Two of us are spending a week in Italy soon -- Rome, Florence, Venice. Help us find some cool places to stay!
June 10, 2012 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Two of us are spending a week in Italy soon -- Rome, Florence, Venice. Help us find some cool places to stay!

I know there are traditional hotels all over the place, but are there any options we might not be considering that are both relatively inexpensive *and* interesting? (Quirky also okay.)

Proximity to cools stuff is a definite plus, and we don't need to be bargain-basement. But, y'know. Rather not *waste* money. Hostels have crossed our minds, but we're not all all interested in sharing a room or bunk or whatever with folks we don't know.

Anyway: I'm trying to see if there's anything we're overlooking as we do our planning.

Oh: And it's for two of us -- a couple.

posted by chasing to Travel & Transportation around Italy (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of hostels have private rooms. Check a site like to find places with this option. I think you're going to want to start with independently owned hostels, but maybe some HI places have private rooms, too?

In Verona, I stayed in an apartment that rents bedrooms out by the night. Sort of a weird hybrid between Air B&B (staying in someone's home) and a true Bed & Breakfast sort of arrangement. I only happened upon this in Verona because my friend and I arrived in the evening, on a whim, and that was the only affordable place we could find. I'm sure other cities have these sorts of places, too. I found this place via hostelbookers. The only downside, for the apartment I stayed in, was that there was only one bathroom shared between the three bedrooms. Which made morning stuff a little hostel-esque.

For Venice, I'd highly HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend staying on one of the islands that comprise the old city, rather than in Mestre on the mainland, which is a lot cheaper and has a lot more hotels. In Venice I stayed in one of the outer sestiere, away from the tourist crowds but still a relatively easy walk* to the main sights. Most of what you read about Venice describes it as crowded, touristy, theme park-ish, overpriced etc. but I didn't experience any of this. I mean, sure, I saw what it's like in Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. But if you stay away from the crowds, you can see what Venice is really supposed to be like, as a city.

*Venice is surprisingly small and walkable. I spent two nights there and pretty much saw the whole thing on foot.
posted by Sara C. at 3:44 PM on June 10, 2012

We've traveled to Venice several times, and enjoyed it most when we stayed on Murano - specifically Locanda Conterie. It's nice to get away from the busy parts of the city, just be aware that few restaurants are open on the island much past 9 (and that there are FEW restaurants on the island). Other stays in Venice were in an overpriced hotel and a really nice (but only for two nights) apartment.

I will tell you that most people in Florence will tell you to avoid staying near the train station, advice we followed the first time we went - we stayed at Hotel Balestri and it was quite nice. Our second trip was in the height of tourist season, and everything was outrageously priced except hotels near the train station. We bit the bullet and stayed here, and it was totally charming, on a nice street full of good food and a laundromat and gelato. Walking distance to Coco Lezzone, please go there for the pork roast if you aren't vegetarians.

In Rome we rented a proper villa for 8 days, but we were traveling with a huge crowd, so that's likely not helpful for you.

If you'd like any other scoop, we've been several times so feel free to MeMail me! Enjoy Italy, I'm jealous that we aren't going this summer!!
posted by ersatzkat at 4:09 PM on June 10, 2012

In Rome, I'd highly recommend you consider staying at one of the many religious accommodations. They're amazingly inexpensive, and some are remarkably well-located. I've stayed at the Piccole Suore della Sacra Famiglia and the Casa di Procura Suore Catechiste di Sant'Anna, both listed on that page. The first is literally across from the entrance to the Vatican Museum, and the second is a five minute walk from the Colosseum. Both were spotlessly clean and comfortable. They do have AC, but don't have most other typical hotel accoutrements such as televisions.

