Moving to Italy and need to sort out accommodation? Already here and overwhelmed by apartment hunting? I’ve got you covered! Sit back and jump into my ultimate guide to renting an apartment in Italy!
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The ultimate guide to renting an apartment in Italy
I’ve lived in Italy for twelve years now, and I’ve rented apartments in Rome, Padua and Bologna. I recently went through the process again, so I wanted I’d write up this guide on everything you need to know about finding an apartment in Italy to help you out.
After you’ve read it, if you still have questions, feel free to reach out in the comments or via email, and I’ll see what I can do!
Before we dive in, I want to warn you: it seems like finding an apartment to rent in Italy is getting harder and harder these days.
Cities like Bologna, Florence and Venice have been hit hard by AirBnB – so many people list their apartments on the platform that there aren’t enough places left for renters, particularly students whose budgets don’t stretch very far.
There are also estimated to be TEN MILLION homes in Italy that are not inhabited – that’s nearly 30% of the total homes in the country. I’m sure some of them are uninhabitable, but jeez, you’d think people would want to sell or rent them and make some money, but I guess not. Anyway, that’s a lot of vacant houses.
Recently, in Padua, prices have skyrocketed, and I’ve read posts and heard stories about international students that have been accepted for various degree programs at the university there, but have had to turn them down because they can’t find accommodation.
An acquaintance of mine recently told me that it took her eight months to find an apartment to rent in Rome. Eight months!
I’m not too familiar with the situation in Milan, but I do know that there’s a shortage of affordable housing for students there, just like there is in Rome.
I’m not telling you this to make you panic, I’m telling you this so that you can be prepared for the reality of the situation. You may luck out and find something great in no time flat – I hope you do – but don’t be discouraged if it takes you some time.
First things first: Don’t rent anything long term until you’ve seen the place!
It can be extremely tempting to try to rent something before you arrive in Italy, but I suggest avoiding doing so for a few reasons.
The first is that it’s really easy to get scammed. I see Facebook posts frequently written by people who have either been scammed or have nearly been scammed.
Scammers will generally try to convince you that they have the perfect place for you (without letting you see it in person, of course), get you to send a deposit, and then disappear with said deposit. Save yourself the guesswork and the possibility of getting robbed, and wait until you get here so that you can see places in person and verify their existence.
Another reason that it’s probably a good idea to not secure long-term accommodation before you get here is that you should meet the landlord, or the people that you’ll be living with if it’s a sharehouse. You’ll want to make sure that you get along, and, in the case of housemates, that you have compatible ideas about what it means to share a living space.
The third reason is that you’ll want to get a good look at the place to ensure that there aren’t any structural or other problems that could potentially turn into a headache. Confirm that appliances and fixtures work. Open and close the windows and blinds. I’ve even turned on the shower to check the water pressure before!
What to do about accommodation if you need a visa to come to Italy
So, since many visas require you to submit proof of accommodation with your application, you’re probably wondering what the heck you’re supposed to do if renting a long-term place before you arrive isn’t a good idea, right?
If this is the case for you, I’d suggest renting an AirBnB or other short-term accommodation through a reliable website like booking.com or the others mentioned below and submitting the reservation with your application. Then, you can look for something more permanent when you arrive.
Unfortunately, each jurisdiction can set their own rules regarding the length of the booking that’s required and how it must be shown. This law firm recommends booking for at least one month. If the consulate requires a longer booking or something other than a printout of an online reservation, they should tell you that and give you time to obtain it (should being the operative word).
If you’re a student or teacher that needs a visa
If you’re coming to Italy as a student, start by asking your school about accommodation – they may have a residence hall or some student apartments that you can rent at the start, or perhaps even for the whole length of your stay. They may also be able to set you up with a host family.
This might also be an option for teachers coming to Italy to work at an international school. The international school in Padua, for example, has some apartments for teachers to rent.
If you don’t need a visa to come to Italy
If you’re moving to Italy as an EU citizen or you’re staying less than 90 days (or whatever length you’re allowed to be in Italy as a tourist according to your country of citizenship), I’d still advise not booking anything long term ahead of time for the same reasons I mentioned above. Check out the list below for tips on finding a short-term rental.
