Couch Surfing In Italy
By now almost everyone is familiar with the “couch surfing”.
It's also the name of a web site that's set up along the lines of Facebook and other social networking sites.
Its purpose is unique: it features listings of people around the world who are willing to offer their couches free
of charge to travelers visiting their countries. The web site defines itself as “a worldwide network for making
connections between travelers and the local communities they visit”. There are some minimal conditions set up by
the couch owners themselves, but generally the invitations are open to anyone browsing the site. So if you're
planning a trip to Italy and you want to see the country from a local person's perspective, you might want to
consider a spot of couch surfing.
A Brief History of Couch Surfing
The idea of travelers staying with locals rather than paying top dollar for impersonal accommodation like hotels
and hostels is not new. Back in 1949 an American named Bob Luitweiler organized a foreign-exchange home stay
service for adults called Servas, which is still operational today. Later, with the advent of the internet,
organizations such as the Hospitality Club were able to offer a similar program online. The Couch Surfing project
was originally conceived by Casey Fenton in 2000 but it took until 2004 to launch the couchsurfing.com web site.
After a major computer glitch in 2006 almost shut down the project, the web site was restored and is now the most
visited couch surfing site on the net.
How Couch Surfing Works
Couch surfing is free to join. Members create a listing offering accommodation in their homes, which are searchable
by location. Travelers visit the site and request accommodation at their desired destination. Both parties work out
terms in advance with regard to length of stay and other considerations. The accommodation is free but there may be
some arrangements regarding food expenses.
When we checked out the couch surfing site this morning, there were 301 listings of couches on offer in Italy. Most
of the couch providers were male, which is understandable if you consider the potential dangers for females
offering accommodation to complete strangers. Still, there are a number of women included in the Italy listings,
and we assume they have ways of screening their prospective guests to ensure a safe and positive experience for
There's also a safety issue to consider as a traveler. Some of the men offering couch accommodation may have
ulterior motives, entertaining fantasies of nubile female travelers knocking on their doors with adventure in mind.
If you are a female traveling alone or with another female, obviously you're savvy enough to be aware of potential
predators, so you need to assess any possible hosts carefully. The couch surfing site allows members to post
profiles and references, so you can get a sense of who they are before proceeding further. More importantly, the
site offers its members the option of undertaking a verification process, whereby it verifies the host's name via a
credit card or bank account and his or her street address. It therefore makes sense to limit your contacts to
verified listings only.
What's So Special About Couch Surfing?
We recently talked to a young friend who used the couch surfing service during her recent trip to Europe. She only
signed up for the service on the later portion of her travels, but she had such a good time and made so many new
friends that she's regretting not couch surfing for the whole of her vacation.
In more laid-back decades it was commonplace for travelers to encounter locals in public gathering places and be
offered accommodation or a home-cooked meal at some point in the conversation. The world has become a little less
trusting since then, but the Internet has provided a new avenue for this kind of natural generosity to once again
And much as we love the comfort of a predictable hotel room, there's an equal impulse towards connecting with other
human beings, particularly those whose culture and lifestyle excite our curiosity. Couch surfing is one way to
experience, however briefly, how the 'other half' live.
Tips For An Enjoyable Experience
The couch surfing experience should be a pleasant one for both you and your host. Here are a few tips for making
this a more likely outcome:
1. Ideally, select a host you have something in common with, whether it's education, interests, family, etc.
Evaluate him or her as you would a potential friend. (This is assuming that you have more than one venue to choose
from at your destination.)
2. Get to know your host online well before your trip. Exchange a few emails and/or phone calls. Create some
rapport before meeting, but don't force it.
If your communication doesn't 'feel right' for some reason, it's unlikely to get easier when you do actually meet.
So consider choosing another host or staying at paid accommodations. You can always postpone your couch surfing
experience for another stop on your journey.
3. On your part, observe the rules of being a good guest:
- Offer to help clean up after a meal, tidy up
the area where your bags are stored, and don't leave the bathroom in a shambles after your bath or shower. Don't
expect your host to wait on you or clean up after you.
- Accommodate the host's schedule. If he or she has to work during weekdays,
be dressed and ready to leave the house or apartment at the host's convenience. Don't stay home while the host
is away - you can be held responsible for theft, damages, etc. Let the host determine what times you have use
of the premises.
- Don't overstay your welcome. If you agreed on three days but your host
seems to be wilting after two, either take off on your own for the third day or leave early. And never ask to
stay longer. If your host has fallen in love with you and insists you stay a few more days, that's another
matter. But being asked to leave at the end of what appeared to be a pleasant visit will spoil your memory of
it forever, not to mention damage the relationship irreparably.
- Finally, show your appreciation before you leave. Take the host out for a
meal or some other treat at the end of your stay. Or present the person with a gift instead.
Sometimes, your budget might dictate that you postpone selecting a gift until you get home. In this case, make
sure you get the correct address and tell your host to expect something from you in the mail. Follow through
with a unique gift, perhaps a book on your own country that will forever remind your host of your time
To learn more about this unique style of travel, visit the following couch surfing