We were assigned stayed in the Beatrice for three weeks on a Smithsonian Journeys 3-Weeks in Florence Tour. The apartment is neither well-furnished, sunny nor quiet, as expressly stated in Windows on Italy's website copy. Even on the sunniest of days, the dank downstairs living area and kitchen are so dark that lights must be turned on. One must walk up 47 stone steps to get to the first level of the apartment. To access the upstairs bedroom/bathroom, one climbs another 16 steps up a dark stone spiral staircase, which must be traversed by holding onto a center pole and placing one's hands on a tapestry cord loosely attached to the wall with iron hooks.
The balcony has a cover over it that substantially darkens the interior of the apartment; it is furnished with a very old micro-washing machine that will only take up to 4 kilos of clothes at a time, and a table and chair set that is peeling and dirty, covered with dirt-encrusted, half-burned candles. To “brighten up” the space, there are fake orchids shoved into clay planters and a dirty striped curtain, as well as a ratty bamboo curtain, that hides the corroding walls and water pipes of the building that WOI says “is in perfect condition.”
Looking out of the kitchen window, one sees not only dilapidated walls and dying plants, but part of a tile roof littered with old CDs, cigarette butts, miscellaneous debris and, of all things, a crusty mirrored disco ball.
The kitchen is no more than 36 inches wide. It is so narrow that one can put one's arms out to either wall and cannot straighten them; nor can anyone actually sit down straight-legged in the kitchen. Only one person can use the space at any given time, and that person better not be claustrophobic in any way.
Oddly enough, there is a brand new dishwasher in the kitchen, but there aren't enough dishes to fill it for one cycle. Eating utensils came apart when in use. There was only one kitchen knife available (though there was a bread knife) and that wasn't sharp. One had to rely on an old trick learned in rural Vietnam: to sharpen the knife, one must flip over a ceramic plate with an unglazed foot and stroke the knife over the foot repeatedly. We would have been out of luck on this score had we been given plastic plates, like many of the glasses found in the miniscule cupboard. At best, cooking in this kitchen was a challenge not for the timid or uncreative, since there was no counterspace to cook on.
All windows on both the first and second levels that overlook Seggiole open onto a vista of ongoing construction. All of the above defects of the place could have been forgiven or overlooked had there not been constant loud noise broadcast from this site between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. into both levels of the apartment. The site appears to be a new neighborhood restaurant with a retractable glass roof, which, when open, amplifies sound ten fold. Every morning, like clockwork, we were awakened by the unrelenting grind of a cement mixer, jack hammering, stone saws used for cutting thick pieces of stone for flooring and sledgehammers pounding finished stones into the floor. We are not even counting the yelling of Italian construction workers fighting to be heard over the din of all of this. The noise didn't really stop at 6 p.m., given that we were in an area that had several pubs servicing rowdy college and high school kids that were opened until 2 a.m. From there, the noise was produced by our very own clot of homeless street people, who would get drunk, scream at one another and get into fist fights until dawn. Late one night we were awakened by a loud crash, which ended up being created by a storefront window being shattered by this same group of people. This went on the entire three weeks we were in Florence. On our last night, around two in the morning, a piercing mechanical whine filled the apartment and didn't let up until the cement mixer started up. Using industrial strength ear plugs, furnished to us by a relative who regularly works with operational naval jets and helicopters, were utterly useless in tamping down the noise.
On a lighter note, the “decorator” of this apartment obviously has a fetish for French Provincial and must think that worn, obviously distressed, secondhand furniture, lots of very fake-looking, sad silk flowers, dusty half-burned candles and beds that sag in the middle constitute proper furniture and furnishings for a 14th century “luxury” Florentine apartment. Correct us if we are wrong in assuming that Florence is in Italy, not France. The bathroom is decorated not with “pearl” tile, but with typical 1” x 1” gray ceramic tile one can find at any Home Depot. There are but two towel hooks in the entire bathroom and no soap dish in the miniature shower stall, though lots of pictures of beach scenes and decorative accessories that are either in English or French are plastered on bathroom wall space that could be used for that purpose. By the way, last time we looked there is no beach in Florence, Italy. Of additional note is the fact that one risked poking one's eye out on the plumbing fixtures should a bar of soap drop to the floor of the shower and need to be retrieved.
As for promised amenities...
- Air conditioning – We had no need for A/C, though in summer this place must be an oven because of its western exposure and lack of cross ventilation. Even in the cold, one could feel the heat increase as one walked up the stairs, so much so that we never turned the heat on the entire three weeks.
- Plasma Tv – Yes, there was a TV, but it only was programmed with basic cable without any English news channels available, as other tour participants enjoyed in their apartments. We are, however, caught up on back episodes of “Law and Order: SVU,” “Criminal Intent” and MTV's “Catfish.”
- Ventilated, electric oven – If the oven was, in fact, ventilated, it wasn't very effective. To get rid of cooking odors, we were required to throw open every available window and, even then, we were able to smell last night's dinner the next day or two.
- DVD – There was no DVD that we could see in the apartment.
- Hairdryer – Upstairs we found a hairdryer; unfortunately, it had to be used in the kitchen, since that was the only room that had a plug to accommodate it. The bathroom had no such plug. --Internet Wi Fi was nonexistent. Besides the noise pollution, this was the most egregious problem of all. While there was a Vodaphone Wifi router in the apartment, we were never able to get Wifi there at all. Our tablets and Kindles were therefore pretty much useless without a Wifi connection, even though management sent over two techs to try to fix it. Had we not packed a laptop with an ethernet port, we would have had no internet whatsoever in the apartment for three weeks. As it was, the internet cable connection was so short that we had to move the dining table to a wall close by it in order to use it. We shouldn't have to rearrange furniture to use an internet connection.
|Overall condition of the property||Bedding & mattresses|
|Kitchen & utensils||Bathroom cleanliness|
|Other facilities & amenities||Service|
|Check-in / front desk||Service|
|A romantic getaway||Rugged travelers|
|Location||Check-in / front desk|
|A romantic getaway|
|Check-in / front desk||Service|
|A romantic getaway|