Budget Travel - March 2008

Rome at a Price That’s Right!

Scoring bargain accommodations in Rome can be as tricky as deciphering ancient ruins. But you’re in luck: We’ve done the homework and unearthed nine charming, affordable hotels.
by Barbie Latza Nadeau | Thursday, March 13, 2008

‘Hood Between Campo de’ Fiori and the Pantheon, in arguably the best part of old Rome for wandering and people-watching. Locals take their weekend passeggiata through these busy streets.
First Impression One of Rome’s oldest working hotels—built on the site of the ancient Theater of Pompey and in business since the 15th century—the Albergo exudes a sense of shabby chic that only a place with this much history could pull off.
Rooms Wood-beamed ceilings, tall windows, and rough-hewn furnishings are pleasantly reminiscent of an old farmhouse rather than a city-center hotel. Some of the 59 rooms have access to the communal terrace, but you’ll pay more.
Plus The hotel affords gorgeous views of church domes and rooftops from flower-lined terraces with tables and benches. There’s a quaint garden, too.
Minus Ignore the gaudy ’70s-style neon sign out front and try not to be put off by the gaggles of tourists milling around the lobby.

Free WiFi? No.
Credit Cards Accepted None.
Details via del Biscione 76, 011-39/06-6880-6873, solealbiscione.it. Double with shared bath from €90 ($138), double with a private bath from €100 ($153), double with terrace access from €160 ($245). Lower weekly rates (with the sixth night free) are available in June.

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‘Hood Termini, the area surrounding Rome’s main train station, is dotted with cheap sleeps and bad restaurants, but the wonderfully free-spirited Beehive rises above the fray.
First Impression A hip, eco-conscious hotel that reflects the tastes and personal touches of its owners, a couple transplanted from L.A.
Rooms Beaded lamps, surfing-inspired prints, and mod furnishings make for six appealing—and spacious—rooms. A mixed-gender dorm room sleeps up to eight. Three self-catering apartments, which share a bathroom, a kitchen, and common areas, are located about 15 minutes off-site in Esquilino, Rome’s Chinatown.
Plus The pervasive sense of understated style and wellness: a garden with lemon and fig trees; an organic vegetarian café; a rotating display of works by local artists; a yoga space and classes that can be booked at no extra charge.
Minus The owners’ cat, Ingmar, has free run of the place, so those with feline allergies take note. If you’re looking for privacy first and foremost, the communal feeling might be off-putting.
Free Wi-Fi? Yes; Computer in common area.
Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC; cash only for apartments.
Details via Marghera 8, 011-39/06-4470-4553, the-beehive.com. Private rooms from €75 ($114), dorm beds from €22 ($34) per person, apartment rooms from €60 ($92).

‘Hood Trastevere, Rome’s bohemian left bank, across the Tiber and adjacent to the Vatican. Residents consider themselves the only true Romans, and there’s a colorful mix of medieval architecture, narrow alleys, and billowing laundry.
First Impression The hotel is classic Trastevere: quiet cobbled streets outside, exposed-beam ceilings inside—accompanied by the smell from wood-burning pizza ovens and the chime of church bells.
Rooms A 13th-century private residence, the 12-room hotel retains much of its original appeal thanks to hand-painted floor tiles, heavy wooden shutters, and idiosyncrasies like nooks and sloped ceilings.
Plus Staying in Trastevere has increasingly come to mean losing a night’s sleep. But this hotel is safely across viale Trastevere, just far enough into the quiet part of the neighborhood to save guests from sacrificing shut-eye.
Minus Rooms are tiny, and the staff can be difficult, especially if you need to make a special request or require help arranging anything extra.
Free Wi-Fi? No.
Credit Cards Accepted Amex, MC, Visa.
Details vicolo del Buco 7, 011-39/06-588-3774, hoteltrasteverehouse.it. Double from €90 ($138), including breakfast.

