Hostels in Italy ☆☆

A six-bedroom dorm at Rome's Des Artistes hostel, Hostels, Italy, Italy (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
A six-bedroom dorm at Rome's Des Artistes hostel

Cheap bunks in shared dorms and a backpackers-of-the-world-unite atmosphere

Ah, hostels. The traditional cheap bed for the solo traveler. 

If you're really scrimping on every pound and pence, or are particularly fond of fraternizing with primarily youthful backpackers, you might want to stay in hostels, where you can get a bunk in a shared dorm for as little as €17 ($19) to €30 ($33).

I'm not a fan of hostels. Never did like them, really, not even when I was a backpacking student, but that's just me.

You, though, might enjoy the camaraderie, the chance to rub elbows with other travelers, the evenings of contributing an ingredient to the communal spaghetti dinner someone is whipping up in the kitchen while your laundry spins in the back room, a dreadlocked dropout strums a guitar, and everyone sits around and shares travel tips and recently discovered gems not yet in the guidebooks.

How much do Italian hostels cost?

It can vary widely, from €17 ($19) to €30 ($33) for a bunk in a shared dorm room up to €35 ($39) to €100 ($111) for a private twin or double (sometimes with a private bathroom attached).

There are often also private triples, quads, and family rooms available, for comparable per-person rates (usually €20 ($22)–€45 ($50)).

Then there are the extras. Most hostels charge for breakfast (€3 ($3)–€10 ($11)), many for towels (€2 ($2)–€6 ($7)), or for padlocks for the in-room lockers (€3 ($3)–€7 ($8))—just pack your own to avoid these daily fees.

What are Italian hostels like?

Aside from the dorm-like sleeping arrangements (detailed below), hostels are defined by their backpackers-of-the-world-unite atmosphere.

Most hostels have a friendly, laid-back, budgeteers-on-vacation vibe. They are places for the young and young-at-heart to live and travel in a college student kind of way.

There are playful murals on the walls or retro-chic lounges for cocktails, TV rooms, tour desks and games rooms with Foosball and billiards tables, restaurants (ranging from bland cafeteria to cheap ethnic) and communal kitchens where newly-minted friends can pool ingredients to whip up a spaghetti dinner.

There are usually computer terminals for Skyping home and booking your next hostel down the road. Nearly all have WiFi—some free; others at a cost of €2 ($2) to €5 ($6) per day.

Many have pubs (which can be great fun—unless you want to go to bed early, at which point they become annoyingly noisy).

Some hostels host theme nights, from dance lessons to DJs, movie nights to karaoke.

There is cheap laundry service or D.I.Y. machines, vending machines, ATMs, and library shelves where travelers can swap books.

What is a "dorm bed" or "shared dorm"?

In most hostels, you sleep in a bunk bed in a shared dorm room (some sex-segregated; others mixed).

That said, virtually no hostels these days are of the old-school variety: 30 cots in a large room with a single large bathroom down the hall shared by the entire floor.

Most modern hostels have rooms with only 6 to 8 beds in them (up to a max of 10 or 16 in some). Sometimes each room even has its own attached bathroom; at others, you do share baths down the hall.

Some rooms have TVs (though I view that as a drawback: what if you want to go to sleep early but another resident wants to blare a reality show at 11pm?).

Most hostels have rooms of varying sizes, and offer sliding scale of rates: the more beds per room, the cheaper it is to stay.

Since these rooms are shared with strangers, hostels also provide lockers for guest use.

Increasingly, hostels provide all bedding, including sheets (in the old days, they'd just give you a blanket), but it still behooves you to bring your own sleep sack (kind of like a thin sleeping bag made out of a sheet). Note: Do not bring your own sleeping bag. Many hostels have a rule against using them—and for a very good reason. (Two words: bed bugs.)

Plenty of hostels also offer private accommodationssleeping 2–4 people (with or without attached private bathroom) at rates competitive with cheap hotels—an excellent choice for families.

What do I get at a hostel?

You get a bed—usually a bunk bed— in a shared dorm, though, again, private rooms are usually also available.

The cheapest hostels are on an a la carte model, charging extra for every little thing, including WiFi (€2 ($2)-€6 ($7)) and breakfast.

Other hostels throw in the WiFi and breakfast for free. Some even have amenities like free soft drinks, salsa lessons, and other perks.

Why would I stay at a hostel over a hotel?

Money. Hostels are cheap.

Traveling solo, a hostel offers a great savings over the cost of a single room at a hotel.

Even for two people traveling together, you can often stay at a hostel for €35 ($39)–€70 ($78) total, making it cheaper than most hotels.

Also, some folks simply like the backpacker vibe, laid-back camaraderie, and mingling of travelers that a hostel provides. It can be as much a lifestyle and community choice as a lodging one.

Are there drawbacks to hostels?

Thankfully, most of the old, draconian hostel rules have since faded into bitter memories.

Mostly gone are the evening curfews and midday lockout periods. Some still do put a limit on how long you can stay (often no more than three days).

Here are three of the biggest downsides to hostels:

  • Noise in your room: Just imagine sleeping in a room with 5–11 other people and all the noises that can emanate from that many snoring (and remarkably flatulent) bodies tossing and turning on squeaky cots.
  • Noise in the building: Hostelers tend to skew younger, with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails. Even if there is no on-site pub, the noise of late-night revelers returning at all hours and carrying on their raucous conversations in the hallways can make sleep difficult.
  • The insular nature of many hostelers: If you truly came to see the local country and meet its people, that ain't gonna happen if you always hang out with groups of Americans studying abroad, Australians on a gap year before college, and party-hearty German twenty-somethings. Many hostels end up feeling more like international pick-up scenes than in-country cultural experiences. You can ignore all that, of course, if all you are in search of is a cheap bed, but it can get annoying.
 
