Once a city of polar-opposite accommodation options - exorbitantly expensive, often soulless luxury hotels on the one hand; cheap pensioni of dubious cleanliness on the other - Rome has only recently started to generate the range of hotels that you might expect in one of the most-visited destinations on the planet.
The city's ever-increasing popularity has had an inevitable impact on hotel rates; Rome is a more expensive place to stay than most other European capitals. The days of the dirt-cheap hotel bed are well and truly over (though for anyone who doesn't mind a curfew or sleeping under a crucifix, convents remain the ultimate budget option), and you're as unlikely as ever to find a room with a view without making a sizeable dent in your holiday allowance.
It may not come cheap, but the general standard of accommodation has improved dramatically in recent years. The luxury hotel market, in particular, has exploded, due partly to a council scheme to revamp old palazzi in down-at-heel areas like the Esquilino, and partly to upscale districts, such as via Veneto, experiencing a resurgence.
The recent Italian trend for hotels created by fashion designers had seen haute couturiers sidelining Rome in favour of Florence and Milan; a much-needed injection of glamour came in May 2006 with the opening of Salvatore Ferragamo's swanky Portrait Suites.
The mid-range market is also flourishing: fierce competition from boutique hotels popping up all over the centro storico means that older-style hotels and pensioni are being forced to upgrade both amenities and decor to keep up.
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Always reserve a room well in advance, especially at peak times, which now means most of the year, with lulls during winter (January to March) and in the dog days of August. If you're visiting at the same time as a major Christian holiday (Christmas or Easter) it's wise to book weeks, or even months, ahead.
Increasingly, booking is via hotel websites, but you may also be asked to fax confirmation of a booking, with a credit card number as deposit. In high season, smaller hotels may ask for a money order to secure rooms. If you arrive with nowhere to stay, try the APT tourist office (Via Parigi 5, Esquilino, 06 4889 9200/infoline 06 8205 9127/www.romaturismo.com), which provides a list of hotels; you have to do the booking yourself.
The Enjoy Rome tourist information agency (Via Marghera 8A, Esquilino, 06 445 1843/fax 06 445 0734/www.enjoyrome.com), offers a free booking service, as does the Hotel Reservation service. Avoid the touts that hang around Termini: you're likely to end up paying more than you should for a very grotty hotel.
This agency has details on the availability of numerous hotels at all prices, and runs a shuttle service to the centre from Fiumicino airport. Check out the website for bargain-basement late-booking offers. Staff speak English.
Fiumicino airport, Terminals A, B & C arrivals halls (06 699 1000/fax 06 678 1469/www.hotelreservation.it). Open 7am-10pm daily. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V. Other locations: Ciampino airport (06 7934 9427); Termini station, at head of platform 24 (06 482 3952).
Italian hotels are classified on a star system, from one to five. One star usually indicates pensioni, which are cheap but have very few facilities; you may have to share a bathroom. The more stars, the more facilities a hotel will have, but bear in mind the fact that a higher rating is no guarantee of friendliness, cleanliness or decent service.
A double room in a one-star will set you back €50-€100; a two-star, €60-€150; a three-star, €70-€300; a four-star, €120-€450. Five-star prices start at around €300, and don't stop until your bank manager starts to weep. Many hotels charge a lower rate for a double room occupied by one person; we have included these along with the single rates in the listings.
Prices generally rise by a relentless ten per cent a year, but it's worth keeping an eye out for low-season deals on hotel websites. If you're staying in a group or for a longish period, ask about discounts.
Renting an apartment could prove to be a cheaper and more flexible alternative.
Families & kids
If you're visiting with children, most hotels will be happy to squeeze a cot or camp bed into a room, but will probably charge 30 to 50 per cent extra for the privilege.
Near Termini station
There are now three five-star hotels within a stone's throw of Termini station, but the vast majority of hotels in the area are cheap pensioni swarming with budget backpackers. It's not Rome's most picturesque corner, and almost certainly not what you dreamt of for your Roman holiday. It's well worth considering looking further afield, even if it costs you a bit more. Though Termini is only a few minutes' bus ride from the centre, you're likely to end up wishing you were more in the thick of things.
If you're staying for a few days, think about looking for a room in the centro storico.
A shower between sightseeing and dinner, and a wander (rather than a bus) back to the hotel afterwards can make all the difference.
Campo de' Fiori
The area around campo de' Fiori offers mid-priced hotels with lots of character, and a central piazza that is a lively market by day and a hip Roman hangout by night; the area around the Pantheon and Piazza Navona is generally a bit pricier.
Moving distinctly up the price range, Rome's top-end hotels have traditionally clustered around via Veneto; though not as lively as it was in its much-hyped dolce vita heyday, this famous street is slowly undergoing a makeover; what it lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in grandeur.
The Tridente area near the Spanish Steps, hub of designer shopping, is full of elegant hotels at the upper end of the price scale.
Celio and Aventine
If you're looking for some peace, the Celio, just beyond the Colosseum, offers a break from the frantic activity of the centro storico, as does another of Rome's seven hills: the Aventine, an exclusive residential outpost no distance at all from the centro.
Heading across the river, the characterful bar- and pizzeria-packed riverside district of Trastevere is a pleasant place to stay, with decent bus and tram connections to the major sights; in recent years it has blossomed from hotel-desert to hotel-bonanza, offering an array of price options.
Just north of Trastevere, the medieval alleys around the Vatican give on to the busy retail thoroughfares of Prati: it's lively during the day but hushed at night.
The hotels listed in this guide have been chosen for their location, because they offer value for money, or simply because they have true Roman character. In the Deluxe category the emphasis is on opulence and luxury.
Those in mid- to upper-price ranges are generally smaller, often in old palazzi, with pretty, though often small, bedrooms. Pensioni are fairly basic, but those listed here are friendly and usually family-run.
A no-smoking law introduced in 2005 applies to hotels' public areas; while a few hotels have extended the ban to include the bedrooms, most are still pretty laissez-faire when it comes to guests lighting up so long as they open a window.
Few Roman hotels have access for the disabled; though staff are generally very willing to help guests with mobility difficulties, the real problem is that most places have so many stairs that there's not much they can do. As hotels renovate, they do tend to add a room for the disabled if they can.
Unless stated, the rates are for rooms with private bathrooms. The rates also include breakfast unless indicated otherwise.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
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