International House Hunters

We recently got a heads up that HGTV’s House Hunters International was in Bologna. According to the HGTV website, they filmed two episodes, one following a buyer and one following a renter (a student at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna). We haven’t watched the shows yet because, for one thing, we haven’t spent the time figuring out if we can watch HGTV from Italy. But it’s also because we were busy with an international house hunting mission of our own!

Coincidentally, we only looked at three apartments, which is the format HGTV uses for their show. Ideally, we would have looked at more, but we were motivated to find something quick and happy to minimize the number of phone calls we needed to make in Italian (I should be making chicken noises at myself). We also liked each of the apartments that we saw and wanted to scoop up our favorite before anyone else did.

Here’s the rundown:

What we were looking for

We focused our hunt in the center of Bologna, known by locals as “Centro”. There are great neighborhoods outside of the city walls with easy access to the center by bus, bike, or moto (with less air pollution and cacca di cane, I might add). But we decided to go all in and live amongst the many food vendors, bars, trattorias, museums, porticos, and piazzas of Centro. At the same time, we wanted to live in a quieter part of Centro, so we focused our search on the lazier streets South of Piazza Maggiore. This is also the part of Centro we’ve explored most during our first month in Bologna (usually getting lost on our way home to our previous short-term rentals just outside Porta Santo Stefino and Porta Castiglione), so we felt slightly more educated in identifying a street as “a good one” in this area.

Apartment features
We were looking for 2-bedrooms so that we can have a guest room/office. We wanted 1st floor (“primo piano”) or higher so that we feel safe and get light. Note: In Italy, the ground floor is zero or “piano terra” so the 1st floor is really the 2nd floor in American-speak. We kept our eyes peeled for bonus features like a parking spot (“posto auto”), washing machine (“lavatrice”), or dishwasher (“lavastoviglie”). We also looked for apartments that were partially furnished (“semi arredato”), which generally means they at least have kitchen and bathroom appliances. A couple of the ads we responded to were for completely empty apartments (no fridge, no toilet!)

What we found

With all of the expenses considered (rent, condominium expenses, parking fees, real estate agent fees), the three apartments we saw came close on price. Note: when you use a real estate agent (“immobiliare”) to find an apartment they generally charge you about a month’s worth of rent for their services.

Appartamento #1

The apartment’s address is on a major street, but the building itself is set back from the street by another apartment building and is very quiet. Pros: Assigned parking space directly in front of the building, a wonderful, green communal garden. Cons: Outdated bathroom in need of minor repairs, apt in need of paint job. In a nutshell: This is a gem! It’s a little rough around the edges but it’s a fantastic space with a lot of potential.

Appartmento #2

This apartment is located on a quiet street to the West of Piazza Maggiore. You enter the building off of an elegant, outdoor atrium (one of those beautiful spaces that makes you double-take as you pass on the sidewalk). Pros: Picturesque views from EVERY window, enormous kitchen, garage parking available for an additional fee down the street. Cons: ONE BEDROOM (there was a teeny loft, but it wasn’t big enough for a guest/office space). In a nutshell: We had a head-over-heels reaction with this apartment. But are we willing to go one bedroom for it? Is there room for a desk in the bedroom or living room?

Appartmento #3

This apartment is located on a small street that connects Santo Stefino and Strada Maggiore. Even though there is a good amount of traffic on the street (buses included), the apartment is “silenziosissimo”. Pros: Great views, 2 spacious bedrooms, 2 baths, rented by owner (who we liked very much), top floor with elevator. Cons: Street parking, bells of Basilico Santo Stefino chime every hour from 8AM – 11AM on Sundays. In a nutshell: The perfect apartment, but can Luke handle Centro street parking? Will we hate or love the bells?

And the winner?

The winner is…

Drum roll.

Drum roll.

Drum roll…

Appartmento #3!

I don’t think I concealed the winner well in my descriptions above, but I suppose that’s why I’ve been employed as an engineer and not as a reality TV producer. In the end, we decided that church bells are charming and that street parking in Centro will be an adventure (and we can always look into renting a parking spot nearby if we can’t handle it).

For those starting their own House Hunting mission in Bologna, here are the tools we used to find apartments for rent:

Walking around on foot looking for bright signs reading “Affitto”
Checking out the ads posted in Immobiliare windows
Checking out the classifieds in “Gazzetta Immobiliare” and “Attico” which can be picked up at news stands and store fronts around the city
Telling everyone we met that we were looking for an apartment
Searching for Immobiliare’s on Google Maps and then visiting individual agencies’ websites (how we found #2)
IWF Bologna online forum (how we found #3)
Mio Affito apartment search (how we found #1)
Subito apartment search

The IWF’s Guide to Bologna “Bologna Inside” has a great section on house hunting. Check it out here.

In a nutshell: House hunting mission complete! Facebook page updated to “Living in Bologna”!


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