A week in Tuscany: Arrival day

A week in Tuscany: Arrival day
Porto Santo Stefano, Italy

Porto Santo Stefano, Italy

Porto Santo Stefano

Saturday 10th July 2010

The drive into Porto Santo Stefano outperformed any of the previous driving episodes that we had survived. Our apartment was located in a condominium complex near the top of a rather steep escarpment, or rather mountain, over looking a small mariner and harbour and at the end of a complex system of very narrow and winding lanes. The Sat Nav did not know what had hit her, nor did we. One wrong turn placed us up an even narrower, very steep and congested lane. The car, laden with us and luggage, could not even make it up the incline. We were sort of stuck. Mark burnt a fair bit of rubber and had Tom and I terrified before we somehow managed to, don’t ask me as I had my eyes closed, turn around. Tom was in tears and pleading to be let out of the car…funny in hindsight…not at the time though.

We eventually found the correct general area and Mark needed to re-group just a little. I think he wanted to throw me off the mountain but, instead, he suggested I get out and walk around the condominium complex to look for the Portiere, Massimo, who was supposed to greet us and show us to the apartment. Well, that was when the real problems set in. I eventually found Massimo and, even though he couldn’t speak a word of English, I clearly understood that he had no idea we were coming, or who we were or, anything about an ‘apartment let’. I mentioned the name of another contact I was given, who also couldn’t speak English but she at least knew we were coming. The only problem now was that she thought we were due on the following Monday! A few calls to the owner and the problem was eventually sorted. At least, that problem was.

We have been traveling a fair bit now over the years and I have always managed to find great accommodation where ever we have gone. That was, up until now. The apartment was nothing like it was represented on the web-site. Our contract had come with warning clauses about damages and bonds and the owner had expressed via email, several times, about care instructions for the apartment. So, with all that, we were expecting a much loved and cared for ‘high end’ holiday rental; at least on par, or better, than we had experienced so far this trip. We thought we were going to be staying at a luxury apartment on this magnificent coast line in Tuscany. Well, we were all shattered, especially after the effort to get here and the expectations that we had for this final week of our trip. Note to self: in future, never stay in an apartment that does not have photos of the bedrooms and kitchen, multiple favorable reviews or internet access.

“What was wrong with the place” you might ask? Well, the first point that we would all have to say was that the strong, persistent and pervasive smell of ‘old age’ and ‘must’ in the apartment was most off putting. This should give you a subtle, yet obvious, clue to what the issues were! The building and fittings were all circa 1970s and in need of some maintenance. The furnishings were much older though, possibly of Etruscan origin to fit in with the Tuscan landscape and history. ‘Old’: is not so much the problem. ‘Old and dirty’: is though! The beds were ancient and fitted with even more ancient, musty sheets and spreads. There weren’t any bath towels provided, at all. We used these slightly over-sized hand towels for the week. The fridge was only slightly cooler than oppressive 30 + degree heat of the apartment. There was no gas thus, no hot water for showers, for cooking or for cups of tea. The dishwasher still had dirty dishes in it from the poor previous tenant but, it too, we discovered was broken. Everything we would touch would render us with an urge to quickly wash our hands. Everything from plates, cutlery, lounge, curtains, bed and windows, to name just a few thing, needed a good clean. The place, and everything in it, was filthy. The so-called ‘BBQ’…well, just check out the photo. I hope it shows up the rust and cob webs! The TV screen was smaller than most lap tops but, at least one of the 3 channels, showed the soccer. Sorry, Football. Overall, the apartment was dingy, dark, dirty and depressing.

There were 2 good points though: the view from the balcony out over the harbour was glorious and the pool area was quite pleasant too. Having said that though, after calling the owner to try and get some gas on, we rang the Hotel Adriano in Rome and booked in again for the last 2 nights of our trip. We had 7 nights booked here. Mark said that was 7 nights too many so we at least cut it down to 5.

We had intended eating in on our first night but were not able to cook so we walked down to the small harbour area for dinner. It is only about a 5 min walk but down a very steep slope and many stairs. The foreshore was bustling and busy with plenty of Italian tourists and an amazing array of luxury boats moored along the promenade. We found a relatively empty restaurant and asked for a table but were totally ignored at first. We have found the wait-staff anywhere outside of Rome to be quite rude. The meal was ok and we then struggled home, up the steep incline. We were all drenched from the effort so had cold showers before bed. Remember…no hot water! Tom was totally exhausted after the stress of the day and was in tears with frustration and disappointment and he ended up sleeping in bed with us. He slept…I didn’t. We realised during the night that they mustn’t have had any double sheets as they had fitted two single sheets, crosswise, on the bed. One was across our feet and the other across our upper body. We kept wondering what planet we had landed on. Just another frustrating thing to add to our list of issues!

You live and learn. I certainly have after this experience!

PS: Absolutely no one down here, or actually outside of Rome, speaks a single utter word of English!!!!

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