Planning a trip to Italy is big. It takes a lot of time and effort to decide an itinerary, research the various destinations, figure out transport and, of course, find a place to stay.
With hundreds of websites you can find thousands of options, but which one is right for you?
For years the first and only choice was a hotel. Lately, apartment renting sites like airbnb have introduced a whole new way to travel: short-term apartment stays.
Those aren’t your only options, however. Sure, you can get a hotel or even an apartment, but you can also rent out a castle, stay in a monastery or a mountain hut. Farms open their doors and so do families. There are a ton of different accommodation options in Italy, so let’s look at some of the main categories:
Luckily, we’ve fully entered the world of Airbnbs. This is a great option if you’re traveling with friends or family – it’s often cheaper and some of the accommodations can be just as ritzy as a glamorous hotel. Stay in a 300-year-old trullo home in Puglia, a modern treehouse near Florence or a country home overlooking the sea in Sardinia. Or just get a simple, centrally-located apartment at a fraction of the price of a hotel!
Note: I’ve never used any of those apartments, I just did a quick search of interesting accommodation on Airbnb, but that’s not the only site available. Try Homeaway, Booking.com, Trip Advisor Rentals, whatever!
There are two types of B&Bs in Italy:
– A small property rented out by owners who live nearby, usually with a common room.
– Ritzy Bed and Breakfasts American-style. A sort-of boutique hotel with a few rooms, each decorated differently and breakfast service only that tends to be just as expensive as a regular hotel.
While the ritzy places exist in Italy and can be quite wonderful, more often a B&B is a family-run room rental that tends to be inexpensive and relatively spartan. There are laws dictating how many rooms it can have and still be considered a B&B, so in any case you know it will be small. We chose this option when staying overnight in Verona for an opera. Not unlike an Airbnb, we had a room and bathroom to ourselves, and a small kitchen and living/eating area shared with another room. No problem for a short-stay and a great way to meet some locals. We’ve always found lovely hosts with plenty of advice on the area!
An agriturismo is a farm designed to also receive guests, whether for a meal, accommodation or a combination of the two. Usually in the countryside, it’s the perfect way to partake in Italy’s relaxed culture, get to know the people and enjoy the freshest of local food. It can also be super budget friendly! When it works with our destination, an agriturismo is our favorite accommodation option in Italy! It’s the best of a hotel with the best of an apartment-stay, and almost always in a beautiful location.
You can find agriturismi listings on most accommodation booking sites, booking.com etc., as well as Agriturismo.it. Sometimes they call themselves country houses or farm-stays.
Monasteries and convents
Pilgrims and weary travelers of all faiths have been offered refuge by monks and nuns for centuries. Today’s Italy is no different. Hundreds of monasteries throughout the boot have rooms available for travelers, whether religious or not.
Monks live in simple rooms and the same is offered to travelers. You may have a room to yourself or you may be in a shared dorm. Expect a bed, table, window and religious motifs – the bathroom is often shared.
Originally open to offer more accommodation to pilgrims to Italy, many monasteries simply ask visitors to pay what they can, others have set prices. Usually you’ll find peaceful, affordable accommodation, and get a completely unique perspective on Italy’s religious culture while you’re at it. You can also expect a good meal! Italians say that nobody eats better than a monk, and with shared mealtimes in many monasteries, you’ll get the chance to put that expression to the test.
A Rifugio is a mountain cabin found along major paths throughout the Alps. If there’s space available, you can stay the night for a small fee. The rifugi vary on comfort and cleanliness; some located in the Dolomites are as nice as a major hotel, with food cooked by genuine cooks. Most, however, are simple mountain cabins run by volunteers. Expect simple food, shared accommodation and a damn-good time! It’s easy to be happy and make friends when you’ve hiked far to get to your accommodation and you’re joined by other tired, satisfied hikers. Italy’s major hiking organization, CAI, has a list of 774 mountain cabins and huts to choose from based on where you’re hiking. Some, of course, can be reached with very little hiking as well and at about 20 – 30 euro for a shared dorm, they can be an incredibly inexpensive way to soak in Italy’s Alpine culture.
Huts are usually about three hours walking apart. Nicer cabins are called rifugi, more spartan accommodation are called bivacchi. It’s best to book in advance during the high-season and to double check if the huts only offer meals or a place to sleep as well.
Of course, you can always go upperclass in Italy. Ok so technically, this is the same style/steps as an apartment-stay but, you know, a castle instead. The bel paese has a 2,000+ year history, most of which was spent defending one hill from another. There are no shortages of castles! Now, plenty of castles have been renovated and rented out, ready to make you feel like a king or queen for your stay!
Find your favorite here
Camping in Italy, like in America, ranges from renting small bungalows, to camper vans to pop-up tents. The real planning involved is knowing where you can camp. Unfortunately, there’s not a national law on wild camping. Instead, each region and park are free to decide if and how you can camp in the area, so it’s best to set up in a proper area. A campsite for a one-person tent ranges from 12 – 20 euro. Camping.it can help you find a campsite and plan your trip. Here are some incredibly beautiful – and inexpensive – options!