Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 5560: Owner, Attico Campo dei Fiori (#52750)
2bed/2bath apartment near Campo dei Fiori, Rome
June 2013, One week
Located on via dei Balestrari, just one block off Campo dei Fiori. The location is great, but be prepared for noise.
Everything was right there, any possible thing one could want.
The apartment was on the fifth floor (with lift) of an old building, not sure how old. The entire building appeared to be apartments, but not many, and we never encountered other residents. It was rather noisy at times: in the mornings as the market is set up (not an issue for is since we are early risers) and at night due to revelry in the campo (this was an issue; the weather was lovely and we needed to keep the windows open, which meant noise. Even if they were closed, it was rather noisy). I did expect this in the location.
The terrace is the main reason we chose this place in our target area of Campo dei Fiori. It was hands down the best thing about the apartment. We ate meals out there, sat out there at night and admired the view of domes and tile rooftops, watched swifts and seagulls, dried our laundry in the sun, sat there each morning to plan our days -- in sum we used it constantly. It offers great views and some seclusion due to the plants, but you can clearly see other terraces and be seen by their occupants (nobody seemed to be out most of the time, however).
Generally the furnishings were adequate, but the apartment and its contents are showing their age and some things are wearing out: for example:
The good: the beds were comfortable platform beds, firmer than most which we all liked. The terrace was well appointed with a table, chairs, and a separate outdoor "living room" set of wooden chairs, sofa, and coffee table.
Qualifier: The website says there are two king sized beds. My husband and I stayed in the smaller room; the bed was not king but just standard double sized -- I think the other was what we would call a queen.
The larger nicer bathroom has a tub with telephone handle (it could use some kind of privacy curtain for the window); the smaller has a stand up shower that needs some care, with moldy and stained grout. The smaller bathroom is *very* tiny, with a weird chain to hold up the toilet lid and/or seat because it is awkwardly placed kind of underneath a ledge of the sink. The website says "unlimited hot water" but that is not the case at all. If you get up early, you can get a trickle of hot water after you leave the shower running for 10 plus minutes. If you are trying to shower during prime time, we had to wait for up to 25 minutes to get any hot water at all, and it was gone within the first minute. I believe this apartment is competing with the rest of the building for hot water, and it must have to travel miles to get up to the top floor. Eventually we worked out having two of us shower at night and the two of us who were very early risers showering before 6am, but it was an inconvenience.
The kitchen was small but serviceable. There was a dishwasher we never used. The plates and glasses were located in bottom level cupboards across from the counter and were a bit awkward to reach. We did some cooking but nothing too elaborate.
The washing machine, which was on our "musts" list because Rome was the last week of a month long journey, turned out to be a bust. On check in I was told on the telephone not to use it, to get the cleaning person to do it for us (she wasn't coming back for several days, however). There are also instructions in the house book not to use it and to go to a laundromat instead. When I pressed the owner (by email, see below) I was told we could use it, but by that time we had already just decided to wash everything by hand and use the terrace drying rack. The trouble seemed to be that other renters had trouble using it. I would suggest leaving some instructions, or removing it from the list of amenities in the advertisement.
Problems or Bonuses
We could have (and did) worked around the inadequate hot water and washer issues, and felt lucky to have the terrace -- worth some of the other bother -- but the two surprises (related) are why I would not stay here again or recommend it to others.
