Is she still talking about this? Yes....
So where were we? Oh yes, I woke up too early to find that Ryan rolled against the suitcases and all the cushions had slipped out from under me.
The next morning we waited for Maxi to come back. The half dozen American girls who had slept in rooms, in comfy beds all night, started filtering out into the kitchen, chattering about their plans to visit the Vatican. Each of them was wearing practically identical dresses with ballerina flats, and all of them I'm sure, regretted not packing warmer clothes. At about 9 o'clock I decided to call Maxi as there was still no sign of him. He assured me he was on his way. When he gets to the hostel almost half an hour later he starts telling us about the great "penthouse" on the beach he has arranged for us. We tell him we dont really want to be on the beach because its outside of Rome but he assures us that there is a metro stop just a few blocks away and its a 20 minute ride into Rome.
We decided to be optimists, thinking it might be nice to be on the ocean and the place sounded nice. We made our way down the elevator with our giant bags and rolled out the door to his waiting van. He pulled open the trunk and told us to pile our things in. The trunk was already partly inhabited by baby toys, a car seat, and random magazines and coats. After a bit of quick geometry we realized there was no way all the bags were going to fit in the trunk so we shoved 3 of the suitcases in, and then piled the other suitcase and bags in the back seat with Jamie and Katie, while Ryan and I got the seat of honor up front. "Now you can say you've had a real Roman adventure" Maxi joked. "Is it always like this?" I asked. He laughed a bit sheepishly.
On the way he explained that the "penthouse" was actually his old apartment up until a month ago. "There will be a big party this weekend at the bars, there's lots of night life," he bragged. This actually soothed my worries a bit because I thought, well gee, he wouldn't live in a shithole would he? The closer we got to the "penthouse" the more sparse the bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping centers got. Doubt started to creep back up, and then we pulled up to the "penthouse." A dingy looking apartment building facing a Guinness bar and....not much else.
Top floor, no elevator. We lugged our stuff up the stairs, Ryan coming back every other flight to carry mine, as my little arms were getting tired. We rolled through the door and.... well...it looked like some guys old apartment. No couch, no tv, no chairs, no nothing. Nothing on the walls, no blinds. A bunch of wires hanging off the wall where things had been plugged in. To our left, against the wall of the main room sat one uncomfortable looking bed. I walked down the hallway and peeked into the bedroom. Nothing. I glanced into the bathroom. No toilet paper, towels, soap. Right next to the bathroom was another bathroom...weird. Same story. I was pissed but managed to repress the urge to ask Maxi who the hell he thought he was. He had told us the day before that the place wasnt ready yet, which is why we had slept on a floor. Now he brings us out here and it still not ready?
He said the cleaner would need to come and bring the other bed. We asked how soon that could happen. He said noon. It was 10 and as there was only one key we said we would wait until 12. We asked if there was a grocery store near by, as we hadn't had breakfast yet. He drew us a little map of a grocery store a few blocks away. He hurried out and the 4 of us decided to go try our luck with some food. We easily found the grocery store. We could see it from blocks away. We could see the heavy metal shutter doors pulled down over the windows and doorways. We stopped walking and turned around.
Back in the "penthouse" we kicked around the kitchen a bit. Moldy cheese in the stained, smelly fridge (not French moldy cheese mind you, rotting, going bad, dont eat it, moldy cheese). 2 sets of silverware and a pile of dirty plates in the sink. Festive glass pasta jars containing little handfuls of pasta sat next to the olive oil incrusted stove-top. A fine layer of grease coating everything. I pulled out my pistachios and we cracked shells until my tongue started to itch.
Exhausted still, because we had been sleeping on trains, planes and floors for the last 2 days, we all piled into one bed and took a nap. Periodically I would be woken up by the door to the porch being pushed by the wind and then falling back to the doorframe with a loud bang. The door wasn't actually held up on hinges...it was just sitting against the doorframe. I woke up at 1pm. No one had come. I called Maxi and his phone was off. I called again - same. I called him a third time and left him a not very nice message. While trying to control my voice and make coherent statements, I said something along the lines of "Maxi this is Lacey at the "penthouse" (i think he could here the quotes). Its 1pm and the cleaner has not come and frankly I think you should know that I am not at all satisfied with this place. There's one bed, there are no chairs, there is no toilet paper, the kitchen is filthy, and we didn't get breakfast this morning. It's just not acceptable. You told us the place would be ready today and its not, and plus we are out in the middle of nowhere and everything is closed. You need to call me back immediately."
I waited 20 minutes then called back. He picked up. Sounding sheepish as ever he said that the cleaner would be late and that we could leave the key under the mat and we could go into Rome for the day if we wanted. We went to Rome and immediately started looking for another hotel. We found a hotel through the Rick Steve's guide to Rome. The receptionist told Katie on the phone that they had rooms available for us, but the price she gave was well over what we had planned. Katie told the lady it would be too much and was ready to move on to the next hotel on the list when the woman said "well we can actually bring it down to X." Katie ran the number by us and we were still a little put off. Katie mentioned to the woman that we had found the hotel through the Rick Steve's guide (and the book said there would be a discount), presto chango - the price came down a bit more. We decided to take it.
We ran over to the new hotel to collect our keys and check the place out. Tiny little one hall hotel on the 4th floor of a giant building, minutes from the Trevi fountain and the train station, and pretty much just perfect. With that taken care of, all that was left was to collect our luggage from the "penthouse."
We rode the metro back out to the beach, joking the whole time about how we would get there and find either A: the key not under the mat OR B: all our stuff stolen. We didnt have much confidence in Maxi at this point you see. Luckily though when we got there our stuff was where we left it. In fact the apartment was how we left it. One bed, no toilet paper, no lights. We rummaged around in the dark, making sure we had all of our stuff and then sped out of the there as fast as we could, throwing the key back under the mat.
Hours later, back in the new nice hotel I got a call. "Hey it's Maxi, Im at the penthouse, where are you?" I didn't sugar coat it for him. We left, we weren't happy, we found a nice place, later jerk. He asked that we not write a bad review.
From this point things started to look up. We had rooms all to ourselves with nice hot showers, wifi, a breakfast buffet in the morning (composed entirely of desserts, no I'm not kidding) and we started to feel like the vacation was finally starting.
We decided to walk down to the Trevi Fountain to see it lit up at night and find a place to eat. On the way we passed the Triton Fountain and I tried to convince everyone it was the Trevi. Didn't work quite as well as when I told Ryan you could drink from the fountains. It was pretty late at this point and most of the restaurants were closing but one still seemed to be taking customers and the host ushered us into a tiny room packed with tables and candles, complete with a dj blasting old tunes. Perfect. Our first good meal in Italy, the comfort of knowing we could go back to a bed that night, and we could finally relax and enjoy ourselves.
But the story doesn't end there! Other mishaps were to be had. Stay tuned for the next installment!