Italy. Going there has been on my bucket list for forever. However, my recent “dream” vacation there turned out to be a nightmare. I know you wouldn’t have guessed it from my photos (even I have to admit the captures we got were amazing and will be sharing those soon) but the story goes beyond just one or two travel mishaps.
The sad thing is, whenever I tell friends who have been to Italy about these things, they’ll admit that they’re not surprised. Our experiences of craziness in Italy were not unique. What?!! Why does no one ever say anything about this BEFORE you visit?! So, to prevent your dream vacation from being squashed (which we’ll be paying off for a while) here a dose of reality.
Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite
Upon arriving in Italy, we drove to our first hotel Villa Cheli near Lucca. The bathroom had a slight moldy odor but the beds were okay and the hotel provided a special selection of gluten-free items for Frans for breakfast. After having dinner with a relative in Lucca (my sister’s husband’s brother’s wife’s parents 🙂 ) we spent the next day in the picturesque area of Cinque Terra (more on that later). We stayed two nights and then headed off to our next sightseeing destination. Frans had been complaining about a few bug bites but figured that some mosquitoes probably got him. It was just strange that there were three in a row and that they didn’t really itch.
We next went to San Gimignano, this was a town we actually did enjoy. I only wish we could have found the alabaster factory that we saw signs for but was never able to locate. As we walked back to the car, I noticed another set of bug bites on the back of Frans’ other leg. Again, there were three but this time in a zig-zag pattern. Later, Munchkin and I started noticing more trio sets of bug bites on us, either in a row or in a zig-zag shape. After some heavy Googling, we came to the conclusion that they were from BED BUGS!
Beware of Villa Cheli in Lucca
When we got to our next hotel in Siena, we immediately called Villa Cheli. We were met with a defensive staff member, who brashly accused us for even suggesting that their establishment could have bed bugs and questioned why we didn’t show them to the reception when checking out. We explained that bed bug bites are known for appearing later but that, as theirs was the only hotel we had stayed at so far, we were pretty sure it came from their hotel. As we communicated via phone and email, the hotel flatly denied the possibility, rejected any responsibility, and refused to do anything to help us. They said that they have never had them and they do not now. The bites (which we sent them photos of) must have been from something else in the Italian countryside.
While it’s true that the only way to know 100% if it was bed bugs was to find the actual critters. We were already many kilometers away and, based on our interaction, even if the hotel found them we doubt that they’d admit it. They only said that if we presented them with a doctor’s note would they even think of doing anything to help us. Having only three days left of our anticipated vacation and in a foreign country where VERY few speak English, this was just not possible.
It’s not our style to rag on a place but, when this property touts their high TripAdvisor rating to international travelers, tourist getting bedbugs and dealing with the aftermath is not something to be taken lightly. Did the hotel even offer to wash our clothes or waive some part of our hotel fee as a courtesy for the possible ruining of our trip? Nope, they said too bad and never responded again. Not 8.4 (on Booking.com) type of service. So, if you decide to stay at Villa Cheli, make sure you check for bugs in your bed or any other issues before checking out. Otherwise, they will toss you out in the dirt if anything possibly comes up afterwards.
Not able to fight any more, we took it up with Booking.com and will continue that manner. We had about one hour to explore the entire city of Siena and eat before it was midnight and time to head back to our lodging for the night.
GH-Paradiso Apartments in Siena Saved Our Sanity
Fortunately the place we were stayed at in Siena, Guest House Paradiso Apartments, was extremely accommodating. Since bed beds are easily transferred, we were so nervous, only sitting on plastic chairs and not bringing our luggage past the entryway. The rental apartment staff, who we called right away to warn them and ask for advice, said to relax, enjoy our stay, and that they had the tools to take care of any critters that might be left behind.
There was also a washing machine in the apartment with laundry detergent tabs so we could wash our clothes. If you want a place in the heart of Siena, check out GH-Paradiso Apartments! Hard to get to by car and has three flights of narrow stairs but is a HUGE 2-3 story apartment that’s clean, comfortable, and stocked with toiletries galore.
Oh, but wait until you hear what happened the next day and the ones following.