Rome (Roma), as we know, is one of the largest and most-visited tourist cities in the world. That’s why it is especially important to choose the accommodation here wisely, so that you won’t have any regrets about the ruined vacation.
Once I came across the characteristics of an ideal hotel in Rome on one of the tourists-targeted forums online:
- Most sights and attractions are within walking distance
- Not much noise in the nights
- Located in a safe district
Let’s see if that’s even possible.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Rome?
In Rome you will probably have to walk a lot – all the tourist attractions are located quite far from each other (there are a few kilometers distance between the Coliseum and the Vatican!), that’s why it makes sense to live in the historical center of the city. Of course, you can book a hotel in one of the residential districts: it will be significantly cheaper but wasting an hour or two every day to commute from the suburbs to the downtown is not much fun, especially if you only stay in Rome for a couple of days and time is precious. I know that most of us commute daily from home to office and back and we can’t be that easily scared but keep in mind that it is at least ninety minutes of your vacation time that you won’t get back.
The city center in Rome stretches from the Termini station and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore to the Vatican and from the Villa Borghese to the Coliseum. This is a large territory (for example, the route Vatican – Termini would take at least an hour long walk), that’s why it would be better to define a few districts to consider for accommodation. Each of these neighbourhoods has its own characteristic features. Below we will take a look at the following districts and quarters:
- Roma Termini station area
- The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore district
- Via Nazionale and adjacent streets
- Celio (Coliseum area)
- Via Veneto and adjacent streets
- The very center (Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain)
- Campo de' Fiori area and surroundings
- Vatican area
Roma Termini Station
Hotels in the Roma Termini area would probably be the most budget-friendly option. However, there is a common opinion that this district is crowded, not exactly decent and not safe. I would dare to contradict, even though the station area might be crowded, it is clean and convenient, is the largest transport hub in Rome, and is home to a great number of shops underground including a supermarket which works late hours – quite a rare thing in the city center. There are some homeless people in the gardens near the bus platforms but if you keep this in mind and avoid these areas, you won’t get to meet them.
Infrastructure-wise this area is great: there are shops in the station building, grocery stores around and small pizzerias with lots of locals and a few tourists who accidentally wander in. Besides, the Termini area is very convenient if you plan to venture outside the city: from here almost 24/7 trains and buses (including transport to the airport) depart; at the same time two of the Rome metro lines cross here. From here you will not have any problems to reach the Forums and the Coliseum – it is just a 30-minute walk, to reach the Vatican City you will have to walk for around one hour. But like it was mentioned above, tourist attractions in Rome are spread around the city, and even if one of the sights will be within an easy reach, some of the others will be quite far away, that’s why when choosing a hotel in Rome, you should take the attractions into account but they should not really be a deciding factor.
How to choose a good place to stay in the Termini area? Here you have to hold on to two landmarks. Via Marsala, viale Castro Pretorio and viale dell'Università around the station build the University district; the opposite side of the station opens into the streets leading you to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Coliseum. Both areas are good for accommodation. I would recommend the following hotels, in particular, Best Western Universo, UNA Hotel Roma or The Independent Hotel.
Let’s take a closer look to hotels located near the above-mentioned Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
The area near the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and via Cavour is a very interesting and authentic quarter. Here you should pay attention to such hotels as Relais Forus Inn, Aenea Superior Inn or Domus Liberius – Rome Town House. The railway station is stone's throw away but nevertheless the district is very quiet and self-contained; plus, you will need even less time to reach the Forum and the Coliseum, compared to the time it would take you from the Termini station. The streets here will surprise you: for example, you can find here a coffee shop “locals only” or a 100-year old perfume store where you can purchase unique perfume. For those, who prefer to cook and crave not for r estaurant food but for fresh produce (even though there are more than enough restaurants and wine cellars here), there is a great food market in the district where you can buy among others fresh fish and sea food. Keeping this in mind you should rather focus on apartments and not hotels, so that you can have a kitchen and all the utensils at your disposal. For example, in the area of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore you can stay in the Cavour Centric Apartment or in the Merulana Inn. A more detailed list of apartments in Rome can be found here.
