‘How roadworks and diversions ruined our Italian holiday’

A couple of British pensioners said their New Year holiday was “ruined” after they got lost in an Italian town and were unable to find their hotel due to traffic and roadworks.

'How roadworks and diversions ruined our Italian holiday'
The town of Ventimiglia, Italy. Photo: DepositPhotos

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 will refund them.

READ ALSO: Italian town bans use of Google Maps after 'too many' people get lost

“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 again. They have ruined our New Year.”

“We can't believe this nightmare.”

READ ALSO: Ripped off: Italy's worst tourist scams and how to avoid them

In an email sent to the Wards seen by The Local, 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, you enter into a direct (legally binding) contractual relationship with the accommodation. We act as an intermediary between you and the provider.”

“ 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

Member comments

  1. Excuse me; it was not YOUR fault you could not find the hotel? Sorry, but if I were lost on my way to a hotel, I would call the hotel and ask for directions. And I would not drive around all day trying to find it. Are we to assume that no other guests found the hotel that day as well? I think not! NO one ruined your vacation, but you, so stop whining and trying to renege on the agreement you entered into with and the hotel. It was your incompetence that prevented you from getting there and no one else’s.

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How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:


WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.


Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.


TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.


Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.