Be clear about your purpose in going to Italy. Write out a mission statement, because as you drill down into details — this will come in handy often through the process. You’ll find yourself checking back on your intention, as you get to various decision points.
The first time I came to Italy alone was in 2005, for two months. My mission statement was: I want to experience living in a foreign country—more rural, to have some time for family and friends to visit, and have time to write. I do not want to be too isolated. And I want to keep this all within my time and money budgets.
So when it came to choosing housing, I found one casa for the first month that sleeps 5 (3 bedrooms, 2 baths, walk into town, beautiful views). And one smaller casa for the second month, which will provide more writing time. Both required renting a car.
For finding your own housing, start by talking with your friends, asking who they know who has traveled in Italy. This is my first trip here, and I learned a lot from other travelers’ tales. You can also get leads on places to stay—both locations and actual rentals. I found two lovely options through the friend network.
You can rent a room in a private villa, often with use of the kitchen. How many housemates you have and how much use of additional facilities varies greatly. I found a 4 person villa (including the owner) in Perugia, walk to public transportation, for 450 Euros a month. You had to rent from the first to the last of the month, and this was with a word of mouth recommendation.
Renting a room in an agriturismo with breakfast in the province of Siena can be found for around 60 Euros per person per night. Renting a small house can run from 2000 to 3000 USD/month and up.
When you are using the internet, stick to sites that your friends and theirs have successfully used. Post a note in your alumni chat. Check www.craigslist.com. Rental sites that have British homeowners or cater to Brits are often more open to pets.
I found my houses through my friend network: Elizabeth’s friend Jan runs tours through Europe, and Jan recommended Verdidea (www.verdidea.com ) who, in turn, recommended my two homes for the summer.
And while you are deciding, check out your CD and DVD store. There are several good travel CDs out on Italy. If you subscribe to www.Netflix.com they also have several which are useful to get a sense of the country and its regions.