Airbnb has forever altered the way we book travel accommodations. For the better, most would argue. With Airbnb you can feel at home anywhere in the world. You can also make new friends, immerse yourself in new cultures, and have new experiences. New experiences like living with five cats in a two-bedroom airbnb in Italy. I did that. This is what happened.
1. How It All Began:
Three years ago I was living in Perugia, Italy for the summer and taking classes at the University there. Perugia is about halfway between Rome and Florence. I loved it. The architecture is stunning, the people are friendly and fun, and the food – oh, the food! One word: chocolate. Perugia is one of Italy’s biggest producers of chocolate and hosts the Eurochocolate fair every year. Some mornings, when the wind is just right, the whole city smells like chocolate.
But I digress.
For the first month a friend and I had been sharing an apartment. We’d had the whole airbnb in Italy all to ourselves until her husband arrived at the end of the month. Classes ended and they left shortly after to travel around Italy together for a couple of weeks. When they did, I moved to a different Airbnb. This time, instead of renting a whole apartment just for little old me, I booked a private room.
I’d based my decision mostly off price and location, but I also liked the idea of having a host. Homestays are a great way to practice your foreign language skills. I’d stayed with a host family in Italy once before, so I thought I knew what to expect. This time around was, well, different.
2. Nothing Prepared Me for Five Cats
My host owned and lived in a two-bedroom apartment right outside the center of town with an amazing view of one of Perugia’s famous Etruscan arches and a rooftop garden that looked out over the whole city. She also owned five cats.
That’s right. She had five cats in a two-bedroom apartment.
In her defense, the cats were not a surprise to me. She disclosed her pets in the online listing per Airbnb regulations. I’ll repeat that: I knew that there would be five cats in this tiny apartment and I booked it anyways. Why, you ask?
Well, I love cats. My family always had at least one cat when I was growing up and when I was in college I got my own cat. Even the host family that I stayed with my first time in Italy had cats. Two of them. I wasn’t bothered by the idea of five cats at my Airbnb; in fact, I was kind of charmed by it. I missed my own kitty and thought I’d like the company.
I was a fool.
Five cats is just too many cats for a tiny apartment that also has two people living in it.
3. My Fluffy Roommates
My friend and her husband helped me carry my suitcases up the 273 stairs between the apartment we’d shared and my new digs. Yes, you read that right. Our little apartment was at the foot of Perugia’s Via dell’Acquedotto and my new airbnb in Italy was up in centro, the center of town. It was a daily climb. I think those stairs were the only reason I didn’t gain any weight eating mostly pasta and pizza for two months.
Anyways, they dropped me off to my new apartment and we said our goodbyes. My host helped me bring all my things inside. She was lovely and kind and more than a little eccentric, which is to be expected of someone who lives alone with five cats. The cats were friendly and cute and wound around our ankles as we stood in the doorway chatting. My host gave me a quick tour of the house then left me alone to settle in. All pretty normal.
Over the next 24 hours, the reality of living with five cats began to set in. The apartment smelled. Not bad, necessarily, but definitely like cat. Then there was the issue of the hair everywhere and the occasional pile of cat sick. Remember, I own a cat. I am accustomed to hair and the odd bit of puke. But not five cats’ worth of hair and puke.
There also seemed to be a cat on every surface. Trying to sit down on the sofa? There’s a cat there. Looking for a clean shirt in your suitcase? There’s a cat there – even though you swore you’d closed the bedroom door. Stepping out of the shower to reach for the towel you left on the toilet lid? There’s a cat there. Because it was such a small apartment, there was always a cat underfoot and it definitely felt like there were more than five hanging around.
4. Five Cats Too Many
At first, I tried to remain optimistic. The cats weren’t aggressive. They were a little overwhelming, of course. And they had no respect for privacy. I’d often sit down to use the toilet only to have a cat spring up onto my lap. Closed bathroom doors were no defense against this invasion. My host kept the bathroom window open because there was no AC in the apartment. That’s pretty typical in Italy, but this particular window opened onto the roof, where the cats liked to roam when they weren’t impersonation throw pillows or leaving piles of fur on my clean laundry. But still. I was trying to look on the sunny side.
Then I stepped in a hairball. I started counting down the days till I could leave.
While it wasn’t the worst Airbnb experience I’ve ever had, it did leave me in an awkward position. I’d known about the cats before booking, so I couldn’t really complain about the conditions. And my host was friendly and helpful and laid back. I was free to come and go as I pleased, and I did. Often more of the latter, spending as much time out of the apartment as possible. Which is a shame. It was really a cute airbnb in Italy.
Staying in a pet-friendly or pet-having Airbnb isn’t always a disaster. It can be fun to have an animal around. But I think that there’s a limit. So if you’re an animal loving traveler who’s considering staying in an airbnb in Italy with four dogs or three cats and a parrot, proceed with caution. It’s not as fun as you think.