Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Chianti Road

We picked up the hire car from Avis and made our way out of Florence.  The experience was for better than that in Naples.  The office was better staffed and the employees had a better attitude.   The cars were parked in a garage next door, not just somewhere on the street.  But we had booked a class C car which is what we usually book in the UK, as is something like a Vauxhall Vectra or a Ford Mondeo, was again going to be a Fiat Punto, which is way too small to fit even one suitcase, far less luggage for three people and the said three people.  Consequently we had to pay a bit more to get a Peugeot 308, which only fitted 2 of the bags in the boot, and one had to sit on the back seat.  But eventually we set off.
We took the back roads, rather than main roads, and headed for a while down the road known as “the Chianti road”.  We didn’t stop at any of the numerous vineyards offering tastings along the way, as Andy would not have been able to try any wines as he was driving, and Tommy wouldn’t because he was underage.  The scenery was fantastic, though, and we found a wonderful place with a marvellous view to stop for a very extended lunch. 

After that we made our way to our accommodation, which was in the countryside near the medieval town of San Gimignano.  The directions were very hard to follow, and Andy had to use the Google maps on his Blackberry to locate the place, otherwise we would never have found it.  The directions assumed that you’d only be coming on an Autostrada from either the north or south.  We walked into reception and it started very badly.  The girl on duty there was on the phone and completely ignored us for at least 10 minutes.  She could have looked up and nodded, or said excuse me to her caller and quickly apologised to us before carrying on her conversionan.  But no.  She reacted as if we were not there.  After a while the postman came in, and he got some attention, although she did not put down the phone, but still we got no acknowledgment.  When she finally got off the phone she issued a terse “Sorry” that was said in the same way and tone as if you’d just brushed against someone as you passed them.  From there it went downhill.  She got into her car to drive to our appointed accommodation in a villa far from reception.  That in itself would not have been a problem, but it turned out that the villa had several “apartments”, and we were pointed to a set of stairs and told to take the door to the left.   The lock was incredibly difficult to open, but finally opened into a kitchen (which we had been told we were not to use), and from that very basic kitchen there were a set of ugly metal stairs leading up.  At the top of the stairs were three locked doors.  Our key did not open any of them.  We finally realised that there was another room downstairs, off the kitchen/living area.  Before I describe the room, let me describe that kitchen/living area.  The kitchen was very basic, with formica benches, and very old appliances.  There was a wooden “dining” table, that looked more like the type of table you find at picnic sites.  On one side were some plain, un-upholstered, wooden chairs.  On the other was a bench.  There was something else in the room which was probably supposed to pass as a sofa.  But the worn orange fabric was actually the back-board of a single bed.  There were no cushions, so it would  not have been a place where you could sit and relax.  A very small TV was located under the ugly metal stairs at right angles to the sofa/bed.
And what about the room?  There was one small window about 4 feet from the ground and about two feet by three feet in size, a tiny bathroom (although perfectly clean) and a double bed with a green floral polyester bedspread, with gathers on the side.  It was straight out of the 1950s or early 1960s.  The other bed for Tommy was a metal framed bed of the type that were used in hospitals in the 1930s.  And this was supposed to be a superior room.  This place bore no resemblance whatsoever to the web site I had looked at.  If I’d seen a room like this on the web site there was no way I would have booked it.  We went back to reception to see what could be done, though to be honest I didn’t want to stay anywhere there by this stage, and there was a second woman there.  This one was obviously more senior, because when we started to complain to the girl, the woman took over.  She refused to acknowledge that the room was anything but fine.  She said the other rooms were all the same.  This really was a superior room, as it allowed space for a third bed (how come they allowed bookings for a triple standard room then?).  Apart from the room being awful, I couldn’t stand the communal “living” area – even if there wouldn’t be anyone else in the “apartment”.  I found a picture in their brochure that I’d seen on the web site.  It showed a nice brass-type bed, with stairs to a mezzanine level where there appeared to be a single bed.  She said they only had one room like that, and it was occupied.  And would you believe we would have had to pay an extra €5 per day for air conditioning, and €3 for each pool towel per day! 
Eventually we left, refusing to stay.  They’d better not charge our credit card.
We did (fairly easily) find somewhere else to stay, although it costs a lot more that I’d planned to pay.  But Andy preferred to pay that rather than spend hours looking for somewhere else.  The room is a fairly standard hotel layout, but has a nice little balcony looking out to San Gimignano.  There is a pool, restaurant, bars (including lovely pool bar) and beautiful gardens.  A lucky escape.

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