Please Please Help Decide on hotel in Rome

We have 4 picked out, I have read all the reviews on booking and tripadvisor, and they are all similar in price. I just wanted to throw it out here since I know so many of you are so much more educated on Italy than many on the sites who are one time travelers. We are looking for a decent room/bathroom, clean. I know rooms are small and I can deal with that if the water pressure is good and we would like to have someone on site to help with questions if possible. These are all in the same Pantheon area which is where we want to be. Here goes, please help: Hotel Le Clarisse al Pantheon Hotel Portoghesi Roma Realis Teatro Argentina
Albergo Santa Chiara Lastly, we are going to use Rick's audio tours, but should we actually use a tour guide for the Vatican? All suggestions welcome. Thanks so much!!!

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

Hi Denise! I'm also originally from Chicago! My advice would be to trust the hotel recommendations on Booking.com or Venere, but not Trip Advisor. This advice, despite the fact that I'm a highly rated advisor on Trip Advisor because I found out this year that anyone can rate any hotel on Trip Advisor without actually staying there! The competitor across the street can "slam" on a review, and friends of the owner can post glowing reports. I was very disappointed in finding this out, given that I've spent hours through the years giving honest reviews. I also encountered a problem in Sicily with a "destination expert" when I posted a favorable review regarding a tour guide only to be "slammed" and even having a post removed that I made. Made me wonder if she didn't have a financial connection to the recommended guides. Mine was great! Not so on Booking.com or Venere. You must prove that you've stayed in a hotel you've reviewed, so these are trustworthy reviews. Despite many, many trips to Rome, I've not stayed at any of the hotels on the list, but I've been very tempted by Hotel Portoghesi but it was never available when I was booking a trip. Another source is Roninrome.com He's an American Ex-pat who has actually been inside of the hotels and reviewed. Hotel Portoghesi looks awfully good to me at least on line!

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

If this is your first trip to Rome, you may want to go with the Guide. I've been so many times, and have seen the guided tours get more and more rushed, and the tour groups get bigger and bigger. I was there in Easter 2012 with a Very Good Friend who is also a Devout Roman Catholic! We had tickets for the Easter Mass! It was her first time, and so we used the tour guide. I, personally, felt that we'd have been better off if we had the audio guide and could just absorb it all (it sooooo much bigger than you think) in our own time, and spend as much time examining/drinking it in without the rush-rush we got from the tour guide. We all had "head sets" but the group was so large, and the tour guide got so far ahead of us that there were times we were actually 'out of range' and couldn't hear her explanations anyway. The best time to go to the museum is @1 or 2pm. Seriously, listen to me. I always stay at the hotel across the street, and the crowd thinking is get in line early before it opens and get ahead of everyone else! Thus, the long,long lines in the AM. Better to let those people go through, and enjoy later. Sunset/after dark in St. Peter's Square is also so very, very charming! Enjoy!

Posted by Denise
Chicago
32 posts

Hi Donna, my fellow Chicagoan! Thanks so much for answering and offering your suggestions. I am still undecided but leaning towards Alberg Santa Chiara just because it looks very hotelesque which is what I am used too I guess. I am going to take your recommendations on the tours. Not sure we will do a private tour and I do see tours that were 3 or 4 hrs. Is 3 hrs enough time? While I do not want to be in there 6-8 hrs, 3 doesn't seem enough.... I will definietly take your advice on the lines and going in the afternoon. I am a little concerned because we get to Rome at the worst time which is a Saturday afternoon allowing us really only Mon. for the Vatican. Although this may leave time to catch mass on Sun. I am not the best planner and this is really starting to show in my lack of an itinerary! lol Thanks again!

