Since it was launched in 2008 in San Francisco, Airbnb has rapidly become the accommodation booking site of choice for many travelers who are seeking the local touch. With over 800,000 listings worldwide, just surfing the site alone will incite a major case of wanderlust. Recently, I was planning a trip to Italy for a couple of weeks, and thought hey, why not try it out for myself?
So I did. After filtering through hundreds of listings, I picked out a highly reviewed bed-and-breakfast in Rome, and here’s my first-hand review. (Do note that I was not sponsored to write this article. I simply had a great experience and wanted to share it.)
The Airbnb booking process was surprisingly easy and fuss-free, once you have messaged the host of the property to confirm the availability of dates and clarify any questions you might have. Most hosts will respond within 24 hours, and some will even pre-approve your booking request so the listing is yours for the agreed dates the moment you commit to the booking.
Hot Tip: Be sure to download the Airbnb app, as it syncs any incoming messages from the hosts to your phone. A very handy function when you are on the move.
The most ‘difficult’ part of the process was probably the shortlisting of properties due to the sheer variety you will find. While searching for accommodations, I was sidetracked from my mission as I ended up creating several ‘wish lists’, filled with accommodation listings from locations I wasn’t heading to… just yet. For the longest time, I debated with myself on whether to sidetrack from my itinerary, just to stay a night in this out-of-the-way treehouse in northern Italy with an amazing panoramic view on the hills, a garden with solarium and a pool surrounded by majestic cedar trees.
When In Rome…?
I ended up going with Elisabetta’s Bed-and-Breakfast in Rome. Surprisingly, Elisabetta had a driver service (which you can prebook), whose rates were slightly lower than the regular airport taxi. I took that from the airport to the B&B.
Once we arrived, Elisabetta buzzed us up, handed us the keys and a map with dining recommendations, and we were on our own. The apartment was clean, tidy, and housed three other rooms other than ours. Our great first impression was cemented further by the fact that our room looked exactly the same as it did on the Airbnb site – bright, airy and welcoming. We also had a mini welcome package on the bed which Elisabetta had thoughtfully laid out, made up of freshly laundered towels (still warm to the touch), toiletries and beauty samples.
What is also worth mentioning is that during our online correspondence, Elisabetta graciously offered to swap her own bedroom with us, in response to our request for a quiet room (We had come across some reviews which mentioned that some rooms could be noisy from human traffic). We were touched by her offer but declined, as we wouldn’t dream of taking over her personal space! When we arrived, she actually bore our request in mind, and offered to show us the quiet bedroom again for our consideration. Bonus points!
What was more amazing was that the apartment just right round the corner from a major historic sight, the Pantheon, a dome temple built in 27 B.C dedicated to all gods. The historical centre of Rome is not known to be well connected by the metro system, so the location of the B&B turned out to be a godsend. We could literally walk to every major sight – the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, the Vatican and the Colosseum! Some days, we could even come back for a brief siesta, before we headed out for dinner again.
Come morning, Elisabetta prepared a simple breakfast of croissants, cereal, juice, coffee and tea. She even whipped up some scrambled eggs just for us! Breakfast hour was the best time to mix and mingle – we met a lovely Brazilian couple during our stay.
Wifi was patchy during our stay, but Elisabetta was quick to arrange for maintenance the following day. It was still wonky after that but we took it as an opportunity to unplug from social media once we got back from a day’s trekking about town.
Would I return for a stay?
Definitely! I loved the feeling of heading back to the apartment everyday and letting myself in with my own keys, often bumping into the locals who are also going about their day.
However, you would need to bear in mind that a bed-and-breakfast differs from how a hotel operates. Each host has their own set of house rules, so do read them carefully at the beginning of the stay. These house rules, in particular the check-in and check-out timings, are often reflected on the Airbnb site as well, so be sure to clarify in advance if in doubt. Treat it as you would your own place, and be considerate – some amenities are to be shared among the guests.
Hot Tip: Have an open mind and do take the time to interact with your host. Apart from imparting some great food recommendations (away from the usual tourist traps), you never know what you can pick up in terms of local culture and lingua. And yes, the best ice-breaker with locals is always to slip in an Italian word or two into your conversations – try ‘ciao’ as an informal way of saying hello and goodbye, and ‘grazie’ as a simple way to express your appreciation.