‘Hood Vatican/Prati, within church-bell echo of Vatican City. The area’s personality is split between services for religious pilgrims and the large villas of affluent Romans.
First Impression This cheery hotel is brightened by a playful color scheme and the welcoming demeanor of English-speaking husband-and-wife team Pierluigi and Fulvia.
Rooms Bedspreads and walls in the 20 simple guestrooms are splashed with vibrant blues, greens, and reds. A six-bed dorm room can be rented as a whole unit or by the bed, and two self-catering apartments sleep up to six people.
Plus Relax on the attractive rooftop terrace with tables, chairs, and potted plants. Guests who want to cook can make use of the kitchen (stock up at the nearby markets); those who don’t can help themselves to the kitchen’s stash of corn flakes, jam, and coffee.
Minus Most guests are young and on a budget, so there’s a collegiate vibe, which can sometimes translate into a lack of privacy.
Free Wi-Fi? No. Computers with Internet access are available in the lobby for 2 Euros per hour.
Credit Cards Accepted None; cash only.
Details via Boezio 31, 011-39/06-687-4030, colorshotel.com. Dorm bed from €23 ($35), double with shared bath from €60 ($92), double with private bath from €90 ($138), double with shower €75 ($115), and self-catering apartment from €110 ($169).

‘Hood Parioli, an elegant, off-the-beaten-path residential district, with a sizeable expat community and gay-friendly restaurants. Nearby Piazza Mincio’s whimsical 1920s architecture is the work of the hotel’s namesake, Gino Coppedè.
First Impression It’s a commanding art nouveau palazzo with an air of opulence—in a part of the city that tourists rarely see.
Rooms The 12 clubby rooms have dark carpets, striped upholstery in rich shades of green and gold, plush furnishings, and sound-proof, wood-paneled walls. If this hotel were in the city center, it would easily command twice its rates.
Plus The hotel is close to modern attractions like the Parco della Musica—designed by Renzo Piano and inaugurated in 2002—which hosts a variety of cultural events, and the Foro Italico, Rome’s main venue for concerts and soccer games. Each is about a 15-minute bus ride from the hotel.
Minus To get into the center of Rome, you’ll have to contend with the city’s public transportation system or take expensive taxis. Rent a car, though, and the hotel’s location proves convenient for getting on and off major highways.
Free Wi-Fi? No; Free Internet access is available at a computer in the lobby.
Credit Cards Accepted Amex, MC, Visa.
Details via Chiana 88, 011-39/06-854-9535, hotelcoppede.net. Double with bath from €100 ($153), including breakfast.

‘Hood Centro Storico, with two locations near Piazza Barberini: The Daphne Veneto is parallel to the glam Via Veneto; the Daphne Trevi is on a quieter street.
First Impression A rare blend of personalized service, contemporary flair, and relative affordability. Where the staff at other hotels might circle a location on the map, the Daphne’s will actually walk you there.
Rooms There are eight rooms in the Veneto and nine in the Trevi. Singles, doubles, triples, and, at the Trevi, two junior suites are available. All are decorated in soothing neutral colors, and many have terraces and garden access. The website has floor plans, so you know precisely what you’re booking.
Plus Superhuman hospitality. Owners Elyssa (Floridian) and Alessandro (Roman) supply guests with cell phones with preprogrammed numbers—including theirs—in case guests get lost. When you arrive, the couple sits you down with a map for a helpful orientation.
Minus If you like to come and go discreetly, forget it. Elyssa and Alessandro will want to know how you spent your day and what you plan for the next. Note that the Trevi location, housed in an 18th-century palazzo, has no elevator.
Free Wi-Fi? Yes; There are also computers with free Internet access in sitting rooms; all rooms have high-speed connection jacks.
Credit Cards Accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.
Details (Veneto) via di San Basilio 55; (Trevi) via degli Avignonesi 20, 011-39/06-8745-0086, daphne-rome.com. Double from €140 ($215), including breakfast, Internet use, and cell phone use (local calls only; others will be charged to your room).

