Renting an Apartment in Rome

Many people choose to stay in an apartment in Rome rather than a hotel.  An apartment can be cheaper, allow you more space, and the ability to cook meals, therefore cutting your costs. Here is some general advice on renting an apartment in Rome.

The Search:

Ask about the bed configuration; queen, twin, futon, foldout couch?

-look at capacity carefully; some one bedroom apartments are listed as "sleeps 5" for example.  This may mean a foldout couch in the middle of a living room for at least two people, very little privacy, and a lot of luggage cluttering up the floor of what is to be a communal area.

Look carefully at the photographs:

--if pictures show the draperies pulled shut over the windows, it is probably because your view is of a wall or worse.

--if it looks dark in the photo, it will be dark in real life.

--If they haven't listed something in the kitchen--don't count on it being there. Microwaves are not common in Italian kitchens, neither are kettles. Sometimes you won't have an oven either.

--check to see that you won't all be sharing one bathroom. Even if you have more than one bathroom, you may not have the amount of hot water you are used to.

--are housekeeping services provided? Some apartments are strictly self catering, some have fresh towels and sheets provided after several days, some have a maid service come.

--if the apartment lists an area or site as being "minutes" or "steps" away, that usually means nothing. It could easily be "forty-five minutes," or “3,000 steps.”

--get the actual street address, and then look at it on Google maps.  Streetview the location if possible.  Is it on a busy road?  Is it over a restaurant?  How far to the sites of Rome fromthis location?

--Is it close to public transportation?  If you are looking at the historic area, you may not need it. 

--Where is the closest grocery store?  Check Google Maps “search nearby.”

--many apartments are up stairs.  The “first floor” in Europe is actually the second, and for some people with limited mobility (and a suitcase) this could present a hardship.  Ask if the building has an elevator.

--if you are going in the summer, ask if the apartment is air conditioned.  In the winter, ask if it is heated.

--not every apartment is rated on Tripadvisor, but you can try typing the name of the agency or apartment in the search box for the Rome forum.  Another resource is www.slowtrav.com for apartment reviews.

Reserving the Property:

Look over the contract and read it very carefully.  You should find out what would happen if

--you had to cancel your trip

--your arrival was delayed

--your apartment is damaged by the previous tenants, or unusable.  Some rental companies state in their contracts that an apartment of “similar or greater value” will be substituted.  Will you pay the difference?  Or will you pay the same rate?

--what is the check in time?  What is the check out time?

--in what time frame will your deposit be returned?

--is there an additional charge for cleaning the apartment on top of what is being asked?

--are all utilities included?

--is there a phone?  What is the number?

--is this property exclusive to the company? Many owners list with several agencies, and will double book; throwing both you, and your rental agency over for another client.

When paying your deposit to hold the apartment, it is preferable to pay using a credit card or PayPal, so that if the worst happens, you have some options in case things go wrong.  If you do decide to pay using a wire transfer, remember that fees are often deducted by the bank from the transfer amount.  You will need to add the fee to the amount you wish to wire.

 Please note: the word "deposit" is often used twice--once as a payment to hold the apartment before you ever get there, and later, when you have arrived, another, separate deposit is required against potential damages.  

Arriving and Paying:

--Many apartments make an appointment for your time of arrival, but want you to telephone them from the airport or train station to confirm that you've arrived on time. If this is the case, make sure that you'll have a phone that will work in Italy. If this is the only call you need to make, there's no need to get an Italian phone plan. Activate whatever international plan your own provider offers before leaving home.  Don't use a public phone that requires a credit card; these often charge an outrageous fee.

--It’s common practice for a Roman apartment to require a deposit to hold the property, and then ask for the balance in cash upon arrival, plus a deposit against potential damages.  You should not pay your balance and deposit (against damages) until you have made a thorough inspection of the apartment and everything you will need for your stay.  If you accept an apartment without doing this, you lose any leverage you might have, and in the eyes of the apartment rental owner and/or agency, have given your OK to its condition.

--make absolutely sure before your rep leaves you with the keys that you have towels, plates, and bedding for everyone, and have done a thorough inspection.  Don’t be shy about this!  Flush the toilets, try the hot water!  Also make sure you have every emergency number they can provide.

Make sure you arrange in advance with the rep a time when they will come to do a final inspection and return your deposit. You should have their number, and they yours.