Where to Stay in Italy: Beyond Hotels

When it comes to booking your trip to Italy, you’re not limited to your standard Hilton hotel. Choosing the right spot can transform your experience in Italy and truly complete the experience. While there are many full-service hotels and resorts, you’ll also find unique traditional stays, local agritourism, and the classic mountain rifugi to make your stay unique. Find out more about where to stay in Italy with these tips!

Things to know when booking a place in Italy

When you are looking for where to stay in Italy, it is better that first, you decide your budget, then start searching. Places can range from 50/75€ a night to hundreds a night, all in the same neighborhood! So think about really how much you would want to spend then search from there.

Here is another little secret: Mezza Pensione. Much more common in mountain regions like the Dolomites of rifugi of Piedmont, but you can often find this solution around with a little searching. Mezza Pensione means half board, it offers your stay, plus breakfast and dinner. Often it is a much better deal for your stay and can help you budget your travel better!

City Tax: every place you book online, when you arrive you will need to show an ID and pay a city tax in person. This is usually only 1-2€ pp, a tax the hotel pays directly to the town when registering visitors.

Where to find the best places to stay in Italy

Most people head straight to Airbnb when looking for a place to stay, but I have to be honest recently this hasn’t been the best option for budget travel. You can of course find great places on Airbnb, but with all the additional fees they’ve stacked up, it can end up not being worth it. Do a little research before you commit right away to an Airbnb.

In Italy, we normally use the third-party website Booking to find hotels, agritourism, and vacation houses.

If you know you want to stay with an agritourism you can also head directly to agritourism.it.

However, the truth is you will find the best deals when booking directly with a hotel. Use these third-party websites as a point of reference for research, but then look for the hotel’s own contact information. Sometimes they have great deals hiding there.

Hotels in Italy

Italy has a few hotel chains available, especially in the main cities like Rome and Florence, but often the ones you might be familiar with are located outside the city. Within the towns, you’ll find more local historic hotels. Quality can range drastically. Many might appear a little dated, while more recently classy boutique hotels are popping up around.

The great thing about booking a hotel is you will be able to have the standard services, amenities and comfort you would expect. At the same time, you might find many do not fully encompass the Italian experience.

B&B

Choosing a more local B&B can be a really fun experience, they are often a tad warmer in character than a classic hotel and at least offer breakfast, plus plenty of local insight!

I will say on a personal level that you’ll need to pick your b&b wisely: many do slack on comfort and decor. Meaning thin mattresses and pillows, with cheap sheets bought at the market and a bathroom that looks like it could have been your nonna’s. Now, that is not saying ALL of them are like this, also if that isn’t important to your stay, then don’t mind at all! Just know what to expect when taking a peek.

It is also possible in these B&Bs that not every room has a private bathroom, so you will want to check for that if it is important to you.

Agritourism

One of the best types of stay you can experience in Italy. Agritourisms can range from a classic rustic vibe to a full resort. What they do have in common is that they are actively producing their own range of products. Some may be just wineries, others may focus on animals or dairy, yet others are a mix of everything.

These establishments often offer private rooms, with private bathrooms (but always check!), an excellent quality breakfast, and often a mezza pensione offer! They also often include many activities to enjoy throughout the day to learn about their farm and surrounding territory.

Also, many may include a pool which can be a huge plus in the summer!

The only thing to remember is these agritourisms are often a bit outside main cities, surrounded by countryside. Making them a peaceful visit, it can also not be ideal if you had your heart set on filling every day with visits to a city.

You’ll find these in every region around Italy.

Masseria

A stay unique to the area of Puglia and Basilicata, these are sometimes active agritourisms, sometimes ones that have been converted into rustic luxury stay.

Essentially a Masseria was a large farmhouse or stall built in the middle of the land being cultivated, used as a central location for the farming activity. Over the years once they had been largely abandoned, many creative owners took to converting the old stalls into boutique stays.

Again, these are often located just a bit outside a main town or city, meaning you’ll want a car to reach them. The more luxurious stays with a pool and/or spa often might offer a mezza pensione, and are great for a countryside stay. Others acting more like agritourism might include more activities for families.

Trulli

Another traditional stay in central Puglia. The Trulli are the small round houses topped by a cone roof you’ve probably seen many times on IG. Many people love to take a day trip to Alberobello to take in a full village of these houses. But they can also make really fun stays during your time in Puglia!

Some Masseria have built, or repurposed old Trulli on their property to have them as special suites. Otherwise, you’ll find the best deal on these stays on Airbnb, like this incredible one in Ostuni.

Rifugi

A typical mountain stay. Rifugi are often cabins with shared rooms located in the mountain regions of Italy. They can be located at lower altitudes, offering great places for lunch, or they might be higher up, as a stop for hikers.

Anyone can book within the Rifugi, again here quality is a mix, depending on who owns the individual rifugio. Normally there are rooms for about 4 people (though since COVID a few are still limited to only two people per room), with bunk beds. These may or may not include some type of cushion, and a pillow, while often visitors are required to bring their own sleeping bags, or sleeping back liners. Double check with the Rifugio, however, as some are more fitted for visitors of all types and will provide sheets and a mattress.

Rifugi offer hearty breakfasts and most likely will offer a mezza pensione option, with a satisfying dinner as well. You can find some of my favourites in Piedmont on this Thatch Map.

Camping

If you are looking to go camping in Italy, you might want to check out this blog I wrote about planning a trip to the mountains.

Basically camping in Italy looks a little different, you can only do it in official campsites, or in cases of emergency. Then of course on private land if the owner gives you permission! But wild camping can only be done if you find yourself out as the sun goes down with no other option nearby, and then you have to pack up your stuff as soon as sun rises.

Campgrounds in popular areas, like along the Tuscan coast, might end up getting a little crowded. You’ll be given a spot about as big as your tent, and it is possible others might be just up against your tent. You’ll have to pay for: The spot, tent, per person, per night. Not to mention potential charges for parking, use of the water, and other taxes.

But don’t get me wrong, I do love camping in some areas! In some areas more into the mountains, you will find you have much more space, and pay only for the spot per night rather than all the different charges.

Campgrounds might also offer small bungalows for a unique stay. Before booking one via a third party, poke around their websites and see what they might offer, plus a clear picture of their prices!

I hope that helps you get a better idea of where to stay when you visit Italy! For personalized recommendations and help planning your dream vacation to Italy, check out my travel planning offers here.

Evelyn Hill

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