For decades in Italy, “pensione” and “fashionable” didn’t belong in the same sentence. Small and family-run, without a concierge, room service, or sometimes even a working television, pensiones were seen as downright dowdy — especially in a style-conscious city like Rome.
But today, Italy’s bed-and-breakfasts have grown up. They remain intimate affairs, a “home away from home” where, over coffee and a cornetto (brioche), you can pick the owner’s brain on what to see and do in the neighborhood.
Here’s a look at four:
Neighborhood Gem (From $160)
Before you even enter the Guesthouse Arco dei Tolomei, time seems to turn backward: The medieval palazzo is tucked away on a tiny lane in Trastevere, the kind of quarter where the local knife-sharpener still wheels his bicycle down cobblestone streets every week, announcing himself with “arrotino.”
Inside the residence, the sense of time travel only increases. Owners Marco and Gianna Paola Fè d’Ostiani decorated the six guest rooms with their noble family’s belongings: an 18th-century walnut wardrobe, an antique crystal chandelier, even family portraits.
Guests gather in the morning for a breakfast that includes homemade cake, Italian hams and cheeses, ande jams made from apricots and blackberries from Gianna’s countryside garden.
Marco, who was born two blocks away from the inn, shares sight-seeing tips. “Don’t miss the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere,” he says. You can still descend beneath the centuries-old church and see ancient Roman houses.
For gelato, Marco sends guests to the Bar San Calisto, where he says scoops aren’t just tasty but “the most honest in Rome — one euro for a cone.”
Room with a View (From $103)
At its best, a pensione reflects both its neighborhood’s history and its owner’s personality. Aklesia Suite ticks both boxes.
Located just up the street from the Colosseum, Aklesia’s three sun-filled rooms, with their original art deco tiled floors and antiques, are convivial and warm — like the owners themselves.
“We want our guests to feel as if they’re at their own house,” says Gianfranco Valleriani. His wife, Aklesia, has even been known to do the guests’ laundry.
Piazza Plush (From $184)
When brothers Marco and Pierluigi Sole turned their grandfather’s apartment in Piazza Navona into a bed-and-breakfast two years ago, the economic crisis had just hit. “We knew if we did something standard, it would be hard to sustain,” says Marco. “So we decided to invest in luxury.”
But the personal touches of the three-room Locanda del Sole, run by the brothers and their friend Emiliano Galli, make the B&B as intimate as it is upscale.
The furniture is handmade in Italy; breakfast specialties include homemade Nutella rolls; guests are greeted not only with a bottle of Lazio wine and hazelnut chocolates but also with a complimentary minibar complete with prosecco.
On an evening passegiata (stroll), guests can browse limited-edition handbags printed with images of Sophia Loren at the Massimo Trulli showroom and dine on homemade pasta at Rome’s oldest restaurant, La Campana.
Top Street Creds (From $234)
The six elegant guest rooms at Crossing Condotti take their names from nearby streets: Babuino, Frattina, Condotti. After all, the residence’s location is worth bragging about. It’s in the heart of the Spanish Steps neighborhood, with tony shops such as Fendi and Ferragamo.
Rather than compete with the area’s large five-star hotels, the owners, Alfio and Carlotta Puglisi Gravina di Montevago, chose to keep Crossing Condotti small, with both the comforts and privacy of home.
The rooms, furnished with old master paintings and walnut bureaus, have views of the boutique-lined streets. Choice amenities include Nespresso machines and L’Occitane toiletries.
There’s no hot breakfast, but guests have 24/7 access to a fridge stocked with Peroni beer and plum cake — if, that is, they’re not taking coffee at the nearby Antico Caffé Greco or sipping local wines at Palatium, a wine shop and restaurant run by Lazio Regional Food Authority.