Options for finding short-term accommodation in Italy
Love it or hate it, AirBnBs can be a good option if you need to find short-term accommodation in Italy. Yes, an AirBnB may come with a hefty price tag, but you can save money by cooking, renting a room instead of an entire place, or booking a spot that’s close to the area you need to be in for work, school, or whatever so that you don’t have to spend money on public transportation (although public transportation in Rome is quite cheap) or one of the city’s micromobility options.
The plus side of AirBnb is that you can rent properties that have been verified (i.e. no scams) and check out the reviews left by previous renters.
Using booking.com is a great way to find short-term accommodation, and also to score discounts. They regularly offer reduced prices for returning customers as well as credit you can use for future reservations. Sign up now and start booking to save!
Most of the offerings on booking.com are hotels, but you can filter for hostels, apartments, or whatever type of accommodation you’re looking for.
I became familiar with Roomless recently, when I was getting ready to come back to Rome after six months away. My husband and I thought we had found a great spot – on the right metro line for work and in an area of the city we were interested in.
The Roomless platform is easy to navigate and they have a responsive team. We decided to send a request to rent a place for six weeks, and we got back an estimate of the total cost – a whopping €4,000 with all the taxes and fees included.
Needless to say, we opted for another, more affordable option.
If you’ve got money to blow, this could work for you, but if you’re interested in accommodation that’ll be a bit easier on the wallet, keep scrolling.
Spotahome offers short-term rentals in Rome and other cities in Italy, but similarly to Roomless, their fee will be added to the rent, and you’ll have to pay a deposit as well.
Serving Rome and Milan, Cribmed “helps foreigners find quality medium to long term property rentals”. I browsed the site, and there are some pretty expensive places, but others at reasonably good prices. Note that the prices “start at” whatever is advertised and that there’s a service fee, so don’t expect to pay the price you see.
Options for short-term accommodation if you’re on a budget
Look in areas outside of the city center
If you want to save some money, look in areas that are well connected, but not right in the city center. You’ll get a more authentic experience this way anyway!
Rent a room on AirBnb
I’ve never rented a room in an AirBnB, so I don’t know what it’s like, but I do know that it’s cheaper than renting an entire place. If you’re comfortable sharing a house with the host, this could be a great way to save some money.
Check out some hostels
Both times I moved to Australia, I booked myself in at a hostel – once I booked a bed in a shared women-only dorm room, and once I booked a private room because I was with a friend. Hostels are a great way to save money, and they can also be a great way to make friends when you’re in a new place.
There are lots of hostels around the Stazione Termini in Rome. I walked by one the other day, in fact, and there were tons of people at the hostel bar chatting and having a glass of wine. I kind of wanted to join them! My husband and I stayed at a hostel in Florence a few summers ago because it had a pool. We booked a private room for cheap and had a great long weekend there.
Hostel life isn’t for everybody, so if you’re going to have early wake-up calls or like to spend a lot of time alone, this might not be a good option for you. If, on the other hand, you want to meet people and have the opportunity to go out after you touch down, a hostel might be just the place to do just that.
Renting an entire apartment in Italy (long term)
If you want to rent your own place, once you’ve arrived in the city, you can start searching online. You can also go to a real estate agency in the area you want to live in and tell them what you’re looking for, or you attempt to find a private rental.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of both.
Working with an agency
If you decide to work with an agency, you’ll have to pay the agent a fee, known as the “provviggione.” The amount varies – it can be one to two months rent, or it can be a percentage of the annual rental price.
Who should work with an agency?
If you don’t speak Italian and can find an agent who speaks English (or whatever you speak), this might be the way to go.
You may also want to work with an agency if you don’t have a lot of time. If you’re moving to Italy to study or work, for example, and don’t have space in your schedule for house hunting, an agency is probably a good option for you. The agent will set up visits based on your preferences, and you’ll just have to show up.
You can also attempt to find a private rental. These are fewer and farther between, so they’re harder to find, but you’ll save lots of money by not having to pay an agency fee.
How can you find private rentals? Well, you can start by using a few of the websites I’ll cover below.
Searching for apartments or rooms online in Italy
There are a few websites that I’d recommend when searching for an apartment or a room to rent in Italy. Here they are, in no particular order:
I like Idealista for a few reasons. One is that the site is available in several languages, making it easier to navigate for non-English speakers. I also like that you can search on a map, and they have several filters that help to narrow things down.
