I couchsurfed in Rome.
My reasons for wanting to Couchsurf instead of staying in a hostel dorm:
1. To save a few euros – Always happy to bring a small gift and buy my host an espresso or two, but staying in hostels in Italy during Easter is egg-spensive! (sorry).
2. To experience something different – the main reason. I’ve done a lot of travel in the last six months and stayed in more hostel beds than I can remember. Anything from a bed-bug infested bed in Nazareth Israel, to a room infested with 20-year-old-male-Australians in Madrid (equally unpleasant). Sometimes it doesn’t matter what city or town you’re in, but the experience can end up being the same – meet other travellers, do a walking tour, go out to some bars and meet other travellers). This is fun. Sometimes it’s really fun. But it’s getting old and it defeats the purpose of getting that ‘real’ experience everyone keeps talking about.
People are nervous about using Couchsurfing and I am too. But there are references on your potential host/Couchsurfer’s page to separate the horny weirdos from the genuinely kind, idealistic travellers.
Make sure you choose someone who has a profile that you like, and that already has many positive references (preferably from both sexes!) When I mentioned this to a friend, she asked, “But you have to start from somewhere, what if someone has no references?” My boldly selfish answer to that is, let other people try out that Couchsurfer/host first 🙂 Yep, I’m a jerk.
I had about 50 replies from hosts welcoming me to their couch (and in one man’s case, a single bed if I didn’t mind sharing with him). I would say about 5-10 of those replies were from men who genuinely wouldn’t have minded if I was male or female, hot or not – they just wanted to help out a traveller because they like travel too. (FYI: I didn’t receive a single reply from a female. Disappointing).
Positive: My host was hosting myelf, a Chilean girl and two other Italians (though they were friends of his from other parts of Italy wanting to visit Rome for the holidays). This was the ideal situation – still having other people to go sightseeing with, AND having Italians to go out with, including my host who kindly played ‘tour guide’ as I played ‘lazy tourist’ who didn’t have to worry about maps and guidebooks.
Negative (but not necessarily): Instead of saving money, I spent even more money. The Italians went out for a full meal + dessert + limoncello shot + espresso + more drinks for the three nights I was there. Of course I wasn’t obligated to go, but going out for a full truly Italian meal three nights in a row was the highlight of my trip to Italy.