We are campers and outdoor adventurers at heart. But we also like to shake things up every now and then and try something new, especially when further away from home. Our trip to Italy in the spring offered the perfect opportunity to try something different – Airbnb. If you’re not familiar, Airbnb is a marketplace of unique rental properties, listed by local hosts.
From our research, we figured it would be cheaper than a hotel and probably a lot more interesting too. I can report that it definitely was! The difficulty was not to find a place but to choose where to stay; we were amazed at how many choices there were. Eventually, we settled on a rural cottage (an ‘agriturismo’ farm-stay) in Tuscany and then an apartment in Rome.
In the country
Our first Airbnb experience was on a beautiful farm in Tuscany. To reach the farm, we had to drive on those typical zigzagging roads of the Italian countryside past castles and walled cities. Always a highlight for us! By the time we were close, it was getting pretty dark and we became a little worried about finding the place. Just when we really thought we were lost, we spotted a sign and headed down a narrow and very bumpy dirt road. After all the dirt roads we’ve driven in Canada, you’d think we would be used to it, but with our little Fiat it felt like if we were back on a logging road.
The road was surprisingly long and once again we were left wondering if it was the right place. Finally, an old stone building came into view. It turned out to be the on-site (tiny!) restaurant. The room was filled with lots of Italian families having convivial meals.
A rustic and real experience
The owners spoke very little English but greeted us well and showed us to our accommodation. We were to stay in a small restored stone cabin, probably what was an old barn or a wood shed at some point. Even in the darkness, we could tell that the views of the swimming pool and hills beyond were going to be amazing in the morning. The place had this beautiful rustic look to it with its stonework and large wooden beams. We even had a special welcome from the farm dog, who kept guard outside for the evening.
(low-quality cell phone photos after our camera was stolen)
A missed opportunity
One the main reasons we chose this particular listing was the restaurant on the farm grounds. Offering lots of locally made vegetarian and vegan food, we were really excited to try it. Unfortunately, since we arrived so late and the circumstances surrounding that (that’s a story for another time), we sadly decided to skip dinner.
The good news is that in the morning there was a huge buffet of homemade jams and pastries waiting for us in the restaurant. It was sad to leave as we barely had the time to explore the area and didn’t get to fully enjoy the stay as much as we had planned, but the owners kindly gave us some pastries and cakes for the road which made our departure slightly easier.
In the city
Our urban experience was also a great experience, albeit in a different way. Only in the Rome for a very short time (roughly 48 hours), we knew that we were going to spend most of our time exploring and eating. For this reason, we didn’t want to spend too much on accommodation and chose a small apartment outside the centre, less than 10 minutes walk from metro station.
Since we were dropping our rental car off at the airport, our host offered (for a small fee) to pick us up. It was a great idea in theory, but truthfully it got a bit confusing when it came to the exact pick-up location. But after a few text messages back and forth, we managed to find each other (how did we do this before cell phones!?). This time our host spoke a little bit more English which made the conversation easier.
After a quick tour of the apartment, we got some tips on the best places to eat in Rome. Quite simply, we were advised not to eat pizza in restaurants, only from take-out places. Our host also kindly allowed us to us their cell phone to make a reservation at a recommended restaurant.
The apartment itself was big and super clean, with probably twice or three times the square footage of any hotel or B&B room we could have got in the centre for less than a fifth of the price. Being out of town we were a 15-minute metro ride away from the Colosseum, but it was quick and easy (as well as being cheap too). With no hotels in the area, we felt like we were getting more of an authentic experience. Plus we had a take-out pizza place on the street opposite. The only negative I would say is that there was no city map available at the apartment to use so we had to spend a bit of time to find one ourselves.
Overall, we had two completely different experiences of Airbnb but both offered great value for money and convenience. We got the chance to live where the locals live and the experience brought us closer to the Italian lifestyle. And some great food. A win-win situation!
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