Here is what happened…
I did everything I could to get room in Bologna over the internet, but, of course, like your long distance relationship with your boyfriend, I also failed miserably. I was left with not much choice but to just go there and find something. I was terrified not only that I won’t finding anything, because it was already August, but also that I’ll have to spend unnecessary money on living in Bologna for a week and still not finding anything. Nevertheless I knew I had to go and since there was money at stake I just got a grip and said to myself that failure is not an option. The cheapest flight allowed me to stay there for 3 days and I had to make the best of that. I booked a B&B in the city center (the most bizarre B&B I’ve ever been in, owned by an Indian/Italian guy) and three days before my flight I got straight to business. I started writing messages on Facebook, emailing people every minute, writing to all the student organizations, real estate agencies and random people that I could find and I arranged a good amount of viewings to do during my stay. I was told (by a random guy off the internet that studies there) that August was not a good month to go and look for apartments because most people were off to vacations or just have gone home for the summer and Bologna was supposed to be empty during that month. Yeah right! Well it was only partially true. For that reason I went in the end of August. My thoughts behind the idea were that if I’m looking for an apartment from the 1st of September than going one week before that I will surely encounter some desperate souls looking for a tenant last minute, and oh boy was I right. At a curtain point I had people who were contacting me to see their flat!
Not ever relying on technologies, before I went I printed the maps and the routs for all the flat viewings with information about the flats themselves. It looked something like this:
I have to say it was very helpful for making a decision at the end because after 10 viewings you don’t even remember your own name anymore.
And there I went with a backpack, a hat and my folder with maps. My first viewing was form 3.00PM and I landed at 1.50PM local time. I didn’t even have time to check into my B&B, I had to go to the viewing directly from the airport because I was sensing what would happen… At first it was all swell-I took a bus from the airport but for some reason the bus didn’t stop at the city center but went directly to the railway station. Now, the city center and the railway station are not that far apart but panicked Maya didn’t know that. It was 2.20PM when I arrived at the railway station. With no internet and no local phone number it all seemed lost. I had 4 viewings that afternoon alone and on top of all I seemed to have forgotten my Italian all of a sudden…
And what to do, what to do-I start walking in a random direction of course. After very intense 15 minutes (which seemed like forever) I finally found wifi from a random café. I was saved! I send a message to the guy with the first flat that I’ll be late, my GPS found my location and I was only 30 minutes late for the viewing and I made it for the other 3 right on time. I never bought an Italian sim card because there was free wifi everywhere in the city center. During my short stay I managed to see 10 flats for just two days and a half (I even had half a day to actually look around Bologna and grab a bite at a local restaurant because I totally deserved it after all the walking I did).
I didn’t take a taxi even once (but I did take the bus) because I know how they scam tourists and I was just not in a mood and not that desperate! And it’s a good thing I didn’t because it turned out the whole city center was under construction and there was no way to get about with a car. Actually the distances in Bologna are not that bug and walking is not a problem at all.
I have to say that the flat viewings were not that scary at all. After the first few I already knew by heart all the questions that I needed to ask and in the end it was actually really pleasant because I was calmer and more approachable for people to talk to. On some of the viewings I was even offered some coffee and sweets.
Ah yeah, and the flat I chose- I knew it was THE ONE the moment I saw the two bathrooms. It was a gorgeous spacious flat in the city center, located in an inner courtyard which means that you don’t hear the noise from the streets. The girl that showed it to me, Clara, was soo nice as well! I knew right away that we would get along just fain.
…And that was that. Clara said that she’ll save the room for me and I was on my way. Even though I was just for a few days I felt in love with Bologna and I knew I’ll feel great there. It was a city full of life, entertainment, beautiful people, food, and little shops everywhere-it was just magical! Ok the ice-cream wasn’t that great, but hey, I’ll find the best ice-cream in town if it’s the last thing I do and I will share it here for all you guys! Despite all expectations I didn’t get scammed or robbed or worse. Everybody was very nice and respectful. I got asked out on a date 3 times for one afternoon: once form a complete stranger, once from the waiter in the restaurant I ate in the city center and once form a guy from my flat viewings, and as much as it was flattering it rose some concerns and it was even a bit annoying because I wasn’t looking for any attention. But hey, who wouldn’t get used to that kind of annoying.
In summery here is some useful information on how to find a flat:
Finding a flat involves a set of traits and somewhat previous experience for it to be successful i.e. to find a flat within a walking distance from your university and not live with total jerks (yes previous flat mates, I’m talking about you!).
Having read a lot of opinions on the matter (and I say read because the students from last year who have gone to Bologna were nowhere to be found….) I came to the conclusion that the best time to look for an apartment, if you’re low on budget like me, is the end of August. Or if you feel that that’s too late, just remember that going the last week of the month is your best choice because owners are looking to find a tenant quickly.
