Facebook villa rental advertising fraud

Lately I have been hearing about some awful experiences involving frauds when booking villas via facebook.  This really upsets me in many ways.  Firstly, I believe that holidays are sacred.  People have saved hard and looked forward to a break with their families.  To have that ruined in such a horrible way is upsetting and completely unacceptable.  Secondly, it is fraud plain and simple. Lastly, it gives a bad name to people such as me who legitimately have a villa and rent it out to people.

Last night (Sunday) I received a series of texts from a lady who had stayed at my villa in Italy in April.  Firstly, I thought her phone had been hacked but the more texts I got from her the more I realised that her story was true and this had happened to her.  Let me explain.

She had booked a villa in Spain via facebook.  It was for her family which includes 3 children and her in laws.  Just as she was boarding the plane she gets a phone call saying that they can’t go to the villa as there is a fire risk problem.  The “owner” of the villa says she will sort out a hotel for her and send her the details.  A hotel is booked.  When the family arrive at the hotel there has been a problem with the credit card and they have not booked the room.  So, then this family of 7 including 3 small children are left stranded at 3am on a Sunday morning.  They finally get an apartment Sunday morning but are truly upset and stressed out.  They decided to go and find the villa but cannot find it.  They contact the “owner” who says she is upset that the hotel booking was not valid and that she will be in touch Sunday night/Monday morning.  She has reimbursed this family their monies plus expenses. To date they still have not received any further communication from her.  They have tried calling but there is no answer.  The money is not in the bank.

This family are distressed, upset, and have 3 small children in a foreign country.  They do not speak Spanish and to them this is their worst nightmare.  To me I am horrified.  I am upset for her.

To date (a week later) they have still not heard from her but have heard via posts to facebook that this woman has done this before.

You might be asking yourself why she contacted me, well she wants help.  The family don’t know what to do and because I provided them with such a good professional service (their words), she turned to me for guidance.  I am more than happy to help her.  In fact, I have just gotten off the phone from her and agreed to meet up with them when they are back in the UK to see where I can help.

So why am I writing this article, I am so mortified about this whole situation that I felt some guidance was needed when booking a villa directly from an owner especially via facebook.  These are my key points in making sure that the owner is legitimate and the villa does exist.  Whilst it does not guarantee that you won’t have a problem it goes a long way to making sure any issues are limited.

  1. If you are booking via facebook, connect with the person as a friend. If they are renting their villa to you they will gladly connect with you. You will help them market it.
  2. Look through their facebook profile. What are their posts like? Would you think that a person like this would own a villa abroad? Do they talk about their villa or the country it is in? Go with your gut instinct. It is normally right.
  3. Ask them if they have a facebook page for the villa. The more the person advertises their villa the more legitimate it will be.
  4. Do they have a personal website with the villa details? If they don’t then they probably don’t have the villa.
  5. Enquire via their personal villa website. Is it the same person that replies.  If no one replies then there probably isnt a villa.
  6. Get the address and check on google maps to see if an actual villa is there. If it is then check that all the photos in the facebook page, website and google maps are the same.
  7. Do they advertise via other listing websites such as owners direct, HomeAway, simple owners, trip advisor etc. Again, the same applies, the more they advertise it the more legitimate it will be.
  8. Think about booking via a reputable company such as owners direct. They charge a service fee but you get protection.
  9. Listing websites such as owners direct, trip advisor ask guests for reviews. Check these out. The more the better.
  10. Google the person’s name, address and see what comes up.
  11. Do they provide you with the option of paying via PayPal, and credit card? If not then don’t use them. If you pay via BACs you are generally unprotected.
  12. Buy travel insurance and make sure this type of booking is covered.
  13. Check the business name on better business bureau website to see if it is on there.

As I said the above doesn’t guarantee that everything will be perfect but it goes some way to protecting you.  If you want more information then please get in touch.  I can be contacted on 07983406017 or louisa@rentalholidaysitaly.co.uk.

My English-Italian Wife and the World of Frozen the Movie

Our latest blog as written by my husband George. A number of years ago I was working part-time as a gym instructor. One evening in walked a beautiful young thing who was to become my wife. I took a liking ..

Our latest blog as written by my husband George. 

A number of years ago I was working part-time as a gym instructor.  One evening in walked a beautiful young thing who was to become my wife.   I took a liking to her, so started to see her outside of work.  I knew her mother and father were Italian and she’d been born and brought up in the UK. 