Also available in English, Immobiliare is pretty easy to navigate and has many of the same features as Idealista, including the map search and filters.
Casa.it is another great resource for house hunters, but I don’t believe the site is available in any language other than Italian.
Bakeca isn’t devoted just to finding houses, but it can be a good resource for your hunt. I don’t believe it’s available in English, but if you have some Italian or can use Google translate, check it out.
Like Bakeca, Subito isn’t exclusively for housing, but check it out anyway. Note that it is also not translated into any other languages.
Contacting an agency or landlord through a website
A word of warning: We used both Immobiliare and Idealista in our most recent housing search and found that many landlords and agents don’t respond if you utilize the sites’ messaging function. It’s better to call, or, if you’re dealing with an agency, go in person.
There are lots of Facebook groups for finding housing in Italian cities. This can be an easy way to find what you’re looking for, especially if you don’t speak Italian. That being said, you have to be sure to avoid scams, like I mentioned above. Let’s look at how to do so in a bit more detail.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
If a place looks big and/or luxurious and is a lot cheaper than other places of a similar style and size, it’s probably not real.
If the “owner” wants a deposit without you having visited the place
If any “landlord” asks you to send a deposit up front, definitely do not proceed!
If they’re insistent or badger you
Pressure to commit is a bad sign – if someone starts harassing you to make a decision, don’t move ahead with the rental.
Always visit in person
I mentioned this above, but I’m reiterating it here – if someone claims they can’t let you visit the place, it’s a scam.
That said, I just read this horror story about someone who saw a place , met the “owner,” and rented it, and got scammed anyway. This is the only time I’ve heard of anything like this happening, but be careful!
The normal procedure for renting an apartment in Italy
Perhaps the best way to avoid getting scammed is to know how the process should work.
- You contact the agent or landlord and make an appointment to see the place.
- After the visit, if you want to rent it and you’re working with an agent, you make a “proposta” (proposal), which is a standard form that indicates the property you want to rent and how much you will pay (more on this below).
- The landlord has a certain amount of time to decide whether or not they accept your proposta. In our most recent case, it was five days, but they accepted it after a day.
- If they accept, you’ll meet to sign the contract and possibly get the keys if the apartment is already vacant.
I’m not sure how the proposta procedure works with private rentals, as in, when I rented my previous place privately, we didn’t have to fill out a proposta form, we just told the landlord that we were interested and he said we could move in. Maybe some private renters ask that you do a proposta, but it probably varies from person to person.
Tips for saving money
I said this above, but rent is getting really expensive these days in cities all over Italy. There isn’t too much you can do about it, unfortunately, but if you need to save some money, you can try the following.
Rent an older house
If an apartment has been recently renovated, the owner will almost always charge a higher rent.
You can save some money by looking for places that are a bit on the older side. Of course, you still want to make sure that everything works, but places that don’t have brand-new furniture or the latest fixtures can be just fine.
I should disclose here that I am biased – I’m actually writing this from the living room of my apartment, which has a huge old chandelier, original marble flooring and furniture that belonged to the elderly landlady’s grandparents, but the house and its decor have stood the test of time, and everything is in working order. I wouldn’t necessarily choose these things for myself, but I really love our little old house – it has so much character! I also love it because it’s huge for Rome, and, because it hasn’t been significantly renovated (the kitchen is on the newer side – I’m not sure what they were cooking with in the 1800s when the rest of the furniture was made) the rent is much lower than comparably sized places in our neighborhood!
Check out well-connected neighborhoods that aren’t super central
I touched on this above. Another way to save some money is to look for a house in a neighborhood that skirts the city center. Prices often drop the further out you are, and in many cities, these areas are well connected, so it’s easy to get in, out and around from there.
The price difference won’t be huge, but saving €50-100 a month over the course of a year adds up!
It’s possible to negotiate the price of your rent in Italy, but it won’t always work out. You might be able to knock €50 off the monthly rent, though, so it’s worth a try if you’re at the limit of your budget.
I’ve never negotiated my rent before, so I’m not exactly sure how to do it, but my guess is that when you do the proposta, you list the price that you want to pay. If there’s no proposta involved, just speak to the landlady and see if there’s any wiggle room.
