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.
“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.”
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