1. Ideal for Couples … or a Couple of Friends. When I’m asked about villa rentals in Italy, I respond with a question. “How many people are in your party?” If the answer is in the range of 1 to 4, I usually recommend an apartment rental instead of a villa. Villas are often large, with multiple bedrooms (way too much space for one couple), and although cottages are also a possibility, they can be more difficult to find. Apartments can be ideal – and much more affordable too. But never mistake affordability with roughing it. I’ve seen elegant apartment rentals in medieval castles and Renaissance palaces. What a fun way to live like royalty without renting an entire palace!
2. Privacy (and probably not another tourist in sight!). If you’re planning a romantic getaway for two, or if you’re looking for something just a little more private while visiting Italy, renting an apartment is our favorite way to go. From historic palaces in medieval towns to rustic farmhouses in the countryside, we love the intimacy and privacy that apartment renting can provide. Naturally you’ll want to decide on an atmosphere that suites your personal tastes (humble cottage or grand castle) but at the end of a busy sightseeing day, it sure is nice to get away from other tourists and retreat to your own private slice of bella italia.
3. Home Away From Home. Staying in a hotel feels like … well … staying in a hotel. I’ve traveled a lot over the years, so I’m admittedly biased, but anyone I’ve ever asked tells me the same thing – there’s just nothing homey about a hotel. But privately-owned apartments are another matter entirely. There’s something about sleeping in a space that was meant to be lived in that brings homeyness into the equation. Plus an apartment will almost certainly have a kitchen, living area and/or outside space (maybe even a spectacular terrace or balcony) that makes you feel welcome, comfy and right at home.
4. Get to Know a Family … a Hamlet … a Village. There’s no guarantee that renting an apartment from a local family will get you invited over for dinner, but chances are you’ll have plenty of occasions to meet people who live and/or work near where you’re staying. It’s an ideal opportunity to make friends – even if you don’t speak a word of Italian (smiles and kind gestures go a long way in Italy). And unlike hotel stays, where workers are used to (and sometimes weary of) tourists, renting a privately-owned apartment in a small village will likely make you a local celebrity. Plus, we love the idea of supporting the local economy when traveling through Italy, and renting apartments from private owners does exactly that.
5. Home Cooked Meals. Italian food – in Italy – is amazing. If you’ve never heard that before, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Travelers to Italy love eating out in the countless, fabulous restaurants and trattorie. We do too! But for those of us who also enjoy cooking (or for others who might be on a special diet) renting an apartment with a kitchen makes a lot of sense – and it also means you get to enjoy shopping in local markets, bakeries and macellerie (butcher shops) for some of the freshest, most flavorful ingredients on the planet!
6. Unique Surroundings. Whether your rented apartment in Italy offers views of sweeping vineyards, cobbled lanes or manicured courtyards, it’s certain that the panorama, atmosphere, and “feel” of the place are unique. Privately owned apartments are one-of-a-kind spaces (not those “cookie-cutter” rooms) that make your particular surroundings all-the-more special and memorable. We think there’s something lovely about spending time in a place – and a space – with its own unique character.
7. An “Off the Beaten Strada” Perspective. Hotels – and even many agriturismi (countryside B&Bs) – can you give filtered impression of a place. Apartment rentals are more the “real deal”. While your neighbors in a B&B might be other tourists, in a rented apartment they’ll probably be actual neighbors! To us, it’s infinitely more interesting to experience real life unfolding around you during a visit to Italy – farmers gathering eggs, the local priest visiting your landlord, the castle’s gardener cutting some roses. That’s the kind of thing that creates an off the beaten strada perspective during your Italy vacation that’s not only authentic, it’s truly extraordinary.
Pamela Haack is an author, specialized travel consultant and founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and hosts custom retreats in central Italy for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the region.
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