When In Rome....Sleep In The Train Station, Apparently

Trying to find an apartment in Rome for three days in October is like trying to....well, huh, I don't even know. The vastly frustrating act of trying to find an apartment in Rome for three days in October has left me so mentally exhausted that I can't even think of any clever analogies. 

Here is what I want: I want a studio or a one-bedroom in the Navona/Pantheon /Campo dei Fiore area, preferably in a historic building, and definitely with a window. (You might laugh at that last requirement, but you'd be surprised at how many apartment rental reviews I've read where the person writing the review is all "yeah, it was well-located, but it didn't have any windows; it was just like sleeping in a vault.") (Actually, scratch that, you'd be surprised by how many apartment rental reviews I've read, period. It's a sickness, I'm telling you.)

I don't need it to be fancy, but I do need it to be clean. Sure, I'd prefer it if it had a real bed rather than a sofa bed we had to fold out every night, but apart from that, I really don't have any other major musts. It has to be available from October 11th through October 14th, and it has to be somewhere around 120 Euros per night or less. (Uh, preferably less.)

So let's review: I need a tiny apartment, but I'm looking for it in a fairly large radius. I need an old building, but I'm looking for it in the world's oldest city, where old buildings are a dime a dozen. I'd like a window and I'd like a bed and I'd like the grout in the shower to have been scrubbed sometime since Clinton left the White House, but I'm really not asking for very much more than that. I've long since given up the dream of high ceilings and balconies and roof gardens. I just want something central, basic, and clean, with "vaguely charming" bringing up the rear (though definitely not a dealbreaker.) I mean, does that sound like a tall order to you? Because it really doesn't to me.

AND YET IT IS NIGH ON IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND THIS MYSTICAL APARTMENT. I'm not even kidding: everyone and their mom---and their mom's friend Brenda, and their mom's friend Brenda's yoga teacher Dennis---seems to be going to Rome between October 11th and October 14th, and all these people have taken ALL OF THE GOOD APARTMENTS. And it is July! We still have three months! Why are they taking the apartments now, these selfish people? Why can't they leave something for the rest of us?

I actually auditioned for an apartment the other day. It was a fantastic place in an amazing location and while every single person in the guestbook raved about how wonderful it was, there was no information on price or availability, and so (with fingers crossed behind my back) (which, uh, makes it quite hard to type, you know), I sent a lovely email to the owners---a pair of artists called Massimo and Biancamaria---in which I told them all about us: our jobs, our interests, how we met, why we were excited to go to Rome. The next day, I received an equally lovely email from Massimo and Biancamaria in which they said that while we sounded like a terrific couple and exactly the sort of people they'd like to rent their apartment out to, said apartment was unfortunately booked until October 24th. Next up: just sending people whole boxes of cupcakes. With extra sprinkles.

Renting an apartment, it seems, requires a whole separate level of skill than just booking a hotel room does: not only are there agencies and then review sites reviewing those agencies, but there are also separate review sites reviewing the properties belonging to those agencies. A person can lose days doing the legwork! And just when you think you've found both an agency and a particular property that gets generally decent reviews, one person will come along and be all "They suck! They left me stranded outside at midnight without a key for THREE HOURS. Oh, and there were mouse droppings in the bed." 

My friend Alison can't understand why we don't just book a hotel and be done with it, but the answer is: we are cheap. Apartment rentals not only offer a whole lot more for the money in places like Europe---go look at how much hotel rooms cost right now in Rome: a fairly ordinary three-star place is going for around $300 a night minimum---but you also get a) the benefit of feeling like a real resident, and b) a small kitchenette, with a fridge just perfect for storing all that tiramisu and wine organic lettuce and sparkling water.

So I'm going to keep searching, despite the fact that October seems to have been booked solid for years already by anyone smart enough to know that October is peak season in Rome (did you know that? I did not know that---because that would have been helpful to know when choosing between Paris and Rome). And in the meantime, whenever I catch myself sighing in frustration as another "Dear MR HOLLY BURNS, we regret to inform you..." email comes rolling in, I'm going to slap myself on the wrist and say quit yer whining, you silly old thing.  If not having a place to stay for your vacation in bloody Rome is the only thing you've got to worry about, life has got to be pretty good.

Camels & Chocolate
Jul 30, 2008

Have you considered consulting the CVB in Rome, dropping the whole "Travelocity" bomb (if it even works in Italy) and trying to get help through that means? Can't hurt to try.

Jul 30, 2008

You've doubtless already looked into this, but when we ran into a similar problem finding apartments for relatively short stays in Europe last year (everyone seemed to want a one week stay), we had a lot of luck with the B&B route. Not a single one of them was filled with precious figurines and musty quilts and lace couch arm covers with aloof cats perched on them- they were all modern and clean and run by nice people. You don't get your own kitchenette, but you do get breakfast...

