Hospitality networks in Italy

Be their guest: Hospitality exchanges are networks of folks who are willing to put up fellow members in their homes for free

he concept is simple: you can join a hospitality exchange network and then go stay, for free, in the spare bedroom of any other member around the world (arranged in advance, of course).

The "exchange" part means that others in the network can come stay at your place, too. It's a bit like staying at a B&B only without a bill to pay at the end—though some networks have "recommended" gratuities.

What do I get if I join a hospitality network?

Well, you get a catalog (print and/or online), and a chance to stay with any other member.

Sometimes you just get a bed for the night. Sometimes you're invited to share breakfast with the host family, or dinner as well. Sometimes your host is even willing to play tour guide and show you around his hometown. It's all up to the two parties involved.

So do I have to turn around and host the person who hosted me?

This doesn't have to be a one-to-one deal—for example, you stay with Giancarlo in Rome, then he comes to pay you a visit several months later (though that sort of thing happens a lot).

Could be, you and Giancarlo have a grand old time at his apartment in Rome, then when you get home you play gracious host to Eduardo from Ecuador (who himself had Pierre from Paris as a guest in his house a few months back).

How trustworthy is a hospitality network? Who will I be hosting?

It's not as if you'd have strangers showing up on your doorstep unexpectedly. Stays are always arranged in advance, and always with the consent of both parties.

Hospitality Exchange networks operate a little like matchmaking services, allowing travelers who enjoy really getting to know the locals in a foreign land to find similarly minded folks in the places they want to visit. And since most of these networks are de facto worldwide communities, any bad eggs (horrible houseguests or poor hosts) get rooted out pretty quickly.

What about CouchSurfing? Is that a hospitality exchange?

Yes and no. Short answer: CouchSurfing is like a hospitality exchange network's younger sibling, free to join and a bit looser on the rules, and it skews to a younger age bracket (20s and 30s rather than 40s to 60s).

There are actually two other variants on the hospitality exchange notion that work a bit differently, so I've given each its own page: CouchSurfing networks (which are free to join, and usually do not insist that you play host in exchange for crashing for free), and Servas (which does charge a membership fee, but similarly doesn't require you to act as a host).

How to find hospitality exchange networks

  • The Affordable Travel Club ( - Around 2,600 members in 50 countries—though Europe coverage can be spotty (in Italy just a handful, in Rome, Ravenna, Este—near Venice—and a few others). Membership: $65 for a downloaded directory; $75 for a print version, or $80 for both. Plus, $15–$30 gratuity for your hosts. Requirements: Must be over 40; must agree to host.
  • Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W) ( - Since 1984, with 2,271 members in 88 countries (including 5 in Italy). Membership: Recommended donation of £35 (or the equivalent in your home currency; about $55). Requirements: Must be female. (Tips for female travelers in Italy; tours for women)
  • Lesbian & Gay Hospitality Exchange International ( - 500 listings in 30 countries. Membership: $35. Requirements: It doesn't say you have to be gay, but I assume that's a bit of a given. (Tips for gay travelers in Italy; gay tours)

Tips & links

Hospitality Networks 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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