How to find a B&B in Italy

Bed and Breakfasts aren't just great big Victorian British cottages run by kindly but nosy little old widows anymore

The interior of B&B Ai Cartari in Palermo
Part of my suite at B&B Amari Bajardi in Palermo. Cost: €60.

The B&B concept—a handful of rooms run as an inn by a family in their own home—has spread from its British roots throughout Europe and has now landed in Italy.

In fact, in Italy this relatively new category of lodging is even officially called by the English term, "bed-and-breakfast" (or, rather, a "bet-hand-brrek-fust")—though a few places hold on to the old name, locanda, which means "inn" and is similar in most ways to a B&B (albeit sometimes a bit larger).

An Italian bed and breakfast essentially works something like a small hotel which provides breakfast and is located in the owner's home (or at least an a converted apartment in their building). The size is limited, by varying regional laws, to no more than 3–4 rooms or 6–8 beds total.

In practice, this means a cozy, welcoming, friendly place and plenty of interaction with your hosts. Oh, and B&Bs are usually anywhere from 5% to 40% cheaper than hotels.

Expect to pay anywhere from €35 to €100 for a double room at a typical B&B (perhaps up to €140 in major cities or popular destinations).

What an Italian B&B is like

B&B on Capri
B&Bs can be astoundingly cheap, like this one on the island of Capri.
First of all, there's no guarantee you'll get that prototypical B&B experience: the kindly older couple running mansion of huge rooms loaded with chintz and doilies, charmingly creaky wooden floors, and a sumptuous breakfast spread at a communal table that will leave you needing to crawl back into your canopy bed for a nap before you head out for the day.

These days as many B&Bs are installed in modern city apartments or isolated farmhouses as in grand old homes in town, and many no longer even feature the resident-owner—the owner may live in a different apartment in the building, and you really only deal with the maid who serves up breakfast.

That, however, is not the norm. Usually a friendly, family, home-like atmosphere still prevails. I find B&Bs to be one of the best types of lodging if you want a hands-on host who can double as your personal tourism consultant. B&B owners tend to be irrepressible tourism boosters, deeply in love with their hometowns and eager to share everything they know about it. I can't count how many times an eager B&B owner has told me far more about what's going on around town than the folks at the official tourist office, or clued me in to some great unknown sight or experience.

There are sometimes drawbacks to the B&B, however. With a hotel, you are guaranteed a certain degree of anonymity: you just ask for your key at the desk and then are left alone. This is often the opposite of a B&B, where chitchat is considered part of the charm—but sometimes, you just don't want to make small talk with the owners and other guests.

Also, at a B&B there's often a curfew, either stated or implied—after all, you wouldn't want to wake that kindly older couple up at 2am when you stagger back to your room, now would you?

B&Bs sometimes require half or full board, private baths are not guaranteed (though getting more common), but the service is almost usually friendly and personable. Incidentally, never take board (meal) requirements unless you can't avoid them, as is often the case in resorty places like spas and beaches (especially in season). Eating in a local restaurant is usually a better bet and offers more variety night to night.

On the other hand, a B&B can be a great opportunity to meet some local folks and really get an inside scoop on the culture.

Finding the perfect Italian B&B

As usual, the best resource is almost always the local tourist office, which almost always keeps a complete list of all bed and breakfast outfits in town and, in the best cases, includes that list on its Web site...with links.

That said, here are resources to help you find B&Bs across Italy. Note that there's a thin line (often just which set of local standards, requirements, and legal complications the owner wants to deal with) between a B&B and rental rooms.

Best sites for booking B&Bs in Italy

  • ( - Generalist booking site based in Italy with a huge representation of B&Bs—465 in Rome, 115 in Florence, 81 in Venice—in addition to hotels, agriturismi, and other options.
  • ( - Probably the biggest and best of the huge, national services, with more than 10,000 B&Bs across Italy.
  • PartnerBedandBreakfast.comPartner (www.bedandbreakfast.comParnter) - One of the few still sizeable B-and-Bs-only site and database, with thousands of choices all across Italy (nearly 200 in Rome alone, 60 in Florence, 50 in Venice, etc.).
  • Bed & Breakfast Italia ( - Another major nationwide service, with more than 1,000 members and three quality categories where prices range from €34 to €116 ($46 to $137).
  • ( - Network of both official and unofficial B&Bs, homestays, and apartment and house rentals, including 1,458 B&Bs in Rome; 676 B&Bs in Florence; 298 B&Bs in Venice; and 51 B&Bs in Milan. The idea of someone inflating the old air mattress for you is just a metaphor. Usually, you stay in a guest bedroom, futon, or fold-out couch. Its rates are among the lowest around, charging anywhere from $15 to $250 per night (a handful charge more). Less regulated than most online resources (and many of the places to stay are not registered with the local authorities—which helps make them cheaper, but they are not inspected, or subject to official compaints, and certainly do not pay taxes. Buyer beware.
  • Bed and Breakfast Association of Rome ( - Great service with more than 100 rooms for let in my old hometown; downside: prices can be pretty steep (nearly as high as hotels).
  • Karen Brown ( - Web version of a venerable print guide to B&Bs and Inns in Italy (and other European and North American countries). In-depth reviews, but hoteliers report to me they charge properties for inclusion on the website, and therefore it has become more of an advertizing service (albeit one with independent write-ups) than a true, journalistic guide. Tends toward the nicer/pricier end—and covers more hotels and inns than B&Bs, especially in the cities—but still worth a look

Tips & links

B&Bs links & resources
Other lodging links & resources
Useful Italian
Useful Italian phrases and terms for lodging

English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a hotel un albergo oon al-BEAR-go
...a B&B un bed-and-breakfast oon bet hand BREK-fust
...a rental room un'affittacamera oon ah-feet-ah-CAH-mair-ra apartment for rent un appartamento oon ah-part-tah-MENT-toh
...a farm stay un agriturismo oon ah-gree-tour-EES-moh
...a hostel un ostello oon oh-STEHL-loh
How much is...? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
a single room una singola OO-nah SEEN-go-la
double room for single use [will often be offered if singles are unavailable] doppia uso singola DOPE-pee-ya OO-so SEEN-go-la
a double room with two beds una doppia con due letti OO-nah DOPE-pee-ya cone DOO-way LET-tee
a double room with one big bed una matrimoniale OO-nah mat-tree-moan-nee-YAAL-lay
triple room una tripla OO-nah TREE-plah
with private bathroom con bagno cone BAHN-yoh
without private bathroom senza bagno [they might say con bagno in comune—"with a communal bath"] SEN-zah BAHN-yoh
for one night per una notte pair OO-nah NOH-tay
for two nights per due notti pair DOO-way NOH-tee
for three nights per tre notti pair tray NOH-tee
Is breakfast included? É incluso la prima colazione? ay in-CLOO-soh lah PREE-mah coal-laht-zee-YOAN-nay
Is there WiFi? C'é WiFi? chay WHY-fy?
May I see the room? Posso vedere la camera? POH-soh veh-DAIR-eh lah CAH-mair-rah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Is there a cheaper one? C'é una più economica? chay OO-nah pew eh-ko-NO-mee-kah

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