I am a teacher and my husband is a retired maths professor. We booked one week of accommodation in Lipari, Italy (July 18 to 25) through Tripadvisor with a host named Ermanno P. and we had a very dangerous and unpleasant experience. In fact, we left the property immediately after being shown the apartment and being treated rudely by the host, and we did not get our money refunded – although we definitely should have all of our money refunded. We drove 800 kilometers (from Florence, Italy, to Lipari, Italy) to get to Ermanno’s property (including two ferries) and we ended up not staying at Ermanno’s apartment one night because it was not habitable.
There are many serious considerations to report so that others are not subjected to the same unpleasant and dangerous situation:
1. The apartments Ermanno advertises are nothing like the photos. In fact, he is very cagey about telling you which of his apartments he is going to rent out to you, not making out his receipt with a specific name. When he showed us his house (which I guess he calls Casa Bellavista, making it sound like an apartment building) he said that there were three apartments: his, one that his elderly property worker lives in, and the one he rents out to TripAdvisor people, which is horrific and looks like it is an old renovated shed. The photos are of a deck that has nothing to do with the apartment he rents. He said it was a photo of his own deck, but it gives the impression that you will have a deck with nice lounge chairs when you stay at Apartment Alessandra (you don’t!). Ermanno showed us two gross chairs and told us that if his elderly property worker wasn’t at home that we could also use his two chairs. When I asked him why he showed pictures of a deck with nice loungers that had nothing to do with the rental, Ermanno said, “That is my deck, and I wanted to show my deck.” I told him that I found that very misleading because I thought we would have a porch with loungers.
2. The apartment Ermanno wanted to rent to us was absolutely miniscule and reeks of mold, which is very present on the ceiling and walls. The “bedroom” is only big enough for the bed and a “wall cupboard” that is painted with bright oil paint that you wouldn’t even use in a garage, and the doors were almost impossible to open. Ermanno had to pull really hard on the gross doors to open them and said “Don’t worry. They were made this way.” And there is only one small screened window you can’t reach because it is very high on the wall. And the window is very tiny: about 1 foot by 1 foot. When I asked him how we would get air, he said, “Leave the door open to the ‘apartment’; it is safe here.” When I said, “We can’t do that. That is not safe enough for us, and we don’t want all the bugs flying in.” Bugs were flying in our room as we spoke. Ermanno handed us a plug-in chemical dispenser (like a Raid dispenser), but the pastille that was in it was already fully used. I told Ermanno there was no way I would infuse chemicals in such a small place while we slept.
3. The kitchen is NOTHING like the photos and I doubt that it would pass fire regulations. There is something that looks like a camper stove, and Ermanno gives you a lighter. There is a very poor table and two chairs. The whole room is INCREDIBLY tiny. You cannot turn around in it. It really is terrible.
4. Ermanno was very friendly during the reservation phase of our booking, but when we phoned him from the ferry before it left (which he asked us to do) everything turned weird. He said, “I’ll meet you at the ferry. I will phone you later to tell you what I’m wearing because right now I can’t tell you because all I’m wearing is my tan.” And things went steadily downhill from there.
5. Ermanno didn’t phone us, but he did show up at the ferry at 8:30pm because he wanted to lead us to his accommodation with us following him in our rental car. When he saw that I was driving the rental car, he gave me a very odd look and said, “Carole, are you tired?” I found the question odd, but said, “No, I’m fine.” He gave me another odd look. “Hmmm…okay.” Well, I soon found out why he asked the question. Ermanno’s house is several kilometers from the center of town, in the back of beyond, and very treacherous roads had to be traversed to get there, and it was very dark. His house is precipitously high and on a very high escarpment. I have driven on very hazardous roads in Costa Rica and Mexico, but NOTHING prepared me for that very treacherous road leading to Ermanno’s house. Some inclines were almost vertical, some dirt/gravel roads on dangerously steep hills could only accommodate one-way traffic and you had to make way for opposing traffic in dangerous conditions (especially at night with no forewarning), some turns were hook turns on a steep incline. It was dangerous and many people without my driving experience would not have been able to manage it. And there was a lot of traffic on that road on the night we arrived because there was a big festival going on in town. The final climb to Ermanno’s house is almost vertical (like a rollercoaster ride). After we got to Ermanno’s house, he gave what I would consider a very guilty look and said, “Were you scared by that drive? Did you find it difficult?”
