Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4702: Roman Reference, Via dei Ciancaleoni 47 (#380)
Studio apartment near Cavour Metro, Rome
June 2010, 10 nights
The location was great - about six blocks from the Colosseum. Each day, whatever street we walked down, I caught at least a glimpse of the Colosseum, which for me was wonderful. It is an easy walk from Termini train station and there is a metro (Cavour) less than a five minute walk away. We mostly walked, but took the metro for early reservations at Villa Borghese and the Vatican (getting there in about 15 minutes), and it was nice to have the option to take it back after a long day. The street is in a residential neighbourhood, so you see "real Romans" and real local businesses all the time, but there are also hotels, other private apartment rentals and B&Bs nearby, so the area has lots of amenities for tourists as well.
The apartment itself was a bargain for its location alone. We paid €628 for ten nights, which is about half of what I was looking at paying for a half-decent hotel (without a terrace or kitchen!) in a similar location, and far cheaper than any other apartment I considered.
The pizzeria just outside the door to the building is *amazing*. Best food we had in Rome, and so reasonable - €6-8 for pasta or pizza, €5 for delicious deserts, and €12-15 for meat dishes. After trying two other places and meeting with disappointment, we just went to "our" pizzeria every day! We must have eaten there eight or nine times, trying out almost every variety of pizza and pasta. I wish I'd written down its name, but if you're staying here, you can't miss it.
There is a big grocery store and a tourism office about ten minutes away near the Basillica Santa Maria Maggiore, but plenty of smaller shops to get meat, bread, wine, pastries, etc. within a two block radius. There is even an Internet access place that only charges €0.50 per half-hour of Internet time.
This apartment is a small studio, appropriate only for two people who like each others company :). There is a bed and kitchenette, a small table, and a small bathroom. The shower has a flexible/movable shower-head, and we found that there was plenty of hot water - we only ever ran out once. The kitchenette is extremely well stocked, and with all the tools we needed to make our own breakfast every day, and even made dinner a few times. With five windows, there is lots of natural light. The air conditioning is also a lifesaver.
It is at the top of over 70 stairs, so you do need to be in good shape or, like me, in terrible shape and trying to compensate for all the gelato and pizza you eat during the trip! The bonus of it being on top is there is no noise from above. We did hear some street noise (in fairness however we were there during Italy's participation in the World Cup), but it was not too bothersome, and as a remarkable bonus, around 10am everyday the piano school around the corner began its lessons, and the music drifts in. I spent many a morning lying in bed, listing to beautiful piano music.
It's an apartment complex, in an unremarkable building, and I don't think there are any other apartments in there. We did notice the building across from ours was an apartment. Your view out is of other Roman buildings and Roman roofs.
The best part about this apartment is the terrace. It's quiet, comfortable, and romantic. The view is of the Roman roofs of a residential neighbourhood. There is a bistro, and two lounge-type chairs we used for reading. There are some potted plants growing on the terrace which add to its atmosphere. The spiral staircase up to the terrace was a little tricky to navigate and was definitely not built for my overweight frame. However, after the first day I had the hang of it.
For us, the terrace had many purposes. We rigged up a laundry line to dry our clothes outside. We ate breakfast on the terrace every morning, and got into the habit of eating a salad and drinking a glass of wine on the terrace in the early evening before heading over to the pizzeria for dinner. Most days during dinner, we were entertained by the flight of the swallows - hundreds of birds overhead, flying all over the place.
Having the terrace truly was a sanctuary for those moments when you want to sit quietly outside, and cannot deal with one more person trying to get you to buy something.
The furniture and decor of the apartment is worn and appears a little shabby. Other than the bed, there is nothing wrong with any of it. It's just old and used. The sheets and the furniture were clean, and with a little effort, everything was comfortable.
While the surface of the apartment was clean, there was room for improvement. We knocked something under the bed and found a colony of dust bunnies under there. We did notice dust builds up very quickly in this apartment. There was a layer of dust on the shelves and window sills by our last day. The terrace was also dusty, and the terrace furniture could use a wipe-down.
The bed is two single beds put together, which we found was common in all of our hotels and B&Bs in Italy, even our "splurge" hotels. The problem with the bed is that the frame on one of the singles is bent in the middle, and the mattress sags. My husband, who gallantly took the broken side, had a terrible sleep the first night. We assessed our options - 1. leave, 2. call Roman Reference, 3. figure something out ourselves - and opted for number 3. With a little amateur engineering and a stack of books and phone books, we pushed the bent metal bar back into place, and put the stack of books underneath. This held for the next nine nights. We also flipped the single mattress so that my husband sagged into the middle of the bed rather than off the outside, and used the extra duvet we found in the cupboard as an extra layer of padding under our sheets. My husband was thrilled with our solution, and slept so comfortably for the next nine nights that twice we slept in past 11am.
The bathroom is perfectly functional and was clean. But, it could use some updating. A screw fell off the toilet seat one day - luckily my husband knows how to fix these things. The shower is a bit grotty, and while the bottom part was clearly new, the walls of the shower did need to be re-grouted. It was no where near the worst shower I've ever been in, and I loved that it had one of those flexible shower-heads.
The kitchenette had plates, cups, mugs, teacups, toaster, coffee maker, microwave, pots, pans, cutlery - even a salad spinner, ironically enough the exact same neon-coloured plastic model we have at home! There's no oven, only a two-burner stove, and there's no preparation space, so it's really not appropriate for full multi-course meals. But, we did cook on the stove twice (simple pasta with sauce, cheese and meat), make coffee most mornings and prepare salad on the table. Who wants to cook with the perfect pizzeria next door anyway?
Problems or Bonuses
I had read a review complaining about the state of the bed, but the owner had commented on that review and stated he had fixed the problem, so I was a little surprised that the bed suffered from the exact problem I had read another traveler complain about over a year earlier. Our own initiative made it OK, but I was annoyed and it is something I know would bother other travelers.
The biggest bonus was how quiet and peaceful the terrace was, and how nice it was to hear the piano music each morning.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Roman Reference was great. My contact person was very laid back, assured me there would be no problems with calling from the train station - and they were right! We called from the train station, and the rep said he would meet us there in an hour. We walked over, we were early so we had a pizza, and our rep showed up right when he said he would. He took us up to see the apartment, showed us how to work everything, and made sure we were happy before we settled up with the cash. He made sure we had receipts for everything and his phone number. I had been so nervous about this going well, and it turned out to be one of the least stressful experiences of the trip! I'd recommend working with Roman Reference again.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
The fact of the matter is, you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy your experience in this apartment. If you're looking for luxury, service, state-of-the-art everything, and a sparkly clean finish, this apartment is not for you. If however you are budget-conscious, the kind of person who doesn't mind washing his own towels and dishes or making his own bed on vacation - or even taking a few minutes to fix a bed or a toilet - and someone who can overlook a little bit of shabbiness and focus on the positive traits of the place, you will find value and relaxation here. I would not recommend it to my best friend, or my brother, or my sister-in-law, or my work colleagues, because all of them would hate it. I know however that my parents-in-law and a few of my friends would absolutely love the place and appreciate the bargain it represents.
It really does depend on what you want and what you value. Us, we wanted privacy, quiet, close to interesting things to see, and cheap. This place worked great. The price and the location are unbeatable, and working with Roman Reference was easy. With a little forgiveness and effort, the place is perfectly comfortable. But, the Ritz it is not.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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