Keep in mind that if you really want a place, negotiating probably isn’t a great tactic. With the competition being as high as it is these days, it’s very likely that there’s someone else who is willing to offer the price that the landlord has advertised.
Renting a furnished place vs. an unfurnished place
Something that is very common in Italy but is not very common in other countries, like the US, for example, is that many apartments are rented furnished (“arredato”) here, which means that the landlord provides basically everything you need to live comfortably in the house.
You can also find semi-furnished (parzialmente arredato) places, which come with some basics, but you’ll have to fill in the blanks.
Other apartments come unfurnished (non arredato), meaning you have to bring/buy everything yourself.
A note on kitchens
Someone in the US recently told me, with a bit of incredulity, that he had heard that some rental properties in Italy come without a kitchen, as in, no cabinets, appliances or surfaces to cook on. This is true!
I don’t believe it’s very common, but on our recent round of visits, we saw a place with a kitchen that looked like the Grinch had been there to pick it over. There were a few pipes sticking out of the wall and some wires, and that. was. literally. it.
Like I said, I don’t believe this is a super common thing, but it’s good to be aware of, just in case, as having to fit out a kitchen will be a huge expense.
When you’re renting an entire apartment in Italy, contracts tend to be very (very) long in comparison to other countries. They have a rental term, which can be two, three or four years, plus another two, three or four on top of that. This means that if you don’t give notice after the first term, the contract will automatically be renewed for the second. I recently saw a 2+8 contract, but the ones I’ve seen the most often are 3+2, for a total of five years, or 4+4, for a total of eight.
Now, I think I’ve understood this correctly, but I believe that the rent can’t be raised for the duration of the contract, unless there is an increase in what’s known as “l’adeguamento ISTAT”. ISTAT is the National Statistics Institute of Italy, and they carry out many different types of public research. One of these is on the cost of living and inflation, and they release calculations of this amount, which, again, if I’ve understood correctly, landlords can choose to add onto the annual rent.
I’ve never had my rent raised because of this adeguamento ISTAT, so I have no personal experience with it, but feel free to discuss it with the landlord or agent you’re dealing with.
There are short-term contracts also available. They are known as a “contratto transitorio” and can run from one month up to a year and a half. This might be suitable for you if you’re only going to be in Italy for a short time – a semester maybe, or six months or whatever. Even if you’re going to be here longer, you can renew the contract if the landlady is in agreement.
There are some people who rent houses or rooms “in nero” or “in the black,” which means that you have no contract and pay them in cash. I don’t recommend doing this to anyone, but note that you can’t do this if you need a permesso di soggiorno or residency. You’ll need a proper contract to prove that you have accommodation.
This type of agreement also leaves you open to the owner kicking you out whenever they want – you won’t have any legal protection if anything goes awry.
Questions to ask when you visit an apartment in Italy
When you visit a place, you should make sure to ask all the questions you want so that you can get a good idea of what living there will look like.
Here are a few to consider.
Can I establish residency?
If you want to enroll in the national healthcare system, or buy a car, for example, you’ll have to establish residency here in Italy. Not all landowners allow you to do this for a variety of reasons. If you need to establish residency, this is something you should inquire about to avoid any surprises.
When can I move in?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth asking. The owner of one of the places we visited recently said he wanted to have some work done on the house before new tenants moved in (painting and flooring), which is great, but it could have delayed the move-in date if anything was delayed.
Does the xyz work?
The apartment we ended up moving into is old, like I said, and it was clear when we visited that it had been vacant for quite a while. I wanted to make sure everything was in working order – particularly the appliances – so I asked the landlady if the dishwasher, washing machine, and fridge were all in good shape.
Are the utilities on?
Generally, utilities are left on when tenants change, and the bills are transferred to the name of the new tenant (see the section on “Doing a ‘voltura’” below).
That’s not always the case. If the utilities were turned off for some reason, you’ll want to know because it might affect your move-in date. Getting a contract and waiting for someone to come and turn the utilities on can take some time, so you’ll want to start the process as soon as possible.
Is there Wifi?
Also worth asking. If there isn’t, you’ll have to set up a new contract.
How much are the spese condominiali?
