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Review 156: Area Vacanze, Villa Cancelmo


Not Recommended
Review by Pauline from NM who is a SlowTrav Contributor

1bed/2bath apartment in Sorrento, Campania



September 10 - 22, 2001, 2 weeks


September 10 - 22, 2001. We booked this apartment in Sorrento for two weeks, but arrived on the Monday instead of the Saturday and ended up leaving two nights early. So we spent 10 nights in the apartment.

Choosing an apartment

We had a difficult time choosing an apartment to rent in the Amalfi area. This was our first trip to this area (although we have traveled to Italy several times). We did not want to stay in an Amalfi coast town because I was not sure how I would handle the houses that are built into the side of cliffs (I am somewhat afraid of heights) or the Amalfi coast road. We thought about Capri, but decided against it because the prices were about double those for places on the Amalfi coast or Sorrento and we were not sure how we would like Capri. We picked Sorrento because it is a larger town, a flatter town, and is centrally located for touring the region. Also Nancy from Florence, who lived in Sorrento for over a year, recommended it as a good town. Trains from Sorrento go to Pompei and Naples. Boats to Capri. Buses to the Amalfi coast.

There were not many apartments for rent in Sorrento. We found a good looking one through Ville in Italia, but it was not available the week we arrived. So we booked our second choice, Villa Cancelmo with Area Vacanze. Villa Cancelmo is represented locally by Area Vacanze, but it also available through other representatives (Casa Club, Internet Villas, Italian Breaks). No matter who you book with, you will be dealing with Area Vacanze when you arrive. The prices per week ranged from $600 to $855, depending who you booked with.

About the agency

The prices were cheapest with Area Vacanze but they were not good to deal with for booking. They were good to deal with when we arrived. They took many days to respond to emails, they never sent a confirmation booking form or even an email to print out for proof of payment, you paid the deposit with a bank wire to Italy, but had to pay the rest in cash on arrival (this is not unusual with agencies based in Italy). They did arrange for a car and driver to meet us at Naples airport and were there to check us in even though we arrived on a Monday instead of the usual Saturday and arrived in the afternoon when their office was closed.

The owner of the apartment was very nice. She spoke no English - which was amazing because everyone else in Sorrento seemed to speak English - but Steve's Italian is good enough now. She lived in the main part of the villa. Two agency people met us at the apartment for check in - one spoke English, one did not. They were also available at their office if there were problems (our water got shut off for a few hours one morning, so we phoned them).


The apartment is part of an old villa on a quiet street just above Sorrento - the road that goes to the big Hilton hotel (but you do not see it - it is hidden at the end of the road). It takes less than 10 minutes to walk to the center of the old part of Sorrento (Via Corso) and about 15 minutes to the train station. There are food stores just a block away, an English style pub down the block and a fabulous caffe on the main street about 3 blocks away. I liked the neighborhood - you were out of the tourist area - out of the historic center, in the more modern area, but it was still beautiful and charming. The villa was pretty from the front, but was rundown from the back. It was surrounded by a few acres of lemon, lime and olive trees. It was fabulous being in the lemon grove, but really a lemon grove is not as pretty as an olive grove. The lemons are great and the trees pretty, but there is no grass under the trees - just dirt. There was one tree on the walkway to our apartment where I would smack my forehead everyday on an overhanging lemon - what fun to be hit by a lemon tree!

About the Apartment

The apartment was nice in some ways and not great in others. Mostly I enjoyed our stay there - but I don't feel like I can fully recommend it. It was not that interesting or charming of an apartment, the building was a bit rundown and the kitchen was not great.

The apartment was simple but comfortable. It was not expensive for the area. There was a slight musty smell in the apartment and sometimes a smell of exhaust from the street. We could hear city noises but they were not too loud. The apartment felt private. The owner and a few others lived in apartments in the main building and there was a workshed out in the olive grove, but you were never bothered by anyone. The owner had several dogs - one very nice one would come visit frequently.

You enter into livingroom. All tile floors. One level with livingroom/dining area, kitchen, second bathroom. A few steps up to the bedroom and other bathroom. The bedroom was large and the bed was comfortable. The bathroom sink was big and had a good counter. There are two bathrooms, but the shower in the bathroom by the kitchen is a stall and better to use. No door, so you still sort of flood the floor, but I tried to shower in the bedroom bathroom and totally flooded the place. Typical thin sheet-like towels. Ugly builtin closets in the bedroom - but lots of closet space. One large window in the bedroom which we kept open at night until a cat came in during the night and gave us a fright (we did not know it was a cat until the next day) - so best to close the shutters.

Small livingroom with an uncomfortable couch (just a covered foldout bed), a small dining table and a TV. Not comfortable for hanging out. No desk (we used the dining table).

The kitchen was small, but usable. A nice size fridge, gas stove, strange sinks in the corner that were a bit hard to get to. It wasn't the best space for cooking, but not the worst. Bad set of pots (only 2 are okay), good dishes, medium size fridge, oven and gas stove, no dishwasher.

The apartment is very well lighted. Good light in the kitchen, pretty good in the livingroom, good in the bedroom overhead light and bedside lights. Lights in the garden for coming in at night.

Locked gates to the street you feel very safe. The apartment is tucked away at the back of the villa. I think the part above has not been renovated there are broken windows. The villa looks great from the street, but is rundown behind. Ants have taken over the second bathroom and are all around the front door too. Nice TV, but Italian only channels. No phone, but there is a live outlet in the bedroom. We used it once for email with the computer. The apartment was very clean.

Nice outside areas, but plastic furniture and concrete terraces - not especially pretty. But lots of furniture and it is comfortable and lots of plants in pots to make the place look nice.

The parking situation was not good, but Steve, who was driving, insists it was not impossible. There was a parking space, in through locked gates from the road, but on a small cement pad with sharp dropoffs - so if you miscalculated, your tire could go over the edge and the car would be hanging there. This never happened to us - but it took about 10 back and forths to manouver out of the spot. Also there is a tree in the middle making it very hard to turn around to get out.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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