I should have known that something was wrong when our day started out with a 2 hour train delay from Rome to Florence and that I was about to face with my very first bad AirBNB Experience. What was supposed to be a 3 hours journey took us 5 hours on this particular day. When we finally arrived in Santa Maria Novella train station, we were extremely tired and hungry.
Upon exiting the train, we felt no comfort in being surrounded by a lot of other tourists and locals. I had a quick look at the instructions from our AirBNB host on how to get to the apartment that we’ve booked, and found out that we have had to take a bus ride to get there. We followed the signs around the station (which were a little confusing due to some of the on-going improvement works) and asked around a little bit, and finally arrived at the counters where we can purchase our tickets to Cinque Terre, which was our next destination 5 days later, and also our bus ticket to our accommodation.
After purchasing all our tickets, we walked out of the train station and headed towards McDonalds that was right opposite the station to board our bus. A bus came to stop abruptly in front of us and I was first to board. While my husband was about to board, the door started closing in on him and he had to jump on the bus to avoid being left behind. The bus started moving and was swerving to the left and right, inter changing lanes and we have had to brace ourselves to avoid falling down. Our trolley luggage was doing a dance of it’s own, rolling from one side to the other. If I do have motion sickness (thank goodness I don’t), I swear I would have puked.
The journey seemed never ending and after about 20 minutes, we arrived at our stop. My husband pulled out his mobile and contacted our host, who sent his friend (let’s call her Lara, for privacy reasons).
“This way!” Lara said, after we’ve done all the necessary greetings and introductions. We have had to cross two streets and walk down a busy road until we finally came to a stop. Lara took out the keys and showed us how to open and lock the doors.
“Now you go up two flight of stairs,” she said. What was in front of us was a dimly lit and dusty set of stairs. They were also pretty steep and my poor husband have had to lug our trolley luggage up, step by step until we arrived at the second floor. What was in front of us was a brown wooden door. Lara unlocked it, and invited us in. She then gave us a quick tour of the place, and by quick, I meant to say that it appears she wanted to leave in a hurry. I paid not much of an attention to the house but rather on a set of questions I had wanted to ask, which I would soon regret doing.
“How far is the supermarket from here?” I asked.
“It’s just down the road,” she said.
“What’s nice around here? Any local restaurants or bars we can go tonight?” I asked.
“Uhh… I don’t know, it’s not my place, I’m just helping out.” She said.
And for the next few questions, I have gotten the same answer – That she doesn’t know, she is just helping out. After about 5 minutes or so, Lara mentioned that she has an appointment and she has to go. Once we’ve sent her out and locked the door, was when I had the opportunity to truly see the apartment that we’ve booked, for the first time.
To my horror, every single furniture was covered with a layer of dust. I took a peek at my white socks still on my feet, and it was black on the soles, with dusts. We walked out onto the terrace, there were dead plants, everywhere. The table, chairs and floor was sandy, dusty and filled with dried leaves from the plants. I turned around and saw that there were dirty laundries inside the washing machine, all dried up and with black patches, as though someone had washed some clothes and left it in the machine for months.
At this point of time, I was almost hyperventilating. My worst nightmare had come true! I’ve booked us into a horribly nightmare of an apartment! I turned and looked at my husband and we both started shaking our heads. This can not be. We’ve always had very pleasant and amazing AirBNB experience and we were kind of “veterans” when it comes to AirBNB.
“I can’t take this, I’m going to take a shower, and then we’ll head to the supermarket to get some air fresheners and some necessity with a bottle of wine. I need a drink in order to sleep in this kind of a place!” he said then proceed to walk towards the bathroom. He turned on the water, and would you believe it, there was NO HOT WATER. It was Fall season, so you can imagine how cold the water was!
“Hang on, I’ll boil some water,” I said. I walked towards the kitchen and started looking for a kettle. The kitchen sink was filled with dirty utensils, most of which looked like they haven’t been used for months. I turned on the kitchen tap to wash a pot to boil water in.
“Did you turn on the kitchen tap or something?” my husband shouted from the bathroom. “Yes, I did, why?” I answered in return. “The bathroom water went off!” he said. Water pressure in the apartment was so low that if I turned on another water tap, the other water tap stops!
At this point, I was almost hitting my limit. To my dismay, when I opened the fridge, I swear, I almost gagged. There were food in the freezer that looked like they have been there for years, and the fridge was dirty. I could not possibly store any food inside something like this!
I walked towards the bathroom and saw my husband staring at something behind the bathroom door.
“This is not ours, right?” He asked, holding a towel that was hanging on the rack. “Nope.” I said. There were used towels hanging around the bathroom that has no curtains. That stands for two major problem: It means that no one has cleaned the house after the previous person left the place, and secondly, the opposite house would have a free show if someone actually showers in the bathroom!
“You know what? Forget the shower. I’m tired, so let’s just head to the supermarket and get some food and wine for tonight,” he said. We grabbed our coats and headed out, following the direction that Lara had told us, earlier on.
When we got back to the apartment, my husband braced himself for an ice cold shower while I took the easier way of relying on wet wipes for the night. When we walked into the room, we saw that the bed was equally dusty and I have had to cover them with all my scarves so that we have a place to sleep in. That was the final straw and this was not the way I had wanted to experience Florence with!
I’ve read a lot of good feedback on the responsiveness and helpfulness of AirBNB, so I finally emailed AirBNB with some pictures that I have taken of the place. Truly, AirBNB was extremely responsive and within half an hour, we obtained our refund, minus the first night! (A big shout out to Barry from AirBNB for assisting us out with this case!) It was also then that we found out that the apartment has ben uninhabited for many months now and the owner is not even in Italy, so that explains why the house was so unkempt. To be fair, the owner was also understanding of the current condition of his apartment, and hence, was fine with refunding us for the other nights. He was also quite apologetic of the experience that we have had to go through.
We downed the wine, and went to bed, both of us looking forward to leaving this place for a new apartment we booked, that was right in the heart of Florence.
Despite this one bad experience, my husband and I are still ardent fans of AirBNB and would still highly recommend them to fellow travellers. In fact, we’ve gotten ourself booked with a few accommodations for some of our upcoming trips already! Please do not let our one bad AirBNB experience deter you from utilising this wonderful service. If it helps, we got ourselves booked into an amazing apartment that was right by Ponte Vecchio, in the city centre for the rest of the other four nights and had a ball of time in Florence, making it our favourite city in Italy!
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