Affordable Europe: In Italy, bargain lodging

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In Italy, even the world of private sublets are pricey during the summer. But they can still be better values than hotels. You'll find listings posted in English on Craigslist and on the booking service Venere, plus in Italian on Kijiji.

But other sources for lodging may offer the truest bargains:

Try the apartment finderCross-Pollinate, which focuses on short-term stays of no more than 14 nights. This website lists more than 200 apartments, guest houses, and B&Bs; at the typical tourist stops for the "Grand Tour" of Italy, as well as for Paris and Barcelona. All apartments have been screened by Cross-Pollinate, a family-run company, to make sure they meet strict quality standards. Apartments can be selected by size, location, budget, and number of guests. Only apartments available for let immediately are listed, thus eliminating any superfluous emails and phone calls. Note: Landlords may expect deposits and some or all payments in cash.

Try farm stays. For country travelers wanting to bask under the Tuscan sun without the blockbuster price, agriturismo is the way to go. Agriturismo broadly refers to "farm" vacations, where country houses are rented to guests and offer the chance to learn about the local food culture, pick fresh fruits and vegetables to eat, and learn how to make wine and honey. Agriturismi are governed by the Italian state. That means that official, state-certified agriturismi are listed at tourist office online sites for each region of Italy, which can be found on the the official directory.

Convent and monastery stays, where rooms are sparsely decorated and evening curfews are enforced, are the best urban options if you're looking for cheap and cheerful lodging. The bonus, aside from the low price, is that some offer a pasto, or dinner, for about €6 in addition to room cost, and the building may hide a surprise cloister or garden, for a bit of relaxation the midst of a busy city. For info, try [Note, there are also more fabulous clergy residences, so if you are considering a cardinal splurge, look for Italy's abbeys and monasteries-turned-luxury villas. You'll pay more, but get more.]

—Erica Firpo, blogging from Rome for our Affordable Europe series.

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