I’ve heard so many good things about Airbnb, especially in the blogsphere, that I prayed for buona fortuna and booked apartments for most of our stay in Italy.
It all started with other people telling me horror stories of hotels in Venice. Expensive places that ended up being really dirty, places that say they have a lift and then didn’t, forcing people to carry big suitcases up three flights of stairs, and tiny, little rooms. I figured no Airbnb could be worse, so why not give it a try and save some money.
My biggest issue was my germaphobia. I am not ashamed to admit that I tried to maneuver my suitcase in a way that I would have room to pack sheets. Seemed perfectly logical to me but the Husband insisted I was being crazy. I was telling my friend Rae Ann about how crazy the Husband was being and she, very kindly and gently, assured me that I was the crazy one. So I listened to her and got over my concerns.
I’m SO GLAD I did! I had a great experience everywhere we stayed. Our first stop was Venice, but thanks to the Edelweiss Debacle of 2015 our two night stay turned in to an 11 hour stay. We missed our first night (which is, of course, nonrefundable) but made it to Venice around 8 PM, so we had one night there still. Our host, Pietro, had his assistant Maura meet us around 8:30 PM or so. It was a short walk from the train station, but hard to find. Luckily a nice lady who lived next door showed us the way. It was located right off the main canal and it had a gorgeous view. The place was large and clean and had everything we needed (but we were only there for 11 hours, so how much could we need?) and the Wi-Fi worked well. I did manage to break two coffee cups in the short time I was there. I blame the jet leg (sorry again Pietro!).
Our next Airbnb was the Dome and the 100 Windows in Florence. It was a short, straight walk from the train station, only about 5 minutes even with our large luggage. The host, Laura, recently broke her back (feel better soon!) so her boyfriend met us promptly outside to give us the keys and let us in, even though it was way before check in time. He let us leave our suitcases there, even though the cleaners hadn’t even come yet. We took the lift up to the third floor and walked down to the end of a long hallway to the apartment. The apartment was bright and spacious and there was the most glorious cross breeze when the windows were open. The living room window had a great view of the Duomo and, as Laura’s boyfriend said, it was the perfect location to be a tourist, but not to eat. He gave us recommendations of where to go, including the awesome Mercado Centrale where, I have to admit, we ate three of our meals. The Wi-Fi worked great and the place was very clean. It was a little loud and lively at night, but I liked hearing all the noise and activity. Well, except one time. We were sitting on the couch, having a glass of wine after a long day of walking up and down hills and stairs, and we looked out the window and saw a couple having sex, right in the window! I’m talking standing in the window, boobs hanging out in the night air! They saw us looking out the window (oh you know you would too!) and just turned around and kept going about their business! And I’m pretty sure the guy had a tramp stamp!!! LOL! Makes for a great story anyway.
The only negative was the water in the shower went from super hot to super cold every 30 seconds or so. Luckily the shower was actually pretty big, so there was plenty of room to jump out of the water and wait for the temperature to normalize.
We left Firenze and headed down the coast to Napoli. We stayed in Carmine’s penthouse with a view of Naples. Our train was delayed for nearly 40 minutes due to a police detour, and yet Carmine was still nice enough to pick us up at the train station! As we drove to the apartment, he told us about Napoli and want to see and where to go. He was born in Naples and clearly loves his city.
The apartment is easily reachable by foot from the main streets, but it required going down a bunch of stairs. Carmine showed us how to get to the stairs then drove us down right in front of the apartment, since we had pretty big suitcases. Turned out, Carmine also lives next door. After going up the lift, then walking up a short flight of stairs to the roof, you open the door to one of the prettiest views. The rooftop overlooks Napoli and Mount Vesuvius. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
The entrance to the apartment is on the roof, with its own private door. It’s the cutest little apartment, with a small kitchen, bathroom, and living room, and an upstairs loft with a bed. The living room had two large glass doors that faced Mount Vesuvius. We left the shutters open at all times while we were there. It made the room seems bigger, and it was the perfect size for the Husband and I. The washing machine was a nice extra addition and worked great and the Wi-Fi worked consistently.
Carmine had the apartment fully stocked, including wine, beer, water, spaghetti, and sauce! We didn’t do any cooking, as we were there mostly for the pizza, but it was nice to know we had the option. We did enjoy the wine and beer, and spent a lot of time sitting outside, enjoying the view. The first night Carmine joined us outside and even shared some of his mother’s homemade limoncello with us! It was nice to look out over the city, sipping a local drink, while chatting about the city.
