Wanted In Rome reports:
"According to recently released figures, the cost of rents for housing in Italy has more than doubled since 1999. ...Rome and Florence emerged as the cities with the greatest rise in rents over the last 4 years, bringing the increase over the period studied up 128 percent. The percentage of families living in rented housing in Italy has decreased from 20.3 percent in 2004 to 18.7 percent, indicating that increasing rent prices have created a situation where many families find it economically more feasible to purchase a property with monthly payments on long-term mortgages."
I would argue with the last sentence until I saw more proof. The percentages of rentals is probably going down because so many immigrants are in Italy and are paying rent on the "black". Buying a house here is not as easy as in the U.S. - you can't just take out a thirty year mortgage because you want to. Italian landlords like renting to foreigners, and renting without paperwork, because then they can kick you out when they need to. Removing an Italian renter is much harder. There was just an article in the Florentine about massive evictions in Florence - it would be interesting to see the Italian/foreigner breakdown of the people evicted.
As to the rising prices, it only makes sense - the two cities mentioned are two of the top three tourist cities in the world, and are overrun with students, illegal aliens, expatriates and the like. Expats like us, renting right in the heart of Florence, only add to the rise.