Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1964: Underground Viaggi, Malpasso apartment
1bed/1bath apartment in historic center, Rome
October 2005, 7 nights
We stayed at the Malpasso apartment, seemingly central to everything we deemed important. The train station (Stazioni Termini), Quirinale, Santa Susanna, and the Borghese Gallery were on the other side of town: get a bus ticket.
Campo di Fiori can be easily reached in 7 minutes, once you know where you're going and begin to trust in the goodwill of stylish Italian motorists. These are narrow lanes. The Ghetto is a 10 mins beyond that, the Piazza Farnese somewhere in between. Trastevere is ~15 minute walk across a foot bridge to the very edge of it, 25 mins to the Santa Maria en Trastevere Church. Just down the alley, less than three minutes walk, is a major thoroughfare, Vittorio Emmanuele II (leads from the Vatican to Chiesa Nuova, which is right across the street from where you emerge from the alley and onto San Ignazio, etc.); there are lots of bus stops. Piazza Navona and the Pantheon are literally a walk away, tho not next door -- about 30 minutes, meandering. Ask Mauro about the stairway to the Gianicolo (great view of the city, especially at sunrise). I found it by accident, but, that too is about a 15 minute walk to the base. The best surprise: the ease in getting to St. Peter's. I thought I was clever walking back to the Tiber and going along its banks. Should have looked at a map: 3 days in, I realize that Via Giulia (just make a right out the door, first street, take a right) and you're literally halfway to (I believe) the Ponte Vittorio and then the Via Conciliazione. Amazing. Of great use when you want to be among the first into St. Peter's on any given day.
BTW, don't go into the crypt first (i.e. for Pope John Paul II's grave) unless you're prepared to get back in line for the basilica interior: the only way out of the crypt (for laypeople) deposits you outside the church; there is no way back into St. Peter's that way.
Malpasso is a small street, across from a small triangular area that is usually devoid of vendors except two days a week (sorry, can't remember which days) when there's an open market, good for the essentials. There's a lot of one lane traffic (going either way), just not wide enough for two cars. It sees a fair amount of pedestrian traffic, mostly coming and going from the Campo di Fiori. There are a couple of public phones on that triangle, that can come in handy. Our apartment was inside, and off of Malpasso, behind some pretty thick walls. It is definitely an older building, using regular skeleton keys for the main door to the apartment complex, and a tumbler system for our door, which sometimes proved tricky, but a little patience, and a lot of persistence, always got us in. Our apartment building was home to locals, and abutted a restaurant on one side and a cafe/bar on the other. No one got too crazy.
Basically, "location, location, location" is accurate, but at the Malpasso apartment, you didn't feel as if you were overwhelmed by humanity.
Absolutely, no need for a car for much of the stay. Lots of great places. In fact, the restaurant next door was always packed with locals. On the same note, also why we never had the patience to get in and sample the food ourselves. See above.
The building was certainly older, but historical? Nothing seemed to say so. But that Via Giulia...one of the very oldest streets in Rome. Julius Caesar himself is believed to have mapped it out.
Ours was one of 2 units on the first floor. We were about 30 feet directly across from the main complex metal doors, next to the small elevator, but we couldn't hear anyone using it unless our door was open. There were perhaps 10 apartments in the bldg, judging from the names/bells outside the main door, but I frankly never went upstairs to explore.
There was no such outside sitting area. A very small, perhaps 3X4 foot, "balcony" was off the smallish dining area, but there was some stuff (plants, etc) on it. And besides, as my more practical companion pointed out, it was only slightly up off the ground, and anyone could have climbed in. We never saw or sensed that anyone had nefarious intent, but that door to the balcony was kept locked.
There was a cozy outdoor courtyard literally right outside our kitchen window. Alas, it belonged to the busy restaurant next door, and we had no access to it.
I thought the furniture was in good shape, solid. Granted, I wanted a place where I could be comfortable, and feel at home. This is not antique stuff, but definitely serviceable. I slept on the double sofa in the living room, and I slept well. The entire apartment was clean. Our cleaning lady did a good job, and she was slated to come only once a week.
The sofa was in the living room, and the television in front of the sofa, so while there were adequate (2) chairs at the dining table, anyone watching the telly usually ended up on the opened-up-and-ready-for-sleep sofa bed.
My friend had the loft bed, and felt it was too low a ceiling up there (hence, the loft part). I never went to look at it, but I gather the room was adequate for her purposes. The one bathroom (no tub) sufficed for two women, and while it wasn't spacious, it got the job done.