Via Nazionale is one of the main shopping streets in Rome, from the Piazza della Repubblica near the Termini it leads basically to the Forums. The main disadvantage of this street, in my opinion, is the noise – the heavy traffic is characteristic for this street. That’s why when choosing accommodation, you should rather choose a hotel located in one of the side streets branching from via Nazionale, or you can also ask for a room facing the opposite side when booking a hotel here. Infrastructure-wise the street and its surroundings aren’t bad, there is even the supermarket Spar working till late in the evening, the side streets are also occupied by various pizzerias and restaurants. If you want to do some shopping, that’s a good place to do this – almost every building not occupied by hotels is home to various stores selling clothes, shoes and bags. The street has also a convenient location: it is just 10-15 minutes away from the railway station, around the same amount of time you will need to reach the Capitoline Hill, the Forums and the Pantheon. Considering this, we can say that via Nazionale is probably even a better option for accommodation than the nearest surroundings of the Termini, but the hotels here are on average more expensive. However, if your budget permits, you can take a look at such hotels as the Britannia Hotel, Relais De L'Opera or Nazionale 51.
Coliseum is probably the most recognizable tourist attraction in Rome. There is a good deal of hotels around (for example, Colosseo Panoramic Rooms) with a view at the famous ruins of the amphitheater or the Forums. The majority of the hotels are located south-east to the Coliseum, in the district named Celio. Here I recommend avoiding hotels in the large streets with intensive traffic and pay more attention to the hotels hidden deeper in the quarter. Location-wise the place is good: the Forums are within an easy reach, and piazza Navona (which we could call the heart of the historical center in Rome) is a 20-minute walk away right through another shopping street – via del Corso; around the same time you would need to reach the Lateran district, the old residence of the Pope. But the main advantage of the district, in my opinion, is that there are fewer tourists here than anywhere else and you can see a quiet, peaceful non-tourist Rome. You should though keep in mind that most buildings here are quite old, and the hotel might not have an elevator, for example. That’s why it will make sense to check the reviews by other tourists before you proceed to booking – this way you will be sure to have all the comfort at your disposal. A few good options near the Coliseum include for example, the Hotel Romance or apartments N°9 Colosseo Luxury Suite and Residence Maximus.
Another interesting district in Rome is Lateran – a long time ago it was home to the residence of the Pope (the district is actually bordering on the above-mentioned Celio). It is another place rather unexplored by tourists, but it is pretty far from the center and the Vatican, each walk would take you almost half an hour more or you will have to use the metro to reach the desired destinations. But the accommodation here would cost you less than in the center and there are less problems with parking, which is important if you plan to come to Rome by car – not the best idea, however, considering the intensity of the traffic in Rome. You can see the list of the hotels in this district here.
Via Veneto Neighborhood
One of the extremely popular and not really cheap districts in Rome is located north-west to the Termini – the district is composed of via Veneto, via del Tritone and via Barberini. The district seems a little odd to me. The Termini station is within an easy reach which is, of course, convenient, but not exactly high-profile, so it should cause the price reduction. However, that’s not the case here, and if you decide to stay in one of the hotels in this district, more often than not the total cost would make quite a sum! Apparently it goes back to the famous Federico Fellini movie La Dolce Vita in which via Veneto played a special role, plus, in the 1960s this street was a rendezvous point for all socialites in Rome. Today you will find here a few expensive hotels, restaurants and stores. The advantage of the area is its convenient location – the railway station is close, and the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are just a 10-minute walk away. When going for a hotel in this area always check if there is an air conditioner and if the rooms are sound proof because the street noise can ruin an impression even of an expensive hotel. If the budget is unlimited, then you can take a look at such hotels as Hotel Imperiale or Boscolo Aleph Roma, but there are less expensive options too, for example, Rome Kings Relais And Suite.
The very Center of Rome
If your budget is not too much limited, you want to live in the very very center and one of the many goals of your visit in Rome is shopping, I recommend you to take a closer look at the district between Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. The hotels in this district have an incredibly convenient location: there are tourist attractions, shops and restaurants everywhere, and it seems that the Vatican city is not that far away either. But the prices are crazy and the area is crowded till the late in the night. The most crowded district is the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, where your view in the hotel would be countless people moving here and there, and where you will have to push through the cheerful crowd when you go back to your hotel. This area stretches into one of the largest shopping streets in Rome – via del Corso, another loud and crowded area where you have to make sure that the windows of your room do not face the street. But then all the shopping options are right there! Interesting options for accommodation are Internazionale Domus, Piazza di Spagna Suites and Daniel's Hotel.