You don't have to be Catholic to stay there, though they are Catholic so you can expect crucifixes in the rooms and perhaps some religious paintings in the hallways (all part of the culture, I say -- and you wanted something quirky!). My then-girlfriend (now wife) and I did choose to stay in separate single rooms, too; not sure how strict they are about unmarried couples sharing a room, but it wasn't a huge deal for us. Finally, note that most of them have a curfew, typically around midnight.
posted by fhangler at 4:53 PM on June 10, 2012

The last time I was in Florence was twenty years ago, my previous visit was three years prior to that. Both times I stayed here (Hotel Bodoni).
Got a great rate this fall (well under $100 USD/night for 2 with breakfast), so am staying there again.
It's on the fourth and fifth floors of a nondescript building near Santa Croce, but is clean and safe - and it sounds like they've stepped up their game on breakfast since I was last there!
posted by dbmcd at 4:59 PM on June 10, 2012

It's been about 10 years, but I stayed at the small Hotel Torre Guelfa when I was in Florence. It was not a fancy/modern place, but charming, clean, fantastic location, and unbeatable views from its tower.

I remember waking up early one morning, and from my bed, and through a crack in the old shutters, saw what looked like a raging fire outside. I opened them, only to realize it was just the start of the day. I took my camera, room key, and half-put-on-shoes, and ran down the hallway to the tower - and up 2-3 flights of winding stairs, only to see this. My crappy scanning job doesn't do it justice - i didn't even know the entire sky could be lit up in orange and red like that. So I sat on the rooftop balcony of their tower, on a freezing February morning in a t-shirt and pajama pants, and just watched the city slowly wake up. It was one of the fondest memories of any trip I'd taken.

The rooms were simple (at least 10 years ago), but it was a wonderful place to soak in the city. I remember a beautiful living room area, and open air breakfast room. The reviews on Trip Advisor suggest it's still a great place to stay.
posted by raztaj at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2012

I really liked Hotel David in Florence. It was nice enough but old school, and over on the Oltrarno, so quieter than many of the places in the main historic center. They had little social mixers in the afternoons, and lots of little freebies with your stay. The people were genuinely pleasant.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:30 PM on June 10, 2012

We always send friends to Il Cuovo in Rome. It is in a great neighborhood, close to the Coliseum etc. There are rooms in several proximate buildings. We always meet other artists, travelers, and tourists too (though fewer of them). Our son left his wallet (with a few hundred dollars in it) last time he left there. It arrived in the mail at his house the same week he did. It had already been mailed when he called to ask about it...of course all the money was still in it. It's a great eclectic atmosphere that is matched by the residential neighborhood. We never stay anywhere else.
posted by txmon at 6:46 AM on June 11, 2012

If you do follow that excellent advice about staying on one of the islands of Venice, the first thing you have to do - literally the first, like right when you get off the train, if that's how you arrive - is buy a two- or three-day transport pass, or for however many days you plan to stay. They offer really substantial reductions, and if you don't have one and pay for every trip it quickly becomes horrendously expensive. And the fact that there are two of you staying on an island means a minimum of four tickets a day just to get from your hotel into Venice itself and then back home again. If you arrive by train, there's a cabin right at the foot of the steps leading out of the station where you can buy passes, get a free timetable for the vaporetti, and so on.
posted by aqsakal at 3:48 AM on June 12, 2012

See, this is why I think staying on one of the outer islands is silly (granted, I didn't even visit the outer islands when I was in Venice, so huge pile of salt, of course). The best thing about being in Venice is just being in Venice. Walking around in Venice. Getting lost in Venice. Getting thirsty and stopping for Aperitivo time at some little neighborhood bar. I mean the sights are great, too, obviously. But I strongly feel that if you stay outside the city proper and visit only to check off tourist attractions, you'll probably find yourself agreeing with the bulk of tourists who end up disliking Venice.
posted by Sara C. at 7:34 AM on June 12, 2012

Well, each to his|her own, I guess. But if you didn't even visit the outer islands, you missed half of the magic of Venice. No reason not to be [w]alking around in Venice. Getting lost in Venice. Getting thirsty and stopping for Aperitivo time at some little neighborhood bar. You can do all of that, too. With a hop-on, hop-off transport pass you can visit all of them, or as many as you want, at no extra cost: most are beautiful, and they do have restaurants with tables in the shade under the trees and little neighbourhood bars for a grappin. I didn't think I was being silly at all each time I did this. I even enjoyed San Michele island - which is just one big cemetery!
posted by aqsakal at 3:43 AM on June 13, 2012

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