The spese condominiali cover the cleaning and maintenance costs of the building. If the building has central heating, this will also probably be included, meaning that your spese will be higher.
Making a proposal
Ok, so, you’ve seen the place and you want it: Time to do the proposta!
In my most recent experience, we went through a rental agency, so the agent prepared the proposta, which was a standard form, and we read it and then signed it. It specifies the apartment you’re renting, the monthly rental price, and the spese condominiali.
Note that, as I said above, I have no personal experience with this, but you can negotiate the rental price.
I have some friends who have succeeded in knocking the price down a bit. Again, it’s not guaranteed to work, but you can ask. Worst case, the landlord will turn your offer down, and you can propose another amount.
In case you didn’t read the part about negotiating above, here’s a bit of advice: If you really want a place, it’s probably best to just offer whatever amount they’re asking for. If you try to negotiate and someone else is offering what they want, they’ll probably go with that person instead.
Providing proof of income
Along with your proposta, you’ll be asked to provide proof of income. This is generally done with a few payslips, a copy of your work contract that states your earnings, or basically anything official that’s supplied by your employer showing that you have moolah.
If you’re not working, you can probably show a bank statement or proof of financial support.
Questions to ask about the contract
What kind of contract is it?
This is where you want to see what the length is – 3+2? 4+4? 2+8?!
How many months of notice do I need to give?
This, as far as I know, is negotiable. Many contracts standardly require six months’ notice – SIX MONTHS! That’s a lot. You may be able to reduce that to three.
Note that if you can find someone to move in before six months are up, landlords/ladies are usually cool with that.
What does the contract include – in other words, what am I responsible for as the tenant?
This is really important to understand. For example, if the hot-water heater blows, who pays?
I believe that the general rule is that “ordinary” maintenance costs are the responsibility of the tenant. Let’s take the hot-water heater as an example again. They require an annual checkup in Italy, and that cost is covered by the tenant. That said, if the hot-water heater breaks completely, the landlord should cover that, because it’s an “extraordinary” cost.
Make sure you understand what’s what before signing!
Painting before you move out
This is another thing that I’ve only heard about in Italy – some contracts include a clause that the tenant has to repaint the apartment before moving out. This is obviously a significant expense, so check what the deal is so that you’re prepared.
Costs of renting in addition to the monthly rent
On top of the rent, you’ll have to pay certain fees. Let’s take a look at them.
The spese condominiali cover the cleaning and maintenance costs of the building. If the building has central heating, this will also probably be included, meaning that your spese will be higher.
For example, in my old apartment, our spese were €50/month, because our apartment had its own heating system. In my new one, they’re significantly higher – €100/month, but that’s because it includes the cost of heating.
There’s a law regulating the maximum security deposit that property owners can ask for – it’s three months’ rent. You may be asked for one – in my experience two is more common – but if it’s more than three, push back.
A note on getting your deposit back
Like I said, I’ve never rented an apartment in the US before, but my impression is that you generally get back your deposit, or at least some of it, as long as you return the place in good shape. In Italy, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. Many, many friends have told me that it’s standard to NOT get your deposit back; i.e. that landlords/ladies usually find ways to keep it. This has not been my personal experience, but it’s good to know so that you can prepare yourself to lose that money.
I have no personal experience with a “fideiussione,” but I think they’ve become pretty common since COVID. Basically, it’s a guarantee from a bank that you have a certain amount of money. Some landowners ask for this to protect themselves in the event that, say, a worldwide pandemic means that you can’t work and therefore can’t pay your rent.
The annoying thing about this practice is that the funds have to stay frozen. Say your landlord wants a six-month fideiussione for an apartment that costs you 1,500 a month in rent. That means you have to leave €9,000 frozen in your account. It’s my understanding that some banks will invest the money for you, but still. I don’t know many people who have thousands laying around that can be frozen – if you did, wouldn’t you rather use them for a down payment and buy something instead?
Anyway, if your landlord wants this, feel free to push back. I know someone who managed to get the LL to agree to doing away with it, although I know other people who tried and weren’t so lucky.
I put bills here because, like I said, a central heating bill might be included in the spese condominiali. If that’s the case, you’ll basically just pay it every month in increments throughout the year, even though the heat will only be turned on in the fall and winter.
