Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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The approach to looking for a rental in Bologna is not unlike anywhere else: networking and word-of-mouth often end up being the best ways to find a place. Approach your search from several different directions. Try browsing through the housing listings in the free magazines on stands around town or look for the offresi (offering) or cercasi (looking for) announcements posted all over the university quarter. You might even consider placing an ad of your own in the classifieds, Chapter 1: Plugging In. A word to the wise: if you don’t feel confident speaking Italian, try to take someone with you who does. In any case, be sure to show any legal documents to an Italian speaker before signing.


One way to find an apartment is to browse the various free newspapers and magazines with listings by agenzie immobiliari (real estate agencies). These publications come out weekly or bi-monthly and are available throughout the city. Look for titles such as Casa Dove, Gazetta Immobiliare, Attico and Telecasa. Each agency has a section with most of its available properties. At first, you may think you have to read the magazine ad by ad to see if a particular agency has something that meets your requirements. There is an easier way! Go straight to listings by area (usually in the back) rather than by agency. Everything already mentioned in an agency ad is repeated in this section. This method is especially time-saving if you already have an idea of the neighborhood where you would like to live. Another method is to visit the agencies in your neighborhood of choice. Once an agency has found you a place, they may also assist you with some of the initial negotiations with your landlord. If you use a real estate agency, you will be expected to pay a finder’s fee, usually equivalent to one month’s rent. Always ask in advance.


As in other cities, students and young professionals share apartments in Bologna and it’s not unusual to move in with people you’ve never met before. If you’re not particularly picky about peace and quiet, the student connections can end up being a great way to meet others. If your roommates are from out of town, you may even find yourself alone on the weekends. Most of these arrangements are organized by way of annunci (announcements), which you can find tacked up on walls and bulletin boards all over the university district, especially around Piazza Verdi. Competition for rooms can be fierce. There are people who trawl the university area and remove all the notices for rooms they are interested in, rather than copying the phone number and risk leaving the ad displayed for others. You can also place your own roomwanted notices around the city, but don’t count on this method as a reliable option.


Fortunately, there are several helpful resources for English-speaking foreign students. Your first stop should be the Student Accomodation and Information Service (SAIS) office and their free housing service called Bussola (compass). The English-speaking staff can


It came as a great surprise to me just how expensive the whole process is, from the agency fees to the rent itself - comparable to London or Milan. In true Italian style, anything found by word of mouth or through an introduction is by far the best.

Philippa Hoddell

help with all your housing questions and even arrange for you to view potential apartments. If you want to search the Bussola housing database, you must have a user name and password from the SAIS office. The University of Bologna ARSTUD office manages 18 different university residences in Bologna.

SAIS - Student Accomodation and Information Service

Via Zamboni, 62/b
Tel. 051.254423
Open 9-12:30

ARSTUD - Agenzia Regionale per il Diritto allo Studio Universitario
(Regional Agency for the Right to University Education)

Via Schiavonia, 3
Tel. 051.6436900


While finding a place to live is mostly done by pounding the pavement, there are a few websites with databases of available housing in Bologna, most notably and Both are in Italian only.


Some Bolognese families seek an English-speaking ragazza alle pari (au pair) to help with children, or a badante (caregiver) for the elderly. You can advertise yourself independently, spread the word via contacts, place a classified ad or put up notices.


The following list will help you decipher the code used to describe apartments for rent.

Arredato: fully furnished
This could range from an apartment that is truly furnished with everything, including frying pans, crucifixes and pictures painted by the owner. It could also mean that the apartment is equipped with just the bare essentials: kitchen appliances, beds and tables.

Semi arredato: semi furnished
There is no norm as far as a semi furnished apartment is concerned. You could find everything you need and then some. You could find only a toilet and a sink. Call the landlord or agency and ask for specifics before you even bother going to see the place.

Non arredato or vuoto: not furnished or empty
Here again, the meaning can vary. Hopefully, you will find a finished bathroom but there is no guarantee. It’s not uncommon for the landlord to tell you that the kitchen is without appliances, either because the previous tenants will be taking the appliances with them, or because the apartment has just been rennovated and there is literally nothing in the kitchen.

Posto letto: bed in a shared room

Camera singola/doppia: single/double room
Some flats are same-sex, so check the noun endings carefully

Ragazzo/a: boy/girl

Studente/studentessa: male student/female student

Other qualifiers:

Serio/a: hard-working (as opposed to noisy party animal)

Referenziato/a: with references i.e., reliable

Fumatore/non-fumatore: smoker/non-smoker

Settimana corta: short week
With this type of arrangement, you are expected to disappear on the weekends. Yes, that means vacate the premises. This maneuver is more tricky for foreigners than for Italians, who often go home on Friday afternoon and return Monday, laden with delicacies prepared by la mamma (mother).