Ok, yes, there are 50 stairs up to the front door of the hotel (inside of a larger building), but this was nothing like the 125 I had in Siena, and anyway, in Italy I was walking walking walking all over the place (from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps, to every room in the full tour of the Vatican Museums, all over Pompeii, even a mountain hike in Sardinia), so some stairs didn't really make that much difference (chugging luggage up the stairs was the only real pain, but fortunately, I was traveling relatively lightly). The central location was really worth it--near where the SITI buses and the ferry boats come and go, near shopping, restaurants, the beach, and the marvelous ocean view.
I had a single room with a perfect ocean view, right next door to the breakfast balcony which I used as a peaceful, cool place to sit and write in my journal and enjoy my favorite flavors of gelato that I had carried upstairs. The breakfast that was served there in the mornings was very good. While in a way my room made me think of a monk's cell (the window was shaped like a cathedral window), which was an impression I think I got from all the tile everywhere (which was pretty and very practical for a "beachside" accommodation--I've seen tile used to the same good effect in Miami Beach, for example), but contemplating the bathroom that I thought of as being like a "head" made me realize that a better idea was that the room and bathroom were like being on a ship. Again, an appropriate "design feel" based on the close ocean-side location (and Amalfi HAD been a great maritime power!). The shower was one of those where the whole bathroom becomes the shower, so you need to remember to take out your towel and roll of toilet paper, or else they might get soaked.
The room and bathroom were cleaned to spotlessness, and quite early in the day, too, which I really appreciated. So many times in other places, I'd go out for nearly a whole day of exploring and then come back to the hotel to rest, only to find that the room hadn't been cleaned yet...at which time, when the maid finally does come, I usually say to just skip it. But not here...they cleaned right away and brought in plenty of towels (and toilet paper--I think since I had taken mine out of the "shower", they always thought I needed a replacement!).
The room had cable TV, a refrigerator (which I gladly did use), and an air conditioner (which I used abundantly!). All of this was great, and I felt that I got more than my money's worth.
There were two bad features which most likely not be a problem for other people. One was this idea that you had to call the management all the time. After a full day of traveling south from Rome, which included more than an hour on that "subway through the Bronx," that awful packed-solid-with-bodies Circumvesuvia railroad from Naples, where, if you have luggage, you have to stand the whole time, and then all that eternal walking through the endless ruins of Pompeii in the blistering heat-wave sunshine, followed by a long and crowded bus ride along the Amalfi coast, to arrive in Amalfi and then lug luggage up 50 stairs...only to be confronted a big locked door and a sign requiring you to TELEPHONE the management in order to get checked in to the hotel. That was almost a deal-breaker right there. Not everybody has a working cell phone in Italy! Even though I had what I thought was an international calling plan with AT&T on my American iPhone, it ended up that I had "NO SERVICE" in Italy. Well, I didn't plan on using my phone much, or at all, when I was there on my trip (I expected the expense would not be worth it, I can talk to people once I am back home), I was surprised to have no service at all, and still don't quite know what that was all about, although I have since read some discussions on-line that indicated that the Italian police have to register your American phone before you will be able to access the Italian phone lines. It's all about the "war on terror", I suppose.
So this meant that I had to lug my luggage back DOWN the 50 stairs and search out a pay phone in order to even get in to my hotel. Well, there does happen to be a long line of the most bizarre phones in the world in the area where all the buses are, but I was too tired and stressed by that time to make the "calculus-solving" effort it would take to figure out how to operate them (nothing intuitive worked). And my stopping several passers-by to help explain the phones to me did not work either. Nobody had the slightest idea how to work them. Finally, one kind woman simply used HER cell phone to call the hotel for me.
However, even after I was finally checked in, it was revealed that they expect even MORE phone calling...this time to be taken to "the pool" that they brag about having (which they don't really have, it belongs to some other place, but apparently they have a "license" to use it, that is, if you ever manage to get there), and then you have to call again to have them come get you when you are finished swimming.