What I didn’t know was what this meant.  I thought in my ignorance the Italian lineage meant a bit of pasta, salami and the odd pizza, now and again.  Was I in for a sharp learning curve?  There was plenty of pasta, and the odd pizza.  But the Family thing was the biggest surprise.  You see Italian identity is closely linked to the family. 

That link can bring certain problems and benefits.  For example their prying can be intolerable, but kindness unbelievable.  Their willingness to help is unimaginable, the chaos that follows a sight to see.  The food is delightful, but the amounts are gut busting. 

One of my wife’s aunties comes to mind.  Before I knew I knew nothing, I thought she was prying, overbearing, pushy and nosey.  The reality is she gave great kindness and love over many years to the little girl who later was to become my wife.  The truth is she would most likely give you the sofa out of her lounge with little question.  However in return she expects that you are there for her as well when needed.  I write this after having a lunch of wild rabbit and salad cooked for myself and children by my long suffering Anglo-Italian wife.  All ingredients were very kindly donated by her auntie and much enjoyed. 

When I come to Italy I have the pleasure of seeing the real Italy.  I get to eat peaches that actually taste of peach.  Taste strawberry’s that taste of strawberry.  Enjoy tomatoes that taste and food that tastes of life and kindness. 

When explaining my wife’s family a quote from the Disney film Frozen comes to mind.  Christophe is about to introduce Anna, to his adopted family, the trolls.  He says

“They’re a little bit loud.  And boy they’re brash.  And sometimes they’re really heavy, but!

Nearly twenty years on with two little girls, a retreat in Italy I now know one thing about Italians?  I know absolutely nothing about Italians. 

 

Ice-cream, made in Italy

Strawberry? No, lemon. No, chocolate. No, pistachio. Mmm… Maybe coconut… What about stracciatella?… To choose an ice-cream seems easy but it isn’t. Especially for a glutton like me! I would have one with all kinds of flavours possible and imaginable …

 
Strawberry? No, lemon. No, chocolate. No, pistachio. Mmm… Maybe coconut… What about stracciatella?…
 
To choose an ice-cream seems easy but it isn’t. Especially for a glutton like me! I would have one with all kinds of flavours possible and imaginable but, for € 1.50, you can only get three. So, which ones to choose?
 
There are so many, between classical and more sophisticated ones, that I think it is just not fair to pick only three flavours! Also because I’ve never figured out why only three and not four or five (and does the whipped cream on top count?)…
 
Up until now, among all the combinations of tasted, my favourite is mango, blackberry and green apple but, as far as my gluttony goes, I just can’t live without chocolate! Sometimes combined with strawberry, others with coconut and, most of the times, with mint. Yes, mint and chocolate… That’s it!
 
I am very fond of special flavours so, at an ice-cream fair in Rome, I had the opportunity to taste flavours of all kind created by master ice-cream makers. In the end, my favourite was, without doubt, Black Forest, chocolate with cherries, hazlenuts and flakes of plain chocolate on top… No problems with my figure after that, I swear!
 
A good ice-cream is a state-of-the-art thing in Italy, either if it’s imitating the taste of english trifle or inventing something new such as the limoncello taste of Capri.
 
To have an ice-cream is very nourishing and it is even more nourishing to eat it in good company, lose yourself in all those inviting colours and choose the ones you like the most.
 
By the way… Hazlenut? No, melon. No, red fruits. No, Puffo (Smurf in english – it is actually blue, like the Smurfs, and its taste is a mix between anisette and mint). Mmm… Maybe crème caramel… Liquorice?… 

Telese

Telese is a 10 minute drive from Faicchio and is famous for its thermal baths. The park is situated in a vast oasis of century-old trees. It offers two thermal pools, a garden bar, an amphitheatre and a restaurant.

The baths are renowned for its rehabilitation services and many people visit from across the world.  The baths have been rumoured to treat various diseases especially skins disorders.  I remember as a young teenager visiting the spa regularly as I suffered quite badly from acne.  Once in the waters and for quite a while afterwards my skin was healed.  Unfortunately I had to come back to England so couldn’t keep up with the treatment.   

In addition, the park also has an amphitheatre, where during the summer you can watch numerous musical and theatrical events and participate in ballroom and group dances.  Its a wonderful experience full of local Italian people and you really get the feel of the culture of town and area.  Not to be missed.  

