In Rome, the appeal of the monuments may be eternal but that of the hotel rates is not. Room prices in the Italian capital are rising faster than in any other city in Europe, by the account of the HotelBenchmark Survey. Travelers who can find an attractive three-star property in a central neighborhood for $150 a night should grab it. There are less pricey options in outlying neighborhoods, but the added cost and time spent getting to attractions dampens their appeal.
Armed with guidebooks, tips from Italian travel agencies and recommendations from locals, I recently crisscrossed the city, staying in three properties and inspecting a couple of dozen others. I came up with nine recommendable hotels. Some of my favorites are just right for travelers closely watching their euros; others are suitable for the kind of blowout you splurge on when you realize you may never have the chance again. And still others simply offer excellent value for the cost. Here are a few options to fit a range of budgets. Rates quoted are per night double, and are approximate. All hotels mentioned have elevators and, unless otherwise specified, private baths. Breakfast is included in the rates of all the hotels listed.
$100 and Under
* Hotel Firenze (Via Due Macelli 106, 011-39-06-679-7240, www.hotelfirenzeroma.it). $100 during July and August (normally $190).
The location (footsteps from the Spanish Steps) and decor (antique furniture, Oriental vases and fresh flowers in the lobby) give this three-star place a four-star feel. The intimate atmosphere in the lobby and bar, where you can have a tete-a-tete without raising your voice, is a rarity in this busy neighborhood. The 25 rooms are stylishly decorated, with noble wooden beds and dressers and antique carpets. All have cable TV and minibars. The vintage bathrooms are a tad small but include generous touches of marble. Air conditioning is $12 a day extra.
Best for: Couples seeking a romantic interlude.
Unexpected treat: Breakfast on the terrace offers a memorable view of one of the city's liveliest neighborhoods.
Nearby attraction: Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan and other boutiques are close enough that you can practically throw your credit cards at them from your room window.
* Hotel delle Muse (Via Tommaso Salvini 18, 011-39-06-808-8333, www.hoteldellemuse.com). $95 and up (5 percent discount if booked through the Web site).
The hassle of getting to the hotel (it's a 20-minute bus ride from the Termini station) was quickly forgotten when I walked through the door. There was a pleasant buzz in the lobby, with guests including Italians, a few Brits and a couple of Americans drinking beer and swapping tips and impressions of Rome. I visited three of the 60 rooms and found them small but inviting. Furnished in a contemporary style, they are well-maintained, decorated in bright colors and equipped with TVs and air-conditioning. Kids under 12 stay free, and several rooms are large enough to accommodate four people.
Best for: Budget travelers and families.
Unexpected treat: The surrounding neighborhood of Parioli, an enclave of upscale homes and parks. Nearby trattorias and gelatarias also offer some of the city's finest dining.
Nearby attraction: The art-filled Galleria Borghese is a 25-minute walk away.
* Hotel Kennedy (Via Filippo Turati 62, 011-39--06-446-5373, www.hotelkennedy.net). $90 and up.
The 52-room property, recently refurbished, is perfectly suited for American travelers. Staff members speak English and the gratis breakfast includes bacon and eggs. There is a free Internet station and a nice if small gym, rare in a Rome hotel of this size. Although not dripping luxury, the three-room lobby is inviting. And the guest rooms, with their subdued colors and solid furnishings, have the kind of calm you want after a busy day of sightseeing. Amenities include minibars and telephones. Some of the bathrooms have showers only, so if a bath is important to you, request a room with a tub.
Best for: Travelers who want to be near the Termini railway station, just a couple of blocks away.
Unexpected treat: The management encourages travelers with late afternoon or evening departures to read or lounge in the lobby area after checking out without fear of overstaying their welcome.
Nearby attraction: The basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome's most dazzling churches, is less than 10 minutes away by foot.
$100 to $150
* Hemingway Town Suites (Via Flavia 84, 011-39-06-4201-4499, www.hemingway-hotel.com). $100 to $140, depending on the season.
With 20 rooms spread among three nonconsecutive floors of an early-1900s building, this is more bed-and-breakfast than hotel. Most of the rooms are small but include comfortable beds and a writing/eating table, TV and telephone. The sixth-floor rooms are the best, done in pastel blue and decorated with handsome dark wood furnishings, including loveseats with comfy cushions. There is no lobby or dining room, but the staff will bring a hearty breakfast to your room at an agreed-upon hour. And the place is informal enough that you could get a price break on last-minute vacancies.
Best for: Independent travelers looking for a comfortable, safe place to bed down.
Unexpected treat: The three owners (Fabio, Matteo and Deborah) double as well-informed concierges.
Nearby attraction: The Trevi Fountain is about 15 minutes away by foot.
