Hostels in Italy

Italy with bunkmates: This room is your room, this room is my room, this room has 30 other people snoring in it so how the heck am I ever going to get some sleep?

If you're really scrimping on every eurocent, or are particularly fond of fraternizing with primarily youthful backpackers, you might want to stay in hostels, where you can get a bunk in a shared dorm for around $15 to $35.

I'm not a fan of hostels. Never did like them, really, not even when I was a backpacking student, but that's just me.

You, though, might enjoy the camaraderie, the chance to rub elbows with other English-speakers, the evenings of contributing an ingredient to the communal spaghetti dinner someone is whipping up in the kitchen while your laundry spins in the back room, a dreadlocked dropout strums a guitar, and everyone sits around and shares travel tips and recently discovered gems not yet in the guidebooks.

There's much more on Italian hotels—what to expect, common rules, and what they are like—below under "Tips."

How to find hostels in Italy

Tips & links

What is a "dorm bed" or "shared dorm"?

In most hostels, you sleep in a bunk bed in a shared dorm room (some sex-segregated; others mixed).

That said, virtually no hostels these days are of the old-school variety: 30 cots in a large room with a single large bathroom down the hall shared by the entire floor.

Most modern hostels have rooms with only 6 to 8 beds in them (up to a max of 10 or 12 in some). Sometimes each room even has its own attached bathroom; at others, you do share baths down the hall.

Some rooms have TVs (though I view that as a drawback: what if you want to go to sleep early but another resident wants to blare a reality show at 11pm?).

Most hostels have rooms of varying sizes, and offer sliding scale of rates: the more beds per room, the cheaper it is to stay.

Since these rooms are shared with strangers, hostels also provide lockers for guest use.

Increasingly, hostels provide all bedding, including sheets (in the old days, they'd just give you a blanket), but it still behooves you to bring your own sleep sack (kind of like a thin sleeping bag made out of a sheet; see the tip below). Note: Do not bring your own sleeping bag. Many hostels have a rule against using them—and for a very good reason. (Two words: bed bugs.)

Plenty of hostels also offer private accommodationssleeping 2–4 people (with or without attached private bathroom) at rates competitive with cheap hotels—an excellent choice for families.

What are Italian hostels like?

Aside from the sleeping arrangements (detailed above), hostels are defined by their backpackers-of-the-world-unite atmosphere.

Most hostels have a friendly, laid-back, budgeteers-on-vacation vibe. They are places for the young and young-at-heart to live and travel in a college student kind of way.

There are playful murals on the walls or retro-chic lounges for cocktails, TV rooms, tour desks and games rooms with Foosball and billiards tables, restaurants (ranging from bland cafeteria to cheap ethnic) and communal kitchens where newly-minted friends can pool ingredients to whip up a spaghetti dinner.

There are usually computer temrinals for Skyping home and booking your next hostel down the road. Nearly all have WiFi—some free; others at a cost of 1-4 per day.

Many have pubs (which can be great fun—unless you want to go to bed early, at which point they become annoyingly noisy).

Some hostels host theme nights, from dance lessons to DJs, movie nights to karaoke.

There is cheap laundry service or D.I.Y. machines, vending machines, ATMs, and library shelves where travelers can swap books.

What do I get for my €7–€25 at a hostel?

You get a bed—usually a bunk bed— in a shared dorm, though, again, private rooms are usually also available at a slightly higher price.

The cheapest hostels are on an a la carte model, charging extra for every little thing, including WiFi (€1-€4) and breakfast.

Other hostels throw in the WiFi and breakfast for free. Some even have amenties like free soft drinks, salsa lessons, and other perks.

Why would I stay at a hostel over a hotel?
Money. Hostels are cheap.

Traveling solo, a hostel offers a great savings over the cost of a single room at a hotel.

Even for two people traveling together, you can often stay at a hostel for €14–€50 total, making it chepaer than most hotels.

Also, some folks simply like the backpacker vibe, laid-back comaraderie, and mingling of travelers that a hostel provides. It can be as much a lifestyle and community choice as a lodging one.

Are there drawbacks to hostels?

Thankfully, most of the old, draconian hostel rules have since faded into bitter memories.

Mostly gone are the evening curfews and midday lockout periods. Some still do put a limit on how long you can stay (often no more than three days).

Here are three of the biggest downsides to hostels:

  • Noise in your room: Just imagine sleeping in a room with 5–11 other people and all the noises that can emanate from that many snoring (and remarkably flatulent) bodies tossing and turning on squeaky cots.
  • Noise in the building: Hostelers tend to skew younger, with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails. Even if there is no on-site pub, the noise of late-night revelers returning at all hours and carrying on their raucous conversations in the hallways can make sleep difficult.
  • The insular nature of many hostelers: If you truly came to see the local country and meet its people, that ain't gonna happen if you always hang out with groups of Americans studying abroad, Australians on a gap year before college, and party-hearty German twenty-somethings. Many hostels end up feeling more like international pick-up scenes than in-country cultural experiences. You can ignore all that, of course, if all you are in search of is a cheap bed, but it can get annoying.
The sleep sack

A silk sleep sack for staying i hostels and making rough, cheap sheets more comfortableBuy a sleep sack before you go or make one. Hostels will accept homemade ones out of a basic cotton top sheet (fold it in half the long way, sew across the bottom and 2/3 of the way up the side), as well as the kind I use: the silk sleep sack you can get from travel and camping outfitters that packs teensy and is dreamily comfortable.

Most hostels provide a blanket, but require that you use your own sleep sack, which is basically a sheet folded in half lengthwise and sewn across the bottom and most of the way up the side—sort of like an ultra-thin sleeping bag (and sometimes called a "sleeping bag liner").

However, note that you cannot use your own sleeping bag, or a sleeping bag liner with a thick pile to it. This is because Lord knows where you've been and for all the hostel know your bag is infested with bedbugs, which they'd rather you not introduce into their beds.

Should you lack one, some hostels will sell you a sleep sacksleep sack on the spot.

Hostel 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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