One of the best ways to get a true feel of a place is to stay away from the tourist traps and head out to places not found in the pages of your guidebook.
I remember a couple of friends from Germany saying they had had a great time staying in the house of an old school pal of mine, he was in the process of selling it and not living there.
My friends loved the fact they had to go off to the shops in the morning to buy a bottle of milk and a newspaper, I think they even had a chat with the neighbors.
I thought of my friends when I saw the Home Base Holidays website that is based in the UK and connects people who are willing to swap houses during vacations.
It is a very simple idea that enables homeowners around the world to swap houses rent-free. You can contact people through the site and come to agreement on the exchange.
There is a small yearly charge to register with the site but considering you could save a pocketful of money on accommodation, and get to really see a town, it seems a great idea.