Carmine had print outs and maps ready for us as well, including a list of his favorite restaurants. The Husband was very excited to go to Da Michele, which is the pizza place in Eat, Pray, Love and is considered the “sacred temple of pizza.” Carmine suggested we try his favorite, Pizzeria Di Matteo, and holy cow are we glad we did. Best pizza of our trip! So delicious. Thanks again Carmine!
The apartment was in an area that was a little hard to navigate, but it seems all of Naples is like that. There are lots of stairs, hills, small alley ways, twisting roads, and people driving everywhere, even where you think is a sidewalk. We got lost a lot, but we got lost everywhere in Italy. That’s part of the fun: finding things you weren’t expecting. It looked like the area by the water might be a nicer neighborhood, but it looked like a tourist neighborhood. If you want to experience the real Napoli, you absolutely need to stay in an area like Carmine’s apartment. I highly recommend staying at Carmine’s specifically. Everything was perfect.
Our last Airbnb stay was in Roma. We stayed at Rizzo’s Estate Trastevere and I’m so glad we did. Emanuele was in contact with us often from the moment we booked. He even tried to find soccer tickets to the big Roma versus Lazio game, but the game ended up being rescheduled. Bummer for the Husband’s bucket list. Anyway, Emanuele and his father were waiting out front for us when we arrived from the train station. They helped up carry our bags up and showed us around the gorgeous apartment. There was wine, beer, water, croissants, and jam waiting for us as well. Better than most welcome amenities I’ve ever received at a hotel! After showing us the well equipped kitchen, washing machine, and bedroom, Emanuele sat with us and showed us a list of some of his favorite places to eat and the best dishes to try at each one. And he stayed in contact with us the whole time we were there (four nights) and it was like having our own personal concierge. We tried multiple suggests and they were all fantastic! After they were sure we were settled and ready to experience Roma, they gave us two tickets for the public transportation! And if that wasn’t nice enough, we asked Emanuele to arrange a taxi to take us to the train station at 6:30 AM the day we left, and his father showed up and took us!
Even if the place was a dump, I would stay again just based on how fabulous Emanuele and his father are. But the apartment was perfect! Aside from the spacious living room and bedroom and quaint kitchen, the fast Wi-Fi, and the beautiful décor, the neighborhood was fantastic! Located on a little piazza in Trastevere, which is a neighborhood in Roma that’s right next to the Tiber River, so it’s easy to find your way back. Just find the river. It’s also super convenient. The piazza right outside has a little market, where you can buy fresh fruit, seafood, and pasta. When the market is closed, you can watch the local children play soccer and they are really good! There’s also a grocery store right next door and tons of restaurants, bars, and shops very close by. If you want to leave the neighborhood and see all the sights in Roma, the tram was just a block or so away and was easy to get on and navigate. It stopped very close to the Colosseum and had transfers to get anywhere else you could want to go. The apartment and Emanuele and his father were far superior to the rooms and staff at some of the luxury hotels we’ve stayed at!
I’m so pleased with all of my Airbnb stays. It was nice to have the extra room and the conveniences of an apartment. But the best part was the personal touches by the hosts. The Husband and I are very big in to seeing places like a local, while seeing the touristy spots too. We usually rely on bartenders to give us the inside information about the places we’re visiting so it was nice to have someone ready with solid info on what to really see and try. Every host we encountered seemed to truly love their city.
Tips for using Airbnb
-Be very thorough when reading reviews from other people. You’ll want to find a host and a place that meet your specific needs and you can really tell the character of the hosts by other travelers reviews. For example, the reviews about Emanuele repeatedly spoke about his great restaurant suggestions and the fact that he is a chef and training to be a sommelier. We are huge foodies, especially when traveling, so he is what really sold us on the apartment.
-Research the neighborhood. Even if you have the best host in the world, you don’t have a person at the desk 24/7 like a hotel. You’ll need to figure some stuff out on your own.
-Stay in contact with the hosts, especially before arriving. Again, unlike a hotel with a person at the desk, you’ll need to coordinate where and when to meet to get the keys. The more you interact with the host, the smoother your arrival will be.
-If you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language, take a screen shot or print out a map to the place you are staying. Unlike a hotel, they aren’t as easy to find for taxi drivers.
-Be sure to check each listing to see what is included. Every place we stayed had the necessities, such as towels, soap, shampoo etc., but not all listings included it. And don’t be afraid to ask if something in specific is included, such as a blow dryer. I brought mine, just in case, but each place had one.
Do you have any experiences with Airbnb, good or bad? Any tips that I left out? Let me know!
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Neither Airbnb nor the hosts knew I was going to take such detailed notes about my stay. All opinions are strictly my own.