading us to the apartment. Wow! This apartment worth the two days I had spent to study all the available flats on airbnb. You must imagine that almost every third cave and every fourth abandoned house is now a lovely B&B. It is an incredible choice and very difficult to make a decision. They look all very stylish!

I am happy to share my accommodation tip. I deem it a fantastic choice, because of its location right in between the two ‘sassi’, the two stony hills, “Sasso Barisano” (direction towards Bari) and “Sasso Caveoso” (the oldest area), next to the Duomo on the top of it all with great views of ‘sasso Barisano’, easy to find (once you know), near the free parking zones. There is no need to sleep in a cave to have the cave experience. You can visit several cave houses with authentic interiors. You can visit a modern sculpture museums (MUSMA) stretched over several caves, and you can dine in cave restaurants. Actually, when I looked closely at photos of bedrooms in caves I got already claustrophobic by imagining the narrow space. And traveling with a teenager it was a good idea to have some space to relax in between exploring and at night.

Our host was awesome. I always would pick an airbnb superhost, but Maria Angela was a megahost. She also gave good tips for what to see and where to eat. Actually, you do not need to be prepared for Matera. Just stroll up and down the alleys, get lost and explore. It is all about getting the feeling of how life was back then.

View from our Airbnb “Al Duomo Relais” in Matera

View from our Airbnb “Al Duomo Relais” in Matera

Matera: a pigeon’s home, soon to become a luxury cave for crazy tourists

Matera: a pigeon’s home, soon to become a luxury cave for crazy tourists

Exploring abandoned caves and scenery in Matera

Exploring abandoned caves and scenery in Matera

Of course when in a hurry, you can just stop by to see Matera from across the canyon, from the site of the Murgia Timone. In the morning sun Matera will glow pinkish, and in the evenings you watch the skyline against the sun at sunset which is quite popular when first lights are on in the little windows and alleys. But to get the real feeling, I recommend to stay 2 days and 2 nights. Of course you can stay longer! This place is full of magic and has so much history to show and tell. Just stroll around and discover, it is like travelling back to our roots of mankind.

Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world dating back to the Palaeolithic period. On the other side of the little canyon in the “Parco della Murgia Materana” you can visit simple Neolithic caves where people lived up to 9000 years ago. Matera is exciting and fun for every visitor, from child to archaeologist.

biggest man made water cistern in Matera

biggest man made water cistern in Matera

Matera has so much to discover

Matera has so much to discover

How about a day hiking in Matera!?

How about a day hiking in Matera!?

view from Murgia Timone, late Afternoon

view from Murgia Timone, late Afternoon

A day in Matera ends

A day in Matera ends

Dining in a cave

Dining in a cave

View of Matera out of a cave, where people lived over 1000 years ago!

View of Matera out of a cave, where people lived over 1000 years ago!

Matera twilight

Matera twilight

Matera at night

Matera at night

Matera gave me an instant urge to draw …. the view from “Al Duomo Relais”

Matera gave me an instant urge to draw …. the view from “Al Duomo Relais”

Matera is not “been there done that”. Looking at my photos, I remember the good grounded feelings the empty caves and the sparse rocky landscape gave me. Although mainly abandoned, I could feel the live of 1000 years. If you have lost your creativity or lost your inner center, go to Matera, stay at least two nights, and the stones will work their magic on you. One day I will be back.

See a brief video about Matera by the UNESCO here

The Guardian: “The miracle of Matera: from city of poverty and squalor to hip hub for cave-dwellers” (17.06.2017)

Accommodation: Al Duomo Relais, Recinto Annunziata Vecchia, 3 in 75100 Matera, phone +39 328 4261649 or +39 320 5740151, email: recintoannunziatavecchia@gmail.com (host and owner: Maria Angela P.)

Restaurant: L’Abbondanza Lucana, Via Bruno Buozzi, 11, 75100 Matera, phone: +39 0835 334574

Happy discovering!

Pizzo Vacation Rental Summer 2018

Coffe on the roof top terrace, Dependance delle Grazie (photo credit: lovely guest Steve B., April 2018)

Coffe on the roof top terrace, Dependance delle Grazie (photo credit: lovely guest Steve B., April 2018)

Did you enjoy your weekend? Summer feelings are all over Europe! Where do you plan to go this summer? 

Come to the sea! Come to the Costa degli Dei (the coast of gods) in Calabria, Southern Italy! Come to Pizzo! Pizzo is the best place to explore this beautiful coast and the hinterland of Calabria, and its spicy food and Ciro wines.

We at Palazzo Pizzo have the following apartments still available now until the end of summer 2018 (updated May 20, 2018): 

Palazzo Pizzo Residence (sleeps 2) for 110 Euro per night :

May 23 - May 31,  July 3 - July 10,  and September 12 - September 21

Dependence Delle Grazie (sleeps 2-4) for 140 Euro per night * :

June 10 - June 29,  August 4 - August 12,  August 20 - August 27,  and September 7 - September 30

*) rates are for 2 persons per apartment, additional guest pay 20 Euro per person. Our self-catered apartments come with free wifi and free secured parking. Minimum stay is 7 nights (or as indicated).

Please contact us directly if you are interested.

You can also find us on airbnb, homeaway (fewo, abritel) and tripadvisor (holidayletting). There you can check our availability also for autumn 2018 and read our 5 star guests' reviews. We are proud superhost on airbnb.

We are looking forward to welcome you in Pizzo!

Warm regards, saluti cordiali

Susan & Palazzo Pizzo Team

(photo source: great shot by lovely guest Steve B., April 2018)

Read also my posts about direct flights to Lamezia and what to do in Pizzo.

 

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.