The next afternoon, I really did want to go swimming in that pool, so I attempted to make the phone call on my room phone. It didn't work, naturally, so I assume that the room phone is only for receiving calls. So this meant that if I wanted to go to that mystical pool, I would absolutely have to learn how to use one of the space cadet pay phones. So, down fifty steps...I go to the pay phones, and finally figure out that the trick is pressing about 35 numbers, starting with about ten numbers to access the phone system, then entering in all the numbers of your credit card, and then all the numbers of your credit card's expiration date, and then the international calling number and then the city code and then the actual phone number, only to get a message back that says the number you are dialing is busy. I repeated this routine four different times, but the phone was always busy. I had to wake up to the fact that I was not going to be able to swim in that pool (and I had been craving a pool for the last week and a half of traveling in heat-wave Italy). So I satisfied myself with the ocean (which, itself, was special, and so close!), so, what do I have to complain about? But the pool would have been a nice bonus, if only there had actually be a way to get to it.
The second bad thing is the room key. Now, the hotel door key is genuinely a KEY...it looks kind like an executioner's head-chopping-off axe, but with lots of cuts and grooves in it, because it has to unlock at once five different dead-bolt pistons that keep that hotel front door safely LOCKED! But the individual room key, well, I joked that is not a key, but a burglary tool, because you have to use it to pick the lock of your room in order to get in. It is merely a shaft with a little metal rectangle on the end of it, that you push into a way-too-large key-hole-shaped opening that you then rattle around in a chaotic, loose way, until you manage to hit some solid things that ultimately you are able to flick over to unlock the door. And you have to do all this again on the inside in order to lock the door. Frankly, my first night, I was too afraid to lock the door at all, for fear that if there were some emergency in the middle of the night, I might not manage to unlock the door to let myself out (I suppose with all that tile, though, there wasn't going to be a fire!).
And it was kind of funny, because the next day, a family arrived as new guests to the hotel and their room was next door to mine. I could hear them rattling around with that burglary tool in their door for quite some time in an effort to open it. I was just about to go out into the hall to offer my services, as by the second day I had sort of learned the knack of picking the lock, but they finally made it and didn't need my help after all.
I later ran into that family having dinner at a restaurant I had chosen, I asked them what they thought about the room "key", which I described as a burglary tool--I held it up to show them. They laughed (because of course I knew the trouble they had been having) but then suddenly they stopped laughing and observed that their room "key" and my room "key" were identical. I said, "Sure, as I said, they aren't really keys; they're just a device you use to pick your own lock." Apparently all of them are identical.
I kind of wish we hadn't had that discussion, because I didn't want them to worry about security in their room. I, myself, had no worries about intrusion, not in that small B&B with very nice guests. As I said before, my worry was being able to get OUT. And that fear wasn't far off. I had become confident, so on my last night in the room, I Iocked the lock from the inside before I went to sleep. And wouldn't you know it, I could hardly get that thing open the next morning when I had to get up very early and get out of there to catch a bus back to Naples (doing it from the inside was backwards from doing it from the outside, so basically it required learning how all over again). I was almost in a panic, feeling that I was now totally locked in that room while everyone else in the hotel was still sound asleep. Fortunately, I calmed down, arguing that I had already successfully managed to lock and unlock that lock several times, all I needed to do was carefully concentrate. I felt like I was trying to break into a safe by feeling the vibration of the tumblers with my fingers, but after a while, I managed to feel that particular "place" inside the keyhole cave of that lock and set myself free.
None of what I said here should be enough to deter anyone from choosing to stay in this B&B. If you have cell phone service in Italy, you are fine, and even the issue of the room key, surely hundreds, if not thousands, of people have successfully unlocked and locked those rooms without incident over the very many years. These two factors were a problem for me, but you know what, if I came to Amalfi again (and I sure want to!), I would definitely consider staying in this same hotel again.
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