‘Where to stay in Italy?’ is a question that everyone in the planning stages of a trip to the country of history, art, and good food has asked themselves at least once.
After all, there are so many different types of accommodation in Italy, that is easy to become a bit overwhelmed.
On one hand, obviously, there are hotels but, on the other hand, there are also self-catering villas, historic palaces, rustic farmhouses, and even places called garni. And then there are spa resorts, babyhotels, camping, glamping and caravanning sites, and even mountain huts and monasteries.
Fear not! In this blog today I will give you extensive details about 19 different accommodation options in Italy. From agriturismo and albergo to villaggio turistico, the meaning of each Italian lodging term is explained. This way you can get a clear idea of where to stay in Italy depending on your budget, your personal interests, and even your sense of adventure.
After having stayed in all sorts of accommodation from zero to five stars in Italy first during many trips there and then during the six years I spent living in Vicenza in the north of the country, I am only too happy to share with you all that I have learned first hand about Italy’s lodging options.
Here they are! To make it easy to peruse, I have organised them in alphabetical order. I have used the established Italian terms for the different types of accommodation here. This way, when you search for a place to stay, you will be able to tell immediately what, for example, a locanda or a casa per ferie means and choose accordingly.
Finally, I have also included the names of some places in Italy that I really enjoyed staying at. You can use these places as real-life examples of the different types of accommodation in Italy. If you decide to stay there yourself, I have provided direct non-affiliate links to their websites, so that any bookings can be made directly rather than via third-party booking websites.In any case, I hope that the information below will come in useful when you are planning a trip to Italy for yourself, your significant other, your friends or your family.
Have a look!
Where to Stay in Italy – 19 Types of Accommodation to Choose from in Italy
An agriturismo in Italy is a farm which offers accommodation. Often, it also has an on-site restaurant or a farm shop.
There are hundreds of small independent farms all over Italy. Many of them have rooms or flats that can be rented for a night or a longer period. The on-site restaurant (where available) gives you a chance to eat excellent food prepared with the farm’s fresh produce, local meats and dairy products.
Staying at an agriturismo is a great way to get in touch with Italy’s authentic farming and food traditions. Booking an agriturismo is, in principle, one of the more budget lodging options in Italy. Still, many agriturismi here also offer luxury accommodation in lovingly restored farmhouses and extras like a swimming pool, a hot tub, rental bikes, and other such amenities.
Italian agriturismi are in the countryside and on the edges of smaller towns and cities. As such, having a car at your disposal is quite paramount to reach them and the sights in their surroundings. At the same time, staying at an agriturismo allows you to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Italian countryside and to indulge in many local specialities and excellent quality zero km food.
Staying in an agriturismo in Italy is one of my favourite types of lodging here. It’s relaxing, prices tend to be very reasonable, and you get to sample some truly delicious local dishes and locally grown foodstuffs.
2. Albergo diffuso
Albergo is the Italian word for hotel and diffuso means dispersed or scattered.
Albergo diffuso is a quaint type of accommodation in Italy in so that there is a centralised reception while the hotel rooms or apartments are in different buildings in the historic centre of a small town or village. The concept of albergo diffuso was created in 1980’s as a means to revive historic places in Italy and to make use of already existing traditional buildings and houses.
Staying at an albergo diffuso is a great way to feel part of the community of Italy’s small towns and villages which are off the beaten track. It also contributes to preserving the local culture and architectural heritage. Finally, it helps create an income stream in a place where otherwise jobs may not be readily available and where depopulation is a constant threat.
For example, the above photo shows the central reception building of the albergo diffuso in the beautiful village of Polcenigo in the northeasternmost region of Italy – Friuli Venezia Giulia. This, coincidentally, is also the Italian region where the concept of albergo diffuso was originally born after a terrifying earthquake devasted many local communities in the 1970’s.
Italy’s alberghi diffusi are regulated by specific pieces of legislation and nowadays there are dozens of them all over the country.
