Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1109: Summer in Italy, Villino dei Limoni
1bed/1bath apartment in Praiano, Amalfi Coast, Campania
July 31 - Aug 21, 2004, 3 weeks
This apartment is at the very summit of Praiano, a small seaside village clinging to the steep cliffs of the Amalfi coast. The arrival instructions told us to park on a road above the apartment and on walking down a few steps we would find the apartment. The few steps were over 100 vertical feet and extremely steep, making transporting the luggage very, very difficult - especially as at this time of the year the temperature was over 30 degrees centigrade and the humidity utterly oppressive.
We were met by a construction worker who had been ordered by the owner to meet us. We were later to find out that this man was refurbishing the apartments above us and adjoining to us.
The view was very nice, but clearly demonstrated how high above sea level we were (approximately 1,000 vertical feet). The apartment is set back from it`s neighbours which limited the view somewhat. It is surrounded by other apartments. It was, at the time of our booking, listed under the sub-section of "romantic villas" - it soon became apparent with all the noise from construction and the neighbours young children (whose mother took every opportunity to scream at them and, occasionally, we would hear her slapping her two young boys, followed by incessant wailing!), not to mention the nearby bell tower that clanged away all night, we had been mislead. Praiano is the Amalfi coast`s poor relation with very limited basic amenities and abysmal infrastructure.
The closest basic shop was a 15 minute each way walk along steep paths, or the climb back up to the car and then a 5 minute drive to a shop without any free parking. You are in a Catch-22 situation with a car - without it you are forced to walk long distances in sweltering conditions before taking a perilous bus ride (tip - keep your eyes closed and fingers crossed!), or with a car you are forced to drive amongst some of the world`s most dangerous drivers and pay through the nose for parking anywhere close to where you want to get to.
This apartment is directly below the owner's apartment (which as stated previously was in the process of being refurbished) and adjoining another being renovated for sale. The owner (who insists on being referred to as "The General") instructed us on arrival to keep all the windows open during the day and run an electric dehumidifier (at our expense as we had to pay electricity costs!) by night to prevent mildue from "returning".
There is a nice patio in front of the apartment with a decent view. This was overlooked by other apartments and had a footpath alongside it affording no privacy.
The apartment was reasonably clean, the only problem being the shower drain being cloggged with hair from the previous renter causing a back up and fowl stench. The furnishings were spartan at best and comparing Summer in Italy`s photos now to the apartment it is clear that all the pictures have been removed since they were taken. In the website photo of the patio there is a double-wide swing chair shown that we had looked forward to sitting on which was missing when we arrived - but could be seen on the patio of the apartment next door!
I have stayed in many places all over the world and can state with supreme confidence that this apartment has the world's worst bed, there is nothing that comes remotely close! The thin mattress rests on a metal frame that creaks with every movement of your body - even breathing! I am convinced that it had been previously used as a torture device as it was exceedingly painful to lie on and impossible to gain any modicum of sleep. After complaining to Summer in Italy, the "General's" solution was to put two mouldy, cobweb infested doors under the mattress which did reduce the noise but made the bed as comfortable as a slab of granite.
The slapped together kitchen looked like something a child had been involved in constructing - no regard for safety either as the gas rings (of which one of the three did not work) did not have any ventilation thus forcing us to have the windows wide open (and consequently being exposed to all the native wildlife ... did I mention that there were no fly screens or air conditioning?) or risk carbon monoxide poisining. I have to believe that even in Italy with it's relaxed safety laws this is illegal! All the cooking equipment and crockery looked as though it had been salvaged from the local rubbish dump.
There was a settee in the kitchen that doubled as a single bed, but as it looked as though it had been used in a farm animal shelter we were a little wary of sitting on it.
Problems or Bonuses
Surprises to the good - I wish!!!!
Apart from the above and countless I choose to forget the more memorable are: The "General" was a rude dictator. He insisted on us leaving the windows open all day (even opening one we could not lock shut every time we went out) exposing us to the voracious appetites of Praiano's vast mosquito population. When we eventually decided to close the windows in an attempt to conserve what little blood we had left the "General" became very aggresive, shouting, gesticulating at our disobedience and verbally insulting us. He rang Summer in Italy to try and get them to force us to leave the windows open. The atmosphere was extremely tense and after a particularly vociferous assault on our return home one evening we decided enough was enough and to leave the apartment several days early.
We had spent almost two months in Italy by this point in our vacation so we had a fair expectation of what this would be like. However, nothing prepared us for the level of wildlife that we would be exposed to - ants in the apartment, aggresive mosquitoes everywhere, huge wasps which spoilt any pleasure to be had on the patio, a strange, giant, black something or other that looked like a cross between a Scarab beetle and a Tarantula wasp that seemed to believe we were either encroaching on its territory or a new food source, not to mention the huge spiders that lurked in our clothes. This was nothing short of camping with basic amenities!
The two mouldy doors that the "General" had placed under the mattress were like a Trojan horse for Praiano's insects - one evening we discovered what looked like maggots sneaking out of them - you can imagine how well we slept that night after disposing of the creepy little invaders!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The agency was sympathetic to a limited point but I do not believe that they really knew how difficult to reach this apartment was or how interfering the "General" was or even just how decrepit the facilities were. Our complaint at least had the result of having the apartment removed from the "romantic villas" section but their assurances that they would not be using the apartment again next year were baseless as I now note that they are indeed offering this apartment for 2005!
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Only if you are an entymologist looking to discover previously unknown insects, do not wish for any form of basic luxury, have a gas mask to prevent asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning when using the gas ring and have the stamina of a mountain goat when ascending the near vertical, seemingly endless stairs that snake through Praiano.
We are both young and very fit and still found this to be challenging. If you have any disabilities or health concerns do not - I repeat - DO NOT attempt this apartment.
Things to do in this area
The best thing to do in Praiano is leave!
With Amalfi and Positano close by why would anyone choose to stay here when armed with a little local knowledge? Restaurants are typical and basic. The few alimentarias were the priciest and provide the least choice we found in Italy. The two rocky beaches are extremely difficult to get to (unless, of course, you are a mountain goat) and are a 40 minute descent and a one hour tedious ascent by foot to the apartment.
Skip this coastline altogether and do not venture past Sorrento.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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