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If you’re trying to save money while you travel in Italy, finding budget accommodation is the key. Since hotels in Italy, especially cities like Florence, Rome and Venice, can easily cost €150 a night, that can be tough!
But, of course, we’re here to help. This is our second post in our series on how to travel to Italy… on a budget!
Scour the best hotel sites… but call the hotels directly
One of the best ways to get a feel for average hotel prices in your destination in Italy is, of course, to do some research. The booking site Venere is easily searchable and has tons of reviews. (Just be aware that in our experience, for whatever reason, these reviews tend to be a bit more on the positive side than those on other review sites). For hotels, Tripadvisor is also a good bet — check out some of travelers’ top choices in your price range and see if any fit the bill.
If you see something fantastic, then don’t automatically book it through the site you’re on. Call or email the hotel directly to see if you can get a cheaper rate.
Don’t automatically think “hotel”
One of the easiest ways to save on staying in a hotel in Italy? Don’t stay in a hotel! Italy is chock-full of other options, some of which can be much better value than even a budget hotel. If you are set on a hotel, find out how to pick the perfect hotel in this blog. Here are some of our favorites.
We’ve already written a blog on how to stay in Italy’s best agriturismo accomodations, so we won’t cover it extensively here. Suffice it to say these are “farm-stays,” where a family has accommodation for guests on their (usually gorgeous and scenic) farm, with the option of homecooked, farm-fresh meals included. Some are rustic; some are luxurious; and all have the kind of character that you just can’t get at a place with a front desk. Plus, They’re cheap. Expect to spend 30 to 50 euros per person, per night, depending on the season and region, including dinner and breakfast. (Bonus: Since these have lots of open space and animals, this is a great option for families with children).
One of the best ways to find agriturismi is, believe it or not, to use Google maps. (There are simply so many in Italy, no review or booking site could cover even a fraction of them — and we’ve stayed at dozens over the years, almost always without reading a single review first, without once having a negative experience). Zoom into the region in Italy where you plan to be staying, then type “agriturismo” or “agriturismi” into the search bar. When you click on those that pop up, many will have a website with photos that you can check out.
A convent or monastery stay
Another off-the-beaten-path way to experience Italian culture while saving money is to stay at a convent or monastery. They’re usually in beautiful, historic buildings; they can be in the heart of the city center, or out in the countryside; and you can’t get any more tranquil! Just make sure you read carefully. Some stays have curfews or rules (like no drinking or no noise after a certain hour), and they’re certainly not meant for those who want to party it up in their hotel room! For a double in a city center, expect to pay between about 60 and 100 euros per night.
To find (and book) them, we like the site Monastery Stays, which lists more than 500 convents and monasteries with options for guests across Italy. Keep the site’s advice in mind: “Do not expect luxury — that is not a monastery’s purpose. Expect clean, well presented simple and functional rooms with warm hospitality from your hosts.” Sounds good to us.
A B&B or “pensione“
In the United States, bed and breakfasts tend to be on the pricey side. In Italy, though, they can be one of your cheaper options.
Know that it’s getting harder to find a “pensione,” that type of old-school accommodation where an Italian rents out a couple of rooms in their house for cheap. Instead, B&Bs tend to be a block of three to ten rooms that strike a balance between the amenities of a hotel (daily cleanings, breakfast) and that type of traditional pensione (often family-run, with an informal touch).
In general, expect a double in a good, central B&B to cost between 80 and 130 euros per night. They’re included on Tripadvisor and Venere, as well as on other sites like HomeAway, so just change the accommodation type if you want to search for them. Just don’t expect a full-on, American or British breakfast: Often, breakfast is light with cold options only. Some “B&Bs” don’t even serve you breakfast at all, but give you a voucher for a nearby cafe. So if a big breakfast is what you’re after, you might have better luck at an agriturismo.
An apartment or villa
Renting a short-term apartment can be one of the best choices for saving on expensive city accommodation, especially for families. There are lots of options for renting homes or villas in the countryside, too. The bonus, of course, is that you can get separate rooms under one roof for the whole family, plus you have a kitchen, so you can save money by cooking at home. The downside? Don’t expect concierge service. Rentals by owner can be hit-or-miss, so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting! (For more information, check out our blog post on 6 tips for booking your short-term apartment in Italy).
While you used to have to use a commission-charging rental company to find apartments safely, it’s now a lot easier. Sites we like that let you search, and book, yourself — and that have photos and reviews from past guests — include AirBnB, HouseTrip, and HomeAway. (They hold the money for you to make sure there’s no hanky-panky before delivering it to the apartment owner). While you can also find lots of listings in cities like Rome on Craigslist, be very wary, as scams there are rife. Never, ever send or wire any money to a Craigslist poster in advance.
In all honesty, with all of the other cheap accommodation options in Italy, it’s not really necessary to stay at a hostel — unless you’re young or traveling alone and want to meet other people, or you just really need to save that extra 20 euros. If that’s the case, you really need to read our blog on how to travel Italy on a budget. Expect to pay between 20 and 40 euros per person, per night for a no-frills bed in a city center. To find them, one of our favorite sites is Hostelbookers, which has reviews from past guests. We also like the site Hostelz, a no-frills site with thousands of hostel options worldwide.
Think outside of the location box — carefully
Another way to save on hotels in Italy? Be a little creative with your location. We say this with hesitation, since there’s no better way to put a damper on your vacation than having to walk 10 minutes through a dicey-looking area each night to get to your hotel, or needing a long commute to the top sites. Plus, it’s generally a good idea to pay for the place you’ve been imagining — so if you’re excited about the winding streets of the historic center in Rome, don’t book a modern hotel in the E.U.R. business district.
It’s also important to keep transport in mind: In most cities, public transport is infrequent (or nonexistent) at night and taking lots of cabs negate the whole attempt to save money!
Still, sometimes, being off the beaten path can give you what you didn’t even know you wanted… at a cheaper price. Sometimes this might mean staying in one town over another in the same region, Like choosing Salerno over Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast.
Another good example: We recently traveled to Venice. On our first night, we stayed at an agriturismo. Tranquil, lush, filled with farm animals (and puppies!), the Villa Mocenigo even had a 16th-century villa; we stayed in a room with antique furniture and dined on homemade, farm-fresh food.
The price? 35 euros per person. Sure, we weren’t in Venice — but we were just a 20-minute drive from the city center. Since we were visiting Venice at the height of high season, that meant we not only got to save money, but that we were able to rest our heads somewhere tranquil, outside of the craziness of the center. While staying at a farm just outside Venice on a trip to see Venice might not be for everyone, it was for us.
So always weigh your options. At the same time, always ask why a certain neighborhood might be so much cheaper than others. In Rome, for example, there are lots of cheap options around the Termini train station. The reason? Many parts of the neighborhood aren’t very nice. So be on your guard and do your research — but don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
If you have any questions about how to fight the perfect cheap accommodation in Italy, ask in the comments and we’ll get right back to you!