If you do not have central heating, you will have “riscaldamento autonomo,” which, in my opinion, is way better, because you can control the temperature and when you turn it on and off. We saved big bucks in our last apartment having autonomous heating, because I’m cheap and, unlike my darling husband who wants to be in shorts at all times, I don’t mind wearing sweaters and Ugg boots around the house. In our new place, we have central heating, which I’m not looking forward to.
In addition to whatever heating bills you have, you’ll have to pay for gas, water, wifi, and electricity. In our old place, the water bill was included as part of the rent. Make sure you ask what the deal is for all of the utilities.
You will also have to pay for trash removal, which in Rome is a bit frustrating, considering the fact that they sometimes don’t remove the trash for days and days. This may included in the rent or spese condominiali. You may also have to pay it yourself at the comune – this was the case for us when we lived in Bologna.
Bills and utilities – your name or the landlady’s?
There are two ways to do the utilities when renting an apartment in Italy. Some property owners will keep the utilities in their name and send you the bills when they’re due. This can work well if you’re only coming for a short time or know that you’ll be moving. The major con to this is that the landlord can forget to send them, or they might only get them to you at the last minute.
The other way to do it is to put the utilities in your name. This is done in one of two ways. If the utilities have been turned off, you’ll have to open accounts with whatever company you want and wait for them to come and turn them on. This can take a few weeks.
Doing a “voltura”
If the utilities are on, then you’ll go through a process of doing a “voltura”, which keeps the utilities on, but allows for the contract to be changed from one person’s name to another. In my experience, the voltura is more common when moving in and out of places – most people know that turning a utility off will be a headache for the incoming tenant.
You’ll want to know if the utilities are on so you can plan accordingly, so this is an important question to ask.
Registering the contract for residency (whole house)
Alright, you’ve signed the contract and moved in – time to declare residency (if needed)!
This is the responsibility of either the landlady or the agent, but you’ll be responsible for some of the fees.
Basically what will happen is that the contract will be registered with the Agenzia delle Entrate, which will allow them to tax the owner appropriately on their earnings. Once this is done, you’ll be able to send or take a copy of your registered contract and request residency from the city or town hall.
Declaring residency is one of the few things in Italy that it pretty generally straightforward – you provide the necessary documents, and then someone will come and verify that you actually live there, and that’s that. You’re a resident.
Changing your residency is even easier, in Rome at least – it can be done via email!
Registering the contract for residency (room)
I’ve never registered a contract for a room, so I don’t know exactly how the process goes, but I think it’s the same as above.
Dichiarazione di ospitalità
If you move into a house that one of the tenants has rented in their name, that is, they’ve rented a two or three bedroom apartment but only occupy one and rent out the others, they probably will not want to redo the entire contract so that your name can be on it, because of the costs involved.
This is when you need a “dichiarazione di ospitalità,” or a “declaration of hospitality.”
I had to get one of these when I moved to Padua. Jeremy and a friend had rented a place in their name, and I needed proof that I lived there for my permesso di soggiorno and in order to get residency.
Basically, the landlady and Jeremy both had to fill out forms saying that I was being “hosted” by Jeremy. It was quite a lot of paperwork, and I had to take it to the questura to be certified, which was annoying, but that’s the just the way it works.
Here’s the dichiarazione di ospitalità form with the list of supporting documents you’ll need at the bottom. The website of your local questura should have more information about how to send it in or if you have to submit it in person, etc.
Miscellaneous things to know about renting an apartment in Italy
Generally, when you rent a furnished apartment or room, there’s a list of items that are included with the rental, which is known as “il catasto”. The landlord will probably go over this with you when you move in and again when you move out to make sure that everything is there at the beginning and the end of the contract.
If something is listed in the catasto and breaks, make sure you let your landlord know.
Cleaning before you move in
One more thing that’s good to know when you’re renting an entire place is that you’ll probably have to clean. If any work has been done, there might be a mess left by the workers. If the previous tenants were gross and didn’t want their deposit back, they might have left some junk around. You might want to go a few days before you move in and start cleaning, otherwise you’ll be surrounded by stuff AND you’ll have to clean on top of that.
I hope you found my ultimate guide to renting an apartment in Italy useful! Questions? Thoughts? Share in the comments!