Journey to Italy – Choosing Accommodations

In the summer of 2023, we had a conversation with our good friends over a glass of wine about taking a trip to Italy together. A year later, we did it! Over the next few blog posts, I will share some practical tips for planning a vacation abroad and highlight some of the amazing scenery, architecture, and design.

One big decision when travelling (not only abroad but anywhere, for that matter) is choosing accommodations. So many options are available – you could choose a home rental (e.g., Airbnb), a hotel, or a combination of both.

The Advantages of Airbnb

Live Like the Locals

view of buildings from the window of an Airbnb in Italy representing choosing accommodations
The view from the window in our Airbnb.

In my opinion, especially when travelling somewhere like Italy, the main advantage of staying at an Airbnb is to experience daily living the way the locals do. It allows you to immerse yourself in the lifestyle and culture.

There are dozens of properties to choose from, which can be both a blessing and a curse. I spent hours poring over locations, interior finishes, and amenities. To help us narrow our choices, we created a list of must-haves, which included two bedrooms, two bathrooms with showers, a small kitchen, laundry facilities (necessary when you travel with only a carry-on) and a few other little things (e.g., hair dryer).

The other benefit of Airbnb is that the host is often a local citizen who knows about unique (and non-touristy) sights, restaurants, and activities.

Potential Cost Savings

When choosing accommodations, my impression was that Airbnb was more affordable than a hotel. That is certainly true if you plan to stay for several days with your family. Shared common spaces, purchasing groceries, and cooking meals are very convenient and cost-saving options. It’s also a great option if you have allergies or special dietary requirements that make eating in restaurants challenging.

We were two couples travelling together, so I am not sure we saved anything – and perhaps even paid more. Part of the reason was that we only stayed two nights at each of our three Airbnb locations. Because I wasn’t familiar with Airbnb, I didn’t pay as much attention to the extra fees as I should have. Alternatively, if we had booked a room in someone’s home instead of an entire apartment, it would have been more affordable.

More Space

Obviously, when you rent an entire apartment, you are not confined to a single hotel room. The living area was a great bonus because we had a comfortable place to sit and chat over coffee or wine. Additionally, the refrigerator and microwave allowed us to store food and heat it for lunch the next day. In many cases, you also have access to an outdoor space, which is great as long as the weather cooperates. Our Airbnb in Furore on the Amalfi Coast had a huge rooftop patio with a hot tub overlooking the incredible Mediterranean Sea. However, it was too chilly to sit out a night unless you wrapped yourself in a blanket.

The Advantages of a Hotel Stay

Easier Planning and Check-In

view of the country side from a hotel window representing choosing accommodations
The view from the window of our hotel in Italy.

One of the major drawbacks of Airbnb for me was the amount of communication required to book, pay, and check in. In Italy, we communicated through the Airbnb app before our trip. However, we had to switch to WhatsApp to coordinate arrival times and details. I found it a lot of work to keep track of all the communication. In addition, we had to send pictures of our passports in advance as well as pay the tourist tax in cash (Euros). These don’t seem like big things, but I found it more work than I would have liked.

With a hotel, you make a reservation in advance (usually on their website). When you arrive, you walk in the front door and pay all the fees with a credit card. It’s much easier to do, especially if you’re suffering from jetlag.

24-Hour Service and Support

When choosing accommodations, we decided to stay in two hotels during our trip. One was in a beautiful village in Tuscany, and the other was a convenient and affordable hotel in Naples the night before an early flight home. I will write a blog post about the Tuscany experience, so stay tuned. It was my favourite part of the 10-day trip.

I know it goes without saying, but having hotel staff to assist you with anything you need at any time of the day or night is a huge benefit. They will also book ground transportation and happily recommend day trips and local restaurants. I found it was easier and more enjoyable to have a face-to-face conversation with someone than messaging back and forth on Airbnb or WhatsApp – especially with the challenge of translation. Also, hotels often have staff members who speak multiple languages should you need help. We made friends with our hotel manager, Lorenzo, in Tuscany, but that’s a story for another day.

Each of our hotels in Italy sent us a WhatsApp message on the day of arrival to confirm our expected time, which was a nice touch. I have not experienced that in North America.

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Most hotels have a standard for cleaning and property maintenance. If you research and choose carefully, this shouldn’t be an issue. And if it is, someone can deal with any problems day or night. Because our trip was a little earlier than the typical “high season,” it was a little chilly in Venice, Florence, and Furore, which I usually don’t mind. However, the heating was not working in any of the Airbnb locations. The Airbnb apartment in Florence was especially challenging as we couldn’t turn on the heat. I messaged our host, and there was some regulation in Florence about power consumption, so they locked the thermostat, and we weren’t allowed to raise the temperature. Brrr!

In addition, two of the three Airbnb locations had minor maintenance issues that added up and were annoying. For example, a patio door was off the hinge, a shower didn’t drain, a clothes dryer had a broken drum, and there were loose and wobbly cabinet knobs, switches, and shower valves. I needn’t go on; you get the drift.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, if I were to take a trip like this again, I would choose a hotel, especially if I was only staying for two or three nights in one location. Also, one of the reasons I enjoy vacations is because I don’t have to cook and clean up.

While Airbnb does offer a unique and more personal experience, the convenience of a hotel seems easier and more relaxing. I hope that sharing our experience helps you when you’re choosing accommodations for your next trip.

Read more articles in the My Journey to Italy series.

4 thoughts on “Journey to Italy – Choosing Accommodations”

  1. Been there! Done that!

    Jane, I couldn’t agree more! Your experience and assessment of travelling abroad is right on point. While, we find Air BnBs easy to use within Canada, European destinations leave much to be desired. Only if I was going to stay for 7-14 days in one location would I consider using an AirBnB.

    Hotel staff are so accommodating. Even when travelling with others, a separate hotel room is just fine. We always set the ground rules before going on a trip with others,to clarify we don’t expect to spend 24/7 together. Everyone needs their own space at one time or another! We generally spend our days touring and meet up later for supper. Flexibility is so important for everyone’s vacation.

    Next trip, I am planning to purchase a SIM card for Europe. Everyone assumes you are on Whats App and most parking lots require a “pay by app”, some don’t even accept credit cards. Even menus had to be scanned by the QR code to read from the internet… from Belgium, to France, Switzerland & Austria, into Slovenia… they were all far more technology based than North America, which was surprising to us!

    Safe travels to all!

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy – so nice to hear from you and glad you agree with my experience. The eSIM was definitely the best $12 I’ve spent in a long time. Enjoy your next trip!

      Reply

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