Congratulations! You've decided to take a trip to Italy. Now, where to stay? Since tourism is one of the country's largest industries and a major contributor to the economy, your choice of where to stay in Italy is just about endless. Consider your personality, budget and the kind of experience you want to have while visiting Italy. You can even mix and match: stay at hotel in Milan or Rome for a few nights and then rent a villa in Tuscany. Italians are warm, welcoming hosts.
Following are some Italy lodging options to consider.
The traditional choice when visiting any new place is a hotel. Italy has tens of thousands of choices all over the country, which come in all shapes and sizes from a small pensione to a seven-star hotel (the Seven Stars Galleria in Milan).
You're most likely to choose a hotel if you are staying in a city. Most of Italy's hotels are small, family-owned enterprises, but there are also outposts of American hotel groups like Hyatt, Hilton and Starwood. If you have accumulated reward points with one of these hotel chains, you might want to use them for your Italian vacation, but be sure to book far ahead.
The Italian government determines the star ratings of hotels according to the following guidelines:
Four- or five-star hotels must have personnel that speak at least two languages. They must provide breakfast areas and have elevators. (Two- and three-star hotels must have elevators above the second story.)
Room service is required at hotels of three stars or more. Housekeeping is guaranteed once a day as well as an afternoon check on the room.
All three-, four- and five-star hotel rooms have telephone with direct external lines. Two-star hotels must have phones in the rooms.
Linens are changed daily in four- and five-star hotels. Three-star hotels change their linens three times a week; two-stars, twice a week. One-star properties change linens at least once a week.
Bar service is available eight hours a day at two-star hotels, 12 hours at three-stars and 16 hours at four-and five-star hotels.
Nearly all hotels in Italy offer breakfast as part of the nightly room rate. Generally this includes a selection of pastries, bread, cheese, meats, yogurt and fruit. Most hotels in Italy now offer Wi-Fi, often included in the room rate.
Italy Hotel Resources:
Italy Bed & Breakfasts
Just as in other countries, B&Bs in Italy usually offer an authentic local experience. It is a chance to interact a bit more with the locals, as owners are usually very hands-on and generally live on-site.
A number of historic palaces and buildings have been converted into B&Bs. B&Bs are often cheaper than hotels, so if you are on a budget, this can be a great option. Of course, breakfast is included -- as the name indicates -- and Italians are big on pastries, meats, cheeses and fruit for the morning meal. Fill up and you won't be hungry until lunch time.
Italy B&B Resources:
Italy Villa and Apartment Rentals
Renting a villa or apartment is probably the best way to truly "live like an Italian" when you're visiting Italy. This is a great choice for travelers who are a bit more independent and don't need the hand-holding of a hotel staff or concierge (though many rental agencies and owners are happy to help out with logistics).
A villa or apartment rental can actually be a very affordable option, especially if you are traveling with a larger group. For the same price as multiple hotel rooms -- or even less -- you can get several bedrooms, a kitchen and extra living space. A rental also makes sense for families traveling with children. You will have more room for the kids to run around and can prepare your own meals; plus, going to food markets is a great local experience.
If you're considering an Italian villa rental, here are five quick tips to make sure the experience goes as smoothly as possible:
1. If it is your first time renting or you're a little less adventurous, go through a rental agency. Generally the owners of the agency have seen and vetted all of their properties, and there will be someone to turn to in case of a problem (but be sure to ask).
2. Only use a rental agency if you can personally speak to someone who has toured the property and can answer detailed questions about it.
3. Make sure there is someone on call 24/7 to help if you lose your keys or the toilet overflows. If the agency or owner can't guarantee a speedy, local response, pass. Your vacation is too short to wait days for something to be fixed.
4. Ask for references. Ask the owner or agency to connect you with people who have previously rented the property. Be sure to ask the renters what they liked least about the place and or anything they wish they had known beforehand.
5. Decide if you really want to be in the countryside. Yes, the book and movie "Under The Tuscan Sun" were fantastic and have inspired many to rent homes in Tuscany and other rural areas, but think about how far you want to be from Italy's major sights. Many travelers rent a villa and then realize that they can't walk into town or that it takes a half-hour to drive to a local restaurant or vineyard. Consider the location of the villa and what you plan to do each day. If you're focused on cooking meals with fresh local ingredients, lounging in the garden and swimming in the pool, being deeper in the countryside won't matter so much.
Italy Villa and Apartment Rental Resources:
An agriturismo is a working farm that rents rooms or apartments and/or serves meals made from its food production. The Italian government created the agriturismo program in 1985 to encourage the refurbishment of farms and provide a tax incentive to farmers.
Don't think that just because farming is part of the estate where you are staying that you will be put to work. On the contrary, you will be treated to amazing Italian hospitality with a local welcome and fresh, delicious food (breakfast is nearly always included, and other meals may be as well). Rooms and apartments for rent are generally nicely furnished and comfortable, and often include many amenities available at hotels.
Get more tips in Homestays and Farmstays.
Italy Agriturismo Resources:
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--written by Kathy McCabe, DreamofItaly.com