Jul 30, 2008

Hi Holly,
Have a look at this website:

They have quite a few apartments in the Navona/Pantheon /Campo dei Fiore area and the first couple I clicked on were available for the whole month of October and definitely looked like they had windows!

Good luck!

Mrs. Who
Jul 30, 2008

I'm sure you already know this, but don't be turned off by one person's review of a place. I do extensive research before trips (hey, I'm a librarian - we LIVE for research) and I have learned to take some reviewers with a grain of salt. There is no pleasing some people. Of course, mouse droppings in the bed would probably be a deal-breaker.

Jul 30, 2008

Have you tried calling the hotels and trying to use your TA discount? If cheap is what you're after you might find something even better than 120 Euros/night. I know I usually do.

Jul 30, 2008

Hey, I'm not a very religious guy but don't you think it's quite possible that this is God's way of telling you to GO TO PARIS?

Jul 30, 2008

Gosh, planning vacations is hard work. But come October when you're standing on the balcony of your very affordable apartment looking out onto some historic site or other and munching on organic lettude, it will all be worth it. And at least you have the foresight to plan ahead. I'm supposed to go to Paris in September and I haven't bought my plane tickets yet. Yikes!

Jul 30, 2008

Have you looked into monasteries? Not an apartment for sure, but not a hotel either. I went to Italy a few years ago and did all monasteries (though none in Rome). Cons are that you may have a hard time finding co-ed options. Pros are that they're fairly cheap, heavy on charm (frescoes in your bedroom), and usually centrally located. I used The Guide to Lodging in Italy's Monasteries (Barish). I had a good experience with it, but reviews on Amazon are all over the place. An idea, anyway.

Jul 30, 2008

dude, why do you need to stay in an apartment? when we were there a few years ago, we were perfectly happy with a single room in the trastevere.

and Navona/Pantheon/Campo de'Fiore? I'd go with a windowless joint unless you enjoy the sound of overdressed hostesses imploring tourists to peruse their menus.

god I'm a dick today, aren't I?

Nothing But Bonfires
Jul 30, 2008

A single room is fine! Or would be if I could find one. And if Trastevere is better, then by all means, I'll start looking there. I just don't know WHERE to look. Everyone told me Navona/Pantheon/Campo dei Fiore. I'm pretty much doing this blind.

Jul 30, 2008

I just went through the same thing in searching for apartments in Paris and Istanbul during June. I began searching in January and it took until May to have everything secured. The only advice I can offer is this: Be prepared to spend *many* a hour Googling. And if you know anyone in Rome, ask around - when it comes to good apartments, many aren't advertised online.

But uh, if you change your mind and go to Paris instead, I recommend vacationinparis.com.

Jul 30, 2008

Even if a place doesn't meet all of your expectations the beauty of the city will distract you from all of that! I stayed at a hostile and I am not usually ok with roughing it. But once I spent a day in Rome I didn't care about where I stayed. Good luck!

Jul 30, 2008

I'm a big fan of both Hospitality Club www.hospitalityclub.org and Global Freeloaders www.globalfreeloaders.com . Most offers are for something like "mattress on the living room floor with cats and dirty laundry" (great for penniless 2--something backpackers, but not a happily retired couple like us) but occasionally you will luck out with a listing like "fully-furnished guest cottage at back of garden overlooking the (insert breathtaking vista here) and please join us for home-cooked breakfast at your convenience" and invariably you meet and make friends with some interesting locals. Plus, free? Free is good!

Jul 30, 2008

I went to Rome in March two years ago and rented through http://www.romanreference.com/searchResults.php?sortby=price&page=1
Maybe you will have luck with them. It was a great experience. We always go the apartment route when traveling throughout Europe. It can get frustrating, but it is well worth all the work!

Jul 30, 2008

Oh man, you are scaring me! I am going to Italy for my honeymoon NEXT October, and plan on 3 days in Rome as well. I haven't had much problem finding 1 bdrm apts for 100-120 euro a night in Travestere (mostly through sleepinitaly.com and homeaway.com, although I have not checked on the sketchiness of the agencies, thanks for giving me something else to do, hah!), which is where my friends who've studied in Rome say to stay. Now, if they are available for only 3 nights once the '09 availability comes out, that is the question!

Good luck with your search!

Jul 30, 2008


If only I was going to Rome for a few days! Although looking at apartment rentals has kept me occupied in my tiny little Alabama apartment...

