Booking a fantastic hotel in Italy can be a daunting task. It goes without saying that you need to check recent reviews and don’t just look at the review score: read the comments thoroughly. Cross-check reviews across different review sites, in different languages if possible. Beyond that, here are ten things to consider before making your final decision.
A hotel may market itself as in Florence, or in Rome, but before booking, plot it on the map to make sure it’s in the city – and not just in the province – of Florence or Rome or Milan or Naples or Venice or Palermo. It’s usually worth paying a little extra to stay right in the city and save travel time every day, getting in and out of the city.
The vast majority of hotels in Italy include breakfast with the price of the room, though the breakfast could be anything from a stale croissant and coffee from a machine to a huge fresh buffet. Read the reviews because breakfast is an often reviewed item. If the hotel has a restaurant, it’s more likely that breakfast will be a plentiful and fresh buffet. If the hotel does not have a restaurant license and is not a B&B, by law they must serve pre-packaged food. If there is an option for a significantly reduced rate without breakfast, consider it, because eating breakfast at a Bar with the locals will cost you only a few Euros per head.
They should be included but hotel tax, called IVA, is 10% in Italy, so always double check that the quoted price already includes the tax.
Expect that much of the time, a “letto matrimoniale”, usually translated as queen-sized or king-sized bed, will be 2 twin beds pushed together. Sometimes the gap will be bridged with a filler strip like this one, and sometimes it won’t be. Reviews often include detailed information about beds. Know, also, that many Italian mattresses are much thinner than North American ones so don’t expect an 8 inch mattress – some will be 4 inches and that is pretty normal.
If a room says it sleeps three people, do not assume you can just book it and “fit in” a fourth person upon arrival. You’ll need to give four passports when you check in, and room limits are usually dictated by law, so the hotel owner cannot accommodate extra guests in the room, even if they wanted to. When booking, ask whether it’s possible to bring an extra bed or two into a room for a fee. Many Italian hotel rooms can accommodate 2 people plus an extra bed, so if you are a family of 4 or 5 or 6, consider renting an apartment, or a “family” room, or two adjoining rooms.
Most of the time, the rate is per room, but some hotels charge by the person, so double check this. So the rate looks great until you realize you need to double or triple it.
Unless the hotel is in the middle of the countryside, never assume a hotel has free parking – or any parking.
If you are used to travel in the US, interpret the star-level of an Italian hotel, most of the time, as one star lower. So you’ll walk into a 4 star Italian hotel and it will remind you of a 3 star US hotel. The rooms and closets may be smaller, and the bathrooms and furnishings may not be as new.
Especially during high season, it’s not uncommon for hotels to offer the option of “mezza pensione“, which means the room rate includes both breakfast and dinner. This can be a major cost savings, especially for families, but do a little research on the hotel restaurant before booking. Meals in Italy can be a major highlight of the trip, and you don’t want to pay for a week’s worth of dinners and then realize on the first night that the food isn’t that great.
Many Italian concierges are on email, and speak and write English. So once you’ve booked the hotel, email the concierge, tell them you’ll be staying at the hotel, and let them help you. The concierge doesn’t know your interests so don’t ask “what should I see?”. Instead, ask questions like “what’s the best way to get from the hotel to X within the city, how long does it take, and how much does it cost?” or “do hotel patrons get discounts at any local restaurants or activities?”
Photo of Naples hotel room by Sanjay
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