Q. My husband and I have planned a week's trip to Italy on the internet. We are spending four nights in what looks a nice hotel in Rome and then travelling to Naples where I have booked a three-night stay. We paid up front online. But with our trip getting nearer I did some research and it appears we are staying in the worst area of Naples, close to the station. The booking conditions say that if we cancel, we will not get any refund. Lin Morris, Surrey
A. First, an April journey to Italy will find Rome and Naples at their loveliest. Next, I welcome the possibilties the internet offers to allow us all to become travel agents.
But with online power comes self-responsibility. Before you hit the "Pay Now" button, whether for flights or hotels, make sure you know what you are buying - for example, by checking guidebooks or TripAdvisor reviews.
Be aware of the cancellation conditions, too. While many hotels allow cost-free cancellations up to the day of arrival, some cheaper rates require upfront payment. If you book through an agent, it becomes more complicated, and you may have to pay a cancellation fee even if the hotel doesn't levy one.
This is one of several good reasons to book direct with hotels.
Since you have already paid, proceed as follows. First, go to the hotel. I have stayed recently in the area around Centrale station and found it just fine – handily placed and not nearly as seedy as once it was.
Whatever online reviews you have seen, you should keep an open mind until you see the place. You have the right to expect a clean room in a well-run hotel. If you don't get this, then you are entitled to a refund. That may be easier said than done, but if the hotel refuses, then you can contact your card provider.