out of 10
This property has a lot to recommend it: it’s pretty spacious, is set in quite extensive grounds, and has wonderful views. The house is constructed in two halves: on the ground floor there is a sitting room, small kitchen and toilet on one side, and a dining room, kitchen and toilet on the other. Upstairs there is a double bedroom, a small twin or bunk bedroom and a bathroom on each side. This is clearly a good arrangement for families. They also supply fans in each of the bedrooms which is really necessary in the summer. The local area is superb, with the nearest village, Montopoli, very charming, with a nice array of small bars (super gelato!), a pizzeria, and a couple of interesting restaurants. There are also some lovely hill towns nearby as well as a winery at less than thirty minutes distance, Fattoria di S.Quintino, where one can enjoy tours and tastings of wine, truffles and cheese.
However, our experience of the property itself was not one of unalloyed pleasure and we had a number of problems. These started with the meeting instructions – to contact a (named) man in a (named) bar. The bar had no knowledge of said man, and after trying in vain to contact by phone (with the help of the very friendly bar staff) we drove off to try to find the property ourselves. We were helped en route by some (also very friendly) locals, to no avail. Then came a call from contact’s daughter informing us that someone (a woman) had been awaiting us for two hours at the bar. We drove back down the hill to the bar and found a small trio with a sign with our name in the corner of the car-park. We’d not been expecting the man to be a woman; and we’d not thought to peer around the car-park either!
This trio escorted us back up the hill to the house, beautifully located up a bumpy track with splendid views. They showed us the recycling, the gas, and the rooms and then asked for 150 euros cleaning charge. During the conversation, it slipped out that there would be a further 150 charge the following weekend. They were sadly unable to recommend any place where, at the now quite late hour of nearly 9pm, we might buy at least some milk for the next day’s coffee. And they unaccountably forgot to tell us that the boiler for the hot water was off (or where it was). We found this out later when we came to shower. As the boiler took some time to heat, we made do with cold showers. We bought some pizza slices from the friendly pizzeria and put them in the oven to heat up. This immediately caused the lights downstairs to go off. But there was at least a microwave.
Further problems awaited us. We had chosen the ‘left-hand side’ of the house. The mosquito blind kept popping up until we wedged it down with a cork (and it had some extra large holes anyway). Then the loo on ‘our’ side gave up. And the next morning, we found there was still only cold water on ‘our’ side. We realised there must be a second boiler. There was… behind a locked door in the second downstairs toilet (locked because, as the woman who had led us to the house had explained, our party comprised only three people, so we apparently didn’t get access to the whole house …. despite the fact that we had paid for an entire house!). We eventually found the key, so solved that problem. But then discovered that the upstairs shower on the other side sprayed water all over the floor. As if these weren’t problems enough, the washing-machine started to smoke during the spin cycle when we decided at least to wash our travel clothes.
After we contacted the agency, things moved fast, and by Tuesday mid-afternoon, there was a new washing-machine, a working loo upstairs and non-spraying shower. The owner plus daughter came round on Tuesday evening (we’d spent Tuesday afternoon cleaning up after the workmen, who were very fast and impressively efficient despite the heat). They half apologised (but didn’t acknowledge the issue with meeting or the turned-off boilers). The owner was rather off-hand about the mosquito blind. “You just do this,” he said. It popped up again 30 minutes after he left and we stuck with the cork wedge solution. The cooker was never solved (it would have taken too much time and we wanted a holiday).
These problems at the start (and the rather nonchalant attitude of the owners) unfortunately led us to assign more importance to the other issues with the property:
• The lack of insect/mosquito blinds on any but the two double bedrooms (what would children do? What if you want to open windows after a shower?)
• The lack of any book or file of words giving details of aspects of the property, numbers to call, recommendations, local shops, the best supplies to buy to ward off the insects, particularly the common and tiger mosquito which made lolling around outside an activity with uncomfortable consequences, and so on. (There was a sheet of information about recycling, and instruction manuals for some of the equipment.)
• The equipment: no chopping board, no proper sharp cutting knife, no wine glasses (of course you can drink wine out of tumblers, but to provide two decanters and no wine glasses?!), only three large tea cups, one mug and then a couple of enormous cups along with a number of small espresso cups.
• Practically no ‘starter’ supplies (particularly challenging when you arrive from abroad, and thanks to problematic ‘joining instructions’ arrive too late for shops).