Rome isn't known for its cheap hotels, but internet bookers are driving down prices while a new crop of boutique b&bs is offering style on a budget. Here are my tips on where, and when, to stay
Rome is one of the most expensive cities in Europe when it comes to accommodation. The average daily room rate here is higher than it is in London – and until fairly recently, the budget hotel scene was less than inspiring. However, the niche in the market for stylish yet affordable places to stay is at last being filled – partly by enterprising home owners who are taking advantage of Italy’s relatively new bed-and-breakfast category, partly by hoteliers who are realising that, with the majority of clients now using the internet to compare options, read hotel reviews and shop around, full occupancy will only be achieved by getting the service and décor right and varying rates according to demand.
A lot depends on when you come. In high season – which in Rome means April to mid-July, September to early November and the two weeks around Christmas and New Year – the smaller, b&b-style places are your best bet, as these tend to guarantee lowish prices year-round. Outside these times, there are bargains to be had even in some fairly upmarket hotels in Rome. Shop around, but don’t take pot luck: there are some infernal dives in the Eternal City. The following five places are among the best affordable options – though, with some, you need to be flexible on dates to get the best prices.
Fontanella Borghese: largo Fontanella Borghese 84. Due Torri: vicolo del Leonetto 23
Under the same management, these two centro storico charmers are a five-minute walk from each other and the Spanish Steps – and they apply almost identical room rates. They’re only really a bargain in winter or high summer, when doubles come in at €150 – with the last night free if you stay for more than three nights. For that, though, you get the services and opulent décor of two very assured, very stylish Roman three-stars. Entered via the courtyard of a Borghese family palazzo, the antique-decked Fontanella Borghese feels like you’ve just walked into some marchese’s Roman pied à terre; a little closer to piazza Navona, the Due Torri is a tad more homely – but here, too, the tone is upped by cut flowers, antique prints and rich fabrics.
Via dei Gabrielli 92
These twin hotels share a quiet cul-de-sac right in the heart of the centro storico, just off via dei Coronari with its classy antique shops. Outside, the Rome of Caravaggio and Bernini is stuck in a glorious 16th-century time capsule; inside, all is warm modern design, with ochre bedspreads, funky wallpaper and whitewashed oak beams overhead in the rooms, which range from cozy to spacious. There is little to choose between the two adjacent locales, which in practice function as a single 11-room hotel. Double rates go from a very reasonable €100 to over €200 according to room and demand. Service is friendly, continental breakfast is served in one’s room, the air-con works a treat, and there’s free Wi-Fi. The downsides? No lift, and the street can be hard to locate – even for Roman taxi drivers. Seclusion, though, is all part of the charm of these two sisters.
Via Modena 5
On the outside, Suitedreams is an imposing late-19th-century block like so many of those in the area around Termini station. Get the lift to the first floor, however, and you are in a chi-chi minimalist locanda with rooms on both sides of the landing. To the right is the tiny reception area and a corridor – dominated by a huge panel that provides a quick introduction to the history of Rome – leading to a small but light-filled breakfast room. The bedrooms are an exercise in elegant contemporary minimalism, with warm parquet floors, crisp white linen sheets and bedspreads, and bathrooms with designer fittings and dark slate walls. Free perks include Wi-Fi, all-day coffee- and tea-making facilities and a DVD library. It’s all very efficiently run, and makes a great base for exploring, with via Veneto, the Forum and piazza Venezia all within easy walking distance, and the station so close that you should save on the taxi fare unless you have a pile of luggage. If you book a couple of weeks in advance, you can usually secure a double here for about €130 a night.
Via dell’Arco dei Tolomei 27
One of the most endearing of Rome’s new crop of boutique b&bs, this six-room home from home inhabits a picturesque lane in the quieter southern part of Trastevere, not far from the Tiber Island. Rooms are not exactly cluttered, but while a splash of colour on the walls might be nice, the mix of contemporary fixtures and bathrooms with unshowy antique furniture works well – and the lighting is particularly well planned. The simpatico owners are generally around in the mornings, but otherwise Arco del Lauro is a come-and-go sort of place with generous free extras – internet access in the lobby, soft drinks, biscuits and home-made limoncello, even free local calls. There is no breakfast room; instead, guests are given vouchers for coffee and cornetti (sweet croissants) at a bar in a nearby piazza in Piscinula – a perfect Roman start to the day.
Via delle Convertite 5
This cosy two-star just off Rome’s main shopping street, via del Corso, makes up in eclectic charm what it lacks in cutting-edge design. The 23 rooms are spread out over the third and fourth floors of a 16th-century palazzo – far enough from street level for the double glazing to cut out most of the traffic noise. The décor is comfortably antique, but by no means gloomy; some rooms even have hydromassage tubs in the well-appointed bathrooms. But Hotel Parlamento’s real trump card is its lovely plant-edged roof terrace, where breakfast is served in fine weather. Double room rates start at €90 with breakfast – though air conditioning, should you need it, costs €12 a day extra.
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