1) the death smell: When we checked in, all the windows were open a a stiff breeze was blowing through the house, which felt lovely. An hour or so later it started to rain a bit, so we closed up, and almost immediately noticed a very bad smell. I live in a big old house and I know that smell: dead mouse (or -- shudder -- rat). It was strongest from the small bedroom. We opened a couple of the cupboards to investigate and wham-o, it was clear something was dead in the corner one. The cupboard was crammed with personal items, so we did not feel right spelunking in there for it. We tried calling the owner but the phone didn't work, so I emailed her, and then we went out to go to dinner. Over a series of two days we traded email, and she seemed not to believe us, to think the smell had to be coming from outside. One night it was so bad I had to sleep out on the saggy sofa. Finally on our third day there she sent the cleaning woman over with a bagful of deodorizing products, chiefly mothballs (?!) which she started to pitch into the cupboards. I stopped her (to me that smell is worse than the death rot) and we managed to communicate with mime, a dictionary, and an iPhone app exactly what was wrong: the dead thing needed to be removed. The cleaning woman, who was lovely but clearly annoyed that the problem had been inadequately communicated to her, fetched several large plastic bags and pitched the contents of the two suspect cabinets into them -- three constructor grade size bags didn't even hold it all. It was clear the dead thing was in there somewhere. She put the bags out on the terrace (but at least away from the eating area, and under cover of some outdoor cabinets). After she left we threw all the mothballs we could find away, but she had also pitched them into the other cabinets, which were still full of personal stuff, old shoes and clothes and clutter. So we just put chairs against those and got the doors to hold tighter and kept the windows opened, and that made the mothball smell fainter, livable. There is another death smell source, we believe under the sink in the larger bathroom, but by the time we got the worst one in check I just gave up. We just kept that one closed -- unlike the cabinets in the bedroom, the door to it fit tightly.
At one point in our exchange of emails the landlord said there couldn't be a dead thing in the apartment because it was regularly cleaned. Even if this is the case, how could anyone clean all that clutter, much of which seemed to have been there awhile? And why would we make this up? I wound up feeling very bad for the cleaning woman. We left her a nice tip. It seemed to me that someone lived in this apartment but hasn't been for some time. Whatever the case, if it is to be acceptable to renters it needs a very thorough decluttering and cleaning back in the deep cabinets. And some mouse traps.
2). The more serious problem was the inattentiveness and even argumentative way the owners dealt with us over the death smell and other issues, like the return of our damage deposit.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The apartment website includes reviews about how helpful the owners were. This was not our experience. Matteo was cordial in email as we arranged payment etc., but we never saw him, nor his wife, Benedetta, who emailed me while we were en route to say she would not meet us but that we should ring and the cleaning person would check us in -- a lovely woman but she had very little English, and we had no idea how to reach her, a serious problem because resolving issues like the death smell was left entirely to her. She insisted on collecting €500 damage deposit in cash, which was more than the 20% stipulated in our contract. She seemed confused by my request for a receipt, so I wrote one out by hand and asked her to sign it. We informed her of our early morning departure, 6:30 or 7, because Delta had changed our flight from what I had originally communicated. Later, Matteo would say on the phone that leaving that early was our problem, and that we had failed to inform them -- not true; we told the cleaning woman, and I emailed this info and even texted Bernadetta several times. When I called Matteo we were cut off from what was turning into a very unpleasant conversation -- the only one I had with him, on the phone, the entire time. He emailed me a very curt and angry message that I would get my deposit back, worst case they would wire it to me. Throughout, I had the feeling we were annoying the owners by insisting they deal with the death smell and the return of the deposit. In her last message Benedetta apologized for forgetting to tell me she had told the cleaning woman to return the deposit the day before we left, and for the communication problems, and said she had a medical problem. I'm sorry if that was the case, but it's also the case that their back-up plan was very poor. Because of the problems we had, I will no longer rent VRBO apartments. I knew it was a bit of a gamble, but I was swayed by that terrace.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
No, I would not recommend, nor stay here again. The reviews on VRBO are mostly pretty dated. I get the feeling at one time this was a great place to stay, but it needs some care and the owners seem to be disorganized about how they work with their renters. There's really no excuse for disbelieving a renter who reports a problem and for failing to deal with Inez's renters in a prompt and courteous manner.
Things to do in this area
Everything! The location made daily marketing at Campo di Fiori a breeze, with cafes and gelato and wine shops and restaurants all right there. I'll just mention two new finds for me: the Chiostro del Bramante near Navona had an amazing Brueghel exhibit, I think it is held over till July 2013. Stumbled upon a gelato place that we loved, Geletaria del teatro on via Coronari. Try the chocolate and Nero d’Avola, Sicilian peach, fennel and caramelized almonds, raspberry and sage... I could go on, yes, we went there a lot.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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