Servas: The Noble Houseguest

Contribute to world peace while scoring a free place to stay with the noblest of hospitality networks, Servas. How sweet it is to travel Italy on the cheap.

What is Servas ( Well, first off, it helps to understand how hospitality exchange networks work (see that section)—but the upshot of it is that members of a hospitality network agree to host other members in their homes.

Servas is the only one of these networks that doesn't actually require you to reciprocate and be a host yourself. You can be a total mooch. (Though you are encouraged, of course, to be as generous with your home as most other Servas members are with theirs.)

Why? Well, Servas was founded back in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler, a committed pacifist, and the whole idea behind it is that members are genuinely interested in meeting new people from different cultures as a way to foster better understanding among the peoples in the world and further the goal of world peace. Here's part of their oath:

"I/We understand and subscribe to the goals of Servas, which are to promote peace, the unity of mankind, and mutual understanding of the cultures, outlooks, and problems of the people of the world and we will accept Servas travelers of any race, creed, sexual orientation, or nationality, and seek to have a meaningful visit with them."

So you get lofty ideals and free digs at the same time. Pretty nifty. Also, it's accredited by the United Nations as a NGO, which is a pretty darn good stamp of approval. Servas lists more than 15,000 homes and institutions in over 127 countries.

Most stays are limited to two nights, though you can stay longer if the host agrees. To join as an International Traveler costs $85 per year, plus a $25 refundable deposit to "borrow" up to five host lists—each list covers a single country or region.

You have to apply for membership, including providing character references and undergoing an interview (they're serious about you being serious about this undertaking, and you've got to prove that you think the Servas concept a swell idea in of itself, not just a way to score a free bed).

Tips & links

Hospitality links & resources
Other lodging links & resources
Useful Italian
Useful Italian phrases and terms for lodging

English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
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
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
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 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

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