Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2436: Real Rome, Falco 3 Bedroom
3bed/1bath apartment near Vatican, Rome
September 2006, 10 days
The apartment was located on via Falco near Borgo Vittorio in the mediaeval Borgo area of Rome next to the Vatican. It is one block away from Borgo Pio, a somewhat famous and historical street that is usually filled with tourist/pilgrims and thus is suitably filled with not only many somewhat tacky souvenir shops and tour group restaurants but also some great intimate family trattoria (Alexander and his family at Ristochicco) and friendly local food shops and services.
The apartment street has a more local neighbourhood feel with repair shops and local services and a police station nearby. A great fish restaurant (da Benito e Gilberto al Falco) is next door. And an Internet cafe (Internet Metropolis) around the corner on Borgo Vittorio.
A short walk brings the Prati area with a more nineteenth century feel and a great array of food shops (via Cola di Renzo with the great Castroni and others) and the market at Piazza dell'Unita, restaurants, transportation (buses, tram and taxis at Piazza del Risorgimento and three blocks further the Metro A Ottaviano stop) and a number of blocks of clothing stores that offer a wide range of items that are a little downmarket from the stratospheric designer boutiques in the Via Condotti zone but maybe a notch or two above say via Corso. This area is often overlooked and discounted as being uninteresting or too far from the center and this is only relatively true but good value and a sense of neighbourhood are possible rewards.
If the Vatican and its treasures are a highlight of an itinerary this is a great spot. I had memorable mornings wandering into an almost empty Piazza S. Pietro and joining the priests, nuns and pellegrini in the very short security lineups at 7am to wander into the basilica with misty sunrise light suffusing the piazza and streaming in through the doors. And early morning from the top of the dome was more than memorable and would probably not have been achieved on a wanderer's whim had we been located elsewhere in the city.
We found little difficulty in looping into the more northern central zones. If the Forum area were to be a focus or your stay is short, perhaps this is not the right location. We stayed here ten days and then moved to Trastevere for another eighteen so this was not really an issue.
As mentioned above the area was well serviced and everything was available on foot. The thrill of our first weekday morning was hauling out our very rusty Italian to negotiate our pantry filling supplies at the local market and overspending on luxury treats and wine at Castroni.
We had a little trouble finding the local supermercado for more mundane supplies but the word doesn't seem a good fit for North Americans who might associate giant parking lots and vast warehouses rather than a tiny unobtrusive storefront that may hide a labyrinthine set of rooms containing an adequate but not vast selection of common goods.
RealRome supplies an almost good enough map and locator for many of the local services. We landed in Rome on a Saturday eve and found it difficult to get shopping and even restaurants on a Sunday. This would be common throughout Rome and often agencies start rental periods on a Saturday. Worth a heads up.
The building of indeterminate age but at least nineteenth century, had seven apartments, no more than two per floor. This apartment (75-80 square meters or 750-800 square feet)was on the top floor (third Italian, fourth North America) with no lift and with a wonderful garden terrace on the roof above which was reached by a spiral stairway off the living/dining zone. From there, the view was over the rooftops and terraces and the inner courtyards of the adjoining buildings. The stairs were no real issue except for getting our four heavy suitcases up and down (well up, but RealRome and our Limoservice Rome driver were extremely gracious in helping us with this). I madly brought a carry on suitcase size load of books and guides for which I was willing to pay this price in order to have the info I wanted at hand and to avoid having to make hard choices before we left.
The apartment had two double bedrooms (one with singles connected) and a small single room that we used as a retreat and laundry room. The two large bedrooms faced onto the street and its early morning noise of shutters, workshops and local traffic, but we slept with earplugs and it was not really an issue. It's Rome, we expected it and there was a certain sense of local color (the whistling guy). The rest of the apartment windows faced into inner courtyards from which little sound ever emanated. We did listen one Sunday to the (muffled) Pope's blessing service over in P. San Pietro and the bells rung low at regular intervals throughout the day and night. The living/dining area was separated from the small but efficient kitchen by a long and large entry hall. The bath was next to and past the kitchen and adjacent to the small bedroom. The kitchen had a small window looking onto a neighbour's courtyard (I could judge a change in the weather when she didn't hang out clothes in the morning) and the bath and small room looked into another courtyard and the exhaust vent from the restaurant below which was only mildly a problem (the summer?). The small porch off the living area which led to the stairs to the roof terrace also sheltered the clothes washer and lines.
You can view the apartment directly: Falco 3 Bedroom
The terrace was large (maybe 300 sf, 30 sm or more) and contained two tables with seating for up to seven or eight and a large umbrella as well as planters with shrubs and a hedge separation from the neighbouring terrace (no one appeared). We enjoyed it in the morning with newspapers and coffee and in the evenings with a glass of wine but didn't have any major meals there as the weather was beginning to cool in the evenings (mid to late September) and we didn't feel the need to excessively savour the amenity. Possibly the darkness and our inability to find the light switch or muster a large enough supply of candles was a factor.
