The Perils of Trip Advisor
Torre di Bellosguardo - A Love Story
Now before I go on, I must explain that I don't think Trap Advisor is a bad thing, or even Trip Advisor, to give Trap Advisor its more common name. It's a valuable resource and its really made operators pull there socks up and understand the needs of the traveller more clearly, and without the need of a face to face confrontation and the associated fears of having something weird and forensically identifiable added to your soup, .... or a killer snake being included in your turn down service...... and I can speak from experience, although neither of the previous two incidents have actually happened to me ... To my knowledge anyway. Complaining in person is tricky, and unless you are incredibly wealthy, impressively thick skinned, or totally at your wits end, a complaint will usually be made at during the final moments of your visit/stay/meal etc - When it's usually too late for anything to be done, except something that may benefit future users, obviously, or to gain a small deduction from your bill. Bitching on Trip Advisor is a far easier option, but let me ask you this; how many complaints have you actually read and thought "This reviewer's an absolute tosspot?" or worse still "This ****** just doesn't get it."? We are on that particular page to look for something to do, to see, to visit, to catch, to watch, to reserve or to eat .... in, and those Star Ratings mean everything to us. Our holiday is at stake. We all have our cut off point, where the rating gets too low to consider, but how much patience and time do we have to review the reviewers?
I used to use Tip Advisor, or Trip Advisor as it's more commonly known, more than I do now. It's the same with Trivago and Booking.com etc. They are excellent guides but I ultimately almost always make the move to booking directly with the host. The ability to secure a room, for example, without having to pay a deposit or pay in full, means that I have guaranteed myself the time to look for the right price and place elsewhere, so to me it's a valuable resource but it isn't the be all and end all...... but I digress. Back to Trick Advisor; I now use it as a starting point only, rather than the Bible or a definitive solve all. I know it might appear to some that I'm stating the obvious but after several recent discussions, it's clear that not everyone is on the same page, and that some 'bookers' are simply going by Star Ratings and associated cost rather than actually looking at the decisions reached.
By way of an example, I recently booked a trip to the incredibly beautiful, but besieged Florence. There were the usual array of expensive chain Hotels, St Regis, JK's and Westin's etc, then the boutique options, but as you may have gathered by now, I like something that is of the town, of the history and somewhere that gives me an innate feeling of where I'm staying. I do like an aspect or view, I love light and I love authenticity. I also like the B&B option, as paying for all of the unnecessary services and facilities that most Hotel's provide and charge for is utterly pointless to me... I'm not tight, I just need my cash to go as far as possible. Added to this I just feel that Florence is too claustrophobic close up, too busy, too tour groupie, especially when you're staying in the thick of it. There are certainly views to be had when staying within, but better surely to stay just outside of town, looking in and over and across.
It was this thought that finally brought Torre di Bellosguardo to my attention. It seemed perfect - A 13th Century palace, partially redesigned in the 15th Century, owned by several of Italy's most famous families, a litany of famous guests, vegetable gardens, wildlife, beautifully manicured lawns and flowerbeds, swooping views of the city below, original carvings and frescoed suites, swimming pool with bar, Orangery, and just a short and incredible walk through meadows of wild flowers and butterflies. It sounds perfect, idyllic, A 5 Star shoe-in..... but not according to those on Tic Advisor, oh no. The rating at the time was in the high 3's. Now to put this into perspective, if those searching for somewhere to stay were searching by rating, they wouldn't even be aware of this place, this paradise, this Florentine classic. They would be stuck with a far less impressive and more mundane list of residences.
The rating was brought down by the fact that the owners hadn't installed a lift..... in this 13th Century palace. Another that there wasn't a restaurant for evening meals.... Another that there was no gym. One guy, an architect from the States, went to great lengths to photograph and record the possible dangers associated with certain flagstone staircases on the property..... that dated back to 1200 AD. He is photographed pointing at the staircase "Dangerous" he says, with a look of incredulity on his face. I think he gives the place a 1 Star rating because one of the lampshades in his suite was dirty. Finally, another guest complained, quite vehemently, that some of the ornate carved wooden tiles in his suite's study were missing and that others were a splinter hazard. Let's put this into perspective; someone is complaining and publicly decrying that the 13th Century suite in which they are staying is old and in need of repair. Why are they even staying here? They should be bitching at the St Regis where something can be done. They shouldn't be allowed anywhere near such places of wonder.
Places such as Torre di Bellosguardo should have a questionnaire during the booking process - Aesthetes and romantics only. The implication is this, People are deducting Stars and complaining about things that are not there. Things that the property openly and clearly explains aren't there. They are booking a place that is clearly not suitable for their requirements and then complaining in public about their own stupidity under the guise of it being the Hoteliers fault. Torre di Bellosguardo is family owned. Pretty much all of the money earned goes straight back into the ever increasingly difficult job of maintenance, upkeep, and improvement. To not understand this in itself is a catastrophe, let alone to then bleat about an establishment's shortcomings. It's like online dating... meeting up for a coffee and not liking your choice because they are only 4" 6'. "But I said I was 4" 6' on the application." "Yeah but you're not my type so I'll be marking you down, Stumpy." ... and as we all know, there's nothing wrong with the shorter among us. Nice one. Just for the record; it was an absolute delight, Bellosguardo, that is. A wonderful, wonderful delight. More than I could've possibly hoped for. The situation, location, the room, the staff, the friendliness, the outlook, the suite, the view, the walk, the pool... everything. If you can find fault here, you shouldn't be staying here, and if there is a problem, then it's not a complaint, it's a mishap, or unfortunate, or nothing much at all, really.
.... And this happens in all areas of the format, not just here. You have to read further. You have to explore - You have to sift through the crap that other people throw around and you have to find your like-minds, your empaths and those that share your spirit before you can take any advice on such things. We don't all have the time to research and plough through all the information thats currently out there, so at every level finding an empath is far more important than sorting by rating. ... And for the love of all things great and good, follow your own nose when it comes to restaurants. In Sorrento recently, we got it into our head that we wanted Pizza and it was short notice so I went Topping Advisor (Maybe not), and as luck would have it, the best rated was just around the corner.
Now I know that Sorrento isn't great for pizza, even with its close proximity to Naples, so we went with some doubts in our minds. We shouldn't have stayed. I should have made my usual fake excuse and ran, ran as quickly as my hungry legs (?) could have carried me. The pizzas were pretty terrible. I couldn't really find one fresh ingredient, pretty much all prepared in advance and the base was like one you might get out of a freezer. I'm not saying was was it was pretty terrible. The place was rammed however and I could tell immediately upon arrival, that everyone was there due to the dreaded Trub Advisor. The atmosphere was terrible. Everyone was on their phone or was apprehensively looking at the food coming out to the tables of others. It was also clear that there wasn't a single person here who wanted to eat the best pizza in Sorrento, they just didn't want to eat the worst pizza in Sorrento. To this end, everything suffers and if it is just a safe option and its average, for some reason the marks get higher than if you eat somewhere with high expectations and it doesn't reach those standards. The marks are far more harsh. There are so many anomalies - You have to go with your instinct. Let Triv Advisor show you were something is, but use your gut once you get there. Remember, you know how good a restaurant is by atmosphere therein, and if you're eating before the throng, then you're on your own but a good word to those dithering outside should you have found a gem helps everyone out and the atmosphere within, to boot.
You only get out of these things, what you put in. Don't let Tit Advisor give you an out, .... and can you imagine having your head so far up your own backside that you don't see it as a privilege and a delight to be able to stay at such a place? It's madness, really..... HDT in the extreme.