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Hotels in Bologna: let the second guessing begin!

PSM.jpg

Hotel Porta San Mamolo

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Guest photo of Hotel Orologio (from Trip Advisor)

Second-guessing myself seems to be second-nature to me (along with jumping to conclusions, which is my favourite form of exercise.)

And trip planning provides so many wonderful opportunities for me to undermine my own confidence by questioning all of my travel choices -- especially what hotels to select.

These are, after all, the most expensive part of a trip, in my experience. Accommodations, in total, always cost far more than the flight. And while the cost of meals does add up -- I'm sure I have had days where I ate 50 or 60 euros' worth of food (that includes gelato and coffee) -- food still doesn't seem to cost as much as hotels, in total.

So, inspired by fellow blogger Chiocciola, I've begun to doubt my choice of hotel in Bologna. In the following case, what would you do?

Background: I'm staying 7 nights in Bologna. A long enough stay that it matters to me that the hotel be clean and quiet (I must confess that I'm bothered by noise.) A decent breakfast and a nice public space also counts.

Option 1. Hotel Porta San Mamolo. I have booked a superior double room, with a little balcony, for 105 euro per night. This hotel is a bit away from the centre, which some consider a problem. I think it might help to keep noise levels down. It has a lovely central garden area where breakfast is sometimes served. This also seems to be a highlight for many guests. Further, Hotel PSM has gotten very, very good reviews from other Slow Travelers, particularly Girasoli and Palma, and it is one of the Bologna's highest rated hotels on TripAdvisor.

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Hotel Porta San Mamolo's garden at night

Option 2. Hotel Orologio. Although I was very happy to get a good room at the PSM, I couldn't resist checking out the competition. Last week, after fellow blogger Mary described how much she enjoyed the very central Orologio, I sent them an inquiry. Their response? 135 euros for a double for single use. I emailed Orologio back to say thanks, but I'm afraid that's a bit too high. Their response to my response? An offered rate of just 90 euro per night, and the comment: "Now we are giving you a real special price ! We hope you appreciate that ! We also hope to hear from you soon !"

That's a good price, for a popular 3-star right on the main Piazza Maggiore. However, while a central location can be great, it can be noisy. Reviews on Trip Advisor have remarked on the amount of noise that can roll up from the main piazza (don't forget, Bologna is a big university town) Second, it doesn't get quite the rave reviews as PSM has drawn. Further, would I get a superior room at the Orologio, or their smallest double in the back over the garbage containers?

Yet, with the Orologio, I'd be saving about 100 euro on the trip, which is basically the price of one night's stay. So that's the dilemma -- how important is money to me? Should I roll the dice to save the price of one night in an Italian hotel, and take the chance I won't like it?

Comments (31)

That's so funny because Chiocciola's blog post has also started me thinking about other possibilities and you know how much I love Hotel Porta San Mamalo. I checked Hotel Commercianti (just the advertised rates) and it was also below 100 euros for a double for single use. I didn't think to write to Hotel Orologio but the prices were high. I am surprised with the offer they sent you. They must be hurting.

It does get loud in the piazza at night. Are there comments about the noise on the reviews? Venere.com also has reviews on this hotel. I can't remember now if any commented about the noise.

Maybe you should write back to Hotel Porta San Mamalo to see if they can give you a better deal?

Oh Sandra, I hear you.
Well, I am not familiar with either hotel, but for me, I'll take the cheaper hotel with good reviews. But, and this is an important but, I can sleep through storms and under missile attacks, so noise does not bother me.
So, if you are going to stay there for a whole weeks, and of course you want to get good night sleep, you may want to splurge the extra 100 euros for that.
Good luck!

I personally would splurge on Option 1 for a 7-night stay. If I was only going to be there for a couple of nights, I'd probably go with the bargain option, but for a week, having a balcony and a garden just sounds worth the extra money. 105 euro sounds like a good price for summer too. How far away is it from the centre?

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, tough decision. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with these hotels or of Bologna so I can't help you there. I share your feelings about the second guessing phase of trip planning. Been there myself.

They both seem like great hotel choices. However, IMHO since you are staying for such a long time I think your comfort level and things that you enjoy and find important should take priority.

Seems like you have quite the decision to make. I'm sure whatever you decide in the end will be the best decision for you and you will have a wonderful trip.

sandrac:

Girasoli, the noise from the piazza does concern me a bit. Several of the TripAdvisor reviews mentioned it, and I am pretty noise sensitive. In summer, with airconditioners roaring and therefore the windows closed, it would probably be fine! But I really do like the look of PSM (and the reviews, including yours, have been so glowing!)

