We will be in Florence, Italy, this summer. We would like to stay at a small home, a pensione that is not a hotel. Are there monthly rates that are less than daily rates?
–Harris, McCall, Idaho
A: Your instincts are good: Staying in a regular hotel for a month would be astronomically expensive, especially if you’re converting euros into dollars. Take a €150-a-night hotel room, multiply that by 30 days, then translate into dollars, and you get $5,700 for a month. Pensioni may indeed offer monthly rates that are cheaper than weekly or daily rates, but the only way to find out for sure is to ask the establishment where you’re interested in staying. By the way, these days, pensioni are not significantly different from hotels. In fact, the Italian tourism board classifies pensioni simply as one-, two-, or three-star hotels.
Another idea would be to book a vacation home or apartment. For long-term visitors, these alternate lodging places are more comfortable and roomy than hotels and can offer value for the money. Start your research online with Web sites such as Vacation Rentals by Owner, HomeAway.com, or Apartments in Florence. If you search thoroughly, you can find places that cost less than half what you’d pay to stay in a hotel for the same time period.
Have you ever considered home exchange? If you are willing to live in someone else’s home or apartment in Florence while they live in yours back in the States, you could stay in Italy virtually for free. Your only cost would be for membership in a home-exchange club, such as HomeExchange.com, IntervacUSA.com, or Homelink.org. The only caveat is that you may or may not find someone in Florence who wants to exchange during the exact dates that you plan to travel.