The sources that you can choose from are endless. University of Bologna provides a link to an organization called SIAS (Student Accommodation and Information Service) aimed to assist international students in their search. I didn’t manage to get in contact with them or to get help from them whatsoever…., but their website provides a great deal of useful information. In short that would be:
- The student residences are hell expensive! Well if you feel like spending 7.900 euro for a double room for 10 months and have a curfew, be my guest.
- The only thing student accommodations are good for are that they provide temporary residence (from 1 week to a few months) on a decent price compared to hotels, provided that you book them really ahead of time because they get filled up quickly. ( But if you ask me, I managed to find a flat for 3 days-a temporary accommodation seems a bit unnecessary, although I guess that it will save you some stress.)
Anyways, I do recommend you look around their website, if anything it’s in English. I’ve included a link: http://www.sais.ceur.it/en-us/sais.aspx?idC=61642&LN=en-US
Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you about the things that are really useful:
First and up most: Facebook! (Insert fireworks here)
If you haven’t noticed Facebook has become the ultimate tool of human communication and interaction. Find and get involved with all the groups that contain the magic words: Erasmus (the year that you’re studying), affitasi, offro stanze, Bologna ect.
The group that I found, and I have to say that 80% of the apartments I saw where from there, is called Affittasi!!!!!!!!! Offro/cerco casa a BOLOGNA . Hopefully when you’re reading this future Erasmus student the group will still exist, but even if it doesn’t, I’m sure that something similar will replace it.
Yes, it is a bit depressing to get notifications for apartments in your news feed every day reminding you for months that you’re not doing anything about it…but it is also a very helpful tool if you’re a procrastinator like me. The most positive thing about the Facebook groups is the quick response and the fact that you feel like you’re talking to real people in real time.
Other good websites are: www.easystanza.it, www.bologna.bakeca.it and also www.flatme.it ( from here I found my flat), there is also www.housinganywhere.com but damn, I have no idea now this website is supposed to work.
Aaand let me tell few words about www.Google.it -start using it! If you’re studying Italian and you ever need help, take it from me and make it the home page on your browser. The real Google, like my boyfriend used to call it, contains everything you need to know if you’re about to dive into the Italian world. News, websites, forums-lots and lots of forums. They are the cradle of knowledge holding the answer to all of your questions! (and I mean all!!!)
Double or Single:
Now, I can’t tell you to get a double room because its better, but I can tell you that if you’re looking to really learn the language and you’re planning on getting the most of your experience abroad, then getting a double room and sacrificing a bit of your alone time is worth it. Not only that, but it’s literally worth it: the prices for a double room go from 180 to 280 euro, mostly depending on the location of the flat.
If that is not appealing enough for you, yes, there are plenty of single rooms to choose from, going from 300 to 450 euro, but whatever you do, make sure you live with students, and whether you’re a guy or a girl, try to find a mixed flat to live in-the atmosphere is way better.
What to look for in a flat:
1.When you go to see an apartment always ask the person who is showing you around who he/she is- a tenant, owner etc., and if you are going to live with them ask some personal questions to get to know them better. That will help you later with your choice if you’re undecided about which apartment to rent.
2.Heating. It’s best for everybody, especially to your budget, if the building you’re living in has a centralized heating system in respect to the autonomous one (autonomous means that you pay how much you use, and centralized means that the price you pay is fixed, usually included in the monthly rent).
3.If you’re asked to give a deposit for the room, make sure to know what are the terms under which it will be given back to you.
4.Solitude. Your room is the place where you need to rest and perhaps study. The city center is a rather noisy place especially at night. Make sure if you’re getting an apartment there that your room has noise isolating windows!
5.Know that you must always ask about the prices of the bills because not all of them are covered by the rent. Just to be safe ask for all of them separately: electricity, heating, gas, water, condominio(that’s the tax for the communal spaces, such as the stairs of the cooperation etc.), the tax for the trash, the all precious internet. Don’t expect that the person showing you around will remember to tell you if you don’t ask.
6.Eating is important and therefore a relatively spacious kitchen is necessary, especially if you’re sharing a flat with more than one person. Take it from me, I know you don’t cook, but you’re going decide to make muffins one night but Antonio, your flatmate, is gonna be making his famous ragù that takes at least two hours and a half to cook and once he’s done before you know it his brother Alfredo is already in the kitchen cooking god knows what, and you’ll end up going to bed hungry..
7.You’ re gonna be going out in the evenings, that’s more than certain, so keep in mind that choosing a nice and safe neighborhood to live in is also important even if you’re staying just for one semester.
And there you go. Those were my tips on getting a flat in Bologna. By following the acronym WHISKEY you now know what to look for in a flat. Another piece of advice I can give is not to get desperate and settle for a room you don’t like. There is plenty to choose from and with a bit of patience you will find YOUR place.