I've thought about writing the PSM to see if they would reduce the rate. I've done that with most of my other hotels on this trip. BUT in those other cases, I bargained from the outset and then we agreed on a lower rate. I kind of feel as if I've accepted the Hotel PSM offer and I don't know if I'm comfortable going back now and asking for a reduction (that probably sounds a bit ridiculous, especially since I'm staying a week!)

Candi thanks so much. I am so envious that you're not bothered by noise -- that's a great gift! Travel planning is fun, until we begin to second-guess ourselves.

Thanks, Annie. The PSM does sound so sweet, and so many reviews talk about how nice it is to have an internal courtyard and garden. It sounds as if the walk to the centre is only about 10 minutes. I think Girasoli has said it wasn't too long, and reviews on Trip Advisor have made it sound like a pleasant stroll. Which I actually like, especially in the summer when it's pleasant to be outside as much as possible! Particularly after dinner in the evening, it's nice to have a good long stroll and walk off some of the calories!

sandrac:

Hi Kathy, thanks very much for your input and your support! It actually is a pretty pleasant decision to have to make -- chosing between two extremely nice hotels! (And in Italy -- I definitely have no complaints!!)

I agree that comfort is very important, even if it costs a bit more. Of course, Orologio looks quite comfortable as well as the PSM!

Oooh I have started a big Indecision 2009 for you as well! I am sure the San Mamolo is super, like you say, Girasoli loves it and it is the highest ranking hotel on TripAdvisor. Plus, the noise thing. The prices fluctuate so much which makes it hard to decide - for my time frame, San Mamolo is a lot more expensive.

I want to be right in the middle of the piazza, which is why I want to stay at the Orologio or the Commercianti, but from your preferences it sounds like San Mamolo might be the right choice for you. And you are right about the rooms - from what I understand both the Commercianti and the Orologio have lots of different rooms so there is a chance to end up with a not so great one...

Annie, I don't think the Orologio is considered a budget option; it has 3 plus stars but everybody says it is like a four star hotel.

sandrac:

Hi Chiocciola! Of course, this is half the fun of travel, agonizing over extremely pleasant decisions that don't really make a lot of difference in the long run!

Part of what makes this choice hard is that I think the Orologio looks really, really nice. I have the impression that for your trip, the price difference between the Porta San Mamolo and Orologio is quite substantial, more than enough (I gather) to tilt in favour of Orologio.

I have a bit of history with this issue. This time last year, when I was planning a similar trip for September (and wound up in Umbria instead) I had checked rates on the Orologio (which the Arte Hotels calls a 4-star.) They came back saying the Orologio was full, but offered a rate of about 90 or 95 euro for the Corona D'Oro which is their fancy 5-star! I was gobsmacked. But I suppose it shows this small hotel chain is quite flexible and willing to do what it takes to fill their rooms.

Chiocciola, when I said "bargain option" I was just referring to Sandra's two choices (ie, Orologio being the less expensive of the two). :)

Oops, sorry. Someone came in my cube and I clicked "post" too soon!

Sandra, a 10-minute walk doesn't sound that far at all. I expected it to be further away since some people thought the location was problem. I too love a post-dinner stroll home!

Oh interesting, I didn't know this history! Makes it even more interesting! Sounds like a very nice chain - I know they have been very helpful with me so far. (I did a quick check at the PSM and now the difference is less than it was a while back, around 15-20 dollars a night.)

sandrac:

Annie, I think that Orologio is definitely offering a nice bargain price right now. And the walk to PSM doesn't sound daunting at all, so overall, the two hotels really seem to be a pretty even match-up!

Chiocciola, the Arte Hotels chain does sound very nice, I know that Mary T. had a very very good experience recently with the Orologio (which she described on her blog.) I would hope that level of service is consistent, so I'll be really interested to hear what you think of the Orologio if you do ultimately decide to stay there.

dana:

Hi Sandra,

I have nothing to offer towards your decision because I ended up not making it to Bologna on this trip after all.

I will say that I had narrowed my hotel choice to these two as well, and finally made a reservation at San Mamolo based largely on girasoli's glowing reviews for it. The hotel was very understanding when I canceled the reservation, even refunding my deposit although I canceled within the final 24 hour period. I'll be watching this space to see your decision, and later, how you liked it, for when I do someday make it to Bologna.

Dana

You're right Annie! :)

So Sandra, I will be out of Bologna by early May - I can give you my opinion then. Would you feel comfortable holding reservations in both places and then cancel one of them?

