Remote House-Hunting!(Part 1: The Basics)
As I'm sure you can imagine, choosing a home for the next year and a half of your life is a big decision. That decision is made much more difficult when you are half a world away and can't even go to see the options or neighborhood in person. Luckily in this technological world, there are a ton of resources available to make that possible, even easy in my opinion.
There is no shortage of possible websites and search platforms, and they all have their marketing campaigns to tell you which is the best. I'm not going to tell you which is better or which is worse, instead I'm going to tell you to use ALL of them. When it comes down to it, it's not about which platform is better, it's about where you want to live. Most apartments aren't listed on multiple vendors because they risk double-booking, so if you want to see the full range of what is available you need to check all of the resources available to find the right place.
Here are some of the main resources that I used when I was looking, there are more options out there for sure, and if your Italian language skills are good, there are many other local classified pages that you can search as well:
Zappyrent is an Italy only platform with apartments available in Roma, Bologna, Milano, Firenze, and Catania. I stopped using this one pretty quickly because most of what they have available in the center of Rome are room rentals, and I was looking for an entire apartment. They have a large number of listings, and if you want to live in Rome as cheaply as possible, renting a room is the way to go. I decided that since I will be there for such a long time that I wanted to have my own space. So for my purposes Zappyrent didn't fit.
The next really good option is Spotahome. This platform services 10 cities across Europe, with 2 Italian cities; Rome and Milan. There is a good mix of both rooms and apartments listed on this website. Most of the postings have great photos and a video tour of the space. The only complication is that some of the listings do not want to rent to students or non-EU citizens, so make sure you have a couple of back-ups ready if your dream apartment booking gets rejected.
Uniplaces is final website that I will mention is actually the one that I booked(and if you want a code for 25% the booking fee just send me a message). Uniplaces has listings in dozens of cities across Europe, and is specifically created for students looking for housing in foreign countries. Because the website is catering to students, there is less risk of being rejected from a booking due to immigration status.
Searching for a place to live is always a stressful time, especially if you can't see the places in person and you don't know the area. These websites make it much easier, but there's nothing easy about showing up to a strange city and hoping that the apartment is what you were expecting. The main thing is to take the time to properly assess the options available, and to research the areas. If you're going to be walking a lot, then you can even take a virtual walk through Google Streetview. Bottom line is, follow your gut and pick where you think you will be happy and comfortable(and hopefully can afford!).
Next post will be a little more personal as I talk more specifically about my housing search and why I made the choice that I did. Because at the end of the day everybody has their own ideas of what is their ideal apartment, the final choice is always going to be based on your own individual wants and needs.