Heart of the Centro Storico
Mesmerised by its maze of medieval streets, bustling piazzas and baroque churches, many visitors don’t stray far from Rome’s ‘centre of the centre’. The historic neighbourhood has many of the must-see sites, such as the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Pantheon and Campo de’ Fiori — not to mention innumerable trattorie serving top-notch regional produce and eclectic artisans’ shops. And fortunately, the area’s palazzo-lined streets aren’t just filled with museums, restaurants and shops — they’re home to some of the city’s best hotels, too.
Hotel Campo de’ Fiori
Lying just off the lively Campo de’ Fiori, this ivy-covered, Renaissance-era palazzo does old-world charm with aplomb. The 23 jewel-toned rooms aren’t huge — for more space, splash out on a top-floor suite — but they are rich with details like antique furniture and crystal chandeliers. Even the flatscreen TVs are hidden behind elaborate gilt frames. Other than that, it’s just the new bathrooms and free wi-fi that hint at modern living. Crucially, since Rome nightlife centres on Campo de’ Fiori, the rooms are soundproofed. Breakfast is served downstairs among Oriental rugs, candelabra and antique bookshelves straight out of the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Need a breather from all the medieval splendour? Head to the rooftop terrace for a panoramic view of church domes and palaces.
■ Rooms: From €140 (£118) a night. Via del Biscione 6.
T: 00 39 06 68 80 68 65. www.hotelcampodefiori.com
■ X-factor: A fairy-tale feel at a down-to-earth price.
Best for homebodies:
No 24-hour concierge service or breakfast, but instead the privacy and comfort of home; the four spacious, modern suites have private entrances and walk-in closets. The ability to link neighbouring suites or close off parts of a room make them ideal for families.
■ Rooms: From €290 (£245) a night.
Via Margutta, 54. T: 00 39 06 69 9 219 07. www.romeluxurysuites.com/margutta
Best for hedonists:
Spagna Royal Suite
This boutique has 11 quirky rooms with touches like leather-padded walls, mosaic whirlpool baths and a mirror that morphs into a TV. The junior suite has a bathroom/fitness room bedecked in gold. The luxury extends to soundproofed windows and great service.
■ Rooms: From €179 (£151) a night. Via Mario de’ Fiori, 3. T: 00 39 06 69 92 37 93. www.spagnaroyalsuite.com
Literally translated as ‘across the Tiber’ in Roman, Trastevere stands within easy reach of Rome’s main sites — and has many of its own to offer, from the stunning Church of Santa Maria, to Raphael’s frescoes in the Villa Farnesina. Although this once staunchly local neighbourhood has become increasingly touristy in recent years — particularly north of the Viale Trastevere — it remains one of the city’s most charming and authentic areas, and is an excellent spot for an evening stroll or a Roman meal. Hotels here are rare — five-star luxury rarer still — but good-value B&Bs and guesthouses abound.
Guesthouse Arco dei Tolomei
For real Roman cordiality, this family-run B&B on a tranquil piazza manages to exude warmth as well as elegance. Each of the six guest rooms in this medieval palazzo are fitted with antique furniture and collectibles passed down the family for generations, but try and stay in a room with a terrace for private views of the surrounding Romanesque architecture. Tuck into a homemade breakfast spread and seek travel advice from friendly owner Marco in the quaint dining room, before setting out for the day. Although it’s located in one of Trastevere’s most atmospheric
areas, the B&B is also just a five-minute walk from the Jewish Ghetto and a 10-minute walk to Largo Argentina or Piazza Venezia, where buses whisk travellers in every direction.
■ Rooms: From €144 (£122) a night. Via Arco de’ Tolomei, 27. T: 00 39 06 58 32 08 19.
■ X-factor: The feeling and friendliness of an inn from a bygone era.
Best for independence:
There’s no 24-hour reception, buffet spread or elevator at this B&B just off Viale Trastevere, but staff are happy to give you candid advice, a voucher for a Roman-style breakfast at a local cafe, and a laptop for free wi-fi in every room. The five rooms are modern-minimalist: the ‘Marilyn’ comes with a bright-red bathroom and huge photo of the glamour queen, while the ‘Romantic’ has a canopy bed and iron-wrought chairs.
■ Rooms: From €100 (£84) a night. Via di San Crisogono, 40. T: 00 39 0 580 63 44. www.wrh-trastevere.com
Best for a sweet stay
Residenza Santa Maria
Located in an 18th-century palazzo around the corner from Santa Maria in Trastevere, this guesthouse charms with hand-painted vines in the otherwise simple rooms, while antique brick archways and original wood-beamed ceilings lend a sense of history. In the breakfast room, tuck into a buffet surrounded by the fragments of ancient sculptures found scattered
around the neighbourhood.
