[0:45] In September, 2017, Debi and Rob visited Italy: Debi wanted to attend the Vacation Rental World Summit conference in Florence, and it was hard to convince Rob to join her. They visited Rome, the province of Le Marche, then Florence, Siena, and Pistoia. They mostly used Airbnb listings, as they typically do while traveling. Sara’s house in Civitanova, Le Marche, was one of the five. They spent one night there, on the Adriatic coast, and met Sara Anselmi, an architect and Airbnb host. As often happens, there was a sweet connection, this time with Sara and her husband Luca. The four (five including Sara’s rescue dog) shared a delicious lunch. They ate at a restaurant favored by Sara because the chef, named “Italia”, makes the food just like Sara’s mother did. They met as strangers and left as friends.
**This interview took place in Civitanova, Le Marche, Italy. Sara and Luca live in Rome, and also have an apartment in Tuscany, which comes up in the interview. Sara refers to her Civitanova house just as “La Marche”, and when she says “here”, she is referring to the house in Civitanova.
[3:22] Debi and Sara talk about how Sara got started hosting. Debi was staying in the house Sara grew up in. Sara bought a house just a couple of doors away, planning on living there and helping out with her parents, but her parents both passed away. Sara moved to Rome and five years ago began renting out the home she grew up in, on Airbnb. She maintains an office in the house and uses it for family and her own visiting, so prefers to rent it out short-term.
[5:28] Sara’s second property is in Tuscany, and this one is really interesting! How would you like to remodel and take care of an apartment built in the year 1200? Sara talks about the various dilemmas they face with maintenance and them living in Rome and le Marche. She rents the Tuscany property as a single apartment, but the Civitanova property has two separate room listings. She talks about how she realizes that people would prefer to have an entire apartment for the privacy, and that all the guests at the Tuscany apartment are from outside Italy.
[10:05] L’Eroica (meaning ‘the heroic”) is the name of a bike race held on the first Sunday of October, bringing all kinds of vintage bicycle lovers to Italy, and it is a wine and food fest as well. It was started in the ‘90s to save the crushed gravel roads from being paved. This event takes over the village where Sara and Luca’s apartment is located and the ride goes right by the house. Sara was clearly wishing that she could be in Tuscany to personally host her guests and realizes that she just can’t be there.
[11:35] Debi pursued the question of long-distance hosting, which Sara does at both rentals. They talked about the rather difficult situation Sara has worked through in Civitanova with Roberto, her long-term renter who lives in the top part of the house. Having lost his job, divorced, and two children, he couldn’t pay his rent, so Sara has been teaching him how to do the house cleaning and the Meet & Greet of the guests, in exchange for sharing income from the rentals. It’s their form of co-hosting. She very honestly describes the many difficulties she has encountered. Debi said she admired how Sara has been trying to make this work on Roberto’s behalf. She maintains contact with the local social services and tries to improve his situation.
[15:22] Back to Tuscany… there, Sara has been able to find a person who speaks five languages, lives 5 minutes from the property, and offers catering service! They don’t make enough income to pay off the debt from fixing the roof, but she feels motivated to buy some nice things for the apartment and keep the place very nice. Debi and Rob really want to visit this Tuscany apartment sometime! If you listen carefully, you will hear Sara mention going to the apartment 2-3 times a year, including going for the “Palio” that takes place in nearby Siena. [The Palio admittedly has nothing to do with Airbnb, but it is an insane horse race that takes place twice a year. The neighborhood whose rider wins gains great status until the next race].
[17:40] Debi and Sara talked about platforms, including Booking.com. Even though Sara gets more reservations from Booking.com, she finds Airbnb the easiest, mainly because guests coming from Booking.com are addicted to hotels, expect more services, and don’t understand the concept of home space versus hotel space. Debi really liked the home, having two beds, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a beautiful outside garden with table and chairs.
[20:40] “Italy in One Region” – is the phrase Sara and others use to describe the province of Le Marche (pronounced Lay Mar’kay) – skiing, mountains, hillsides, ocean. Debi also recounts their hilarious adventure the day before when she and Rob missed a bus transfer and Sara helped translate with the bus drivers by phone. She was in Rome at the time.
[25:30] Lunch! Debi wrapped up the interview with a story about lunch with Sara and her husband Luca, and one more (mis)adventure she and Rob had the next day…
[editor’s fun note (this would be Rob)]: My parents met in WWII. They were both assigned to the US Army’s 70th General Hospital in Pistoia, Italy, which is about 20 miles from Florence. When we had lunch with Sara and Luca, we learned that the Americans had shelled the town of Civitanova and then occupied it. Sara’s parents were unhurt, but had to move up to the attic while the Americans used the main house. The good thing was that the Americans had food, and shared it with her parents.