To enter the park there is a small fee of 3 euros.  If you want a day at the spa then it is 11 euros.  Both worth visiting and experiencing.  

The town of Telese has recently undergone major development.  There are some fanastic shops, bars and restaurants.  You can buy some stunning shoes for a small price, clothes and accessories.  On a Saturday Telese holds their market.  It is always very busy but a fantastic way to buy and enjoy local produce.  As a child I remember visiting the markets and buy olives.  It has stayed with me all this time as I still love olives brought out of large plastic tub and just stored in brine.  A wonderful way to enjoy natural food.  You will find lots of vegetables, fruit, shoes and clothes at the market.  Personally I love going for a bargain. Always haggle otherwise what is the point of going.  The market is full of colours, smells and wonderful stalls to explore and buy from.  Have fun.  

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Telese also has the main railway line to Naples and Rome.  You can reach Rome within 2 hours and Naples within 1 hour. You can also reach Pompeii by train from Telese.  

Telese railway station is a sleepy station and typically Italian.  I love travelling by train in Italy.  Not only is it very cheap but the scenery is breathtaking.  You get to see quite a lot of the country and the journey from Telese to Rome takes you through some stunning areas.  If train travel isn’t your thing then you can get coaches to Rome and Naples.  Whilst again a cheap way to travel 20 euros return to Rome, you don’t actually get to see much apart from the motorway.  However in saying that there are some stunning views but just not as good as the train.  Also the train takes you to the main train terminal whilst the coach takes you the main bus terminal which is quite a way from the centre of Rome.  You need to get across Rome via bus.  If you choose this route its OK but be prepared to see parts of Rome you never thought you would see.  You dont only get to see the beautiful parts of Rome but also the areas the tourist board probably dont want you to see.  Its an adventure.  One that I personally love!

Apart from the spa what Telese is also famous for is the wonderful Lago di Telese.  It is truly relaxing lake and lovely to walk around.  It is quite a big lake and not recommended for swimming as the depth of the lake is unknown.  There are some lovely restaurants and bars around the lake where you can get a coffee.  The restaurants are very good and reasonably priced.  Its lovely sitting by the lake front enjoying a wonderfully cooked pizza.  Its something I would recommend.  Fishing is available but you need a license which is quite difficult to get hold of.  If fishing is your thing then look at our seperate article regarding fishing in the area.  

Telese is a lovely little town.  Well worth the visit.  Take time to explore it.  You wont be disappointed.  

Pizza

Eating a pizza in Italy is as normal as having pasta or any other food for lunch or dinner (my friend Luca has it for breakfast in the morning!). You can either have it served during the day as a take-away pizza, cut into slices and wrapped up in paper (as you would get fish ‘n’ chips in the UK), or at night, as the typical round pizza, in restaurants or pizzerias which usually offer a take-away service too.

In Italy we don’t really “go out for a pizza”. We treat ourselves to dinner in a fancy restaurant and in the end it just comes down to deciding between having pizza or pasta (my friend Luca has both!).

I’ve tried pizzas of all kind and in all different places but, even after twenty years of living in Rome, I still wouldn’t know what to suggest as the perfect recipe for a pizza. Its no wonder why many people that come to Italy just can’t figure out the secret behind it all.

One may think that it’s as simple as following a recipe step by step, using the right ingredients and mixing them in the right quantity, but it isn’t. Making a pizza in Italy is a sort of ritual and from it derives some kind of sacredness in its preparation. The ingredients are only just components that vary from one pizza to another and I think it’s the way that you approach the dough that makes the difference. This is where being Italian comes into place.

You know that all Italian way of gesticulating which makes people say one word with their mouth and ten other words with their hands during a conversation with someone? That’s the proper way to mix the dough and give a pizza its shape! The greater the pizza maker’s ability to gesticulate with his hands, the more you will be not just eating the pizza but talking to it too!

After trying so many kinds of pizzas, mine like many other people’s opinion (this may not be the case of my friend Luca!) is that, the simpler a pizza is, the better it tastes. This is why the combination between tomato, mozzarella and basil of the reknown Margherita seems to be the most popular.

Regarding the best places where to find a pizza in Italy, all you need to know is that a restaurant where you will not find a decent pizza is a shut down restaurant!