3. Appartamento / Casa vacanze
Appartamento means simply an apartment or flat in English. Casa vacanze translates directly as a vacation house or vacation home. Both terms refer to vacation rentals.
There are thousands of private flats and houses in Italy that are being rented short-term to visitors and tourists. Many of them are in quaint buildings or places which are particularly interesting from an architectural and historic point of view. A converted watermill, for example. At the same time, there are many private properties to rent for a day or longer in contemporary blocks of flats in and near town and city centres.
Short-term rentals are a lucrative business in Italy to the point where the locals can be easily outpriced and the number of available long-term rental properties can be drastically diminished. On the other hand, this type of accommodation often provides a much-needed source of income and can lead to the restoring and preservation of old buildings.
If you decide to rent an appartamento or a casa vacanze for your stay in Italy, it’s always advisable to go through a reputed agency or online marketplace. This way you have a recourse to help if things don’t go according to plan or if the property doesn’t live up to how it was advertised online.
You may also need to pay for a final cleaning and agree in advance with the owner or the agent representing them on a specific time of arrival in order to receive the keys for the property.
In all honesty, renting an appartamento has always been my least favourite way to book accommodation in Italy. I appreciate that this can be an incredibly cost-efficient way to stay in the historic centre of a large Italian city or have a beautiful and quaint place all for yourself and your family where you can feel at home from home. Yet, I don’t like being constrained by specific times of arrival. Meeting the owner face to face to be walked through how to use the different appliances feels like torture to me for I am not a very extroverted person. And there is also this feeling (perhaps only in my head) that I am taking something away from the locals.
In fact, we have only rented an appartamento three times in Italy, twice for a night and once for three nights. The first time was when we decided on the spur of the moment to travel to Belluno in the Veneto late one afternoon to escape the oppressive August heat in Vicenza where we were living at the time. The second time was to spend a few days on the shores of Lake Garda. And the last time was a flat advertised as a B&B in the historic centre of the city of Trento.
Bed & Breakfast accommodation is ubiquitous in Italy.
From unpretentious places offering a room for the night with a simple breakfast in the morning to truly refined establishments with antique furniture and frescoed walls, expect a great variety of B&B options depending on location and budget.
A B&B in Italy is a great accommodation option if you want a more personable experience without a commitment to having all your meals at the same place. Unlike large hotels, a B&B gives you a chance to communicate directly with the owner which often is a multigenerational Italian family taking care of every aspect of your stay.
These are the right people to ask for recommendations for restaurants, hidden gems, and directions to the main sights. They often are a great source of information and know all the good places that the locals go to.
Campeggio in Italian translates both as camping and campsite in English.
Camping is big in Italy. Many Italians love camping, glamping, and caravanning. Hundreds of camping sites all over the country cater to all three of these categories. They offer convenient amenities at agreeable prices near famous cities, sparkling beaches, important sights, and spots of natural beauty.
Prices for a camping pitch tend to increase during the peak season and often sell out. So, it pays to book well in advance.
Depending on the camping site, you can expect many different types of accommodation and amenities. From a simple grass pitch to erect your tent or park your caravan/campervan to luxury glamping cabins, all sorts of preferences and budgets are catered for. Kids clubs and nightly entertainment are the order of the day. Some camping sites in Italy may even have their own private beach, several swimming pools, a playground, and even spa facilities. On-site shops and shuttles to the nearby towns and cities can also be some of the extras offered.
While I am not big on camping, I loved our camping holidays in Italy. We would usually spend a long weekend at a camping site on the shores of a beautiful Italian lake. A few days at Lake Caldonazzo – the largest lake in the Province of Trentino – was one such camping highlight for me.
6. Casa per Ferie
A casa per ferie translates literally as a holiday home in English. However, this is a very particular type of accommodation in Italy, so read on before deciding if this is the right option for you.
