The Stay List: Rome, Sweet Rome

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.

Located in the central, but residential, Celio neighborhood, the B&B is just a minute’s walk to local favorites like pizzeria Li Rioni and wine bar Il Pentagrappolo for live music.

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.

This piece, written by Amanda Ruggeri, is featured in the latest issue of National Geographic Traveler, on newsstands now. Like what you see? Buy the whole issue for your iPad.


  1. Michael Sullivan
    Pittsburgh, Pa
    January 31, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Thank you for this helpful article. I just want to add a few more things on this list for those looking for affordable, convenient, and affordable accommodation options in Rome. I highly recommend staying in rentals for many reasons. If you plan on staying in the city for more than just a couple of days, a rental apartment is one of your best options since the rates are a lot lower than hotel rooms. Many of these units are also located near the city’s best areas, like the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum.

  2. Tommy
    November 1, 2013, 12:53 pm

    I can also recomand you to see

  3. Chris
    United Kingdom
    July 28, 2013, 2:51 pm

    The ‘eternal city’ of Rome is one of the most amazing destinations for a traveller to visit in Europe. Here you have over 2,000 years of history to walk through and enjoy. There are many different districts to Rome and each have their own charm and character. For a guide to the Best places to Stay in Rome you may wish to check

    Rome is certainly a city for romantics and you can have a wonderful time here.

  4. rigo
    January 28, 2013, 8:19 pm

    i love the bed.

  5. Christian Rene Friborg
    November 22, 2012, 9:32 pm

    Me and my wife are planning to go to Rome early next year for our anniversary. I would certainly consider a hotel that is near the Colosseum! My wife has been wanting to see that for ages.

  6. christian
    November 19, 2012, 3:00 am

    i’ve never been to rome but i want to visit this place.

  7. Asia
    Bassano del Grappa - Italy
    November 12, 2012, 3:14 pm

    I’ve been in Rome many times, for holidays and business.
    Everytime is always a great pleasure for me re-discover the ancient streets of “Rione Monti” one of my favourite district in Rome. I love in general all the area all around the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
    I also appreciate the Esquilino district, where I found a very good budget accommodation , a bed and breakfast not so far from the Colosseum, less than 15 minute walking. Owned by Alexandra, really a lovely person who treated me more like a friend than a guest. she was very helpfull, suggesting me the best tourist destination to visit, restaurant choices, maps, where to go for a drink. The name of the B & b is “Brilli”, it is located in Via Tasso, near the Vittorio Square (famouse for the multi-etnic open market) and this is their website address in case someone need to find a budget accommodation in Rome:

    After reading this post I really miss Rome and her romantic atmosphere!