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‘How roadworks and diversions ruined our Italian holiday’

A couple of British pensioners said their New Year holiday was “ruined” after they got lost in an Italian town and were unable to find their hotel due to traffic and roadworks.

'How roadworks and diversions ruined our Italian holiday'
The town of Ventimiglia, Italy. Photo: DepositPhotos

Steve and Elaine Ward, who are from London and now live in France, had planned a three-day trip to the scenic coastal town of Ventimiglia, Liguria over the Christmas and New Year break.

But when they got there, they said a combination of heavy traffic, roadworks and diversions in the town made it “impossible” for them to find their hotel.

Now they say they stand to lose €350 for the three-night stay because neither the hotel nor hotel giant Booking.com will refund them.

READ ALSO: Italian town bans use of Google Maps after 'too many' people get lost

“We arrived late on Boxing Day night. We’d spent Christmas in Nice with our grandson, our son, and his wife,” Stephen Ward told The Local. “We’d booked the Sole Mare for three nights after, from the 26th to the 29th.”

“When we got there it was just impossible to find the place,” he said.

“There were road blocks and diversions all over the place. We drove round and round and round for over an hour on the night of the 26th and again for around an hour the next morning. It was impossible.”

The old town of Ventimiglia, where the hotel is located, is set on a hill overlooking the sea, accessed by winding, narrow roads.

“We called on the 26th night and again on the 27th morning. On the 26th they said the room had been cancelled for all three nights,” Stephen said.

“But when we phoned the next morning, we were told we’d have to pay despite the night manager having assured us the booking had been cancelled,” he said.

'Devastated': Stephen and Elaine Ward had been looking forward to three days in Liguria, Italy.

“We even tried to find it again on the 27th during the daytime but the traffic was choc-a-block with roads and paths blocked off due to roadworks.”

He said the hotel “admitted they should have given us a map but they still refused point blank to give us a refund” and that a conversation with a hotel employee on the phone descended into “a shouting match”.

“We had really been looking forward to going. We tried so hard. We were devastated that we couldn’t find it and it put a real downer on our Christmas and New Years celebration,” he said.

“We’ve never been to that area of Italy before and had high hopes. Now I don’t know if we’ll ever go again.”

He said the booking platform too gave them “short shrift” when they got in touch.

“It wasn’t our fault we couldn’t find the place.”

“€350 is a lot of money for us and an amount we can ill afford,” he said. “We will never use Booking.com again. They have ruined our New Year.”

“We can't believe this nightmare.”

READ ALSO: Ripped off: Italy's worst tourist scams and how to avoid them

In an email sent to the Wards seen by The Local, Booking.com said it had called the hotel's secretary, who “declined a free cancellation, as the booking was made on non-refundable policy and they found themselves to be not responsible for the traffic.”

“By making a reservation through Booking.com, you enter into a direct (legally binding) contractual relationship with the accommodation. We act as an intermediary between you and the provider.”

“Booking.com is not the facilitator of the payment in this situation.”

In a statement, the director of Hotel Sole Mare told The Local that hotel staff had “suggested an alternative route” at the time and that “as a gesture of goodwill the management decided to reimburse the customer € 114.00 for the cost of the first night.”

Ventimiglia, Liguria. Photo: Depositphotos

Member comments

  1. Excuse me; it was not YOUR fault you could not find the hotel? Sorry, but if I were lost on my way to a hotel, I would call the hotel and ask for directions. And I would not drive around all day trying to find it. Are we to assume that no other guests found the hotel that day as well? I think not! NO one ruined your vacation, but you, so stop whining and trying to renege on the agreement you entered into with booking.com and the hotel. It was your incompetence that prevented you from getting there and no one else’s.

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MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

Here are the remote Italian villages worth seeking out in 2022, according to a list compiled by one of the country's leading tourism associations.

MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

A total of 270 villages across Italy have been recognised as being especially tourist-friendly this year by the Italian Touring Club (Touring Club Italiano), one of the country’s largest non-profit associations dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism throughout the territory.

‘Orange Flag’ status is awarded if a village is judged to have significant historic, cultural and environmental value, as well as for being welcoming to visitors and outsiders, according to the initiative’s website.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

Villages can apply for the status if they are located inland with no coastal stretches; have fewer than 15,000 inhabitants; have a well-preserved historic centre and a strong sense of cultural identity; demonstrate sensitivity to issues of sustainability; have a well-organised tourist reception system; and show an intention to continue to make improvements to the town.

The list is updated annually, and in 2022 three new villages gained orange flag status for the first time: Dozza in Emilia Romagna, Manciano in Tuscany, and Sasso di Castalda in Basilicata.

See below for the map and a list of the Orange Flag villages according to region:

Montepulciano in Tuscany has 'orange flag' status.

Montepulciano in Tuscany has ‘orange flag’ status. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Abruzzo – 7 villages

Civitella Alfadena, Fara San Martino, Lama dei Peligni, Opi, Palena, Roccascalegna, Scanno.

Basilicata – 6 villages

Aliano, Castelmezzano, Perticara Guard, San Severino Lucano, Sasso di Castalda, Valsinni.