Jul 30, 2008

Reading your post reminded me of this article:


from the NY Times. He stayed at a convent for 40 euro a night, but the comments list lots of other options and also great places to check out for Gelato and coffee.

I recommend Sant'Eustachio - unbelievable espresso.

Jul 30, 2008

When I went to Rome I *did* sleep in the train station.

But I was 19 at the time, backpacking around Europe and how was I to know that there wouldn't be an available hotel room in the whole city (apart, of course, for a penthouse suite at 10 gazillion dollars a night)?

For the record, I stayed in a group with about 20 other stranded travelers. Even so I *do not* recommend it!

I wish I could help with the apartment search. I hope one of the other commenter will help in your search for the perfect accommodation...

Jul 30, 2008

Oooh, I just remembered a site that I used to book a B&B in Venice: www.cross-pollinate.com

I searched your dates and a plethora of great apartments in Rome showed up. Now I want to go back!

Jul 30, 2008

I completely understand your pain: this is exactly why it took me 3 months to find an apartment in Paris for 3 days (take *that*, MetroDad). I hope one of your readers provides you the advice you need.

Jul 30, 2008

i actually agree about trastevere. pointing out again that rome is a completely walkable city - i think trastevere will give you a somewhat quieter and more authentic life of rome than the campo di fiore is (which is full of americans on study abroad at night).

Jul 30, 2008

If you can get something in Trastavere - anything at all - grab it. It's by far my favorite neighborhood in Rome. If you don't stay there, you should definitely go for dinner one night.

I spent a lot of time grumbling last year when trying to book rooms for Italy. I had to whisper "good problems, good problems" to myself. It almost worked. :)

Jul 30, 2008

Hi, Holly. You will love Rome - Paris is great at any age, but there's something magical about Rome when you're young. And the best meal I have ever had was in Rome - let me know if you need the recommendation. It is a tiny, family-owned place with some of the most amazing food I have ever eaten.

As for housing, this may take a leap of faith and a healthy dose of a firm belief in the innate goodness of mankind, but have you considered a home exchange? Try www.homeexchange.com. Its like on-line dating for homes (honey, does my backyard look big in this photo?). We just did a 3 week exchange to Sweden and it was a tremendous success - and best of all, completely free. We are in SoCal (near Whoorl, who is my cousin and tipped me to your blog), which is quite popular and, thus, leads to many opportunities. I suspect that your place in SF will be as popular, if not more so. Give it try - if not for this trip, then the next one.

Jul 30, 2008

Uh, cj4, I am DEFINITELY going to need that recommendation for the place in Rome where you had the best meal of your life! In fact, I may hunt you down and DEMAND it from you. With force.

Jul 30, 2008

Now, I am scared because I am going to be in SF next week. If you see a guy who is the negative of Whoorl (same features, but blonde and blue eyed), well, that's not me. Keep walking, nothing to see here.

Its called Pietro and its near the Piazza Navona. Little tiny place, family-owned and simply incredible. We were in Italy for a friend's wedding in Tuscany (at a castle, natch, because a mere manor house would have been so bourgeoise) and spent the last few days in Rome. We went for my wife's 31st birthday. The family patriarch -- the most elegant 70-ish Italian gentleman, all white hair and smiles -- even came out from the kitchen and drew a little pen and ink line drawing of us which we later had framed. So, with that intro, I pray that it hasn't either been turned into a McDonalds or you walk out with a nast case of food poisoning. Then, I will really have to lay low while in SF.

Oh, bonus, I even found a link to someone else who loved it:


Please to enjoy.

Jul 30, 2008

umm, yes, "pen and ink drawing." Just to make sure we were perfectly clear on the medium...

Jul 30, 2008

Caveat: Haven't been to Rome since 2001 -- and now that I say that I want to cry, thanks -- when I was a wee undergrad. But! I have to recommend the Villa Bassi, if it still exists (googling yields a phone number (011-39-06-581-5329) and a fax (011-39-06-581-5333) but I swear there was a website too). Shared bathrooms, but safe and clean. Just up the hill from Trastevere. Walked to class (Pantheon neighborhood) every day in under half an hour, walked to the Campo dei Fiore, walked to Vatican City, etc. There was also a bus and a tram, too, but the walk through the neighborhood was prettier and involved cappuccino.

Jul 30, 2008

Me = jealous of your trip to Rome! Although I do agree with the suggestion of B & Bs. We did that when we went to Paris a couple of years ago and didn't want to pay the exorbitant hotel rates.

I can smell the good food, red wine and cappuccino! Green with envy of your trip but hope you find some place to lay your head soon!

Jul 30, 2008

I've got nothing of merit to add, but reading all of this makes me miss Rome BIG TIME. Thanks for that :)