* Daphne Trevi and Daphne Veneto (Via degli Avignonesi 20 and Via di san Basilo 55, 011-39-06-4782-3529, www.daphne-rome.com). $100 to $182.
This American-style bed-and-breakfast with 14 rooms is in two buildings a three-minute walk from each other. Built in 1800 and renovated in 2000, they are a perfect mix of Old World and new. The guest rooms are furnished with the most comfortable beds I found in Rome, complete with fluffy comforters. The breakfast, served buffet-style, is a generous mix of cereals, juices, breads and fruit. Cell phones are offered to guests and air-conditioning is available; TVs are not.
Best For: Travelers who prefer a home-like ambiance to big hotels.
Unexpected treat: In a city of incessant puffers, cigarettes are banned on the property.
Nearby attraction: The Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps are about a 10-minute walk away.
$150 to $200
* Hotel Mozart (Via dei Greci 23B, 011-39-06-3600-1915, www.hotelmozart.com). Rooms, including a copious buffet breakfast, are $190, but the hotel offers 10 percent off reservations booked two months or more in advance and up to 40 percent off rooms available at the last minute.
Almost hidden on a side street near the Spanish Steps, this hotel is a peaceful place in a happening location. The 56 rooms are compact and a bit dated (some toilets flush with pull strings), and the lobby is tiny. But the property has a classic Old European atmosphere, and the staff has the kind of professional graciousness more commonly found on the other side of the Atlantic.
Best for: Travelers looking for the style of early Sophia Loren or Marcello Mastroianni.
Unexpected treat: The whirlpool tubs in some rooms.
Nearby attraction: The Piazza del Popolo, one of the most splendid displays of architecture in the city, is five minutes away by foot.
* Hotel Lancelot (Via Capo D'Africa 47, 011-39-06-7045-0615, www.lancelothotel.com). $185.
This 60-room, three-star hotel has everything going for it. The lobby is filled with art and bright, comfortable furniture. The individually decorated rooms have firm beds, are spacious by local standards and come with TVs, minibars and telephones. The bathrooms are stylish. The location (a five-minute walk from the Colosseum) puts you in the center of one of the city's hippest neighborhoods. But the best thing about the hotel is the staff. Members of the Khan family, which has been running the place for almost 40 years, are old-style hoteliers adept at pleasing guests. They told me, for example, about places not listed in guidebooks that offer excellent deals on men's suits and shoes.
Best for: Travelers who put a strong premium on dedicated service.
Unexpected treat: The elegant on-site restaurant, with its small communal tables, offers three-course dinners for the modest price of $28 a person, including wine.
Nearby attraction: The Colosseum and the Forum are practically at the doorstep.
* Franklin Hotel (Via Rodi 29, 011-39-06-3903-0165, www.franklinhotelrome.it). $158.
This two-year-old boutique property, sleek and modern, is a refreshing departure from the Old World feeling of most Rome hotels. The owners are die-hard music lovers and have fashioned the entire property around their passion. The lobby, filled with sleekly designed furniture and piped-in pop and jazz, would fit right into West Hollywood. The guest rooms are furnished in a contemporary style, with photos of musicians and CD players, TVs and telephones. The bathrooms are bright and fresh with chrome fixtures. The staff, mostly young and hip, are a fun bunch. A 25 percent reduction for Internet booking recently expired, but other deals are offered frequently.
Best for: Hipsters of any age.
Unexpected treat: The complimentary CD library, which has everything from Bach to Alicia Keys.
Nearby attraction: The Vatican museums are a 15-minute walk away.
* Boscolo Hotel Exedra (Piazza della Repubblica 47, 888-626-7265, www.boscolohotels.com). Usually $350, but the Italian lodging Web site www.venere.com has doubles at $250 a night for a three-night stay, including buffet breakfast, a welcome cocktail and one night's dinner for two in the hotel's elegant restaurant. To find the deal, locate the Boscolo Exedra on the Venere site and click on Special Offers. It's available until Sept. 5.
Opened a year ago, this 240-room five-star hotel has a grandly decorated lobby. The rooms, among the biggest and most elegant in Rome, have sky-high ceilings, huge windows and space enough for a Campari party. The rooms' muted pastels, silk drapes and bathrooms splashed with marble round out the neoclassical style. But the nearby Piazza della Repubblica, although being refurbished, has not yet attained the glamorous aura of the hotel.
Best For: Those celebrating a special occasion.
Unexpected treat: The finely landscaped rooftop garden, where you can sip a drink and watch the fashionistas lounging across from you or passing on the street below.
Nearby attraction: The remains of the Diocletian Baths and the Basilica of Santa Maria are footsteps away.