The day FINALLY came and went and we are officially settled down in our wonderful apartment! I honestly cannot be happier. So without further ado, I shall begin my story of finding an apartment in Rome.
I’ll start from the very beginning because 1) I’ve been dying to tell this story, and 2) years from now, when I only remember the good parts of living in Italy, I want to remember this.
Way before we ever stepped foot in Italy, we were already searching for apartments online through the Italian rental websites such as immobiliare.it. We had a budget, we researched the neighborhood we wanted to live in, and we knew the priorities we had for our perfect home. For Jaime, this was simple: the square footage had to come close to that of our Ohio home since we had most of our furniture being shipped overseas, it had to have a parking space for our car, be close to his job, and below our budget of course. For me….I expected more. I wanted a terrace, it had to accept dogs of course, a nice kitchen with no weird tiling, nice bathrooms, and a layout that made sense.
Looking through apartments listed online was fun, to say the least. An apartment with a good size but every single wall in it painted neon yellow, a kitchen with orange cabinets, orange walls, orange everything, bathrooms that were simply horrendous…I mean, fine, I don’t plan to live here forever, but one still has to be picky. Throughout all this, it just never occurred to us that we would have problems other than our extremely long wish list. After all, I frankly had never been house-hunting before and Jaime moved to Ohio one day and had signed a lease the next. Based on our prior experiences, we never thought finding an apartment in Rome would become some of the most stressful days in our entire expat experience.
So we arrived in Rome and that first week went to see about 3 apartments. The first one (Apartment A) was well below our budget but small and awkward. The kitchen was on one side of the house and the dining room was literally on the opposite side. Well, actually there was no dining room per se, you just had to stick your table in the living room. It also had this weird tiny room meant to be like a utility room right smack in the middle of the house, but with no actual space or outlets or anything to put a washer or dryer.
Then we saw two apartments which I adored at first sight. I had seen the pictures, fallen in love, and they were even more gorgeous in person. Apartment B had an amazing modern kitchen with an island and great storage space (unheard of in Italy, basically). The house had the space we needed, a terrace, beautiful hardwood floors and windows, and a WALK-IN CLOSET (which, if you’ve lived probably anywhere in Europe, you know it doesn’t happen). Not just any walk-in closet, but the ones you only see in movies. Hardwood shelves, shoe wall, the whole nine yards. The catch: no parking space and right at the cusp of our budget. Truthfully, I knew it was perfect and once Jaime fell in love with it too, I figured I might be able to sell him on this apartment.
Then we saw Apartment C. I also knew this one was gorgeous but I was surprised at how much I loved it. It was like a mini-castle. Hardwood floors and panels, a terrace, a built-in wardrobe in a vintage French style, crystal chandeliers, a parking space, I was SOLD. Also, on the upper range of our budget.
We saw a few more apartments, but both of us had our sights set on Apartment B or C (Jaime did confess that had he been here alone, he would have chosen Apartment A just to be done with it). Regardless, we expected to be moved in by October 1st, and the realtors had told us to expect about two weeks to have the contracts ironed out and signed. So on the 15th of September or so, we decided on Apartment C. We started meeting and exchanging emails with the realtor, trying to bargain a few hundred bucks off the rental price since we also had to pay condominium fees. Then the real issues started. To make a very long story short, the owner wanted us to pay a ridiculous deposit up front, like 6 to 9 months rent, so Jaime got very upset and said to hell with the whole thing.
At this point, we weren’t panicking just yet, we still had our plan B. But, Jaime was hesitant. While this was my dream place, he wasn’t too comfortable with the price and the owner refused to lower even one penny off the rental price. When we started tackling other details of the contract, the owner basically did not want to negotiate on absolutely anything. He wanted to rent the apartment to us for 24 months exactly (nothing more or less), we had to pay any maintenance fees (which I’ve since learned is a pretty standard practice in Italy), and in case of theft or burglary we had to assume the costs of all those beautiful custom wood doors and windows. But the real deal-breaker was when he refused to allow pets even though that had been our very first condition. It got a little crazy, and it almost seemed like everything would work out, to the point that we even had dates to sign the final contract, then everything fell through.
The panic started settling in. We were back to square one, we had wasted a bunch of time with two apartments that didn’t work out, it was almost mid-October, we were tired of moving back and forth across the city to vacation rentals that were kind of sucky…well, you can imagine there were quite a few tears and gray hairs.
Our search continued and Jaime found a plausible apartment. I personally wasn’t in love with it, but I was getting so desperate that my initial long wish list was starting to seem unrealistic. But, I was pleasantly surprised when the place turned out to be a little diamond in the rough. It was on exactly the same street as my beloved Apartment B, and while it wasn’t a dream come true, it would do. It had an actual designated dining room, a huge living room, a kitchen I could live with, great lighting throughout, and an office space for Jaime. Better yet, it was below our budget. So, even though I wasn’t in love, we took the plunge. The owner turned out to be a really nice, rational woman and with relatively little hassle and time we were able to come to an agreement and sign the contract. The only downside was that we would have to wait until the 15th of November for the place to be vacated by the current tenants.
When the day came and we got our keys, we were mentally prepared for any hurdles that Italy would throw our way. I had read and heard of hundreds of horror stories regarding internet, electricity, and cable company issues and we expected that though we solved the problem of having a roof over our heads, there would be a thousand new problems sprouting in its place. But everything happened relatively effortlessly. The previous tenant was really nice and helped us change the electricity and gas bills to our name, the movers came and our stuff was all present, accounted for, and mostly in one piece, and we had internet the following week.
Funny story about the movers actually (if I don’t tell it Jaime will be forever disappointed in me). They arrived at 8:05 am the morning of the 15th in one little truck. Of course, me being the pessimist, I thought, “Great, half our furniture is missing because there is no way everything fit in that tiny truck.” But soon thereafter, another truck arrived. The movers decided to wait to see if any parking spaces would open up on the side of our narrow little street. After 15 minutes and nobody leaving, these 5 movers, I kid you not, picked up a little SmartCar and moved it a few feet so they would have space to squeeze their truck in. They didn’t push the car, they PICKED IT UP, which of course made it all the more hilarious to us. And yes, I have photographic evidence of this. They were extremely professional and careful with our furniture and within four hours they had unloaded AND built everything again.
Now, I get to write again on top of our wonderful bed with our amazing down comforter, and the best internet speed money can buy (this is where Jaime splurges with no regrets). We have unpacked everything and I have dedicated myself to slowly deep-cleaning every inch of the house (which is why I haven’t had much time to write yet). While everything isn’t perfect, not by a long shot, it’s nice to finally have our own furniture, all our winter clothes, and be able to buy food for more than two days.
For the sake of length, I will stop here and leave some of the…funner (by that you know I mean nothing good) things that has happened for another post. Ci vediamo!