A number of years ago I was working part-time with an Irish travel company one of whose destinations was Calabria, where I live. The company had its own reps of course and my job was mainly to assist in translating where needed. One of the hotels in the package was in Soverato, a resort on the Ionian coast where the beaches are well kept, the water is clear and the town has a nice promenade, delightful bars and ice-cream parlours and some very good restaurants. I felt the middle-aged tourists it was marketed to could have no complaints. Was I wrong!
The hotel manager summoned me at about 8 pm as he was having what he called a “crisis situation” with a group of new arrivals. Two couples were sitting in the hotel lounge, suitcases propped beside them and were demanding that if they didn’t get the “sea-view” rooms they’d paid extra for they were going to call the police and they were “definitely” going to sue the travel company. The manager’s level of English didn’t help and he explained that he had tried to tell them through the rep that if they could be patient for two nights he would then give them their sea-view rooms and a few complimentary bottles of wine. Seemingly the rep wasn’t making much headway. As sometimes happens, these couples were seeing a total refund on the horizon.
I went over and asked how they were and if they’d had a glass of wine at the hotel welcome buffet. The stone-faced lady, I estimated her to be in her sixties, looked at me and asked stiffly: “Did you see the rooms?” I immediately saw she was the leader of this little mutiny boss.
I cajoled them into taking me to the room to explain what the problem was. It turned out that the room was facing the sea but it was on the ground floor and a five-foot protection wall had been built as a barrier against the rough seas that occasionally flooded the ground floor. As the lady said without a hint of a smile: “If I want to see the sea I’ll have to stand on a chair.”
I asked her if it was her first time in Italy and she looked at me and said: “This is the only region I haven’t visited and I’m very disappointed in the room. The room is important when you book a holiday you know.” I agreed with her.
My Irish charm stood me good that evening and we enjoyed a few glasses of wine. I promised I’d take her to visit a medieval town the following day and she agreed they would put up with the room for the two nights. I was as good as my word and accompanied the four guests on what turned out to be a very enjoyable outing. We took in Gerace and Stilo and they were totally in awe of these two towns and I found out that they were all quite well read on comparable places in Sicily and Puglia.
A few days later I bumped into the hotel manager who thanked me for sorting out the “crisis” but then he surprised me by telling me that the two couples had refused his offer to move them to the third floor as in daylight they’d discovered just how convenient to the beach their rooms were. They could walk out in their bikinis and they had the added advantage of not having to take lifts or stairs.
They didn’t refuse the complimentary bottles wine though!