Are there basic supplies at Il Rifugio?
Should we buy travel insurance?
Yes... This is another subject you should discuss with your travel agent. Travel insurance could cover the cost of your airfare and your rental fee at Il Rifugio should a last minute cancellation of your travel plans be necessary. Check out the Travel Insurance category on our Travel insurance agencies
Will we need to rent a car?
Yes... Most people will want to rent a car when visiting Tuscany. Cortona is centrally located in Tuscany and a mere 10 minutes from Il Rifugio by car. In addition, visitors will find many wonderful places to explore within an hours drive of Il Rifugio. Depending on your situation, it is normally better to rent a car at the airport you will be arriving and departing from if they are the same. The convenience of pick up and drop off near the airport you are traveling to and from is usually better than the small savings you might realize otherwise.
Do we need a special license to drive in Italy?
Yes... You need to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive and in most cases to rent a car in Italy. The IDP is a translation of your driver's license so you need to bring your actual drivers license when you go to get your IDP.
Are utilities included in the rental price?
Yes... Gas and electricity are included in your rental fee but please be aware of some facts. Electricity is very expensive in Europe, even more expensive in Italy where the citizens rejected the use of nuclear power. Each house is allowed 3 or 6 kilowatts (kW) of power. Il Rifugio has 6 however this still isn't much when you consider that a cloths washer uses 2.5 kW, a dishwasher 3 kW and an iron 2 kW, We have done what we can by using energy-saving lighting and making our guests aware but the rest is up to you. All that we ask is that you be thoughtful about your use of electricity. You can do this by staggering your use of electrical appliances and by turning off lights when they are not necessary.
Gas is also very expensive in Italy, and not only for your car - ranging from 2 to 3 times what it cost in America, as does the liquid propane that powers the furnace for heating the house, the hot water, and the stove. Again we simply ask that you be reasonable about use, and try to remember to shut the doors and windows when the heat is on and consider putting on a sweater if a little chilled instead of cranking up the heat in the whole house. We want you to be comfortable but not wasteful.
How is the public transportation?
Good... The train and bus service is excellent. There are two train stations close to Cortona and both are less than 15 minutes from Il Rifugio by car. A train ride to Florence is little over an hour and to Rome a little over 2 hours. Buses are available that depart from Cortona to much of the surrounding area.
What will the weather be like?
Seasonal... Tuscan has four distinct seasons, and in general the weather is delightful, especially in spring, summer, and fall. Expect a certain amount of Mediterranean heat in July and August, sporadic rainfall in October and November, and cold winter nights with an occasional dusting of snow (lasting no more than a day or two on the ground) from January through March. Each season, too, has its delights: waves of wildflowers all spring, a toasting sun in summer, the olive harvest in autumn, and the silent beauty of winter
What kind of clothes should we bring?
Comfortable... Unless you plan to attend a formal function, it is best to dress comfortably. It has been my experience that Italians are very fashion conscience but non judgmental and besides, they are not traveling. It is probably a good idea to bring clothes that you can layer such as a sweater in the Spring and Fall season, light clothing during the Summer and some worm clothes in the Winter. It's always a good idea to have a compact umbrella on hand just in case of rain. A good comfortable pair of walking shoes are essential.
Are there screens on the windows?
Most... All the bedroom windows and some of the other windows have screens.
Dies Il Rifugio have air conditioning?
No... It is not typical to find air-conditioning in a private home in Italy and this is true for Il Rifugio to. If the weather happens to be hot while you are staying at Il Rifugio, you can follow this time-honored tradition: close all doors, windows and drapes during the day to keep the sun out. In the cool of the evening, open up everything again until morning. This works especially well in the country with houses such as Il Rifugio, where the tick stone walls act as insulation from the heat in summer and the cold in winter
What airport should I fly into?
It depends... The three most popular airports are: Rome (Code: FCO, Name: Leonardo da Vinci" or AKA "Fiumicino"
Florence (Code: FLR, Name "Florence Airport" or AKA "Amerigo Vespucci")
Pisa (Code: PSA, Name: "Pisa Airport" or " AKA "Galileo Galilei")
I have flown in and out of each of them and my personal favorite is the Florence airport. The advantage is that it is the closest at about a 1.5 hour drive to Il Rifugio and it is much easier to negotiate and quicker to get in and out of than the Rome airport. I have used Pisa the least but it is also small and a little over 2 hours from Il Rifugio. The advantage of the Rome airport is that it is a large International airport so it has more flights (some direct) and possibly slightly lower prices. The disadvantage is that the drive time to Il Rifugio is about 3 hours and since it is a large international airport it takes longer to do things like renting a car, getting your luggage and getting in and out of the airport.
Is it difficult to exchange currency?
No... This can be done at any bank in Italy or better yet, you can use a 'bank-o-mat' (auto teller... Cortona has at least 5) to draw money from a credit or debit card. With the change over to the Euro (€) for currency, money transactions are much easier to understand these days. It's a good idea to have some Euro currency with you when you arrive. This will be useful to hold you over until you can get to a bank. Most banks in the U.S. provide a currency exchange service but you might try a local coin shop. Some coin shops have enough foreign currency on hand to meet your needs and often charge a lower transaction fee than the banks.
Are arrival and departure times strict?
