When it comes to furnishing spaces, many hosts believe that simpler is better. Fewer decorations, Ikea-style furniture, and the like.

There are certainly advantages to this approach.

Fewer things to dust, no sentimental items in danger of being broken or stolen. But not everyone shares this perspective.

One of the bookings we made on our recent trip to Italy was in the spare room of a woman in Parma. Her house was crammed full of nick-nacks. Ornately gilded mirrors and picture frames, religious relics, lace doilies and silk flowers… Much of it may have had sentimental value to her, but to me it just looked like a bunch of junk. I find it tawdry and overwhelming.

And yet, that was one of our best stays of the entire trip.

Federica was such a kind, thoughtful host. She met us upon arrival with some prosciutto, parmesan cheese, and wine – three things that area is famous for. There was also a large bottle of water and 2 crystal glasses. The next morning, she gave us breakfast – all sorts of pastries and, of course, cappuccino coffee. The bathroom, too, was filled with thoughtful touches. Scented candles. Bath bubbles. Toiletry necessities. It was as if I was staying with a dear friend… And indeed, it felt like that.

This was a good reminder to me of what really makes an impression to a guest. It’s not the decorations, or lack thereof. It’s a simple thing, although not necessarily easy.

At the end of the day, guests want to feel not just that they’re cared for, but that they’re cared about. That is what really makes all the difference.