A casa per ferie is an accommodation run by not-for-profit organisations specifically to achieve social, educational, welfare or religious purposes. They often serve to accommodate pilgrims or people travelling to a particular Christian sight for reasons of faith and spirituality.
As such, the case per ferie in Italy offer a quiet environment that is conducive to prayer and religious meditation. Guests are expected to share the ideals and rules typical of the Christian religion, to maintain at all times appropriate dress and conduct, and to respect the entry and exit times (or curfew) as stipulated by the particular casa per ferie.
Monastery Stays is a good point to start looking for case per ferie in many different places around Italy.
Castello in Italian means a castle in English.
There are hundreds of beautiful castles all over Italy. While many of them function purely as a museum or a tourist site, there are dozens which have been converted into luxury hotels. You can expect antique furniture, handmade tapestries, landscaped gardens, frescoed walls, four-poster beds, splendid views, and sometimes even a resident ghost.
Two well-known castles where you can spend the night are Castello di Zumelle and Castello di Thiene. Both are in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. The first has the loveliest views and the second has a wonderful history and the most beautiful historic stables.
Yet, there are many castles all over Italy where you can spend the night in the bosom of history. A good starting point for your research is the website of the Italian Historic Houses Network where there is a special section dedicated to castles.
Garni with the accent on the ‘i’ is a French term meaning a hotel which offers breakfast. While a B&B, for example, is a private residence with a limited number of rooms, a garni is a hotel with many rooms and all types of facilities – from a lift to maybe even a swimming pool, a spa, and a kids’ playground. The only thing is that reception usually closes for the night and you are free to organise all your meals but breakfast.
This way you can explore local restaurants while taking full advantage of the garni’s facilities.
You will find many garni hotels in Italy. They tend to have a nice family feel to them and people often book them for longer holidays so as to relax and sightsee in the surrounding area.
We had a very pleasant stay at a garni on the shores of Lake Garda this past summer. Garni Rosemari is next to the beach and a short walk away from the historic centre of the pretty as a picture town of Castelletto sul Garda.
We started each day having coffee on the balcony of our spacious room just taking in the splendid views of Lake Garda. Then we spent time on the beach, explored the many sights and towns nearby, and had dinner in the town’s fish restaurants. It was a great holiday!
The Italian word grotta means cave in English.
Italy has many impressive caves, several of which are open for tourist visits. Even better! Some of the caves in Italy have also been transformed into hotels for those seeking unique experiences.
Especially famous is the city of Matera in the Italian region of Basilicata. The Sassi – the historic area of Matera – is one of the first places with human settlements in Italy. Several of the millennial cave dwellings there have been turned into small hotels, B&B’s and other such facilities.
Another place offering cave accommodation in Italy is the ancient town of Scicli in Sicily.
I haven’t stayed in a cave in Italy, yet. It’s on my list, so fingers crossed! In the meantime, I had the chance to visit the splendid Frasassi Caves in the Central Italian region of the Marche and stayed in a lovely little B&B there called Il Bivacco Frasassi. It’s in the small village of Pierosara just a few minutes away by car from the caves and pictured above is the lovely Italian breakfast we enjoyed there.
Apparently, there are over 30,000 hotels in Italy. With the country being one of the world’s largest tourist destinations, hotels, really, are everywhere here. Many worldwide famous hotel chains have branches in Italy. And there are many Italian hotels run by local companies and independent hoteliers.
In addition, there are dozens of different types of hotels here. I have covered some of the most popular ones to give you even more ideas as to the accommodation options you can choose from for your stay in Italy:
- luxury hotels – establishments that cater to your every whim in lavish surroundings.
- boutique hotels – small, stylish hotels in a fashionable destination.
- business/convention hotels – catering to the needs of the travelling business person and to the organisers of large events.
- thematic hotels – giving you a chance to stay in a room furnished around a particular theme. For example, the thematic hotels of Gardaland – one of Italy’s largest amusement parks – are very popular.
