One of our guides was waiting for a bus here in Rome, and somehow struck up a conversation with some American tourists (father and daughter) doing the same. After chatting a while, the dad hesitated, and then brought up a question that had obviously been bothering him:
“Do Italians ever take hot showers?” he asked.
Apparently the duo had rented an apartment for their stay in Rome, and discovered when they went to use the shower that there was no hot water. Unable to figure out how to get anything but ice-cold water from the tap, they began to conclude that perhaps in Italy, everybody takes cold showers as a matter of course.
But our guide, being a long-time resident of the city, instantly knew exactly what had happened here. In order to save a few Euros, the apartment owner had turned off the water-heater–assuming that the ever-polite American tourists would simply pay the full fee without complaint, and then go their way.
Unfortunately, this sort of trickery happens all too frequently these days. Since the Italian housing-market has essentially collapsed, many landlords have resorted to renting their empty apartments short-term to tourists, since they can’t find long-term tenants. And they’ve discovered that foreigners from English-speaking countries are oh, so courteous, and rarely complain! And sadly, they regard this as a green-light to rip them off, plain and simple. This is why visitors can find that the stove, air-conditioning or heating mysteriously doesn’t work, or the wi-fi seems to be broken. After all, if it’s turned off, you don’t use it–and if you don’t use it, they don’t have to pay for it.
Needless to say, our guide told the shivering visitors exactly what to do: complain, and LOUDLY! If you’ve had a less-than-stellar experience at your hotel or other accomodation, don’t chalk it up to “they must do things differently here.” Basic amenities are not done differently here, unless you’re being cheated! Rest assured: Italians love hot showers just as much as you do.