Still think the PSM is better for quiet!

sandrac:

Hi Dana, I had been wondering if you made it to Bologna -- if I remember correctly, there was some discussion on the Slow Travel board about Bologna and hotels. I'm glad to hear that the PSM was good enough to not charge you a cancellation fee.

Chiocciola, that's a very good point -- I was thinking you would be in Bologna quite soon! (I apologize for being so self-absorbed, yeesh!)

I'll definitely have to decide before May. I haven't actually reserved with Orologio, I'm still pondering their offer. But I wouldn't want to tie up rooms at both places, especially if they're suffering from the economic slowdown.

Still, I'll be very curious to hear your impressions of the Orologio. And thanks so much for your advice about PSM and the quiet!

I am basing that evidence only on other people's evidence, though! :) But it does make sense that a hotel in the middle of the piazza would be more noisy.

Never, never second guess! LOL No good can come of it.

sandrac:

Chiocciola, I think that's a very reasonable assumption.

Very true, Jerry!

Brad'll Do It:

Palma and I stayed at the Hotel Roma last September, which is right around the corner from the Orologico. Because we'd stayed at PSM, we wanted to try a hotel closer to the Piazza. We had a decent room, and the price was reasonable. I just looked at their website, and their 2009 "list" price for a single is 95 euro.

While we hated the coffee at the hotel, that turned out to actually enhance our Bologna experience, as we "adopted" one of the many nearby coffee bars for our morning java. Take a look at Palma's blog, September 17 - 25, 2008, to see how we enjoyed what's becoming one of our favorite destinations in Italy. The hotel location truly facilitated our enjoyment of Bologna, and we've decided to stay close to the Piazza going forward, with the Hotel Roma as our "incumbent" hotel.

Hope this doesn't add too much to your conundrum.

Jerry, are you trying to stifle our lively discussion? :)

My goal is to make this the most commented post on Sandra's blog!

sandrac:

Brad, that's a convincing argument for staying in the very centre. It's always fun to find "your" cafe! Did you find that inside the hotel, you heard much noise from the square?

Chiocciola, I think you've achieved your goal!

Brad'll Do It:

Actually, I asked Palma her opinion, and both of us thought the hotel was quiet. Different story if you open a window, of course, but the hotel's website describes the rooms as quiet.

Palma:

We didn't hear ANY noise, but it was cooler weather, so we never slept with the windows open. I love the PSM, but I am lazier than you are, and loved being footsteps from the piazza.

The cafe (Duca di Amalfi) is owned by the same people as the pizza restaurant at Orologio.

Piazza is behind you, walk to the first corner from Hotel Roma, and make a right for the cafe. Great cornetti!

sandrac:

Hello Brad and Palma, thank you both very much for your input. It IS nice sometimes to be right in the middle of the action, especially when you're nipping out for a good cup of coffee early in the morning (and believe me, I LOVE my good Italian coffee!)

It's good to hear that you didn't find the area noisy, from inside your room.

And Palma, thanks so much for the name of "your" cafe, I'll definitely be checking it out!

So much great info, thanks Brad and Palma! If there is a pizza restaurant at the Orologio I think I have found my place!!

I am among the few that don't like a post-dinner stroll - it gives me a stomach ache. I walk a lot the rest of the day, though!

To keep this discussion going :) - thanks Palma for the cafe recommendation! If I remember correctly, GROM is located right near the Hotel Roma. I wonder if it is noisier in the summer when people are out much later at night?

sandrac:

Chiocciola, I've been trying to nail down the name of the pizza restaurant at the Orologio -- I'll have to keep searching.

Girasoli, you and Chiocciola just might make this the longest thread ever for my blog! Are Hotel Roma and Hotel Orologio close to each other? (This will help me find the GROM faster!)

If you stay at Hotel Porta San Mamalo, you will walk by GROM every time you walk from Piazza Maggiore to the hotel. Hotel Roma was nearby (can't remember which was closer to Piazza Maggiore). I am not sure of the exact location of Hotel Orologio.

sandrac:

Thanks Girasoli! And since I've now decided to switch hotels and will stay at the Orologio after all (I think there's another blog post in that) I must check out where GROM is relative to the Orologio -- important to know where to get good gelato!

OK I hope you are happy with the new choice! No blaming me if it is noisy at night! :)

sandrac:

Chiocciola, I think I'm beginning to look pretty ridiculous with my noise issues. Yeesh! A good airconditioner will make plenty of white noise, I'm sure. As well, Mary T., helped me to negotiate an even better deal with the Orologio, making it irresistable!

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