- babyhotel – providing all sorts of activities and care for babies and toddlers so that their parents can relax and enjoy their holiday.
- city hotels – located in the centre of cities and towns and providing you with easy access to all local sights.
- beach hotels – often all-inclusive and part of large beach resorts they offer everything for a memorable beach holiday.
- spa hotels – providing spa services and treatments and often having their own source/spring of mineral water.
Locanda means inn in English. Offering board and food for a night or two is an ancient concept in Italy. The term locanda itself comes from the Latin word locare meaning to rent out.
Staying at a locanda in Italy nowadays, in general, will give you access to spartan accommodation with an on-site trattoria (traditional, inexpensive restaurant) to eat in.
At the same time, there are many locande in Italy which are refined, luxury establishments with an on-site restaurant serving delicious zero km food. A great example here is Locanda San Vigilio which is housed in a 15th-century building at Punta di San Vigilio – the most romantic spot on the shores of Lake Garda – Italy’s largest lake.
12. Monastero and Convento
The Italian words monastero and convento don’t really need a translation in English.
Many monasteries and convents in Italy offer accommodation at very reasonable prices. They are often in the bosom of nature or right in the centre of the largest Italian cities. Staying in one will give you a chance to enjoy the peace and quiet of monastic life and to discover a new facet to the Italian experience.
At the same time, monastery and convent stays in Italy traditionally come with a curfew. In so that you need to be back to your room by a particular time in the evening. Noise is also not tolerated.
Monastery Stays is a good point to start looking for a monastery or a convent in Italy offering accommodation to travellers and pilgrims.
An ostello is the Italian word for hostel and there are many ostelli all over Italy.
Traditionally, hostels offer large rooms with bunk beds and shared facilities and cater to the young budget traveller. Hence, their full name is ostello per la gioventu’ (youth hostel) in Italian. Prices can be very cheap and the location is often quite central.
Nowadays, there are many ostelli in Italy with private rooms and quirky decor attracting a cool and hip crowd. Some even cater to families.
I think, almost everyone has a story to tell about staying in a youth hostel during a trip as a young man or a woman. Often, these are great experiences helping you meet people from all over the world while enjoying the sights of a famous city.
Palazzo is an easy to understand Italian word. Just like castles, there are hundreds if not thousands of palaces all over Italy.
Again, while many of them function exclusively as museums or tourist sites, others have been turned into lavish hotels, B&B’s, and other types of accommodation where you can feel like a king or a queen for a night or more.
A relais is a French term. In the past, it meant a post office where one could stop for the night during a long journey, have a meal and change horses if need be.
The concept of relais has evolved quite a bit since then. Nowadays, a relais in Italy is a luxury hotel which, often, is in the countryside. Expect a refined atmosphere, tastefully decorated spacious rooms, carefully selected food and wine.
A lovely relais I had a chance to stay in was Relais Santa Corona in Vicenza. Housed in a restored 18-century building, it is an exceptionally chic establishment providing all comforts just a step away from the city’s elegant high street.
A residenza in Italian means a residence hotel in English.
This is a mix between a hotel and serviced flats. In so that you keep your independence in having a flat at your disposal. At the same time, you take advantage of such amenities and facilities as daily housekeeping, reception area, breakfast room, maybe even a garden and/or a swimming pool.
A great residenza I had the chance to explore, for example, was Residence Ca’ Beregana on the outskirts of Vicenza. Housed in a 17th-century building with a clocktower, it had all modern amenities and very comfortable apartments.
17. Rifugio / Bivacco
The Italian word rifugio means a mountain hut in English. A bivacco is a bivouac.
With Italians in love with hiking and being close to nature, their hills and mountains are dotted with rifugi and bivacci which offer food and lodging. While called a hut in English, these can be large and comfortable rustic hotels with a spacious restaurant serving excellent local dishes.
