Blog written by Jake DeCarli
Jake studied at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and has a Bachelor of Arts in Italian studies and international studies. He has a passion for the Italian language, traveling, and European politics. He is currently living in Matera, Italy as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in two technical schools.
There’s no big secrets to Italian hotels. Many operate like your standard hotel in the United States. A receptionist greets you at the front desk (in fact, the Italians just say “reception”), you have a room with the necessary commodities, and you check-out by 11 a.m. the day of your departure. While there are these similarities, there are noticeable differences that you should prepare to expect upon your arrival.
- Expect the building to be quite old. Many Italian hotels are inside 100+ year old buildings, and it’s quite uncommon to see a brand-new hotel in the center of the historic cities. Enjoy this aspect of Italian culture because the hotels have so much character to them.
- Have your passport on-hand for check-in. Italian hotels require guests to provide their documenti (in this case, your American passport), so they can make a photocopy of your main passport page. This serves as your proof of identity for the hotel. Each guest must have a photocopy of their passport taken by the hotel. Make sure that the hotel gives you your passport back after they make a photocopy. If you’re traveling with Curata Travel, you can skip this part! We will ask for your passport in advance to share necessary information with hotels. This makes group check in go much faster!
- Prepare to pay a small tax. Every hotel in Italy requires tourists to pay a VAT (Value Added Tax) or a city tax for each guest per night of stay. The tax ranges anywhere from 1 euro to 6 euros per night (usually on the higher end for major cities like Rome and Milan). Guests must pay the total VAT tax at the end of their visit during the check-out process. Even though you paid already for the cost of the room, you will still have to pay the VAT. Again, if you’re traveling with Curata Travel, we will take care of this for you! When it is time to check out, the only thing you will need to do is turn in your room key and settle any incidentals like a mini-bar tab or laundry services.
- Hotel breakfasts are not automatically included in all cases. When you travel with Curata Travel, breakfast is included in the tour costs, and the breakfasts at the hotels we choose to stay at are quite impressive! However, if you are traveling before or after a tour, or on your own, it is important to note that some hotels require guests to pay a fee for breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast at the hotel seems like an easy and quick fix before a morning out, but they may not be as elaborate as hotel breakfasts in the U.S. It is more worthwhile to go to a local coffee bar and enjoy fresh-baked pastries.
- The bathrooms will have different amenities. European bathrooms have different amenities than American bathrooms–most notably the bidet that’s located next to the toilet. Some bathrooms have a bathtub shower while others have a small stand-in shower (yes, they can be quite small in Italy). Also, most hotels in Italy have hair dryers, so don’t waste space in your suitcase by packing one! A couple of other items you may be used to having in an American hotel bathroom that may not be available in Italian hotels include washcloths (we like to bring our own travel washcloths) and conditioner (shampoo will always be available).
- Leaving your key at the front desk is common practice. A lot of Italian hotels (especially ones in older buildings) have older keys that can be clunky and awkward in a pocket (a difference from the easy key-cards in American hotels). If this is the case, you will have to leave your key at the front desk when you leave the hotel for the day. I’ve only stayed in one Italian hotel where I had a key card that I could keep on me all day. Don’t worry–there’s always staff at the front desk of the hotel to retrieve your key when you return from an excursion.
- Using your key card to turn on the electricity. For those hotels that have upgraded to a key card instead of a conventional key, there is a big difference between how it is used in Italy versus the US which can confuse many travelers. You can use the key card the same way to enter the room, either by scanning it or inserting it on the device located on the door or just beside the door. Once you’re in the room, you may notice that the AC and light switches are not functioning…don’t worry! You do not have a faulty room! Look for another device by the door, but inside your room, to insert your key card! This will turn on the electricity in the room. Italian hotels have implemented this for a couple of reasons: 1) It helps conserve energy. You won’t be able to accidentally leave a light on while you’re out exploring for the day; and 2) And maybe this is just me, but it helps you not to lose your card in the room!
- Refrigerators in rooms are hit and miss. Cheaper hotels in Italy tend not to have a mini-fridge in the room (something that is guaranteed in American hotel rooms). When going out for a meal, try to finish your food at the restaurant. Not only is it uncommon for Italians to distribute take-away boxes (scatole), but your hotel room may not have a mini-fridge for you to properly store your leftovers.
- Opening the windows is preferable to using air conditioning. It’s becoming more popular for Italian hotels to have air conditioning available for guests, but hotel air conditioners are not as strong as the ones in American hotels. Like every residential building in Italy, you will have a set of big windows with a set of shutters behind the glass. Take advantage of the fresh, Italian air by opening your window and utilizing the shutters! And even if there is air conditioning, Italian conservation laws are pretty strict about when air conditioning can be turned on during the year as well as how low a hotel can actually set the temperature.
- Floors are not carpeted. Carpeting is rare in Italy, especially in homes. Italian homes have beautiful, marble floors of different patterns. Many hotels also have marble floors in the rooms (sometimes they’ll have wood flooring). Prepare your feet by packing extra socks to walk-around your hotel room without freezing! Or some hotels will provide a pair of slippers for you to use during your stay!
- Finally, don’t expect to relax by watching TV. TVs are in every Italian hotel room, but, as you can imagine, all of the channels are in Italian. If you know the language or are just curious to browse the channels, feel free to do so. The rooms will have free wifi, so take advantage of that and watch some Netflix or Youtube videos if you wish.
Final note: Many of these cultural differences between American and Italian hotels seem small, but they are noticeable to the first time tourist and well-seasoned traveler. In any case, your Italian lodging will be your place of rest after a long day of exploring the cities.