House sitting

Get a free place to stay for in Italy weeks or even months in exchange for maybe walking the dog and watering the plants

I once lived for a year in a lovely old Victorian house that wasn't mine. The house was near a large park in a leafy corner of Philadelphia. It had two-foot-deep oak windowsills, a working fireplace, and three bedrooms (I converted one into an office).

I didn't pay a mortgage. I didn't pay rent.

It cost me precisely $0—zero, zilch, nada, bupkiss.

No, I wasn't a house guest, or a deadbeat roommate, or a squatter.

The owner of the house was a college professor who was off to spend a year teaching abroad and merely wanted someone to look after the house and cat while she was gone.

What house-sitting is like

House-sitting is a great way to get a free place to stay—though there are some caveats.

  • Not that many house-sitting opportunities are available in any one place (at any given time, an agency might have only a few hundred houses, scattered around the world, that need sitting), and due to the nature of this business they are constantly changing. However, as long as your travel dreams are wide and your plans are flexible, you can strike gold.
  • Most house-sitting gigs tend to be for somewhat longer stays—a month, a season, or even a year—but there are also plenty of options for just a week or two—especially around the holidays when the owners want to travel.
  • Most of those who want house sitters are really looking for pet-sitters/plant-waterers. No biggie—though if you have a problem with cats or dogs, the number of listings for which you can apply will plummet.

How to find house-sitting opportunities

There are now several sites devoted to pairing people who need house sitters with those willing to water the plants and feed the dog in exchange for free lodging.

Here are the four companies I found that provide some variation of this service, each in a slightly different manner and some more comprehensively than others. Some require membership fees—but since they let you search for homes before joining, you could find the perfect match before paying the fee.

You can't be too picky about precisely where you want to be, but so long as your criteria for a free place to stay is as vague as "somewhere in Italy," you'll have plenty of options: (

By far the biggest, with (at press time) 2,184 house sits around the world, of which 21 in Italy, ranging from farmhouses in Tuscany to flats in Florence, with various properties scattered all over Italy: from the outskirts of Rome to the historic center of Siena, the shores of Lake Garda to the countryside of Sicily.
Fee: $49 for 3 months; $64 for 6 months; $79 per year.

Mind My House (

Currently lists 347 houses, including a two-bedroom villa in Apulia, a 15th-century home in Asolo near Venice, and a house in small village in Abruzzo.
Fee: $20 per year.

House Carers (

Currently lists more than 242 houses around world. I don't see any in Italy at the moment,but in the past I have seen listings such as a farmhouse near Cortona in Tuscany.
Fee: $50 per year. (

Only roughly 100 listings at a time, and mostly in the U.S.—though there are a smattering in Europe (sometimes including Italy) and elsewhere.
Fee: $10 per year. (

It's a newsletter, not an online database, with around 150 listings per bi-monthly issue. As you can tell from the name, many are for caretaking or staff positions rather than simple house-sitting. Still, lots of intriguing opportunities.
$29.95 per year for a subscriber-based newsletter. ($49.95 for two years and $69.95 for three)

Tips & links

Houseswapping and sitting 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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