My mom and I arrive to Cinque Terre hours after we were supposed to, thanks to the Italian train strikes taking place on the day we hike it from photogenic Venice to Milan to La Spezia to Vernazza (whew).
Exhausted, moderately grumpy and ready to take in the beauty of the Ligurian region, we exit the train station and begin our search for our Flipkey vacation rental and the woman who owns it.
We wander past the rock archway leading to the beach and down the car-free lane lined with tiny shops and restaurants, craning our necks to find our host.
Turns out, she finds us instead. A tiny Italian women speaking no English guides us up some uneven stone stairs and down a tiny path to our home for the next three days, an adorable apartment.
I’ve never stayed in any place other than a hotel or hostel (or friends place) during my travels, so looking into the world of vacation rentals is a first. Other travelers rave about the vacation rental/apartment experience and consider it a viable (and often preferred) alternative to traditional lodging.
I decided to give it a try when looking for lodging in Cinque Terre, thanks largely to my wish to actually experience the region verses have a more manufactured experiences. I turned to FlipKey to begin my hunt.
FlipKey offers a massive database of apartments to rent (around 300,000 all over the world). I typed in the dates I was looking for, the number of beds I wanted, and the location and a list came up informing me of my options. I sorted by price and eliminated those out of my budget and found a few which could be our temporary Italian home.
While the site is easy to use, it is up to the owners of the properties to ensure the information is correct and they don’t always do that. I messaged quite a few properties with my dates and received responses that they were booked, which was frustrating.
With that in mind, not all the information for some of the properties was accurate. Locations were misidentified and sometimes properties were described far better than they actually were, which was only determined by customer reviews.
But, the FlipKey experience in itself was user-friendly and smooth, and when we opened the door to our cute little apartment tucked into the hill of Vernazza, we were delighted with the property.
Tips for using Flipkey
Because location and budget were the most important things to me, I did a search first by budget and then reviewed how close these properties were to the actual spot I wanted. You can search based on: relevance, price (high to low or low to high), guest ratings, reviews and featured properties.
Always read the reviews. Like any site which encourages reviews, be mindful of what you are reading. I typically eliminate the reviews with the most positive ratings and the most negative, just to get a more fair look at a property.
Reach out to numerous apartments via Flipkey. Not every owner updates their dates, so even if you find a place you love, it might not be available. If you are on a time crunch, message a few owners at a time and then review your options.
The bottom line
The apartment we rented in Vernazza was adorable, in the perfect location for exploring the gorgeous town and the Cinque Terre region. It was well-kept, matched the reviews and was easy to book. I’m now a fan of skipping the hotels and opting for a place that has more of a home feel. Would I use Flipkey again? You bet.
Have you used FlipKey or a site like FlipKey?
Editor’s Note: My apartment stay was courtesy of FlipKey, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.