Are you planning a trip to Italy soon and looking to save on accommodation?
It’s not impossible to score free accommodation while you’re over in Italy floating through the Venetian canals or the baroque cathedrals in Milan. In fact, you don’t have to fork out €120 a night to stay at some over-priced hotel.
There are other ways to spend your hard-earned cash and it doesn’t have to be on pricey accommodation. It’s an opportunity where you can stay with friendly locals, like a local!
It can be tricky though. Below I’ve outlined a couple of ways you can stay in Italy (or anywhere for that matter) for free.
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House sitting has taken off over the last few years, with more and more people needing to be away for work and needing someone to mind their pet(s) while they’re away.
House sitting assignments in Italy can be very competitive. The key to your success in scoring a sit is to show the owner how capable and experienced you are in taking care of animals.
If you’ve had pets or minded a friend’s pet in the past; this sort of information comes in handy and it’s the sort of information the host ought to know.
AU Pairing/Demi Pairing
Au pairing is popular in Italy (as it is across the whole of Europe). An au pair is someone who lives with the family, takes care of the kids and does light house duties for the family.
An au pair works on a full-time basis and a demi pair is someone who works on a part-time basis.
It’s normal in Europe for a family to hire an English-speaking au pair, so the kids can learn English, and they’ll want you to speak English to the kids.
There are loads of au pairing sites that list unique opportunities so it’s quite easy to find something that would suit you. The jobs normally go from six months to a year.
The work varies from family to family, but an au pair works 25-30 hours a week. They might require you to cook dinner a few nights a week, do laundry, or help the kids out with their homework.
You get free accommodation, meals (obviously), and usually an allowance. The host will give you your own private room and free time.
So it’s a great way to experience the culture first-hand, learn the language, and save a bit of money for your travels without paying for accommodation.
It can be useful to have a driver’s license, first aid qualification, or an early years diploma but not every listing might require these.
This is a really safe option because the families are vetted by an agency. Likewise, every agency will screen you as well prior to meeting a family.
This option may also require a working visa!
Here Are Some AU Pairing Sites:
AU Pair World
Au Pair World is one of the biggest agencies in the au pair space on the internet. Signing up is free, and it doesn’t cost to find a family.
AU Pair Butrfly
Au Pair Butrfly is a very reputable French agency and is free to join. There are two options you can choose on this site. You can be a Certified Au Pair or a Regular Au Pair.
A Certified Au Pair goes through a screening process which requires you to sit through an interview and get verified by the site. This just adds a layer of verification to your profile and doesn’t necessarily take away from your chances of matching with a family.
Aupair.com is a global au pair agency and has been around for around 20 years. It’s free to join but if you want to be matched with a family you need to sign onto the Premium setting and once you’ve done that you can freely message any family.
A free accommodation option is CouchSurfing. CouchSurfing is an online community where members offer up their spare rooms, air mattresses or couches to other travelers for short-term stays for free.
It’s a global site with the vision to encourage cultural exchange and to help travelers connect with other travelers. The site has meet-up options as well for events if you want to cruise around the city and meet people.
Couch surfing is a good short-term option. You can’t stay at one of these places for more than three to four days at a time.
The site wasn’t designed for that, so if you’re going to take this option be aware that it’s for very short-term stays only, and asking for a longer stay from your host will be seen as an odd request!
There are risks that come with free stays. There have been situations where travelers have been caught up in awkward living situations or their host has been unfavorable.
In any case, you can always vet the host by looking at the reviews and doing your due diligence.
Making an account and booking is free and it’s a fairly safe and reputable community.
The Hospitality Club
Similar to Couchsurfing, The Hospitality Club is a social networking site that offers travelers a cultural exchange for free.
It’s pretty popular in Italy as well. It’s mostly run by volunteers with a pure mission to assist travelers and make long-lasting connections.
Hosts don’t charge the lodgers for accommodation, and they build their reputation through reviews.
Italian Volunteer Organizations
There are plenty of Italian volunteering organizations that offer free accommodation alongside 25 hours of work a week.
The jobs differ depending on what the host needs, but it could be anything from gardening to handyman jobs, to organic farming.
Normally they will provide two meals a day as well, and the length of the jobs can vary from 2 days to three months.
This is an excellent way to experience Italian culture and see Italy’s countryside that you wouldn’t otherwise see going about your average touristy trip.
Each job differs but some easy websites to start are:
Friends and Family Networks
There have been way too many times on my travels when I’ve fretted about a place to stay only to have remembered about a friend of a friend who lives close to where I’m traveling.
Ask your Mum and Dad about any contacts in Italy.
Becoming friends with people from Italy can open so many doors. If you’ve ever met a traveler and become good friends, it becomes a given that you would invite them to your house and let them stay.
It’s a beautiful notion to maintain healthy relationships because you never know when you’ll find yourself in on the other side of the world in need of a generous pillow on which to rest your head.
Swapping your house with someone online can be a great option if you have a home that you can willingly swap. There are tonnes of active listings on house-swapping sites where neither party is expected to fork out any cash for the exchange.
This is a good option if you’re a little bit older and own your home, or you have a rented property that you’d be paying rent for regardless.
Swap like for like. If you have a one-bedroom apartment, you message someone else who has a one-bedroom apartment.