The furniture was adequate and only slightly tired. The couch sat two well enough and there were two comfortable wing chairs, and decent lighting for reading and mood. In the living/dining area there was a large bookcase/display unit that also contained some glassware and a not exciting array of books and knickknacks. We arranged things to suit and hopefully restored to default before we left. The dining table was a little cramped for four as the chairs were relatively large and upholstered and took up space. The table sat next to the wall. Still useful enough for the few full meals that we cooked and the map and guide planning sessions. Some walls were ready for a new coat of paint but were not offensive.
In the entry hall (whose area could have been more useful if magically tacked onto the living/dining space), there was a fine antique storage unit. Overall, our first impressions were improved and as we sunk into living in Rome with our friends, we grew attached to the place. It is comfortable but not luxurious. But at the price, great value. Just as Tim from RealRome promised. Overall it was found clean and plenty of tools and supplies were available to maintain it.
Beds were comfortable and very firm if that is your preference. The linens were ample and not of any particular stylishness or quality. No complaints however. The bedrooms were served by dresser storage and hanging space was provided in a shared closet outside the adjacent large bedrooms. It worked better than I thought it might with an easy cooperation between all four (some of whom are notorious clotheshorses).
The bathroom was a turn and a short walk through the kitchen and although I took nearly the whole time to imprint the floor plan and make the proper turn, it was not inconvenient (and all this despite being an architectural designer; the symptoms of geezerdom are getting relentless). It is outfitted with WC, bidet, vanity and tub/shower. A little small but not by Italian standards I suppose. One at a time only. We didn't find the lack of a second bathroom for two couples to be an issue but we were moving at a casual pace and could work around each other.
The kitchen was small but not so by Roman vacation rental apartment standards (we looked at possibly hundreds on the web in preparation for this trip) and actually quite efficient. Gas stove top and I think electric oven, no dishwasher, and a fine array of pots, utensils, appliances and dishes. We always bring a good chef's knife when we travel using rentals and a few supplemental items like an old vegetable steamer and some wine bottle re-corking thingies. We cooked three or four full dinners during our stay and with no impediment. We liked to cook sometimes just to not have the bother of going out (dressing, searching) and also to eat a little cleaner (more vegetables) than the rich menus on offer in most restaurants. And to feel like we are at home in Rome. The gathering and getting from the local shops and markets is a big part of the experience. I think that in the future I might carry an interesting cookbook or two just to enhance the experience and challenge the creative possibilities. It occurred to me that apartment owners might consider leaving some on the shelves, something regional or characteristic, but I would guess that the issue of language choice among other things would mitigate that.
Problems or Bonuses
Tim of Real Rome is remarkable for his frankness and honesty in his evaluation of the apartments he has on offer. To quote from an email exchange: "...we know that all of our apartments are good value for money, but not perfect." So all questions, requests, hesitations, quibbles are addressed in this spirit. We had a realistic sense of what to expect and apart from a momentary flash of disappointment that I had (not Valerie) on the rainy night we arrived, which I think was more due to 15 hours of travel, our expectations were to be exceeded as the living in Rome and the livability of the apartment took hold. If anything, the size of the apartment, its brightness and light, comfort and suitability for four people was a pleasant bonus.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Tim is everything one would want in an apartment rental agent and agency. Prompt, fun to communicate with, detailed, honest and insightful, and completely trustworthy and reliable. He lives in Rome as an ex-patriot and has a great feel for the city and I think has cleverly and effectively fulfilled his mission to provide good service and value in the carefully selected set of properties he offers. The web site is thorough and accurate (maybe more/better or larger pictures would be an improvement) and combined with his commentary and willingness to answer queries with real data and useful interpretation and opinion, makes the process and choice efficient and anxiety free.
We gave up chasing after the perfect and seemingly unattainable or unavailable apartment and decided to simply put ourselves in his hands based on our sense that all the above might be true. And it was.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would stay again for nostalgic reasons with the same friends or perhaps with others. Our friends loved it.
As a couple, we might look at other choices and other neighbourhoods. We did in fact move to Trastevere for a further 18 days after our friends left. After a month exploring Rome we have a great sense of other possibilities and would be curious to realise those. But we would start with Tim.
The apartment is entirely suitable for a family or shared as in our case and if the neighbourhood location is desirable, this is a great option to consider. For the price it is a feasible choice for a couple to revel in the space.
It's a worthy apartment.
Things to do in this area
Made use of the opportunity to visit the Vatican: early mornings, Vatican garden tour, ContextRome Vatican museum tour and just stopping by on the way to or from home.
Restaurants to consider beyond 'typical Roman' or tourist trattorie: Velando Borgo Vittorio 26 (down the street) Taverna Angelica Piazza A Capponi 6
Or typical Roman family trattoria: Ristochiccio Borgo Pio 186
Specialty food shopping: Castroni Via Cola di Rienzo 196 Benedetto Franchi Via Cola di Rienzo 200-204
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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