6. When we got to the carport, Ermanno said, “There is no light in the carport or leading to the stairs to your apartment. I keep meaning to get an electrician to do it, but I keep forgetting.” This was shocking to me. There were many stone stairs to the “apartment” (which looks more like a renovated moldy shed). I said, “Ermanno, that just won’t do. My husband and I could break our necks.” Ermanno then got in his car, turned it on, and then shone the lights on the carport for some light. But this still did not light up the many stairs going down to the apartment. There was no way we could have unpacked our car and brought our baggage down to his apartment that night. We would have had to wait until the following morning.
7. Ermanno told me that I would have WIFI access at his apartment, and when we got there he said that I would not have WIFI. He had many weird reasons why this was so; but for my work I absolutely need to use WIFI every day. Ermanno said that if I wanted to use WIFI, I could inform him, he would turn on his WIFI and I could sit outside his apartment with my computer on a patio table there, but that I could only do so at night. Good grief! It was all so weird and creepy.
8. In short, the photos are NOTHING like the real accommodation. The apartment we were shown was not habitable. We told Ermanno that we wanted him to lead us back down to the city so that we could get a habitable hotel for the night. At this point, I grew concerned. Ermanno’s whole temperament changed and this was worrying since he was parked behind our car and we were blocked very high on the top of a precipitous escarpment in the dark with no real idea of where we were. It took a long time to drive to his place on those treacherous roads. Ermanno said that he wasn’t happy and that he wanted even more money from us than the 418 Euros we gave him through TripAdvisor because we told him that we would like to stay longer in Lipari. We told him that our vacation was completely ruined, that we had paid a lot of money to travel to his property (rental car, two ferries, gas money) and that we were very shocked by everything. He was very unpleasant. Then he went to his car, turned the ignition and said, “My car won’t work. You’ll have to find your own way back to Lipari.” My husband and I were shocked. It was pitch black. But we had no choice. Coming out of Ermanno’s driveway, we found ourselves on a near vertical decline. My husband said, “Good God, if there’s gravel on this road, we’re done for.” A short way down the “mountain”, we hailed a motor biker who led us back into town. When we reached the town, we found that a festival was taking place. I approached a man, told him of our predicament, and asked for help. He was a local, and he spent a half hour phoning hotels to get us a hotel.
9. At six the next morning on the day following our horrible experience we hightailed it back to Florence, Italy, where we have friends, which is a 800 km drive. The experience with Ermanno P was horrific. There was no other accommodation to be had in Lipari because of their big weekend festival and also there was a large wedding that was taking place over the weekend.
10. We would like our money reimbursed for this devastating experience, which would be 418 euros.
11. We would like to see Ermanno’s “properties” taken off TripAdvisor so that no one else has their trip ruined. At the very least, he should remove his misleading photos and be truthful about the rental. We first asked to rent apartment Kathia, but Ermanno said that it was not available and that we could rent Apartment Alessandra. From what Ermanno showed us on the night we arrived, it looked like apartment Kathia was actually his own house. Perhaps that is why the pictures of apartment Kathia look so inviting. Does he rent his own house on occasion? Anyhow, the photos of his own house are no indication of the condition of “apartment” Alessandra, and the photos of his own deck should be taken off of Apartment Alessandra’s site. Also, there should be a warning posted about the precipitous road leading to his house (which many people would not be able to manage), the smallness of the accommodation, the lack of night lighting, the lack of windows, the long distance to walk anywhere (stores, town), the mold in the room, and the lack of WIFI. This apartment is not suitable for older persons or children, for obvious reasons, or for anyone who wants a deck or who wants to be able to turn around in their accommodation.
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