Do your homework ( rent before you buy )
When you first arrive in Italy, for example in Rome, it is a good idea to spend a bit of time in a apartment with a short term rental agreement, using Airbnb or similar sites, or in a hotel or “pensione” (a more modest type of accommodation, although some can be very nice and friendly in residential areas). This way, you can get your bearing and become acquainted with the various neighborhoods or parts of the city, as well as with the public transportation system.
For more information about temporary lodging see the section on Hotels and other accommodation, and for information about public transportation in general see the section on Public transportation in Rome.
Once you have found your way around, if you are looking for rental accommodation, you can either rent a room in an apartment or, if you want more independence, you will need to rent your own flat…Italy / Europe is not cheap so it will take some money.
Obviously, the costs of apartment rentals are inversely related to the distance from the center of the town, and there is also a big difference between large and small towns. As a general indication of the apartment rental situation in Rome, a small place of some 500 sq feet in a nice area can run 1000 Euros/month. At current exchange rates (March 2015) that cost of apartment rental would be something like US$ 1,140. I still do not understand how people rent or buy houses in Italy since the average government employee’s salary after taxes is below 1500 Euros / month and to buy even a small apartment in Rome (1100 sq feet in the Monteverde area for example ) can cost more than 500,000 Euros.
There are several choices, however, and they depend on your budget, on how long you are staying, whether you are coming alone or with your family, whether you want to live in the centre and so on. If you are ok living outside the city and have a penchant for village life, a place in a country town (paese) can be a lot cheaper than one in Rome.
Here you will find some general information about renting an apartment or house in Italy, and particularly in Rome. Because of the national legislation that makes it easier to end a lease with a foreigner than with an Italian, Italians prefer to rent their apartments or houses to foreigners.This does not mean that the lease will be terminated without notice, or that there will be endless threats to up the rent.
Rather, it represents a safeguard for the owner of the apartment or house that, in the long run, should he have need of the house for personal reasons and no longer wish to rent it, or should he wish to regain possession because the person renting the house has either not paid the rent or caused unusual damage to the house or apartment, s/he will get relatively speedy relief in court.
So, the first plus about being a foreigner looking for a house or apartment to rent in Rome, or for that matter in most places in Italy, is that Italians are more likely to rent to you than to their compatriots. The fact that, as a foreigner, you are favorably regarded can help to some extent in negotiating the cost of renting the house or apartment. Landlords are doubly interested if they perceive that you are likely to continue to rent the house or apartment for 2 or 3 years.
The overall costs of apartment rental for which you should budget does not only include the apartment per se, but also regular condominium charges.
If you are renting an apartment in very attractive premises with doorman, gardens, and so on, it is a good idea to find out how much the condominium costs are because they can sometimes be high (but still low compared to condominion cost in main cities in the United States). Naturally, if there are exceptional maintenance costs or building repairs, these are to be paid for by the landlord. Heating and electricity costs can be quite expensive by comparison to US standards, so if you have a tight budget and want to know what you are getting yourself into, try to find out how much these expenses have been running over the past year.
When you rent an unfurnished apartment in Italy, or at least in Rome, unfurnished is an understatement. Usually even the kitchen is bare, with only a sink if you are lucky and with all the necessary tubes and wires are hanging out of the walls, ready to be connected or wired to whatever appliance you decide to install. Therefore, a partially furnished apartment may be a more practical solution if you are not planning to stay indefinitely, as this often includes the basic kitchen appliances, but not much else.
Rome has a very large foreign community, reflecting the presence of all of the Embassies as well as several international organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with its 3000 employees and under normal circumstances, many consultants. Therefore, there is a large housing rental market that caters to the expatriate community and that has a regular turnover as international civil servants or country representatives return to their home countries or are transferred to other locations.
Aside from websites that provide information on apartment rentals in Rome, there are also English-language magazines that cater to the foreign community. The rentals cover not only unfurnished, but also (fully) furnished properties. In addition, there are many “residences” which offer fully furnished accommodation with cleaning services.