It’s all thanks to my mom that I am into the whole Four Star vibe. First of all, she’s a Svengali of discounts, and in the hospitality and lodging world that means she is hotel whisperer to many a customer service representative to whom she firmly (and rightly) believes that all she has to do is ask and the prices will fall. Who needs Lastminute and Latenight when we have her on call?! Secondly, she has an eye for great four star hotels.
Four Star hotels are unsung heroes – fabulous yet overlooked finds, but in Rome, the Four Star is the hydra of hotelerie, a spectrum so vast and numbers so large, it’s impossible to define them, even harder to rank them and chaotic to navigate through them – or, as my mom would say, hit or miss. If you are tenacious, you’ll discover four stars that are just a hair short of being five star- beautiful design and service, lacking only a few amenities like (spas and fitness centers), or else you’ll find you have inadvertently booked yourself into a four star room that not even Mother Bates could love. To paraphrase a friend within the Federalberghi structure, hotels can be whatever they want these days and four stars are absolutely anything and everything.
The Four Star
Style. Location. Price. The standard requirements for choosing any hotel anywhere, but what does this mean for Rome? It means being picky. For me, the big “No”s are outdated style – like burnt umber colored bed coverletss with what look likes itty-bitty pompoms all over- and cumbersome space, i.e. too much design effort and furniture to look cool. It’s all about location, and in my opinion, if you are planning to stay in Rome, you must be in the thick of it, in other words, neighborhoods in the centro storico. So my main question is are the windows at least double-paned? Finally, I focus on my baseline budget. According to Expedia, the four star price range in Rome is anything from 42 euro to 700 euro nightly, and knowing well what kind of bang you get, I set my (somewhat flexible) baseline at 175 euro, ruling out (unless told otherwise) everything below 125 euro and above 250 euro, which narrows the listings and eliminates several of the mutton dressed as lamb.
But which ones are my favorite tried and true four stars in Rome, you ask? I have three reliable hotels that never fall short on design, quality and service, not mention locations I love, distinguished from five stars simply for lack of a spa and/or gym. Since they meet my benchmarks, I’m willing to update my end range to 350 euro per night because these hotel’s have higher price points, so I’m willing to be a little bit more flexible. But no matter what, I am going to listen to my mamma and pick up the phone to negotiate because it can’t hurt to ask. . .
Hotel Stendhal I stumbled into the Stendhal one day after being caught with a famished and very impatient 5 year old as we waited for an incredibly overdue bus on Via del Tritone. She needed a snack and I needed a break, behind us was the window into what looked like peace to me, thanks to tranquil, seafoam colored walls. I was right, I was able to relax so much so that later I booked a stay at the The Annex.
The Annex is the Hotel Stendhal’s is around-the-corner apartment, whose rooms favor a more contemporary style to the main hotel’s traditional and tasteful 30 rooms. The 10 Annex rooms are a combination of rich colors and fabrics, and great light. I’d call the decor modern Italian- bespoke upholstering, art piece lamps, fabulous prints, modern bed frames, shapeful divans and dark parquet floors. Nothing is cumbersome and there is an overall sense of open space, in fact the floor area alone would be ideal for personal yoga routines and core workouts. Sexy, contemporary and spacious, the Annex vibe is urban escape and giving you a chance to “live” an Italian life. Though I am not 100% thrilled about its location on the corner of Piazza Barberini and busy via del Tritone, there is no noise (triple-pane glass!) and it is a perfect for walking to all sites in the city, or hopping on public transport. Finally, service is top quality. Stendhal staff are courteous and very helpful.
My number two is a surprise to me and a new entry: Palazzo Navona. It’s been a while since I have found a hotel in the Navona/Campo/Pantheon neighborhood that comes close to great hospitality, much less eye-pleasing design. Unfortunately, the hotels in this area are tired and/or too tourist “in and out” focused to concentrate on quality, so you can understand why I was more than happily surprised with Palazzo Navona and its roundhouse punch of style, service and space. Navona raises the bar. Or maybe I just loved the ground level bar and incredible library of art books. . . In fact, the entire ground level is delightful, a kind of “JK inspired” style of rich colors, artsy furniture (but not overwhelming), art piece lamps and paintings, and of course art books.
Its 43 rooms and suites are exemplify what I believe makes a hotel stand out- tasteful deficient and efficient use of space, a hot commodity in Rome and a very relative concept. Palazzo Navona employs a low key design style of white-on-grey-on-black tones, with the occasional bright colored divan, the vibe is tranquil. In each room, there is an effortless sense of space- which may in fact be an optical illusion, as a friend points out that the rooms are not really that big, however, my room – a corner suite (a larger open plan room) had black parquet floors so vast I could probably teach a yoga class here, and definitely play a rough game of Twister. From the front desk to in room, service is top notch, pleasant and efficient. Within 12 hours, I was on a first name basis with everyone from the front desk to room service. My favorite part of the hotel was not inside, but its rooftop with 360 view of the neighborhood’s domes and some great lounge chairs. The ringer for Palazzo Navona is location, a side street wedged between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Last but decidedly not least is Donna Camilla Savelli, an old favorite as well as an old monastery. First and foremost, Donna Camilla is the diametric opposite of Palazzo Navona and Hotel Stendhal – it is far larger (78 rooms and suites), traditional (design style is a luxurious play on it Baroque history), and across town (on a hill in Trastevere, which is close enough). Donna Camilla Savelli has the historical privilege of meditation, the compound (because it truly is) lets you forget about a long day in Rome.
The restored sixteenth-century monastery claims Francesco Borromini as architect, so you can imagine that Baroque runs rampant- tall archways, harlequin floors, bas-relief, coffered ceilings and beautiful dark wood furniture. Original antiques and ornament accent each room, while velvet headboards and satin tapestries space up Donna Camilla’s pious origins.In other words, this is the kind of place to stay if you want a bit of yesteryear Roman refinery. Being a former monastery, it’s a city oasis with terraces and cloister gardens, including my favorite -a scented garden with jasmine, camellias and magnolias.