Padua’s Youth Hostel of Horrors

I am, at best, an irregular visitor to TripAdvisor. It’s known for being somewhat unreliable, its reviews always to be taken with a pinch of salt. Over the four years since I signed up, I’ve left three reviews, two of which were as favours to friends of mine (which is exactly why TripAdvisor is unreliable… I readily admit to being part of the problem). It’s even rarer for me to ever leave a negative review, on any site. Imagine how bad Padua’s youth hostel, Ostello della Gioventù Città, must be then, if five days there were enough to have me reaching for my computer in righteous fury, only to find to my surprise that the hostel doesn’t appear on any of the usual booking or review sites. In hindsight, that should probably have been a warning sign. Undeterred, I will write my review here, because why else do people keep blogs?

So the first question you might ask, legitimately, is “why, Sahar? Why did you stay five nights in a hostel you disliked so much?” The answer is that they charge up front, which is probably a smart move on their part. Otherwise I’d have been out like a shot the next day. As it is, I arrived at 22:45, on the back of a 9 hour train journey from Lecce, 45 minutes before the doors slammed shut for the night, in a very un-youth-hostel-like move. I seemed to take the receptionist by surprise, despite having called two days in advance and being told there was no problem. He muttered and mumbled to himself about having told the guys in one of the rooms that they could be by themselves, and that now he’d have to put me in with them. Gentle questioning on my part revealed that the room in question had 10 beds, and that the guys in question occupied 2 of them. I might have respectfully suggested at this point that promising to keep rooms nearly empty might indicate a flawed business model, but I was tired, and English, so I kept it to myself. The weirdness continued the next evening when, coming in from my wanderings, the receptionist called me over and, after finding out that I was in room C, looked at me apologetically and said “we’ve had to add another person to your room, I’m very sorry.” Unlike the management of the Ostello della Gioventù Città, I have no problem with full hostel rooms, so assured him it wasn’t a problem. Reaching the room though, I couldn’t see any newly occupied beds. And then the penny dropped. I was the “other person” unfortunately added to the room.

The hostel also has a policy of turfing out all the guests every day between 9am-3:30pm. This is allegedly for cleaning, but the hostel never seemed any cleaner in the afternoon when I returned than it was in the morning when I left, especially the frankly nasty hole-in-the-floor bathrooms. This particular style of bathroom went out of style in most of Europe a few centuries ago, but in the Padua youth hostel it lives on. Even during the few hours in which the hostel is properly open, the door is closed, and guests have to buzz to get in. Coming in, you are then faced by the receptionist, who is sat behind a screen, presumably to avoid him having to come into contact with you. Taken out of context, one could be forgiven for thinking that the hostel was situated in the heart of Baghdad’s Green Zone, rather than in a well-off university town in northern Italy. The whole place had the feeling of a half-way house, for people who couldn’t yet be fully trusted in society, but were being given a chance nonetheless. This was reinforced by the “breakfast”, which consisted of rolls and butter, with disposable plastic knives, presumably in case we decided to riot and take hostages. Not to worry though, if a stay in the hostel does give you criminal urges, the rock-hard rolls themselves make for a potentially lethal weapon.

After 5 nights in the little hostel of horrors, I splashed out an extra 2 euros a night, and got myself a room in a beautiful flat through AirBnB. Lesson learned.

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-The Wandering Jew-


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