Many new arrivals with low expectations and less money choose to rent a room. If you look through the classifieds or university bulletin boards, you’ll run into announcements from students looking for a fourth or fifth roommate, or else a family that has a spare bedroom with some privacy, possibly even an independent entrance. In Rome and Milan, these rooms can be found for as little as ‚500 per month in some of the outer neighborhoods, about 60 percent of the standard rent for a onebedroom apartment.

But in the end, there’s no substitute for your own place, if you can afford it. If you’re dreaming of hardwood floors, a large terrace with grape leaves overhead and a view of the city, a huge shower with stone floors, and large closets in the bedroom to fit all the clothes you plan to purchase in Italy, you’re half in luck. The large closets should be easy enough to find, and you may be able to land the terrace, for a price. Almost every apartment in Italy has some sort of balcony, except a few of the oldest ones in the historic center. The hardwood floors are more difficult to find”linoleum is par for the course, tiles if you’re lucky”and you can forget about the big shower. Bathrooms in Italy are much more compact than the North American standard. If you have old-school taste, you may be pleasantly surprised by the gas stoves in the kitchen, and the latest kitchenware and stylish coffeemakers are just a quick shopping trip away.

The classified ads”discussed individually in the Prime Living Locations chapters”will tell you if it’s a monolocale (one-bedroom) or bilocale (two-bedroom) apartment, the square meters of floor space, and whether it is arredato (furnished). There may be some mention of parking if you live outside the city. Fortunately, air-conditioning is becoming more common in Italy.

Another consideration is the heating, which may or may not be mentioned. Central heating”which is most often regulated by month of the year, not the temperature outside”is the most common. But you may have the luck to land an independent thermostat, in which case when the heat goes on and off is not at the discretion of the Farmer’s Almanac. Air-conditioning? If you’re lucky. The exorbitant cost of electricity in Italy makes air-conditioning a luxury. It is therefore used mostly in workplaces when the outside temperature becomes truly unbearable. Even then, it breaks down periodically. On rare occasions, steamy weather can produce such a stress on utilities that they declare blackouts, when electricity is shut off in certain neighborhoods for hours at a time. Keep an ear out for such developments in the depths of summer. You don’t want to be caught in an elevator when the power goes out.

Some conveniences, such as washing machines, are optional. Dryers are almost unheard of. Refrigerators will likely be smaller than you are used to, and in general, electric appliances are deemed unnecessary when a good old mechanical one will do the trick.

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