 

Tips

Why I love alternative accommodations

First of all, I have nothing against hotels. They are reliable, widespread throughout Italy, and you know what you're going to get (or at least you will once you read all about how typical Italian hotels operate, and how they differ from American ones).

However, hotels aren't the be-all and end-all of lodging options in Italy.They are usually among the more expensive options available, and yet are rarely the most fun or remarkable.

In fact, to ensure the most memorable trip, you might want to make them your fallback choice when it comes to looking for a place to stay for the night.

Put it this way:

  • I've parked my RV in a campground with a million-dollar view over Florence and camped in a tent by the beach in Venice.
  • I've rented an ancient damusso house on the island of Pantelleria where I made friends with the neighbors.
  • I've rented apartments in Venice around the corner from St. Mark's Cathedral where I was soon recognized as a local at the area shops.
  • I set up housekeeping in a rented prehistoric trullo in Apulia where I became the "local color" that the other tourists were taking pictures of.
  • At an agriturismo (farm stay) in Piemonte I sat on a patio overlooking moonlit grape vines, sipping wine that had came from them and chatting with the vintner about the life of an Italian winemaker.
  • At a B&B in Ferrara the owner lent me a free bike and told me about recently discovered frescoes in a nearby palazzo, a hidden garden I could bike to, and a convent where the nuns made delicious cookies—none of them mentioned in any guidebook or by the local tourist office.
  • At the medeival monastery in Tuscany built on the site where St. Francis received the stigmata, I shared a dinner table with pilgrims and transcendental spiritualists, attended vespers with the monks, and tossed back shots of their homemade herbal liqueur alongside one of the friars at the monastery bar (no, really).
  • Within an hour of meeting my Couchsurfing host in Rome, I was riding in his car to pick up a friend and take her to her surprise party at a Roman home (my arrival was an integral part of the ruse).
  • At a rental room on a Sicilian island I was regaled with stories of the tuna fishing industry by the widow of the former tuna factory foreman.
  • And at a residence hotel in Rome in 1993 I met my wife.

None of that ever happens at a hotel, no matter how friendly the staff.

And every single one of those experiences cost less than the local hotels.(Heck, the Couchsurfing was free).

Even if you follow my own standard advice and consider your lodging to be just the cheapest comfortable place you can find to lay your weary head for the night, if you could get a bed that's both cheaper and in a more interesting setting, why not go for it?

I'll leave that decision up to you. But to help you make it, on the pages in thsi section, you'll find more than two dozen of the most popular alternative accommodations in Italy, including resources on how to find them and book them.

About the lodging star ratings (☆☆☆ to ★★★)

You will notice that all hotels, B&Bs, and other lodgingds (as well as sights and restaurants) on this site have a ReidsItaly.com star designation from ☆☆☆ to ★★★.

This merely indicates that I feel these accommodations offer a little something that makes them special (or extra-special, or extra-extra special, etc.).

These star ratings are entirely based on personal opinion, and have nothing to do with the official Italian hotel ratings—which have more to do with quantifiable amenities such as minibars, and not the intangibles that make a hotel truly stand out, like a combination of great location, friendly owners, nice style, and low prices.

In general, a pricier place to stay has to impress me that it is worth the added expense.

This is why I give ★★★ to some (official) "two-star" hotels or B&Bs that happen to provide amazing value for the money—and similarly have ranked a few (official) "four-star" properties just (★★☆).

About the lodging price brackets (€–€€€)

Accommodations rates vary wildly—even at the same hotel or B&B—depending on type of room, number of people in it, and the season.

That's why here at ReidsItaly.com we simply provde a general price range indicating the rough rate you should expect to pay for a standard double room in mid-season.

There are three price ranges, giving you a sense of which lodgings are budget, which are moderate, and which are splurges:

under €100
€€ €100–€200
€€€ over €200
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for lodging

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a hotel un albergo oon al-BEAR-go
...a B&B un bed-and-breakfast oon bet hand BREK-fust
...a rental room un'affittacamera oon ah-feet-ah-CAH-mair-ra
...an apartment for rent un appartamento oon ah-part-tah-MENT-toh
...a farm stay un agriturismo oon ah-gree-tour-EES-moh
...a hostel un ostello oon oh-STEHL-loh
     
How much is...? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
a single room una singola OO-nah SEEN-go-la
double room for single use [will often be offered if singles are unavailable] doppia uso singola DOPE-pee-ya OO-so SEEN-go-la
a double room with two beds una doppia con due letti OO-nah DOPE-pee-ya cone DOO-way LET-tee
a double room with one big bed una matrimoniale OO-nah mat-tree-moan-nee-YAAL-lay
triple room una tripla OO-nah TREE-plah
with private bathroom con bagno cone BAHN-yoh
without private bathroom senza bagno [they might say con bagno in comune—"with a communal bath"] SEN-zah BAHN-yoh
for one night per una notte pair OO-nah NOH-tay
for two nights per due notti pair DOO-way NOH-tee
for three nights per tre notti pair tray NOH-tee
Is breakfast included? É incluso la prima colazione? ay in-CLOO-soh lah PREE-mah coal-laht-zee-YOAN-nay
Is there WiFi? C'é WiFi? chay WHY-fy?
May I see the room? Posso vedere la camera? POH-soh veh-DAIR-eh lah CAH-mair-rah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Is there a cheaper one? C'é una più economica? chay OO-nah pew eh-ko-NO-mee-kah


 

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).