Campo de’ Fiori and Trastevere
The more often you come to Rome, the more you appreciate its authenticity and the districts with less tourists, where you can go to a grocery store to buy some food and talk about the weather with the owner, who addresses you by your name starting from your second visit and treats you to olives or sun-dried tomatoes. For me, there are two districts that fit the description: the area around the Campo de’ Fiori and the district “beyond the river” – Trastevere. These are quiet and cozy places, Rome in its true colors and without the crowd craving for attractions and shopping. Campo de’ Fiori is a little bit “more center” and expensive, Trastevere is on the outside of the center but that’s where you have a chance to see the real Rome. The Campo de’ Fiori district is especially convenient if you plan to rent an apartment and to cook your own food because there is a market on the square here from an early morning where you can buy fruits, vegetables, spices and even biscuits. Trastevere is famous for its small shops where the owners sell wine, spices and home-made sausages. In the district of the Campo de’ Fiori I can recommend the following hotels: Hotel Lunetta or Biscione 95; in Trastevere – La Gensola In Trastevere, Residenza Delle Arti or Nina Casetta De Trastevere. You can see the more detailed list of hotels and the relevant maps here:
Hotels located in the Vatican area are far away from many tourist attractions in Rome (for example, the Forums and the Coliseum are an hour-walk away), but the Vatican museums, the Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Castel Sant'Angelo and piazza Navona are within an easy reach. Besides, the infrastructure in this area is, in my opinion, better: houses are newer, and the atmosphere is more orderly compared to the rest of Rome (of course, those are personal impressions). If you don’t feel like going anywhere far away, you can take advantage of the shopping street here – via Cola Di Rienzo – where for example, the department store Coin with the supermarket Billa is located, and the railway station Roma S.Pietro where you can catch a train to the airport or let’s say to Viterbo and there is no need to go to the Termini. Here I recommend paying attention to the hotels and apartments located in the quiet by-streets around the Basilica. The hotels on the way from the Castel Sant'Angelo to the Saint Peter's Basilica, are probably not the best option: this area is loud, crowded and there are no spectacular views, however, the prices are really high. All-in-all the district is very quiet and comfortable to stay at. Pay attention to the hotels like Aurelia Residence San Pietro, Starhotels Michelangelo Rome or Ancient Romance B&B.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Rome
I should mention the characteristic features of the hotels in Rome.
- One of the most common problems that tourists face has to do with sockets, which are different from the European ones. That’s why you should probably get an adapter in advance just in case, even though you will be able to purchase one of those in one of the appliance shops or even supermarkets nearby (you can always ask the reception staff where you can get it).
- Most of hotels in Rome have new buildings, the most “ancient” thing that has the potential to inconvenience you might be a really small elevator accommodating not more than two people, or the lack of the elevator altogether. Actually, before booking a room, always check the detailed description of the hotel and its rooms on the booking websites. These descriptions, as a rule, tell you if there is a bathroom in the room (with a bathtub or a shower), an air conditioner, etc. Of course, these details contribute greatly to the price of the room – rooms where you have to share the bathroom with guests from other rooms, or rooms with no air conditioner will definitely be cheaper.
- Hotels in Rome almost never have kettles in their rooms, but in most apartments you will find a kettle.
- Mini-bars/fridges are, as it seems, everywhere (at least I have not seen a single 3-star and up hotel in Rome without a mini-bar).
- Don’t expect much from breakfasts. As fruits go, you most probably will have apples/bananas, that is if you stay in a 4/5-star hotel. The 3-star hotels staff might water down milk, as for the food, they will offer you corn flakes, bread rolls with butter and bland ham and cheese. It is interesting that even when you pay for your accommodation double as much, you can count on more or less the same breakfast, except that your milk will not be watered down, and you might get bacon and eggs. Well, that’s not Spain, Germany or Scandinavian countries where the breakfast options are way richer.
- Booking systems in Italian hotels often “fail”: the reception staff might have problems to find your reservation (always have a print-out with you), and by checking out you might be charged 3,000 euros for watching some TV channels. However, these issues are usually resolved very fast and the staff apologizes to you profusely.
- Finally, let me say a few words about security and safety. Rome is as safe or unsafe as any other megalopolis with a large number of people, that’s why you can’t categorically claim that Rome is unsafe for tourists. Reasonable precaution should always be there: for example, keep your documents in a safe in the hotel (ideally, if the safe is in the room), put there some of your cash and the second bank card (if you have one), and always pay attention to your own stuff, especially in crowded places which are heaven for pickpockets. If you follow this, your vacation will not be darkened by the trouble, and Rome will bring only positive emotions.