Updated: Oct 13
Paragraph 5 of our Health and Safety handout reads "Wasps and hornets may pay you a visit during your stay...We try to clear any nests we find, so if you see one, please let us know." Since we installed our insecticidal nebulizing system last summer, hornet sightings near Poggiosole's lodgings have in fact been rare. But, as was confirmed a couple of days ago, in our outer olive grove things can be different.
A WhatsApp text from our master pruner Vittorio read, "At the base of the next to last tree, third row from the road, there's a large hornet's nest. It's not possible to work on this tree, and you should be careful too..." accompanied by the above photo. Buzz buzz. Unlike wasp stings that, unless you're allergic, are merely annoying and itchy-bruisy for a few days, a single hornet sting feels (from experience) like a hot knife and will swell a hand to twice its normal size for the better part of a week. So while I have cleared wasp's nests dressed in a T-shirt, I opted to suit up for this mission: thick cotton work pants and hiking shirt, cotton scarf, leather gardening gloves, and ski goggles under a rubber rain-jacket-and-overall combo plus rubber bands to seal the gloves against the jacket. I looked ridiculous. Good thing it was 6am 🤪
I pulled a two-liner plastic beaker from our pool supplies and mixed up 1200 ml of 5% Diazipol, our most potent insecticide. Splash into the base of the tree. Repeat, more pour than splash for the second dose. Then I went and got our sprayer, also filled with a Diazipol solution, and stood by to pick off survivors and soldiers returning to the nest. Those bugs were tough, but too busy dealing with the abundant amount of neurotoxin I was throwing at them to bother attacking me. Better safe than sorry, but, in hindsight, I may as well have been wearing a T-shirt. By 7:30am the buzz was killed. I peeled off my whacko getup and headed back to the lodgings for parallel check-outs.
The reverse side of our Welcome handout is devoted to waste management; directions for how to sort trash and where to put it during one's stay. Maybe half our guests read this (admittedly long) set of instructions. Of those, about half actually get it right.
That means I end up taking out a lot of trash or (worse) sorting it for guests that mix it up. This is a buzzkill, and takes time away from tending to our lodgings and grounds.
Yesterday was especially trying. After noticing that Le Rose's guests hadn't put their unsorted waste bin street-side, then being told that they had no non-recyclable trash (red flag: this has never happened) , I decided to ask for a pre-checkout walk-through (first time I've felt compelled to do this). Fair enough, some plastic bottles had been set aside, but only a few had been placed in the bins provided to manage them. Further, a Retro 51 Tornado pen and a Wüsthof 12cm cook's knife were missing from the lodging. When I put these grievances to the group leader, his nonchalance only added to my frustration (he later agreed to pay for the pen, which one of his family members had decided to keep as a souvenir). After he and his group departed, I spent over half an hour sorting their trash, much of which had been placed in shopping bags. These had to be emptied of assorted items before being flattened and placed into either Le Rose's paper recycling bin or Poggiosole's wood-sided plastic collection point. In short, our printed instructions had been cheerfully ignored. As for the pen or the knife, it's not just about what these premium items cost; the injury is to the trust and shared feeling (call it love) that Poggiosole is built on.
I wish I could say this case of "lodge lifting" was an isolated incident, but, looking back on this year, it's clear that petty theft has become a problem. Oddly, as our rates have risen, the proportion of, em, shall we say careless guests has risen too (and most of the missing items were in Le Rose, our more expensive lodging). To date, and in descending order of replacement value, a Wagenfeld lamp, a Wüsthof Classic cook's knife, a Bosch wand mixer, a Pulltex corkscrew, three Retro 51 Tornado pens, an Anker wireless charger and matching power adaptor and several Lock'n'lock plastic food storage containers have disappeared from Le Rose (the corkscrew actually went missing last year). Begonia's list is shorter but still significant: an O-Light Swivel flashlight, one Retro 51 pen, a Rösle stainless steel juicer and a couple of Lock'n'locks. Add it all up for a replacement value of around €950, plus the time taken to re-order, receive, unwrap, and re-install all those items (and sort and recycle their packaging).
Solutions spring to mind, none of which are appealing: partially refundable cleaning fees to encourage folks to practice mindful waste management, raising the age limit of group or family leaders from 24 to 35 (on the dubious assumption that, as you age, life teaches you a thing or two about the value of work and community), printed inventory lists that guests are required to sign off on on arrival, security deposits, etc etc. All are under consideration for next year 😔
Postscript, October 6: After my 21-year-old son Elio read this post, he pointed out that a refusal to read or comply with instructions and / or casual theft are manifestations of the sense of entitlement that comes with privilege. The British newspaper The Guardian, having interviewed psychologists and researchers on the matter, has a more nuanced take, linking bad behavior amongst the well-off to trauma and a sense of invincibility. Whatever the cause, and despite the fact that we are likely to see more of this behavior, I just ordered a new Wagenfeld lamp for Le Rose. The price had gone up: €555 including shipping.
Post-postscript, October 13: As needs must, I've been busily composting a set of Terms & Conditions to be downloaded and signed by guests starting this winter. These are now viewable on Poggiosole's website in four languages. The idea is to have prospective guests review these before they inquire about staying with us, so they have a better idea of what the property is like and what check-in and check-out and waste management entail. Should flow alright for guests booking directly through our site; not sure how it will work with platforms like Booking, Airbnb or Plum Guide where by the time we are put in touch with a guest their reservation is presented as a fait-accompli. Our new T&C's introduce security deposits and cleaning fees, both of which are refundable if folks do the right thing. They also include simplified indemnity clauses for accidents involving our pool, our famously well-equipped kitchens (esp their assortment of razor-sharp knives), and run-ins with stinging insects and wildlife. All reasonable I suppose, but a bit of a buzzkill.