Posted by Cat
Paia, HI, USA
141 posts

Hi Denise, How exciting your trip is coming up! Thanks for the question about the Vatican, Donna's advice always seems spot on from my experience on here, and I think I'll follow it as well! I'm a newbie to Italy, but I wanted to give you a warning I'm dealing with right now. I'll be in Rome mid-May, and have not booked accomodations yet - and ALL THE GOOD PLACES ARE GONE!! Yikes, I know I'll find something... I looked at all 4 of yours, they all look great! I was hoping to squeeze in for my 5 nights, nope - booked. So, I'm not sure when your trip is, but please learn from my error, and pre-book!!
Have a wonderful trip!! Aloha, Cat

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

Hi, Denise! Too much planning is even worse than not enough, in my opinion! But DO get that hotel booked NOW :-) With Rome and all of Italy, you must sit in a piazza and drink it in and enjoy just being there! First time I went to Rome, I rushed through the Pantheon, the Vatican, The Colloseum, the Forum........and it was only on my fourth trip that I enjoyed Campo di Fiori and Piazza Navonna. Although touristy, I'm superstitious and always make time to throw my coins in the Trevi Fountain to ensure I will return to Rome. It's worked so far!!!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Denise: When traveling to Rome, there are so many accommodations to choose from. But RonInRome.com is very good reading about every subject to do with Rome and Italy for that matter. You might see if these hotels are listed in his recommendations. We stayed in a B&B last Easter, and our host was an incredible tour guide and historian. His midnight to daylight tours of Rome are famous. I suggest when you have your hotel reservations, e-mail the hotel to see if they can set you up with a private guide for one day. Rome is so full of history that a private guide can "educate" you more in 1 day than big tours would in a full week.
My best suggestion is to figure out quickly how to negotiate the city using public transportation. Getting around on their subway and buses is quick and efficient. Otherwise, you'll walk your legs off.

Posted by Denise
Chicago
32 posts

Donna, Superstitious? I am American Italian and Catholic. That is all the supersition and guilt you need in two of those three words! lol I will be most sure to stop by and toss in my coin! I did book the Santa Chiara. I just couldn't decide and finally figured I won't be in the room long enough to care(or complain). I am pretty sure that in my 3 days I am going to do what you did which is rush it all in. Rome wasn't built in a day and cannot be seen in three. That I know. But darned if I won't try anyway! However, I know we are going back next year to do the Amalfi Coast, so I will be back : ) This hotel is right in the Pantheon and is the largest of the three and was on Ron in Rome in the top 20 and is also in R.Steves book. Unfortunately I emailed w/Ron and alot of his recommendations were higher than we were looking for. The Relais Teatro only has 6 rooms and so many complaints about the street noise that it must not just have been the normal big city noise, I think it is near the bus, taxi stops? Each hotel had it's share of the same complaints, so you know they are not exaggerating. Cat, Trust me, email the hotels direct you would be surprised that they have rooms when even their own site shows booked. Cancellation policies are pretty reasonable too which was surprising to me. David, Ron is a great guy, he spent some time with me in email and on the ph. w/my husband. Right now we were really looking for the $200-250 range so not alot of help he could give us. We went with the larger hotel so not sure we'll get that special attention. I am leaving logistics totally up to my husband. I get lost in a paper bag and I live in a huge city! I will pass on the info, even though I will get a sore look from it. lol Thanks to you all, I can't tell you what a help you have been. Even just to put me a little bit more at ease.... Have a great night.

Posted by Kathy
WIlmington, DE, USA
6 posts

RE: Vatican Guide On our first trip (last year) we booked a guided tour of the Vatican but also had the RS Guide on the ipod. We were there the week before Easter and it was quite crowded. Our guide was wonderful - knowledgable with a terrific personality. However there were times when I experienced a lot of static on the ear buds that transmitted the guide; especially and most regrettably in the Sistine Chapel. I switched out to the RS Guide which saved the day and prevented disappointment. For all other sites in Rome and Florence we relied on the RS Guides which were perfect and allowed us to tour at our own pace.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

Donna, I always throw coins in the Trevi fountain, too - one time I didn't do it and didn't get back to Rome for twelve years!

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
818 posts

Denise, It looks like you said you already chose but I just wanted to mention - if you're looking to be in the Pantheon area, I stayed in Albergo Abruzzi which is right on the piazza (and cheaper rooms over in an "annex" to the hotel... I actually booked one of those but they upgraded us to the main area because they were fairly empty at that time in August). Small, of course, but we were very satisfied.

Posted by Maggie
Vancouver, Canada
18 posts

We booked Hotel Golden in Rome for our trip in June - based on Tripadvisor reviews. Has anyone stayed there?

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

Hotel Golden got very good reviews on Booking.com which is a reliable site and only allows comments from people who actually stayed there. Trip Advisor not so.