There are a number of ways of finding a property to rent, including the following:
- Ask your friends, relatives and acquaintances to help spread the word, particularly if you’re looking in the area where you already live. A lot of rental properties are found by word of mouth, particularly in major cities, where it’s almost impossible to find somewhere with a reasonable rent unless you have connections.
- Check the small advertisements in local newspapers and magazines (see below).
- Look for properties with a ‘to rent’ sign (affittasi or da affitare) in the window.
- Visit accommodation and letting agents. Most cities and large towns have estate agents ( agenzie immobiliari) who also act as letting agents for owners. Look under Agenzie Immobiliare in the yellow pages. It’s often better to deal with an agent than directly with owners, particularly with regard to contracts and legal matters.
- Look for advertisements in shop windows and on bulletin boards in shopping centres, supermarkets, universities and colleges, and company offices.
- Check newsletters published by churches, clubs and expatriate organisations, and their notice boards.
To find accommodation through small advertisements ( piccola pubblicità – affittasi appartamento) in local newspapers you must usually be quick off the mark. Buy newspapers as soon as they’re published and start phoning straight away. You can also view rental advertisements on the Internet, and all major newspapers have websites. Other sources include expatriate publications published in major cities such as Wanted in Rome and small newspapers such as Porta Portese (Wednesdays and Saturdays) in Rome, La Pulce (Florence) and Secondamano (Milan) – there are equivalents in most cities. Some estate agents also provide apartment listings in their real estate magazines, such as Solo Casa in Rome.
You must be available to inspect properties immediately or at any time. Even if you start phoning at the crack of dawn, you’re still likely to find a queue when you arrive to view a property in Rome or Milan.
The best days for advertisements are usually Fridays and Saturdays. Advertisers may be private owners, real-estate managers or letting agencies (particularly in major cities).
You can insert a ‘rental wanted’ ( cercasi appartamento or cercasi in affitto) advertisement in many newspapers and on notice boards, but don’t count on success using this method. Finding a property to rent in Rome is similar to the situation in London and New York, where the best properties are usually found through personal contacts. The worst time to look is during September and October when Italians return from their summer holidays and students are looking for accommodation.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy from Survival Books.