■ Rooms: From €100 (£84) a night. Via dell’Arco di San Calisto, 20. T: 00 39 06 58 33 51 03.
Awake among ancient ruins, myths and legends in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Celian Hill. Once the centre of the ancient empire, the neighbourhood remains home to the Roman Forum and Colosseum — not to mention the Imperial Forums, Trajan’s Baths and Domus Aurea. The Monti, the quarter at the heart of this district, once hosted gladiators, prostitutes and even Julius Caesar. Today, it’s home to a colourful clash of hip boutiques and bars along with old-school barbershops and bakeries, making it the perfect place to explore both old and new Rome.
The Inn at the Roman Forum
Check-in at this hotel, located down a side road in Monti, for a glimpse of the ruins of the Trajan’s Markets, complete with mosaic flooring. Medieval touches like canopy beds and wood-beamed ceilings contrast with modern marble bathrooms, flatscreen TVs and iPods. A terrace breakfast affords a view of the Palatine Hill, with its ruined emperors’ palaces, and the Vittorio Emanuele monument. By evening, guests sip cocktails beside a stone fireplace in the cosy lounge. The garden suite boasts a marble whirlpool bath and a patio with flowers and a grapevine-laced terrace.
■ Rooms: From €140 (£118) a night.
Via degli Ibernesi, 30. T: 00 39 06 69 19 09 70.
■ X-factor: The beauty of ancient Rome combined with the comforts of modernity.
Best for budget:
Hotel de Monti
It may be on the third floor of a well-worn, 16th-century building withour a lift, but it’s the seven large rooms that soften first impressions. Their roomy size is rare anywhere in Monti — or the historic centre in general — but particularly so at such a low budget. As an added bonus, multilingual owner Alessandro, born and bred in the neighbourhood, will advise you where, and where not, to go and that’s nothing short of priceless.
■ Rooms: From €50 (£42) a night. Via Panisperna, 95. T: 00 39 06 48 14 763. www.hoteldemonti.com
Best for art lovers:
Residenza Torre Colonna
Sleep in a medieval tower facing Roman ruins, surrounded by Philippe Starck chairs and Natino Chirico artwork. And although the 13th-century Colonna family would hardly recognise their tower today, their descendants have allowed some original details to remain in the five rooms, like the stone loo in every room (no, you’re not expected to use it!). Don’t miss the rooftop terrace, with both a whirlpool bath and a panoramic view of the centre.
■ Rooms: From £94 a night. Via delle Tre Cannelle, 18. T: 00 39 06 62 28 95 43. www.torrecolonna.com
Find the heart of the Centro Storico claustrophobic, costly and confusing? Head to the middle-class suburb of Prati, north of the Vatican, instead. Thanks to its 19th-century grid layout, this little-known district is easy to navigate and is a favourite with bargain hunters perusing its cheaper shops, while its hotel rooms tend to be more spacious and cater to a lower budget. If a 10-minute walk to the top sites isn’t a problem, then stay in the area around the Lepanto Metro stop; this is your best bet for both avoiding the tourist crowds near the Vatican and indulging in the excellent local restaurants and cafes.
Located beside the Lepanto Metro stop, a 10-minute walk across the river to Piazza del Popolo, the four-star Hotel Farnese could almost double as an antique auction house. Owner Adele is a passionate collector, and it shows: she’s dotted the 1906 palazzo with everything from 19th-century Murano glass chandeliers to 18th-century prints. At check-in, glimpse the 17th-century Louis XIV frontal decorating the main desk. The 23 rooms, meanwhile, are traditional and charming, with bonuses like super-comfy mattresses, soundproofing and free wi-fi. The best part, though, just might be breakfast: enjoy a hot and cold menu on the rooftop terrace with a view of St Peter’s.
■ Rooms: From €100 (£84) a night. Via Alessandro Farnese, 30. T: 00 39 06 32 12 55. www.hotelfarnese.com
■ X-factor: The breakfast with a view.
Best for value:
Rome Armony Suites
Pop art punches up the six simple rooms in this B&B, nudging shopping street Via Cola di Rienzo, but the real seller is room size. There’s also plenty of storage for clothes, while free wi-fi, LCD TV, soundproofed windows and a 24-hour reception seal the deal.
■ Rooms: From €90 (£76) a night. Via Orazio, 3.
T: 00 39 34 83 30 54 19. www.romearmonysuites.com
Best for views:
ISA Design Hotel
The 50 rooms in this central Prati property vary in style from modern minimalist to classic. In the rooftop restaurant you can enjoy a made-to-order breakfast as you survey St Peter’s Basilica and Rome’s skyline.
■ Rooms: From €170 (£144) a night. Via Cicerone, 39.
T: 00 39 06 32 12 610. www.hotelisa.net
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Published in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)