La Dolce Vita: Living the Good Life While Touring Northern and Central Italy

Photo credits: All images by Brien Crothers

Continued from the Options When Two Is Four or More series about the advantages of using the Internet when securing lodging for a tour of Italy

Areas of Italy We Visited and the Places We Rented

Rome (Roma, in Italian) is a big, noisy, busy city with hundreds of things to see and do. Ancient history is everywhere. Just walk in any direction near the older parts of the city, and you will see amazing sights, learn a lot about the era of the Roman Empire, and enjoy unique cultural experiences beyond any of your expectations.

Getting around is easy on the metro and bus systems. They were always packed when we needed to use them. Be ever vigilant with your belongings.

Our rented place was in a nice neighborhood—secure, clean, roomy, and adequately equipped, appointed, and stocked. There were stores, mini shops, a bakery, and lots of dining options nearby. Our host, Andrea, met us there at street level as planned, took us up to the fourth floor, explained everything (the location of laundry facilities, amenities in the kitchen, dining options in the neighborhood, etc.) and left us the keys. Easy peasy.

Florence (Firenze) is an old city with narrow streets leading off at odd tangents. Still, the city is beautiful, picture perfect, and loaded with history, especially when considering the duomo (cathedral) and the grand museums.

img_5294_2Getting around on foot is easy for visiting a variety of attractions: the Pitti Palace, the Ponte Vecchio (a medieval bridge), the cathedral, and museums. Florence is a busy city, too, always filled with tourists. Be vigilant, especially in crowds. It is easy to get off the crowded tourist streets to explore quiet alleys and quaint sidewalk cafés.

Mery, our delightful host, owns the ceramics shop below the two-bedroom, two-bath apartment we rented. The place was on a noisy street, a very short walk to the Ponte Vecchio, and central to everything we wanted to visit. The place was a little dated but so close to everything we wanted to do that it was worth a little funkiness.

Pisa (Pisa) is home to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and is located near the Tuscan hill towns, the historic city of Lucca, and the famously beautiful coastal villages of Cinque Terre.

img_5604_2We rented a car in Florence, as we had planned to see much of the countryside and drive up to Le Spezia to take the train into the villages of Cinque Terre. While in Pisa, we were in walking distance of the Leaning Tower and great dining. (Go off the beaten path, away from the crowds, to find a small osteria for a wonderful dining experience.)

Here, we rented a very modern, spacious home in a new development by an ancient city wall. It was a great location, secure and quiet. There was a hot water problem, out of everyone’s control, that the owner tried very hard to make right. The house is still considered our group’s favorite place to stay during this trip.

Venice (Venezia) is actually 117 islands with canals and bridges linking all the city. Water is everywhere and is the principal means by which most people and all goods get around the city of 265,000 residents. Though big by this country boy’s standards, Venice is very easy to navigate on foot. But water taxis and buses are ubiquitous.

Our rented apartment was close to the Grand Canal (with its iconic gondolas), the tram to Mestre, and other land and water transportation stations.

We had a top-floor apartment, with no lift (elevator), within easy walking distance of the train and bus stations and the Grand Canal; consequently, we were pretty much close to everything. This apartment was the only place we rented where we did not have two sets of keys, and that simply didn’t work for two couples heading off in different directions during the day. And to compound the problem, the host wasn’t too sympathetic about our plight. This place—one of sixteen situations owned by a company that rented them out to tourists—was not your mom ’n’ pop type, but it was secure and quiet.

Verona (Veròna) is a beautiful city on the Adige river and is known for high-end shopping, Piazza Bra (and the Verona Arena), and the House of Juliet—of Romeo and Juliet fame. Yes, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Our rented apartment in Verona was secure, but the keys and locks were a struggle; they were a little worn out. The apartment was in an excellent location near all the sights and shopping areas, though it did not have a living room or common area to use. Our host, Luiza, was just across the street and quick to get us set up in the comfy dwelling.

Lake Como (Village of Carate Urio) or any of the lakes bordering Switzerland should not be missed. We found an Airbnb home in the small village of Carate Urio, overlooking the lake. Stunning.

We rented a car in Verona and headed for Lake Como, stopping for a bit of wine tasting at Le Vigne San Pietro—also highly recommended by our little cadre—and making our way into the tiny streets of Urio to find Casa Nicolette.

Communicating by cell phone, our host there had her cleaning lady let us into the house, where we immediately walked to the lake side of the house, opened french doors, and stepped onto an idyllic balcony with a gorgeous view of the lake. This guy could have stayed forever, right there on that balcony.

Milan (Milano): After dropping off our rental car at the difficult-to-find garage (airport renovations and temporary signage made that task a challenge!), we took a taxi to the Ticinese district of this large city. There, we were met at the apartment complex and quickly shown to our last Airbnb rental for this trip.

One adjective we all used to describe the apartment building was “vertical.” It was four floors: one bedroom in a basement level, one bedroom at the top level, and the living area and kitchen area occupying the two floors in between. The apartment had been newly appointed and remodeled; everything was very angular and modern and, as was the norm, very secure behind three locked doors.

Coming up next in this series: Would We Use Airbnb for Italy Again?

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. Airbnb did not endorse or provide compensation for this review.

One comment on “La Dolce Vita: Living the Good Life While Touring Northern and Central Italy”

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