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Review 2675: Owner, Hilltop House Montelama

Not Recommended
Review by Jeff H from NH who is a SlowTrav Contributor

2bed/1bath house in Montelama near Pontremoli, Tuscany West


2000, We did not stay


Roughly a one hour drive into the mountains SW of Pontremoli, right on the Ligurian border in a small village called Montelama. Very close to other buildings, all of which are clinging to the mountainside. The entrance was down an alley from the small intersection of two roads in the middle of town.

Very remote. No parking. No anything. We did not stay at this apartment. It was not what was advertised (a scam).

Nearby Amenities

This was one hour from anywhere. Groceries were delivered to four or five housewives in town by truck - the women were "shopping" at the back of the truck when we arrived. Twice a week the truck comes up from Pontremoli and the towns people buy provisions. There is nothing in this village except cramped houses.

The House/Apartment

This "house" was the remnants of a fortification tower and was sad shape - spread over two floors were two tiny bedrooms on the entrance level and a kitchen, sitting room, bathroom one level down. The only way in or out was this stairway and this door, since the tower clung to the side of a cliff above the valley. The staircase went right down the center of the rooms.

Officially the village of Montelama is a frazione, which is an Italian political entity of the smallest order. The building was one of about 10 that were all facing the central alley or facing the valley below - as remote as this village is, there would be no privacy, at all, since you are living cheek by jowl with your neighbor.


A poorly furnished plastic table and chairs for four in the public alley/walkway, which is a thoroughfare between homes, as well as providing the only access to the homes overlooking the cliff. No pool.

Furnishings/Cleanliness/Living Areas

The furnishings, finish and general make up was very poor, unclean, unkempt and tired! There was enough room for two at a tiny table in the kitchen. One ancient bathroom with a tub, no shower.


We did not stay! So we do not know the conditions of the beds or bathrooms.


Unknown - it was so messy, dark, small and poorly furnished that we simply did not investigate any of the details.

Problems or Bonuses

Upon arrival, the six of us could not believe the total misrepresentation of the property on the web, total disrepair and only two bedrooms and one bath, not three and two, as advertised. The advertised pool did not exist. A cheesy plastic table and four chairs outside, sitting on a small gravel and weed infested flat area out in the public alley, representing "al fresco dining with a view" in the ad. I guess - there was no "view" of anything except the town's garbage cans and trash.

The featureless kitchen with seating for two and very old and unkept fixtures -was advertised as an "Austrian pastry chef's kitchen." The place was dirty, run down and had obviously been misrepresented by the owner! We did not/could not stay.

Agency and Representatives (and price)

The on site person was a woman from Montelama named Gina, who spoke no English whatsoever, so it was difficult to explain our problem/complaints: false advertising, how do I get my money back, this place is a mess, we are not staying! Gina actually offered that we stay at her home, but we demurred.

We had paid $1500 in advance for a week for the six of us in September. We never got our money back from the owner: Christine.

Note from SlowTrav While Jeff no longer has the link to the website through which he rented this property, nor could any amount of investigation determine if this property is still for rent, we thought we would post this review as a warning regarding the "dark side" of vacation rentals. If you read below in the "Things to do in this area" section, you will see that Jeff and his companions still managed to salvage this trip.

Use this information to help you avoid pitfalls: How to Search for Vacation rentals, Questions to Ask and more information in our section, What is Slow Travel?

Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?

I doubt that this place has EVER been used by anyone, although I'd bet Christine has rented to unsuspecting renters like us on several occasions. There is absolutely nothing good to say. We did not stay more than 30 minutes!

Things to do in this area

La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Pisa, SG, Siena - all are doable as day trips from Pontremoli, but add an hour from Montelama just to get off the mountain and into town.

After declining the caretaker's gracious offer to stay with her (six of us), we headed back down the mountain into Pontremoli by about 5PM. This was late September and of course we had no reservations of any kind and were sure we were gonna be "stranded," but we lucked out. We asked a gas station attendant where the nearest hotel was, there were rooms available and stayed there for four days and nights. Cinque Terre, Pisa, La Spezia and some other small mountain towns. Actually the Golf Hotel in Pontremoli was very nice - rather homey and slow paced and friendly. From there the hotel owner help us out by calling a friend in Lucca, who owned the San Michele Apartments and hotel, south of town and arranged 3 days and nights there - also nice! San Gimi, Siena, Monteriggione, Lucca. That's where we met Ben Kingsley (Ghandi!) and Fiona Shaw, who were apparently studying a script (The Triumph of Love) at a local tiny restaurant just down the street from our apartment. He passed me the olive oil from the credenza on his way by our table. (I wrote this incident up somewhere on the ST site...) From Lucca we spent one last night together in a friend of a friend's apartment in Settignano just outside Florence. Then the three couples went their separate ways. Sue and I went to Parma for two nights and enjoyed the small town feel, the excellent dining and the Saturday AM meat and produce market before heading back to the States.

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

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