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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, hotelkursaal&ausonia, Funky Tee