The Club Alpino Italiano manages 774 mountain huts and bivouacs all over Italy. Have a look at this link to see what’s available in the different Italian regions.
Pictured above is Rifugio Capanna Passo Valles in Trentino. While I didn’t stay there, I enjoyed a truly delicious meal in its restaurant during a memorable weekend spent in the Violins’ Forest in the Dolomites.
Villas were Roman inventions and the Italians – being the proud descendants of Ancient Rome – have fully embraced the villa concept and developed it to perfection.
Nowadays, there are many villas in Italy that can be rented as a holiday base. On one hand, there are historic villas that were designed by eminent architects and frescoed by worldwide known artists. On the other hand, there are rustic villas in the heart of the beautiful Italian countryside.
Depending on the specific villa, you can either rent a flat in it or the whole building. Catering can sometimes be provided, too. Many villas also have swimming pools, hot tubs, and all sorts of modern amenities. Also, the owners will be able to advise you on the best things to do and see nearby. From cooking classes to taking part in grape picking, from visiting quaint villages to learning about the priceless works of art used to decorate the villa, such stays open many different doors to appreciating Italian history, art, and culture at a deeper and more personal level.
A famous villa that can be stayed in is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani on the outskirts of Vicenza. Frescoed by the famous artists Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, this is a living museum surrounded by a beautiful garden.
19. Villaggio turistico
Villaggio turistico (also known as villaggio vacanze) is a holiday village or a resort in English.
Often functioning as a gated community, a villaggio turistico in Italy may offer different types of accommodation – hotels, bungalows, villas, cabanas, etc. – and a rich programme of recreation with holiday clubs, discos, and other such activities taking place all throughout the day and late into the night.
It’s a great way to spend a longer holiday. It feels like a home from home and the resort often has more of a community spirit to it.
An excellent example here is Isola di Albarella in the Veneto, Italy. The whole island is one large holiday village lapped by the sparkling waters of the Adriatic. All over it, there are swimming pools, restaurants, and different types of comfortable accommodation.
The villaggi turistici around the small town of Caorle on the Adriatic Sea are another good example of what to expect.
Visiting Italy is always a good idea. The country of history, art, and good food is a wonderful destination in any season.
Yet, planning a trip to Italy can quickly become a Herculean task. There are so many options and so many choices that it’s only too easy to become a bit overwhelmed.
For example, the simple question of ‘Where to stay in Italy?’ can have so many different answers. There are so many different types of accommodation in Italy and they all offer so many different specific things for a variety of budgets that making a choice can entail hours of research and consideration.
To make things easy and smooth for you, the above blog lists 19 different lodging options you can take advantage of when in Italy. Knowing what each one of them stands for and what its Italian name is will help you make your accommodation decisions in a much more efficient way.
I hope that this blog post and the first-hand tried and tested tips I have shared throughout will come in very handy.
Enjoy choosing your dream accommodation for your trip to Italy!
More Helpful Links
- 18 of the Best Cities to Visit in Northern Italy (With Travel Tips and Nearest Airports)
- 21 Best Things to Do in Italy with Kids – The Ultimate Family Travel Guide
- Hidden Gems in Venice – 101 Things to Do in Venice, Italy Off the Beaten Track
- Best 12 Towns to Visit around Lago di Garda – Italy’s Largest Lake
- Lake Garda with Kids or The Best 11 Things to Do at Lake Garda for Families
- 10 Best Cities in Veneto, Italy to Visit and What to See in Each
- 30 Days of Adventures in the Veneto, Italy – #30daysofadventures
- Top 15 Places to Visit in the Veneto, Italy – The Ultimate Guide
- 15 Most Colourful Places in the Veneto, Italy to Delight Photographers and Curious Travellers
- 20 Best Things to Do and See in Verona, Italy in One Day – The Ultimate Itinerary with Photos and Tips
- 25 Best Things to Do in Vicenza – Northern Italy’s Hidden Gem
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