‘Hood Tucked between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona in the Centro Storico, an area where over-priced tourist joints and authentic trattorie and gelaterie meet.
First Impression A hotel at this price in this unbeatable location might set off alarm bells. Instead, there’s a sense of relief on finding a centuries-old Roman palazzo whose unassuming second-floor lobby has fresh flowers.
Rooms The 14 rooms vary by occupancy (single to quad), size, and ambience. Standard doubles with private baths are the most inspired—decorated in sunflower yellows and terra-cotta reds, with antiques and Persian rugs.
Plus Unlike many budget hotels in Rome, the Mimosa doesn’t skimp on comforts like fluffy towels and extra pillows, and it accommodates everyone from solo travelers to families. Single rooms tend to have more breathing space than doubles, and the staff can help reconfigure beds or remove furniture to make space for kids.
Minus Five rooms lack private bathrooms, and the shared bathrooms can feel neglected because they’re only cleaned once a day, on the same rotation as the maid service in the rooms.
Free Wi-Fi? No.
Credit Cards Accepted Rooms must be paid in cash, although reservations are made online with credit cards—either MC or Visa.
Details via di Santa Chiara 61, 011-39/06-6880-1753, hotelmimosa.net. Double without bath from €75 ($115), double with bath from €85 ($131), including breakfast.

‘Hood A slice of the Centro Storico overrun with tony boutiques and sidewalk cafés—so close to the Spanish Steps that in springtime you can smell the azaleas.
First Impression The narrow halls of this old-fashioned hotel are lined with heavy antique furniture. It’s a terrific find, as most area hotels are prohibitively expensive.
Rooms Vaulted wood-beam ceilings, stone-tiled floors, and traditional pull shutters give the 30 ochre rooms the feel of a typical Centro Storico apartment. Some have 19th-century frescoes; others have hand-painted tiles in the bathrooms.
Plus The staff is more helpful than you’d expect for this price: They’ll gladly book restaurants and museums, arrange transportation, and share advice on where to shop and when it’s best to visit certain museums and monuments.
Minus Late-night noise in this part of Rome can be a nuisance; you’ll want to keep windows closed at night. Air conditioning (practically required in summer) will set you back an extra €6 ($9) per night.
Free Wi-Fi? Yes.
Credit Cards Accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.
Details via della Croce 35, 011-39/06-678-0179, hotelpanda.it. Double with shared bath from €98 ($150).

‘Hood Near Campo de’ Fiori, a bustling open-air market that heats up at night when locals and tourists crowd bars and restaurants lining the perimeter. It’s an easy walk to the Vatican, the Forum, the Spanish Steps, and Trastevere.
First Impression The Smeraldo is a standard European budget hotel with marginal service, but the well-appointed rooms and great views set it a cut above the rest.
Rooms The 66 rooms are small—showers require acrobatic flexibility—and have burnished chestnut ensembles (headboard, nightstands, and armoire), marble sinks, and stone-tile floors. Some overlook the Campo de’ Fiori.
Plus You can grab drinks and admire the skyline from the two rooftop terraces.
Minus The Smeraldo is popular among often-rowdy European soccer fans. Check the soccer schedule for home games before you book.
Free Wi-Fi? No; There is a charge for Wi-Fi and it’s not accessible in the guestrooms.
Credit Cards Accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.
Details vicolo dei Chiodaroli 9, 011-39/06-687-5929, smeraldoroma.com. Double from €115 ($176), breakfast included.
Some Booking Strategies
The loveliest times to visit the Eternal City are also the busiest and most expensive: mid-March through June (with a spike around Easter), September through October, and December through early January. Hotel prices are generally lower in August, when locals flee the sweltering heat and many restaurants close. Whenever your visit, be warned that those who procrastinate will be punished with less-than-desirable locations and/or price tags.
It’s wise to consult hotel websites for possible discounts and to contact them directly—some will offer discounts of up to 10 percent for payment in cash. And as few Roman hotels are standard in room size and amenities, you’ll want to be in touch to relay any special requests, like baby cots or even a room on a lower floor in hotels with no elevators. For online price comparisons, the Italian booking service venere.com typically has the best deals.
One alternative is to rent an apartment, especially if you’re traveling with children or in a large group. The site rome-accom.com offers some of the best deals, though many landlords require a substantial deposit and cash payment. You could also consider staying in a religious house. The sites go-to-italy.com and santasusanna.org have extensive lists of obliging current and former monasteries and convents.

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.