Rome’s standard hotels are notoriously overpriced. So, when you stay here, unusual solutions—rental apartments, B&Bs, even convents and monasteries—have two great virtues: They’re cheaper than standard facilities and often more memorable.
Breakfast in all but the highest echelon of hotels is usually a buffet with coffee, fruit, rolls, and cheese. It’s not always included in the rate, so check the listing carefully. If you are budgeting and breakfast is a payable extra, skip it and go to a nearby cafe-bar. It will likely be much cheaper.
Nearly all hotels are heated in the cooler months, but not all are air-conditioned in summer, which can be vitally important during a stifling July or August. The deluxe and first-class ones are, but after that, it’s a tossup. Be sure to check before you book a stay in the dog days of summer, if you suffer in the heat. Many lower-grade hotels will charge extra for air conditioning.
Self-Catering ApartmentsAnyone looking to get into the local swing of things should stay in a short-term rental apartment. A centrally located, “economical” double room in a Rome hotel goes for about 120€ per night. It may be cramped and dark, with few amenities. For the same price or less, you could have your own spacious one-bedroom apartment with a terrace, washing machine, A/C, and a fridge to keep your wine in. Properties of all sizes and styles, in every price range, are available for stays of 3 nights to several weeks.
Nearly every rental apartment in Rome is owned and maintained by a third party (that is, not the rental agency). That means that the decor and flavor of the apartments, even in the same price range and neighborhood, can vary widely. Every reputable agency, however, puts multiple photos of each property it handles on its website, so that you’ll have a sense of what you’re getting into. The photos should be accompanied by a list of amenities, so if A/C and a washing machine are important to you, but you can live without Wi-Fi, be sure to check for those features. (In summer you’ll want to opt for that A/C.) Note also that www.airbnb.com, www.homeaway.com, www.vrbo.com, and www.flipkey.com, platforms that allow individuals to rent their own apartments to guests, cover Rome.
About the Money
It’s standard practice for local rental agencies to collect 30% of the total rental amount upfront to secure a booking. When you get to Rome and check in, the balance of your rental fee is often payable in cash only. Upon booking, the agency should provide you with detailed “check-in” procedures. Sometimes, you’re expected to call a cell or office phone when you arrive in Rome, and then the keyholder will meet you at the front door of the property at the agreed-upon time. Tip: Before the keyholder disappears, make sure you have a few numbers to call in case of an emergency. Otherwise, most apartments come with information sheets that list neighborhood shops and services. Beyond that, you’re on your own, which is what makes an apartment stay such a great way to do as the Romans do.
Cross Pollinate,(tel) 06-99369799, is a multi-destination agency but with a decent roster of apartments and B&Bs in Rome. It was created by the American owners of the Beehive Hotel in Rome, and they and their staff personally inspect the properties they offer.
GowithOh, (tel) 800/567-2927, in the U.S., is a hip rental agency that covers 12 European cities, Rome among them. The website is fun to navigate and has sections on how to save money as well as over 400 apartments for rent in the city.
Eats & Sheets, (tel) 06-83515971, is a small boutique collective comprising two B&Bs (near the Vatican and Colosseum), and 11 beautiful apartments for rent, most in the Centro Storico but in a variety of sizes and types.
Roman Reference, (tel) 06-48903612, offers no-surprises property descriptions (with helpful and diplomatic tags like “better for young people”) and even includes the “eco-footprint” for each apartment (how much energy it consumes). You can expect transparency and responsiveness from the plain-dealing staff.
Rental in Rome, (tel) 06-69905533, has an alluring website—with video clips of the apartments—and the widest selection of midrange and luxury apartments in the prime centro storico zone (there are less expensive ones, too).
Bed & Breakfast Association of Rome handles both self-catering apartments and rooms for rent within private apartments, some of which charge as little as 30€.
Monasteries & Convents
Staying in a convent or a monastery can be a great bargain and a unique experience if you’re seeking a mellow, contemplative trip to the Eternal City. But remember, these are religious houses, which means that the decor is most often stark and simple, and the rules are extensive. Cohabiting is almost always frowned upon—though marriage licenses are rarely required—and unruly behavior is not tolerated (so, no staggering in after too much limoncello at dinner). Plus, there’s usually a curfew. Most rooms in convents and monasteries do not have private bathrooms, but ask when making your reservation in case some are available. The place to start is www.monasterystays.com, which essentially lays out all your monastic options for the Eternal City and can make all the bookings for you.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.