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Trastevere: Hotel Santa Maria

Reviewed by: Michael in Chicago from usa, review #919

When: March 2005

I found this place overrated for the price. Indifferent service, and limits on courtyard use.

Hotel prices in Rome are expensive. We've stayed at one we really like in the Testaccio district, but chose this place because it was closer to things we wanted to do. By the end of our stay, we decided to take a walk by the first place (Hotel San Anselmo) just to pretend that we were staying there instead. Next time, we'll go there and just take the Metro (which has a stop nearby).

Hotel Santa Maria has been well-recommended because it's in an active neighborhood, and has an open courtyard with tables to sit in. Our experience with it started when we made the mistake to drive first to the hotel, then drop off the car. Trastevere is not a car-friendly area, and after hitting a number of pedestrian-only alleys, we called for directions. (I don't blame them for this, but we decided after this interesting event to arrange to drop off the rental car on the outskirts of Rome and take a cab in the future). The woman at the hotel gave us incorrect directions 3 times, in Italian to me, or in English to my non-driving partner (thus, language was not the issue). She apologized when we arrived.

The rooms all face into the courtyard, so you can't leave your blinds open at all unless you don't mind being seen. The room's decor was cheap 1970's suburban-American, which was a surprise. The bathroom was nicely modernised, but had a mildewy smell due to bad circulation, though there was none visible. The bed was comfortable, the sheets soft, but a typical small Euro-hotel space.

Later that day I was trying to find the addresses of two gelaterie that I thought I'd remembered. The two desk clerks spent 10 minutes trying to find these in the phone book and on their computer, to no avail. Then they gave up. This bothered me - a simple google search in English would have come up with the addresses, but they didn't seem all that willing to help. There is a free web connection in their bar that I could have used, it turned out, though I found the addresses on my own later.

Breakfast offerings were fairly bad, and the room depressingly dark. In the warmer weather, I'm sure people eat outside and it would be really lovely. But the courtyard is overlooked by a number of apartments, and you can hear them. In addition, a church bell goes off every 15 minutes, though I didn't seem to hear it late at night.

Our last night we bought some food and wine to eat in the courtyard, set up our spread, then asked if we could use some wine glasses from the bar. We were told that due to Roman law, unless the food was purchased at their bar, we could not eat it in the courtyard, and we would have to eat it in our room. Our room was far too small for this. But one of the things we've done many times in Italy is just that - purchased a dinner and eaten it in a hotel's garden, with their blessings. We figured it had something to do with the neighbors in the apartments that overlook the courtyard.

Nevertheless, we were rather disappointed with this experience, especially for the price, which was 210 a night. For the same price, we could have had a stellar experience at San Anselmo, just a little more walking. And their garden is nicer!

Reviewed by: Mrs. P from FL, review #296

When: May 2003

Wonderful small 3-star hotel in a great area of Rome. Clean and quiet, wonderful breakfast plus bar service throughout the day and evening.

My mother and I stayed in room #20, which was a triple, for a cost of $170/night. The room consisted of a kingsize bed upstairs (where the bathroom was also located) and a single bed downstairs. There was a TV on both floors complete with satellite television that offered CNN Int'l. Mini bar, breakfast and air conditioning was also included in the rate.

The hotel was spotlessly clean and very comfortable. The bathroom was modern - pedestal sink, tub with handheld shower head, toilet and bidet. There were no problems with hot water. There may be a problem with the upstairs part of this room for anyone who is tall, though, because the ceiling was lower than the downstairs ceiling and it angled down on one side of the sleeping area as well as in the bathroom. This was not a problem for us since both my mother and I are short.

The breakfast (served from 7:30 to 10:30) consisted of coffee made to order, juices, breads and pastries, yogurt and fruit, cereals, meats and cheeses. All items were fresh daily and very plentiful. There was an indoor seating area as well as tables outside in the lovely central courtyard. The breakfast room also served as a bar that offered service all day and pretty much all night if anyone wanted cocktails, wines or coffee. We had a lovely bottle of prosecco one evening before dinner. They do not like for guests to use the courtyard seating to eat or drink items not provided by the hotel, and they ask that the mini-bar fridge not be used for personal food supplies. However, we did keep a little cheese in the fridge and we didn't receive any complaints.

The staff was very professional and courteous. The location may be difficult to get to with a lot of luggage. The cab that dropped us off said he was unable to drive right to the hotel, so he dropped us a couple streets away. But, when we left at the end of our stay, the cab that was called for us came right up to the reception area of the hotel.

There are plenty of restaurants in the immediate area so we only left the neighborhood one night for dinner. Campo Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto are right across the River and Piazza Navona and Pantheon are an easy 25 minute walk. We only took a cab three times, and we never even rode the bus or metro.

I highly recommend this hotel, especially for anyone who is interested in staying in Trastevere. We did not find it to be inconveniently located, but I can see that a first time visitor to Rome may prefer to be in a more central location. I feel this hotel offers fabulous value.

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

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