The Question: My wife and I and our two university-age sons wish to visit Italy. We're interested in staying in both Rome and Florence for four to five days. We're considering apartment rentals and wondered if you had any suggestions.
In Rome, do as The Globe and Mail's correspondent there does and check out the website Wanted in Rome ( wantedinrome.com).
"It's a local site aimed at the expat community," says Eric Reguly, who frequently fields requests for shelter from friends and guests passing through the Eternal City. "There are always places on there and most would be direct-from-owner rentals, meaning the agent's fee would be eliminated."
You can find "short lets" under the "housing" portion of the site (and dream about applying for a local job along the way). Look for listings in the historic district - Reguly recommends the Trastevere, Monti, Campo de' Fiori, Aventino and Testaccio areas - and avoid apartments near the noisy tourist hubs, such as the Spanish Steps. Owners can be flexible about rentals shorter than a week, and the cost varies by season, running in the range of $125 to $200 a night.
As for Florence, Jessica Spiegel, the Italy expert for the BootsnAll Travel Network ( italylogue.com), suggests Cross-Pollinate ( cross-pollinate.com) and RentxPress ( rentxpress.com), both Italian-based rental sites. Spiegel's site has links to vacation rentals too. In Florence, for instance, you can rent a second-floor apartment near the Ponte Vecchio starting at $950 a week.
Spiegel is a fan of vacation rentals, saying you don't have to stay a week to make them worth the cost, but she does recommend looking into references and cancellation fees.
And when it comes to Rome, heed this advice from Reguly: Ask how quiet your property is, or you may find yourself lying awake listening to 14-year-old boys gunning Vespas like they're Ferraris.
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