Overcome the winter blues by planning a trip to Italy this year. Want to stay in a hotel characteristic of the area run by friendly locals who make you feel instantly at home? Nothing ruins a trip more than staying in a carbon-copy hotel in the wrong neighbourhood run by drones. Don’t miss out on genuine Italian hospitality.
After staying in hundreds of hotels, apartments, holiday farms (agriturismo) and villas in Italy, we came up with our own methodology for finding the perfect place to stay.
Everyone looks for something different for their accommodation depending on the purpose of the trip, who is going, length of stay, what time of year it is and budget.
- Good food (can be high end or more casual so long as it is good)
- Must have personality
- Friendly owners and staff
- Location suitable (city hotels or apartments within walking distance to major sites and restaurants, holiday farms or villas in a beautiful setting, beach hotels where you can smell the sea, etc.)
- Air conditioning and access to a pool in the summer
- The price must reflect the quality of the hotel (we stay at a mixture of luxury and more rustic accommodation)
- For family trips – activities for the children, rooms that are child friendly
Resources we do not use and why:
- The hotel star rating system in Italy is unreliable so we don’t use this as a consideration.
- We do not use the traditional guidebooks such as the Rough Guide, Insight Guides, Time Out, Lonely Planet, Eyewitness and Michelin because all the tourists use them. We look for where Italians stay on holiday.
- I have not found a holiday farm website (agriturismo) that has reliable reviews and accurate information. If you know of one, please share.
- Most of the websites for the hotels are not up-to-date so even if it states that the hotel is fully occupied, it is best to ring up the hotel and ask anyway. This has worked the majority of the time for us.
- Ask the hotel about the different types of rooms as we have found that there is often an apartment in a nicer hotel which is cheaper than booking two hotel rooms at a lesser hotel.
My 3-step list:
This site focuses on places to stay with character, whether it is a hotel, inn, bed and breakfast, apartment, holiday farms, villa or resort. They write whether it is suitable for children or not and list the amenities. We often use this resource, particularly for family trips. They also have a book.
Next I check the hotel collections and small chains that I like:
Relais & Chateaux
Relais & Chateaux is a global fellowship of individually owned luxury hotels. We use these hotels at times when we want to treat ourselves.
This is a small chain of German run hotels concentrated in Alto Adige but have locations throughout Italy. We really like these hotels.
Small Luxury Hotels
These are luxury boutique hotels for special occasions.
If I cannot find accommodation, which suits the occasion (ie not child friendly, in a remote location, etc.), then I use these sites:
Abitare la Storia
These are a collection of historical houses run as hotels. We have loved the ones we have stayed at.
This website focuses on places to stay with character and include hotels, holiday farms, villas, resorts, etc. Locations can be selected by activity (art, sport, food, etc.) Many of their listings are more modern.
Always check Trip Advisor to see what other guests say (the reviews with Poor or Terrible ratings usually have relevant information even if it is not at bad as they indicate) and get room suggestions. Sometimes places are popular with a certain type of guest and would not suit your tastes so it is important to read the reviews carefully. This happened to us at a hastily booked, highly rated holiday farm in Emilia that was packed with tattooed body builder types.
Don’t risk ruining your carefully saved holiday in a hotel which could be located anywhere in the world. Benefit from our mistakes and use this 3-step process to find stress-free accommodation. Experience the real Italy.
What criteria do you use when planning a trip and how do you find hotels?
If you know anyone planning a trip to Italy, please share this post with him or her.