After our very cold and most likely haunted stay in the Amalfi coast mountain village, we were looking forward to a staying in a “real” apartment. An apartment with hot water, comfy bed, and the ability to be heated over 65 degrees.
We had booked an Airbnb in Trastevere because we had read the neighborhood was the “cool one” – lots of bars, restaurants and hipsters. The day before we left Amalfi, our Airbnb host had offered to pick us up from the train station in Rome and drive us to the apartment. We replied later that night with a “yes, please, that would be fantastic, thank you” response.
The next morning around 10 am we opened a reply message that said, “Your response was too late. I can’t pick you up now. I will meet you at the apartment at 4pm.”
Welllll shit, we thought. Oh well. Now we had to pay for a taxi or get on the metro with all of our 4,000 lb bags. After awhile on the slow (cheaper) train from Naples to Rome we were tired and decided on just taking a cab to the apartment.
Once we got to the apartment, the owner of the Airbnb texted us and told us to meet him at the door of the building. We hauled our asses up the steep street to the entrance of the building. Twenty minutes later, no sign of the owner, and he texted us again. He wanted us to meet him at the cross street of the building. We explained we were already up the street near the entrance. He didn’t understand, so we went back down the street with our whole life (two huge backpack bags, two small backpacks and two small bags).
We sat under the now dark December sky on benches, basking in the neon glow of a local tabacchi. At first we were whining, but then we slipped past the whiny-ness into jokes. Then we were laughing at ourselves and laying weird on our bags in public. We waited more. About 40 minutes went by and the owner said he parked and was waiting for us at the entrance of the building. Back up the street we went. This time not so quickly.
At this point we were tired and annoyed by our Airbnb owner. He seemed to be very careless and not really caring about the details. Also, not really caring about us. Paul mentioned we’d been sitting outside in the cold for an hour waiting for him. Then the owner replied, “I’m sorry, but it is Christmas season and I have Christmas things to do! Sometimes, we have important things to do and we are late.” He then went on to say, “You’re lucky I was available to even let you in the apartment at this time, that I didn’t get caught up in my Christmas errands!” Paul and him exchanged those looks and intimidating stances that lions do on Animal Kingdom. I just played the Lioness looking on and not doing anything.
We walked towards the entrance and the owner opened the door. He looked at us up and down with all the bags, laughed, and said, “There is no elevator.” Then he offered to carry our bags but it seemed like an empty offer.
We got up the stairs – the Amalfi hike prepared us well. As we climbed up the spiral staircase you could see the infrastructure was crumbling. The cracks in the walls and stairs seemed to get more massive with each step. And the staircase was rather slanted in a “this builidng is going to fall down while you’re sleeping” way. This wasn’t charming Tuscan, rustic chic. This was oh shit this building may collapse chic.
We apprehensively continued and finally got into the apartment. The door opened to a long hallway that went left and right. The left hallway led to the kitchen, the right led to our bedroom and the bathroom. As we walked down the hallway to our bedroom, the owner said, let me check if anyone is here. He knocked on the bathroom door and there was no answer. I thought this was odd since our apartment on Airbnb was listed as a “private room.”
It turns out the “small apartment” we were in was also filled with four other rooms which were also being rented out. The kitchen and bathrooms were communal.
After the owner left we got cozy and I laid down on the bed. Paul did the same. But when he sat down, a huge crack emitted from the bed. He immediately sat up and looked under the mattress to find wooden panel slats (think IKEA beds) that had seen better days. Every wooden slat was composed of broken wood covered in duct tape.
We went out for dinner and thankfully I think the awesome-ness of that dinner made us forget about our shitty Airbnb.
When we woke up the next morning, we heard the painful hacking of an old man from the room next to ours. We also smelled cigarette air seeping through the hallways and doors. It was gross to smell the smoke everywhere in the common spaces. And there was no fire alarm so to hell if a butt set the whole damn thing on fire one day!
To know we weren’t alone and that we wouldn’t be for our entire 10 days in Rome was annoying. We thought we had booked a place with more privacy – the listing never mentioned shared spaces or other people being in our apartment room. We looked closer at the posting and all the reviews were from A COMPLETELY different apartment the owner had. So he was using all his good reviews on an apartment that wasn’t the same one in the listing!!!
As we went to the corner laundromat we started talking about how we just didn’t feel comfortable in the place. It didn’t seem safe, it wasn’t what we envisioned. But was it worth it to lose all the money we had already paid on it?
At the laundromat we looked at the fine print of the Airbnb ad. Luckily, our owner signed a legal contract saying that he would return half the money if the reservation was cancelled within the first 24 hours of the stay.
With my birthday coming up during our stay in Rome, still thawing out from our icebox stay in the mountains, and the desire to have more privacy in a clean place (oh yea this place was dirty as hell as well – weird smells, fruit flies, cockroaches) we decided to eat it and use my emergency credit card. This was the first time we had to use this card. This hotel purchase wasn’t in the budget, but that’s why I have the card. I use it for moments of emergency when we just need to GTFO. After you get out you can re-budget and re-allocate money later.
I found a hotel that looked like a great location and a fair price for 10 days, Hotel Centrale. It was in the heart of the tourist area of Rome which would mean we’d be close to all the sights. Originally, we had wanted to stay in a “real” neighborhood, but we changed our minds. We realized we didn’t want to waste time and money getting to and from Trastevere to see all the sights. At this point we wanted a central location to cut the BS and see lots of sights in one day.
We left the laundromat, went back to the Airbnb from hell, quietly and quickly packed our bags and left. It felt like we were escaping a prison. We hopped in an Uber and got to Hotel Centrale. We were greeted by the sweetest concierge and given a cute, clean, WARM room to live in for the next 8 days. My favorite part about the room was not advertised. If we cracked open our window every night from 5pm-8pm we got a private concert of #1 hits from a busker’s acoustic guitar and singing that played a few doors down from our room. It was fun to have live music play every night.
The icing on the cake was after we cancelled our reservation and explained the problems to Airbnb WITH pictures included, they contacted us back not an hour later letting us know they’d not only refund half, but give us a FULL refund as well as a voucher for a future Airbnb stay! So, in the end staying in a way nicer place only cost us $200.00 more than we planned to spend. And it was TOTALLY worth it.
My takeaways are:
- Even though we are frequent Airbnb users – and happy ones at that – always read the fine print on the post and make sure it’s absolutely transparent.
- The way Airbnb responded to this made us like Airbnb even more.
- We LOVED the Hotel Centrale in Rome. If you’re going to Rome – stay there!