Rental diaries, vol. 7
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Rental diaries, vol. 7

Fri 19 Jan 2018 2:26 PM

Real estate is said to have three rules: location, location, location. Rents rise in fashionable areas—this is, of course, amplified in Florence. And, rather inconveniently for cash-strapped city dwellers, leading experts (okay, mothers) love to cite this saying, manipulating its original meaning: Location is everything. Safety is paramount. Move across the ocean, sure, but by God, don’t move into a Bad Neighborhood.


Followed quickly by: Do make sure your rent isn’t too high, honey. No one wants to be house poor.


Such difficult-to-reconcile sentiments have led some sons and daughters to give up and stick to a Bad Neighborhood budget.


Imagine my elation when I nabbed a flat in a decidedly Good Neighborhood, with a price tag typically reserved for Bads and basements. Still, a few days in at my new digs, the threat of the “HAT” loomed. (Coined by an ex-boss, the HAT is the fourth rule of real estate—the Hidden Awful Thing, bound to appear after enough months elapse).


Not enough natural light in the foyer, I reassured myself. That’s the “awful” thing. Hardly hidden.


A visiting friend and I had barely popped the inaugural prosecco before he pointed out the structure’s one eyesore, the fat orange pipe lining my ground floor garden’s wall.


Not cute, I know, I’ll cover it with a trellis or something like a real homeowner, I babbled. But he was distracted by the chorus of whooshing sounds from the apartments above, which I’d theretofore been unable to identify.


“Oh, great…you’ve got the Poop Chute!”


Neither plumbing peculiarities nor HATs is confined to Bad Neighborhoods.


Rental Diaries column by Mary Gray is now a book, buy it directly or on



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