Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4398: Sleep in Italy, Monte di Pieta
2bed/1bath near Campo dei Fiori, Rome
October - November 2009, 33 days
After an extensive Internet search for apartments in Rome's historic center, we decided to rent the Monte di Pieta apartment through Sleep In Italy. The Piazza itself is not architecturally attractive, and its use as a public parking lot, with cars and motor scooters whizzing around at high speed is rather awful and somewhat dangerous. However, the apartment is internal, and one has to deal with the piazza only briefly.
On the plus side, you are only a very short distance from the Via Giubbonari, the main street connecting the Campo dei Fiori to the Largo Torre Argentina, about four minutes in either direction. The Pantheon is about a 12 minute walk and the Piazza Navona is 15 minutes. If you are interested in cooking, there is the famous open air market in the Campo six days a week and many food shops in the vicinity. In the evening, it is a major gathering place for young people looking to socialize. Very close by is the Antico Forno Rosciolli, a great resource with excellent bread, excellent white pizza, good pastries, and one of the best tavola caldas in Rome. Torre Argentina is the major convergence point for buses in the historic center and we learned to take buses everywhere.
We have been traveling to Rome for close to 40 years, and remember when one felt menace and danger, and observed incidents such as children on motorbikes snatching women's pocket books. This is no longer the case. Rome today feels entirely safe, and we did not experience or view anything at all that even felt threatening, and as native New Yorkers we do have sensitive antennae. What is dangerous, are the narrow streets without sidewalks with aggressive taxis and motor scooters passing at high speed within inches, and people do get injured and killed. There is no such thing as a pedestrian street in Rome, despite what the signs may say.
Considering the amount of time that we expended in our apartment search, we were somewhat disappointed. We have mixed feelings about Sleep In Italy, because although they were pleasant and helpful, and in some instances very accommodating, the description of the apartment on their website is significantly overstated, and they also show a lack of pro-active quality control in managing the apartment. They rate this apartment five stars, but it is not even close, it is dark and drab, and not particularly well decorated or furnished, although it does have a number of modern conveniences. We have rented more than 40 apartments in Europe over the years, and feel confident in our assessment. We are not at all using the standard of a five star deluxe hotel, but of other rental apartments. They claim explicitly that the windows overlook an internal courtyard. This is not true. The living room and master bed room windows face air shafts, the one in the bedroom admits some light, the one in the living room does not. Even opening the door that does face onto the internal courtyard doesn't help, because the massive kitchenette construction blocks any light. The apartment is lit by low wattage sconces arranged around the walls, some sockets of which are broken. There was not enough light to read anywhere in the apartment. We requested a reading lamp, which they bought for us and delivered to the apartment, a nice gesture. There is no light over the dining room table, and it is dark. We looked back at the pictures on the website to try to understand why our impression was so different in person, and determined that the apartment had been heavily floodlit for the picture shoot and the furniture had been moved around. For example, the armchair is shown in the living room, where it doesn't really fit, and it is actually stored in the small bedroom.
On the plus side, Sleep In Italy has a very lenient payment and cancellation policy. You only pay a €100 non-refundable deposit in advance with the balance being paid in cash on arrival. According to their contract, if you cancel within 20 days of arrival, you are responsible only for paying for a single night. In my experience, this is the most customer friendly policy that I've seen. We were also offered a very substantial discount, because of the length of our stay. On arrival, the check-in person was waiting for us, and was helpful in getting us started. He also reappeared from time to time with items that we requested. Most notably, we had queried Sleep In Italy as to whether the apartment was equipped with an electric drip coffee maker. They said no, but that they would be happy to buy us one, which they did, along with a box of filters. This was beyond what we expected.
The apartment itself, is accessed from a covered exterior corridor around the internal courtyard. It is listed as first floor (second American), but to all intents and purposes it is actually on the second floor. Certain old Italian buildings have short height "mezzanine" floors between the ground floor and the high ceiling piano nobile, which is called the first floor. This apartment is a half flight above the piano nobile. However, the piano nobile only exists for the front side of the building and the other three sides have equally spaced floors, and this apartment is on the second.
One enters directly into the living room, with a small single bedded bedroom immediately on the right, with the entrance to the good size master bedroom beyond, also on the right. The living room is furnished with two large clunky sofa beds, and six narrow and very uncomfortable straight backed chairs, which serve as seats around the dining room table and at the small desk where the Internet cable is located. There is a satellite television, but the subscriptions are minimal. The only English language channels that were of interest to me were CNN, Bloomberg, and BBC World. Many others are possible, but were not subscribed, no sports, no entertainment. If you are interested in Al Jazeera English service, or religious programming, then there were other possibilities.
Internet access is available through a DSL cable. Several weeks into our stay, we woke up to find that we had lost open Internet service, and that we only had access to the website of the Internet service provider. This was obviously not a technical problem. We called Sleep In Italy, who promised to have the problem fixed, told us that it would be fixed the next day, which didn't happen. A week later, after many calls and many promises, we sent a strongly worded email from an Internet cafe, and the problem was fixed the next day. We were offered a "good" bottle of wine as compensation. This issue exposes by inference, to some extent, the complex relationships and problems that exist between apartment owners and agencies. Often people probably blame agencies for problems emanating from the owners, who are the real bosses. This problem was probably due to a payment issue. I could tell from the ISP website that the actual subscriber was the apartment owner. Who was responsible for the problem? Who actually paid when we stepped up the pressure? We'll never know.
The kitchenette is a massive wooden construction, likely custom designed, that is an overwhelming presence in the living room, and doesn't fit with the rest of the decor. It is functional, with a good size refrigerator, a microwave and a small conventional oven, and a dishwasher, with good storage space, and also good workspace, which is often a problem in European apartments. It is also well lit by vertically oriented spotlights. There is a three burner gas stove, where the burners are arranged in a tight triangle, such that if you use a large skillet or pot, it overlaps the other burners, so that effectively you can use only one burner at a time. Towards the end of our stay, the oven shorted out the entire apartment. After resetting the circuit breakers a couple of times we gave up and informed Sleep In Italy, but asked them not to fix it until after we left. We informed the check-in person of the problem when we left. He turned on the oven for a couple of minutes and nothing happened, and appeared to dismiss the problem. I wonder whether this serious, and possibly dangerous problem will be addressed before this happens again? Although the kitchenette is quite functional, the dishes and other cooking equipment was only minimally adequate. The most pressing problems, only a single wine glass, and no kitchen knife, were purchased for us when we requested them.
The master bedroom was good sized and comfortable. The mattress was not up to the quality of a modern hotel room, but was adequate and firm.
The bathroom is equipped with a thermostat controlled walk-in shower. Unfortunately, the thermostat doesn't work, and the shower provides scalding water through almost the full range of temperature selection. There is a very narrow range around 12-13 degrees centigrade on the dial where there is mixing, and we were able to find acceptable water temperature. Because we were able to muddle through, we did not ask to have this problem fixed, because we didn't want to get involved with plumbers in the apartment. We mentioned this problem at check-out and were told that they didn't know about it, which I find very surprising, as the previous renter obviously did, based on where the thermostat was originally set. This is a very serious problem that does need to be fixed. Water pressure through the overhead "rain" shower is also less than adequate, and I don't know whether fixing the thermostat will alleviate this problem. Next to the bathroom, in a closet, are the washer and dryer. Washers are quite common in rental apartments, but not dryers, a plus.
Overall, a very mixed experience that I have evaluated as neutral. I would not rent this apartment again.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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