Yes... We aren't control freaks. It's just that we need the time from departure of one party at 10:00 AM to the arrival of another party at 3:00 PM to completely clean the house, change and wash all the linens and restore order. That being said we do understand that problems beyond our control happen all the time and we want to do our best to accommodate you. Please keep us informed of any changes in your schedule as soon as they happen, and we will do everything in our power to help you in any way we can.
Is a phone available at the house?
Yes... There is a telephone at Il Rifugio and we do not charge for reasonable international use.
Is there Internet access at Il Rifugio?
Yes... We have free wireless Internet access but you will need to bring your own computer.
Should we bring any electrical adapters?
Not necessary... There is at least one American style wall plug in each room. We also have electrical adapters if you need more. Unless you have some special needs you should be fine.
Do we need to bing our own towels?
Not necessary... We provide you with plenty of clean wash cloths, bath, hand and kitchen towels. Save some room in your suitcase for any purchases you may like to take back with you.
Do you have hair dryers at IL Rifugio?
Yes... There is a hair dryer in each bathroom. Save the space in your suitcase for a bottle of wine on your return trip home.
How do we deal with our laundry?
Two ways... There are two ways you can handle your laundry needs: Hire someone or do it yourself. If you don't want to do your laundry, we can arrange for someone to do it for you. The cost will be by the hour and you can pay the person directly. Most people, however, will prefer to do their own laundry. There is a state-of-the-art washer and dryer at Il Rifugio; just be aware that washing machines in Italy, and Europe in general, have longer cycle times. As part of our fuel and energy-conserving policy, we ask that you use the clothesline whenever possible. On warm days, the sun and fresh air does a faster job and many people prefer the results.
How is handicapped accessibility in Italy?
Not so good... Handicapped accessibility is not as prevalent in Europe as it is in the US. You should be aware that most public buildings such as museums typically do not have wheelchair accessibility. In addition, city centers and train transportation can be extremely difficult. If you must travel with a wheelchair, consider bringing the smallest, narrowest chair possible as doorways often have small openings. In addition we suggest you have someone who can carry you up or down stairs in an emergency. If you have a handicap of any kind please let us know so we can inform you of some of the challenges and do what we can to help you overcome them.
Are the store hours the same as in the US?
No... This can really get tricky and could make you crazy if you don't pay attention. In general all shops except restaurants close at 1:00 PM every day (I refer to it as the one-a clock wall) and reopen between 4:00 PM and 5:30 PM, depending on the shop, the time of year and the whim of the shop owner. There are also seasonal half-day closings on Wednesday, when certain shops stay closed for the rest of the afternoon. For future reference, it is best to jot down store hours of any shop that interests you as soon as you can. These are typically posted on the door or a window of the shop. However, we suggest you avoid critical planning based on the accuracy of the posted hours, especially with the smaller shops.
Are there classes or tours that can be arranged?
Absolutely... All of the above and more can be arranged. Just let us know anything you are interested in when booking your stay at Il Rifugio so we have time to get information and make arrangement when possible. Try to make these decisions early, and definitely before your arrival. The more time you allow, the more likely we will be able to help you. For things like the scheduling of flights or car rentals we suggest you speak with your travel agent.
Are there any inexpensive activities?
Lots... I'm glad you asked! Of course not everybody will be thrilled with the simple things that entertain me, but if you are interested please check out our Activities page. You will find a list of simple, free things to do during your stay at Il Rifugio or when exploring Cortona. For the price of a cappuccino or a glass of wine, you can always just watch the world go by on Via National in Cortona.
What are the Italian national holidays?
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 6 - Epiphany
Easter Sunday & Monday
April 25 - Liberation Day
May 1 - Labor Day
June 29 - Saint Peter's and Saint Paul's Day
August 15 - Ferragosto (The Assumption of Mary)
November 1 - All Saints' Day
December 8 - Immaculate Conception
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Santo Stefano
Is it difficult to communicate with the locals?
No... The local people in Cortona are very friendly and patient with foreigners. They will do their best to make themselves understood and to understand you. Actually, many shop owners and younger people understand and speak English quite well. You may want to take an Italian language course while in Italy, for your own pleasure or for more in-depth conversations and ease of reading museum labels, etc. If you are interested, please mention this when you book Il Rifugio as we can arrange for group or hourly private lessons.
Are pets allowed at IL Rifugio?
No... Although we have a pet and understand the attachment people have to their pets, we do not allow pets to stay at Il Rifugio. There are several reasons, ranging from our belief that long-term travel is hard on most animals to the fact that you may be jeopardizing your pets health by bringing it to an area where there are potential health and safety issues (insects, wild animals, etc.). We therefore ask that you leave your pets at home while staying at Il Rifugio. Send them a post card once in a while and bring them home a souvenir and I'm sure they will forgive you.
What does is a Cinghiale?
A Pig... A cinghiale is a wild boar that roams the countryside. They are highly sought after by local hunters. Many Tuscan recipes including Cinghiale, especially pasta sauce, and can often be found in local restaurants. Don't worry, even though cinghiale are in the neighborhood of Il Rifugio, they are basically shy, nocturnal animals, as eager to avoid you as you are to avoid them. You are less rather than more likely to have a cinghiale sighting during your visit.
What does Cinghiale breath smell like?
Bad... Just want to see if you are actually reading all of the questions.
What does the Euro currency look like?
Take a look...