It never hurts to expand your search, you never know, there might be someone who has a family home, that actually wants to stay in a one-bedroom apartment in the city! Just be open to varying possibilities.
Woofing and Workaway
Sites like worldpacker.com and workaway.com have tonnes of active listings in Italy where you could be picking olives, and tomatoes, or working on an organic farm for 25 hours a week, but you get free accommodation and you get to meet other like-minded travelers.
It’s a great way to make long-lasting connections with fellow travelers and locals and it’s a fun environment to work in!
Most of the hosts are vetted by the sites, and there is lot of information on the listings as to what kind of work is going to be expected of you—so only apply for what brings joy!
Make sure you know exactly where you’re going when you apply for the trip. There’s nothing worse than applying for a job and realizing later that you need to get a €120 Uber out to the farm.
Some more reputable farms advertise themselves all year round so the farmer might even organise a lift from a certain area and collect a few people at once. Just ask.
And keep your options open! There are loads of opportunities out there, it doesn’t hurt to message a few people and get chatting.
Couchsurfing is good option if you’re looking to hop from city to city through Italian or if you wanting to get your bearings for a short while before you head off again.
It’s really niche accommodation option that’s great for short-term stays: a few days at a time. It’s free and generally, you’re sleeping on a couch or something of that nature.
The whole sentiment behind Couchsurfing was to let travelers travel through cities for a few days at a time to help out travelers but also give people a fully immersive cultural experience.
This is a great option for Italy because you can fully immerse yourself in the Italian lifestyle for a few days!
Agricultural tourism is popular in Italy, even with the locals, and it’s a great way to see the Italian countryside.
These are farm mansions camouflaged in the country surrounded by pastures and mountains. There are some really gorgeous farm stays in Tuscany and throughout the inland.
This isn’t the cheapest, but it’s a must try while you’re in Italy and if you go in off-peak season you can normally get a really good deal.
Work on a Farm
Similar to woofing, you get to work on a farm and the host will offer you free accommodation for five or six hours of work a day. Olive picking farms, tomato canning, solar farming, and overall property management are all options available in Italy.
Workaway.com or workpacker.com are both websites that have many viable options for Italian jobs.
There are some camp grounds that you can pay between $10 to $20 a night and you get all the amenities like showers and fire pits.There are also free camp spots in italy.
Wild camping is pretty much illegal in Italy except in Tuscany, they have a term called “temporary night bivouac” where you can set up a tent only for the night, generally from 20:00 to 8:00 in the morning.
Book a Relocation Car
You can book a relocation motorhome for a $1 a day and pay a bond security deposit. The company gives you 3 to 5 days to get from one depot to the other, which usually means one city to another.
You need to have your driver’s license for this and the security deposit which can normally be about $1000.
But you can choose a motorhome, which includes the kitchen and bed, so for three to five days you get super cheap accommodation, and you can take your time travelling along the way.
Travel in the Shoulder-Season of Off-Peak Seasons
The best time to go to Italy is in Winter, November through to February, when the crowds have died down and things tend to drop in price. The shoulder seasons in Italy are April, and May; and the first couple of weeks of June; September; and October.
It’s economical to do this because hotels, and flights but also a good idea to look for cheaper alternatives to hostels like house swapping, all drop down to reasonable prices and even though you’re not going to have that Renaissance-painting summer glow, you get far cheaper accommodation.
Book Your Accommodation in Advance
Another thing to do is book your flights and accommodation months in advance.
This does take planning ahead and organizing but half the reason why accommodation and airfares are so cheap when you book them in advance is that they’re not in demand as of yet—so companies can’t really afford to charge high prices as of yet.
Become an AU Pair
Europe, especially Italy, has a massive au pair culture. Au pairing is a great option if you’re a girl under 30 and a wonderful alternative to staying in a hostel.
You live in a family home and mind children. Duties can include light house duties, speaking to the kids in English, taking the kids to school, or cooking dinner a few nights a week.
You get paid an allowance and you don’t pay any rent, you get a private room to yourself and you always get some downtime.
You might need a working holiday visa to do this through an agency, and it helps if you have your driver’s license.
There are loads of au pairing agencies that take on new au pairs all the time. The agencies screen each family and nanny before pairing them.
Au pairing is probably the safest option—you get free accommodation, get to experience an authentic Italian culture and get paid a little allowance so you can travel afterward.
I am Britt I have been house sitting and pet sitting for the past 7 years. I have cared for 25 dogs, 35 cats 1 turtle, and 1 rabbit over 80+ houses in 15 countries.
The opportunity to experience different homes, cultures, and communities has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Through house sitting platforms like Aussie House Sitters, and Trusted House Sitters, I’ve connected with homeowners seeking reliable sitters. This unique way of living has not only allowed me to save money on accommodation but also offered a plethora of cultural exchange opportunities.
Being a member of these platforms has not only broadened my horizons but also opened doors to short and long-term house-sitting jobs. I’ve found joy in providing excellent pet care and ensuring the home is well maintained.
I get many questions about how to get start as a house sitters, so if you have any questions please reach out! I want everyone to enjoy this incredible lifestyle as well!
You can read more about about Jay and me here!
Or connect with me on Facebook or in our house sitting community on Facebook