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San Giovanni: Domus Sessoriana

Piazza S. Croce in Gerusalemme, 10, Phone: 0670615

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Reviewed by: Romy from New Zealand, review #1688

When: October 2006

My wife and I stayed here for 10 days. We were very happy with our stay, and definitely recommend it for a safe place with good transport options.

This is a three star hotel located within an old Cistercian monastery attached to the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Its name comes from an Imperial Palace of the 3rd century called the Sessorium. This hotel is not a monastery or convent, but is run by a private company who rent the floors from the monks.

Location is excellent; the nearest Metro stop is San Giovanni, a five minute walk along a peaceful walled park. Right outside the church there are two bus stops; one no. 3 bus or tram takes you to St. John Lateran, then on to the colisseum, and then on to Trastevere. Bus no. 649 takes you along via S. Croce in G. around St. Mary Major, and then on to Termini in about 7 minutes.

The hotel rooms are very safe and secure; entry is by card and key; the card controls door, window and lighting.

Our room had a large double bed, what we would call in New Zealand, a king size.

There were two bedside cabinets with two reading lamps, a large double wardrobe with four drawers inside; another cabinet with drawers one one side and a small fridge built in to it.A TV sat on this cabinet - 6 Italian channels plus CNN - the bedroom floor was tiled. There was an air-conditioning unit above the door, which we did not require in mid October when we were there.Inside the wardrobe was a strong safe with combinations that you set yourself.

The bathroom was large, tiled floor, w.c., bidet, wash basin, very large shower (two could shower in it comfortably!) hair drier; and fluffy white towels, proper bath towels which were changed daily. There was plenty of very hot water, day and night. We never ran out of it once during our ten days there, and it was always piping hot. Staff mopped the two rooms daily, (normally when we were at breakfast), changed the towels and made the bed.

Breakfast was downstairs in the old monks' refectory. It was the largest breakfast of the four places we stayed in Italy - cereal and cold milk, (excellent milk - we are New Zealanders, and know about milk!) coffee (the best percolated coffee I had in Italy), tea, fruit juices, bottled water, various hot rolls, buns and pastries. The meal is geared to German tastes - cheese, ham and salami slices, but I enjoyed it all, fresh fruit each day. No matter at what time you breakfasted from 7am until 10.30am there was always plenty of food. Two young men dressed in black and white kept bringing fresh coffee, breads etc.

The entrance to this hotel is to the right of the main entrance to the church. The reception staff are excellent and very helpful. The long corridor you see on the website leads to the elevator which is at the back of the building. Because the accommodation is part of an important acheological site, there are very strict rules about building extensions etc. hence the lift at the rear. Along this long corridor is abundant armchair seating, a drinks machine, free newspapers, an email and computer station (uses cards available from reception) and of course the new glass elevator.

The elevator goes to level one and two for accommodation, and on to three, a rooftop garden area where you can sip wine and watch the sun set behind St. John Lateran - magic! The two levels the lift bypasses house private tenants and the monks, who have their own entrance.

The web site has a lot of information about the church and the relics, but these are quite separate from the hotel. The church is magnificent and warrants close inspection, the relics - well, if you are that way inclined, you will not be disappointed!

The surroundings: Right outside the large piazza in front of this church building, (and you will see tourist busses parked there at times - Holy Cross Church is on the "must see" circuit!) is a pedestrian crossing. Cross this (carefully, its a very busy street) and you come to a circular newsagent on the corner. Beside this is the Caffe Italia - wonderful coffee, wine, chocolates, pastries, beautiful icecream, and a delightful staff. Annelise the lovely young Italian woman with glasses speaks a little English, and very quickly we became "Friends" and were treated accordingly. A few metres along there is a Tabacchi where you can buy bus tickets, a Conad supermarket, a farmacia.

Across the street are three very good restuarents; the one on the corner is very "up market" and pricy, the other two are wonderful, and frequented by the local people. Two short blocks towards the city is via G. Sommeiller, turn right into this and there is a wonderful restaurant serving Neapolitan food. We went there twice and were very satisfied! Just this side of that there is a small food shop staffed by Rita Sciatella and her mother. This lovely warm person made us very welcome, and we went there every second day for bread, cheese and wine supplies, (wonderful cheeses!)

While we were at the Domus, we met people from Europe, Asia and the Americas. It is already very popular with German bus tours. It seemed to be fully booked all the ten days we were there. I think it has a great future as a reasonably priced and secure place to stay.

Some reviewers have said that it is a "little far from thje centre"; we were happy with the surroundings, and a short bus trip brought us to "the centre" of things. We were charged 141 per day; and this was still "high season." I feel this was a reasonable price for the room, its security and the services provided. I definitely recommend it, and would happily stay there again myself.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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