Best places to stay in Italy

Going to Italy was an adventure in budget travel. We flew over on frequent flyer miles and had a really tight budget. The goals for the trip were simple and frugal; they included eating, walking, having a place to sleep, walking, taking pictures and getting from place to place on public transportation.  Once we arrived we just enjoyed being there.  To accomplish these goals we had our trusty Rick Steve’s guide to Italy and used it to lay out our plan of visiting six cities, seeing what we could for free and staying at his two dollar sign accommodations in each town.  His one dollar listings were hostels so you might worry about the two dollar sign, but we didn’t, and believe me there was no need to be apprehensive. The places we stayed were amazing, and the people who operated them were delightful to talk to.

 The above picture is one of the most famous scenes in Siena. The shot is taken from a bridge with an opening to this view which looks at this magnificent brick church of San Domenico. In fact this very picture is featured in Rick Steves book. The long low building in front and to the right of the church is where we stayed in Siena.  Our balcony is the second one in from the right of the church. The Alma Domus is the former residence of the nuns and offered a pleasant atmosphere at a great value.

Looking out from our “quaint balcony” we could view the Siena red roof tops and the bell tower which tolled every evening and very early on Sunday mornings.

 See how pretty this room is, just perfect for Gina and I.  
 This silly grin and dreamy look on my face gives you an idea of how much I just enjoyed being there.  We spent many minutes taking in the view from our room.

 We arrived in Lucca by bus just after dark. The trick is trying to find these rooms in towns with dimly lit narrow streets and few signs. We loved the flat streets of Lucca.  After two days of walking in towns on hills it gave our legs a break.

Gina is good at following directions and in short order we came upon this grand door that looked like it could open into a castle or a dungeon.  It was a little hard to tell in the dark. We rang the bell and waited, a voice came through the speaker that said he was expecting us.  He would be down in a minute and I couldn’t wait to see what was behind this huge door.

 To our surprise, it opened into a courtyard.  We were guided across the large square, through another grand opening, up a flight of stairs and down a hallway to our room with a private bathroom just across the hall. We should not have been too surprised because Rick Steves says La Magnolia B&B is “buried in a ramshackle old palace in a central location.” It was a perfect location and a wonderful place to stay.

 Obviously these pictures were taken in the daylight and the view out back from our one window was just fine.

Lucky for us free bikes were provided, because the reason we wanted to visit Lucca was so we could ride along the made to order, smooth, flat rampart around the old city wall.  So far we are doing well with the budget.

Oh how we loved magical Manarola. We arrived by train, at the bottom of the hill.  Our lovely room with a view is pictured below, at the very top of the town.  See that large pinkish structure and then the small space with three buildings straight across from it.  Ours is the little pink one between the two lighter colored ones. Trucking up that hill with luggage was just one of the reasons we packed light. We saw two other women who did not pack light, nor could they find their room. The afternoon sun was warm that day, they were not as happy as we were.

Walking down the very narrow street that was ours we heard a lady calling out the window, saying the name of the place we were looking for over and over.  We looked up and said “Yes, we are looking for Ariadmare.  She was very happy to see us, spoke no English, but none the less showed us all around the room explaining how all the doors, windows, keys and lights worked, we smiled and nodded, but got the jist of it. Later her son would be up to go over it again in English, with a thick Italian accent.

The panoramic view off our patio was mesmerizing.  All through the town there were vineyards to walk, hills to climb, pictures to take and streets and shops to explore, what more could you ask for.

This giant water wheel was right around the corner after coming down the longest hill. The incline was so steep you had to hold yourself back.  I joked that this is how the town got its name.  Man-a-roll-a-down- the-hill.

And then we arrived in Rome after a 4 hour train ride of uninterrupted views of life in Italy. It was late afternoon when we got off the train, and we knew our Nun run inn was near the station. We walked up this street and saw a small round building that said information center. Perfect. We asked the whereabouts of The Suore di Santa Elisabeth inn. The lady sent us far away and we walked for a half hour or more with our luggage in tow, only to come back to the same place, walk behind the information center to the door of our inn. Gina figured it out.

We spent the rest of the early evening taking in the full view from our roof terrace that looked right down on the information center where we had stopped. By the time we reached Rome our budget was in such good shape that we added another goal…….shopping!

The terrace was great place to hang out in the day light hours as well, resting up after our long day walking the streets of Rome. Even with a few shopping excursions we still came in under our tight budget and room to put our purchases in our suitcases. We brought our supper up to the terrace and watched the sunset.

 That was just after the half hour nap we had after walking from 9am till 6pm.  We did not consider this a bare bones place to stay because of the great breakfast hall and the terrace, but I gotta admit the walls in our room were pretty bare except for the crucifix above our beds.

We slept well after the bell ringer guy, who got carried away,(I pictured him swinging from the bell rope, unable to stop the ringing) finished his job. It was our last night in Italy and I was dreaming. 
It was a pleasant dream, cause I knew my husband of 45 years, would be happy about the budget. I loved all of our cozy places to stay and much prefer them to any hotel.
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