What to Expect from Italian Hotel Rooms

People traveling to Italy from another country are usually aware they have to prepare themselves for a few differences – different language, different currency, etc. Hotel rooms, on the other hand, are cookie-cutter boxes that are the same everywhere – right?


It’s not about better or worse, it’s about knowing what to expect when you check into a hotel in Italy. Even if you’re staying in hotels that are part of chains you recognize – Hilton, Best Western, Marriott – the rooms are likely to be more Italian and less chain-like. Comparing your Italian hotel room with a room in another country isn’t going to get you very far, so instead, here are a few tips about what to expect from Italian hotels so that you don’t have any unwelcome surprises.

Smaller Rooms

In historic city centers, the buildings have been there much longer than the hotels – so any hotel occupying an historic building has limitations to what they can do to the structure, even on the inside. Many of the historic buildings that are now hotels were once private homes, so they may already have been broken up into usable “hotel room” sized rooms, but there certainly weren’t bathrooms in every room back then.




Putting en suite bathrooms into already not-very-large bedrooms means cutting into bedroom space, so don’t be surprised if the rooms and bathrooms are quite small. New construction doesn’t have this sort of limitation, so hotels outside the city centers (such as hotels by airports or in the suburbs) tend to be more akin to the rooms you might expect.

Separate Beds

In order to make every hotel room more versatile, hoteliers often put two twin beds in a room and then push them together if the guest has booked a “matrimonial” bed. You may not notice the difference when you check in, since there’s a large bedspread covering both beds, but when you pull the covers back that night you may find two twin beds made up underneath.

Generally speaking, the beds are sturdy enough that you don’t risk falling into a chasm in the middle of the night, but it’s good to be aware of – especially if you’re traveling as a couple and you’re used to cuddling together in the middle of the bed. You might have to pick sides this time.



Aside from the small size of the overall room, it’s in the bathroom that most surprises occur. These are the main things to be aware of when you’re inspecting your hotel bathroom.

  • Bidet – While bidets are common in many parts of the world, this may be the first time some travelers have encountered one. They look like toilets without a seat, and they’re supposed to be used for cleaning the parts of the body that are sometimes difficult to reach when wiping. You can just ignore the bidet’s presence if you like, or you can do what countless non-bidet-using travelers have done for years – you can use it to soak/wash your feet or to shave your legs.
  • Shower pull cords – Showers and bathtubs in the hotels in Italy have strings or thin ropes hanging from the wall or ceiling, usually somewhere near the faucets, and there’s almost no explanation of what these are. They’re for emergencies, if you fall in the shower and need help, and while they make no sound when you pull them they do alert someone at the front desk. In other words, unless you actually need help, don’t pull those cords.
  • Different flushers – There’s no uniform flushing mechanism on Italian toilets, so there are a number of options you may be faced with, from buttons on the top or the side of the tank to an old-fashioned pull-cord hanging from a tank above the toilet itself. If you find two buttons on the tank, one smaller than the other, that usually means the smaller button is for liquid waste only while the larger button is for solid waste.

photos, top to bottom, by: garybernbridge, William Crochot, Funky Tee

10 thoughts on “What to Expect from Italian Hotel Rooms

  • Margaret Cowan

    Great article with some good info to prepare first timers to Italy! The types of toilet flushing systems in Italy seem endless…to my amusement.

    If you’re a bigger person, some shower stalls will seem/be too small so be patient. Many Italian hotel bathrooms don’t have bath tubs, so ask for one if you prefer a bath over a shower.

    North American hotels have wash cloths but Italian hotels don’t, so I always bring a wash cloth with me.

    Many hotels in historic buildings don’t have elevators, so if you have difficulty with stairs, make sure your Italian hotel has an elevator, which will probably be smaller than ones at home.

    Buon viaggio!

  • David Haley

    All true, and it is good to know that just because your room has an air conditioner, you shouldn’t expect it to get cold in your room. Also, no hallway ice machines usually. Ice in small quantities may be available from the hotel bar, but the bar isn’t usually open during the day…only in the evening.
    Nothing that would make me want to stay home, but it is nice to be prepared for the differences.

  • Clayton

    I normally tell people that they can’t go to Italy and expect it to be like home. And my one thought that I tell people about the bidet is that people use it to clean their bottoms. If you would put your foot in the toilet, then put it in the bidet. I have never used one and I don’t plan to give it a try. It’s very good of you to share this since I’ve run into a lot of people that aren’t prepared for a different country to be different.

  • Marcu

    Good thing mentioning the small size of the rooms, but that’s common sense. You just can’t build lavish modern hotels in downtown Rome.

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  • Kori cox

    This is great to know. I must admit that the last couple time’s that I stayed in Italy, I was in a hostel which had no air conditioning. I was not prepared to deal with living in a hostel for a week but I know the next time, I will book a hotel room.

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