Calabria – 6 villages

Bova, Civita, Gerace, Morano Calabro, Oriolo, Tavern.

Campania – 5 villages

Cerreto Sannita, Letino, Morigerati, Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Zungoli.

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Emilia Romagna – 23 villages

Bagno di Romagna, Bobbio, Brisighella, Busseto, Castell’Arquato, Castelvetro di Modena, Castrocaro Terme and Terra del Sole, Dozza, Fanano, Fiumalbo, Fontanellato, Longiano, Montefiore Conca, Monteleone, Pennabilli, Pieve di Cento, Portico and San Benedetto, Premilcuore, San Leo, Sarsina, Sestola, Verucchio, Vigoleno.

Friuli Venezia Giulia – 7 villages

Andreis, Barcis, Cividale del Friuli, Frisanco, Maniago, San Vito al Tagliamento, Sappada.

Lazio – 20 villages

Arpino, Bassiano, Bolsena, Bomarzo, Calcata, Campodimele, Caprarola, Casperia, Collepardo, Fossanova, Labro, Leonessa, Nemi, San Donato Val di Comino, Sermoneta, Subiaco, Sutri, Trevignano Romano, Tuscania, Vitorchiano.

Liguria – 17 villages

Airole, Apricale, Balducco, Brugnato, Castelnuovo Magra, Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena, Dolceacqua, Perinaldo, Pigna, Pinion, Santo Stefano d’Aveto, Sassello, Seborga, Toirano, Triora, Vallebona, Varese Ligure.

Lombardy – 16 villages

Almenno San Bartolomeo, Bellano, Bienno, Castellaro Lagusello, Chiavenna, Clusone, Gardone Riviera, Gromo, Menaggio, Pizzighettone, Ponti sul Mincio, Sabbioneta, Sarnico, Solferino, Tignale, Torno.

Marche – 24 villages

Acquaviva Picena, Amandola, Camerino, Cantiano, Cingoli, Corinaldo, Frontino, Genga, Gradara, Mercatello sul Metauro, Mondavio, Montecassiano, Montelupone, Monterubbiano, Offagna, Ostra , Ripatransone, San Ginesio, Sarnano, Serra San Quirico, Staffolo, Urbisaglia, Valfornace, Visso.

Molise – 5 villages

Agnone, Ferrazzano, Frosolone, Roccamandolfi, Scapoli.

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San Gimignano has long been an orange flag destination.

San Gimignano has long been an orange flag destination. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Piedmont – 40 villages 

Agliè, Alagna Valsesia, Arona, Avigliana, Barolo, Bene Vagienna, Bergolo, Candelo, Canelli, Cannero Riviera, Cannobio, Castagnole delle Lanze, Cherasco, Chiusa di Pesio, Cocconato, Entracque, Fenestrelle, Fobello, Gavi, Grinzane Cavour, Guarene, La Morra, Limone Piemonte, Macugnaga, Malesco, Mergozzo, Moncalvo, Monforte d’Alba, Neive, Orta San Giulio, Ozzano Monferrato, Revello, Rosignano Monferrato, Santa Maria Maggiore, Susa, Trisobbio, Usseaux, Usseglio, Varallo, Vogogna.

Puglia – 13 villages

Alberona, Biccari, Bovino, Cisternino, Corigliano d’Otranto, Locorotondo, Oria, Orsara di Puglia, Pietramontecorvino, Rocchetta Sant’Antonio, Sant’Agata di Puglia, Specchia, Troia.

Sardinia – 7 villages

Aggius, Galtellì, Gavoi, Laconi, Oliena, Sardara, Tempio Pausania.

Sicily – 1 village

Petralia Sottana

Tuscany – 40 villages

Abetone Cutigliano, Anghiari, Barberino Tavarnelle, Barga, Casale Marittimo, Casciana Terme Lari, Casale d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina, Castiglion Fiorentino, Certaldo, Cetona, Chiusi, Collodi, Fosdinovo, Lucignano, Manciano, Massa Marittima, Montalcino, Montecarlo, Montefollonico, Montepulciano, Monteriggioni, Murlo, Peccioli, Pienza, Pitigliano, Pomarance, Radda in Chianti, Radicofani, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Gimignano, Santa Fiora, Sarteano, Sorano, Suvereto, Trequanda, Vicopisano, Vinci, Volterra. 

Trentino Alto Adige – 8 villages

Ala, Caderzone Terme, Campo Tures/Sand in Taufers, Ledro, Levico Terme, Molveno, Tenno, Vipiteno/Sterzing.

Umbria – 10 villages

Bevagna, Città della Pieve, Montefalco, Montone, Nocera Umbra, Norcia, Panicale, Spello, Trevi, Vallo di Nera.

Val d’Aosta – 3 villages

Etroubles, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Introd.

Veneto – 12 villages

Arquà Petrarca, Asolo, Borgo Valbelluna, Cison di Valmarino, Follina, Malcesine, Marostica, Montagnana, Portobuffolè, Rocca Pietore, Soave, Valeggio sul Mincio.

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