A more accurate question would be, which neighborhood offers most what I need and want? Finding an apartment long distance online from the U.S. is never easy, especially when many apartments for rent in Rome are not posted online or if they are, they rely heavily on follow up in person.
I began my apartment search online months ago and only recently came to the conclusion that a short-term rental is the only solution until I can be physically in Rome and look at apartments for long-term rental. There are a couple reasons for this decision. One: I couldn’t even illicit a response to my inquiry from an agency. Two: (And the reason for number one), much of the business conducted in Italy is in person and relationship based. Word of mouth or knowing someone who refers you is HUGE. I started by striking up short online conversations with rentals, asking questions and discussing my plans once I arrive in Rome.
Initially this seems awkward and over share but if you keep in mind that it isn’t strictly business in Italy but rather fueled by a genuine interest in the person doing the business then it will seem rather normal after a bit. Even if I decided against renting their unit many have expressed for me to contact them after I arrive in Rome if I need a rental. This is GREAT for any future rentals.
It is also molto importante to research the different neighborhoods in Rome. They are all unique and offer different types of community. Do you like a busy, lively neighborhood always awake and full of activity? Trastevere, historical Centre and parts of San Giovanni are good options. Do you want a slightly upscale, mostly suburban and green feel? Monteverde is your neighborhood. If you like lots of food choices, I hear Testaccio is the place, complete with famous open air market. Pigneto is hip, bohemian, artsy and a bit sketchy looking on the surface but a great place for artists, art lovers and creative types. I chose Garbatella because it is close to where I want to go (under an hour is close in Rome), the architecture is a mixture of Baroque, Roman and Art Noveau, it is set up in more of a neighborhood feel with lots of courtyards and green spaces, it is quiet and non-touristy. Each neighborhood has markets, bars and cafes, the differences are in how they are arranged and the people that live there.
View at sunset from our apartment rental in Siena.
Apartment amenities in Rome are standardized according to Italian standards. The most common apartment found in Rome is what would be defined as a one bedroom in the U.S. but in Rome it is often listed as three bedrooms or rooms. Italian rentals include each space as a room. So a kitchen, living room and bedroom are three rooms. Bathrooms are counted separate. When doing an online search for apartments, search by beds. Keep in mind the rental will count the living room sofa bed as a bed. So the most often found rental in Rome is LISTED as a two bedroom. It will consist of a combined kitchen/living room with sofa bed and a bedroom and bath. Less commonly found is the three bedroom apartment which would be either a separate kitchen and living room with sofa bed and a bedroom and a bath or combined kitchen/living room and two separate bedrooms and a bath. These apartments are more often found further away from the center of Rome and the tourist areas. The further out the apartment the less expensive it will be and the more space the rental will have. Space is a precious commodity in the center of Rome.
I have learned there are some standard amenities you do not need to ask about in a furnished rental: balcony, heating and usually a washing machine. Most apartments have a balcony but many do not show it in the photos. Heating is also always standard however if it is important to you to be able to regulate it yourself you need to look for individual heating. Heat is generally not turned on in Italy until November 1st and some are controlled by the building. Most furnished rentals have a washing machine either in the kitchen, bathroom or sometimes on the balcony. It may be hidden behind a cupboard door. There will not be a dryer. Almost all clothes in Italy are line dried. In the thousands of rentals I have looked through I have only found one that had a dryer.
Always ask about the following amenities: wifi, air conditioning, oven and how many beds. Ovens are not standard with kitchens. The stove or hob will be two burner (kitchenette) or four burner often gas fueled, (which is great when the breaker flips). Also if you want a bath tub vs a shower, I have found bath tubs only exist outside the central part of Rome in the larger rentals. Air conditioning is expensive to run in Rome and most Romans do not use it believing that it can make you sick. The rentals do offer it for tourists but read the reviews to see if it works well enough to cool down the space. BECAUSE.. this is huge…
Electrical is much different in Rome. As an American I am used to as much electricity as I want being at the flip of a switch whenever I want it. Could I sound any more entitled? Once again read the reviews but also just go with the knowledge that you will most likely need to operate one or two electrical appliances at a time and breakers will flip. Air conditioners take a lot of electricity and they do not cool to the level of sweater-needed cool we are accustomed to here in the States. If a breaker flips just flip the breaker back and unplug some stuff. Go forth knowing that your electrical imprint has just been reduced and enjoy it. Funny side note on how I learned this tidbit of info. I was cooking and the power went out in our rental in Siena. I called the manager in a panic. He called out the electrician on a Sunday during a storm no less. Only to find that I just needed to flip the breaker back on.
Always, always read the rental reviews. I cannot stress this enough. The ad may say wifi but in the reviews you will find out: if the wifi is consistent, can only be accessed out on the balcony, is shared with the next door neighbor or s o o o o o o slow! The rental I had in Siena claimed it had wifi however it was a renovated ground floor villa built in the 1300’s and wifi could not penetrate the stone walls. We spent 3 months sitting in the garden at night and in the rain to access our laptops!
Reviews will also tell you if the shower leaks all over the bathroom each time (always open the window in the bathroom, trust me), if the owner comes into the apartment to show other potential renters while you are out, if the rental really is close to public transit, if there is a lift (elevator) and more. Remember to the people of Rome close to a location can mean less than an hour by metro!
I am posting this information in response to the hundreds of reviews that I have read where renters are unhappy with their rentals and it effects their highly anticipated vacation. It all comes down to what is important to you. I don’t mind a leaky shower but no oven is a deal breaker. A little research and an adjustment of expectations can go a long way to making your stay, whether long or short, a happy one!
I am happy to help out with any questions or tips.