Yes, the kitchen was usable. Came in real handy for refrigerating drinks, keeping our fruit and yogurt cold. There were enough utensils and all the amenities of home (at least, my home) to handle our leftovers. Had I wanted to exert myself and cook while surrounded by some of the very best food in the world, there seemed appropriate pots and pans for that task.
Warning: It's not a two-butt kitchen. Just pivoting between sink, stove, and fridge, not a lot of room for footwork.
Problems or Bonuses
I was aware there was a restaurant next door, but with the window open in the kitchen, at night it sounded like that mini-mass of diners was actually chatting and supping in our very kitchen, like they were "this close" to us. Our first night, we were a bit taken aback by the cacophony. Thankfully, the window seals shut and provides needed respite, shutting out the noise very effectively.
It didn't really bother me, but, again, the pragmatic friend: cell phones don't work inside the apartment, which limits their usefulness as far as incoming calls, and even the ease of chatting while in one's pj's. This is where those public phones in the triangular area just outside our door came in real handy.
The apartment was only prepared with beddings for one bed, and only one key. Mauro and the housekeeper took care of the bedding for the sofa bed in the time that we went for a walkabout and had dinner. Since we are rather independent people, we needed two keys, and that wasn't quite so readily remedied. Eventually, the housekeeper and Mauro agreed for us to get the housekeeper's personal key.
A good surprise: that local cell phone. Came in so handy, just for checking up on reservations, availability, etc, even contacting Mauro. I was really surprised how much easier things became when we let the fingers do the walking, even in Rome.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We could not have hoped for better treatment. Mauro was amazing, so helpful, his English excellent. He captures the nuances to English very well. I'm just sorry we didn't get to meet Giulia, after reading all of the other reports.
Mauro was very prompt in his replies via email and via phone. We were traveling all over Italy for a few weeks before Rome, and he rolled with the punches, fielding calls from Sicily and southern Italy. I needed some work delivered to the apartment, and he accommodated the requests for mail and info with aplomb. Even my company was impressed with him and his ability to facilitate all the transactions, and this was even before we'd met him.
Mauro was the only person we dealt with, and represented his agency very well.
I think the photos are accurate as presented on his website (see Navona/Campo dei Fiori apartments). Tho it seems a smidge darker in reality (we arrived in late afternoon).
Just a measure of how far Mauro goes for his clientele: my companion is totally captivated by Italian soap operas that play on her native Canadian TV, and hoped to buy some season DVDs in Rome. Mauro walked us out to the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, introduced us to the owner of a media store, and then went about translating what we were looking for. He even offered to ask his techno-savvy friends if DVDs from Italy are compatible with North American DVD players (apparently not), and he called us back a few days later to relay his findings.
And how about this for service: It was nice that he came and picked us up at the train station, just as advertised. But get this: my friend's flight was slated for 6AM, we needed to leave the apartment no later than 3:30am, and despite having to go to his regular job, Mauro was at the door on time. And he schlepped her luggage for her all the way back to the car where it was parked along the Tiber (something about parking permits). And, when we tried to tip him for all his many intangible bits of helpfulness, he wouldn't accept it.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely, if it were only me and another person, I would definitely rent the Malpasso apartment. But on my next trip, there will be several more people, and there just isn't enough room to comfortably fit all of us. I've already asked to get a larger apartment, and Mauro said it's too soon to book for the fall of 2007. But I'll remind him.
I feel badly for the people who've had not-so-great experiences, and I have tried to find places where I might, in all honesty, temper my enthusiasm about this outfit, specifically about Mauro. There are NO places in which he was less than exemplary. I really do feel like I have a friend in Rome.
As yet another example of Mauro's integrity: I was trying to learn Italian, having taken a summer course, and I felt the need to practice, wanting to get it right. And I told him this when I met him. Instead of just patting me on the head, and politely let me off the hook, he actually called me on it, gently correcting my linguistic stumbles. I so appreciated that.
Things to do in this area
Everyone talks about Da Giggetto's (in the Ghetto) for their carciofi (artichokes), and they are admittedly very good. What with the lit ruin right next door, an attentive if very busy staff, and a full moon, and excellent company, the night was perfect.
But, six years ago, I had gone to another restaurant that still has my mouth watering in memory, and has inspired me to rave about it every chance I get. I went back again to "Al Pompiere", also in the Ghetto, about 2 and a half blocks away: Simply The Best, even in hindsight.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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