Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where to Stay in Rome

Or: How the wrong B&B turned out to be the Right B&B for us

You don't really need me to tell you where to stay; there are plenty of websites just screaming at you "Me! Choose me! Look here!". But, as I've done before, I can tell you about the wonderful place we stayed at. This time, it was in the heart of Rome.

Thing is, after browsing through and perusing lots of appealing B&Bs, hemming and hawing, we finally agreed on one -- can't even remember its name -- then, to place our order, pressed the wrong button by mistake, and realized we'd booked a place called A Peace of Rome. It was quite near the Vatican, within easy walking distance, whereas we'd originally planned to stay on the other side of the river and slightly to the north. For a minute there, we hesitated. Wouldn't a place so close to the Vatican be full of religious old fogeys wanting to see the Pope? Then we shrugged and said, what-the-hell: the photos showed well-lit, tastefully decorated rooms; the price was right; and the staff answering our emails sounded friendly and efficient. The deed was done. One of the smartest deeds we ever done did.

Actually, the only sour-puss we met on our trip was the shuttle driver who picked us (and a few other tourists) up from the airport and dropped us off at the appropriate hotels/accommodations. Everyone else was a joy to talk to, regardless of our broken, minimalistic Italian consisting mainly of "per favore",  "grazie","scusi", and "aqua minerale naturale".

A Peace of Rome is in a typical majestic old but well-maintained building with a huge, tall, heavy wooden door designed to ward off fearsome foreign foes. Inside, it's all peace and harmony with a bit of IKEA thrown in to make us all feel at home :-)
Via Fabio Massimo no. 60, Roma

The first to greet us was Marina, to be succeeded in following days by Simona, Daniel, and Simona again. It's not always easy for staff to be accessible and helpful without seeming nosy or overly watchful. But they were kind, friendly and gracious. Their instructions and recommendations saved us quite a bit of headache.

This specific B&B comes without the second B. But there are two pleasing options so close you feel you could pop over in your PJs and slippers -- if it weren't a mite nippy outside.  It is January, and the coldest hours are around sunrise, ergo seven-thirty'ish, which is when we get up and start getting ready for breakfast. We'd dash out all wrapped up in heavy coat (the kind we never have a chance to wear back home in Israel), scarf, hat and gloves, cross the street, and settle into what soon became our regular breakfast place. (More about it below.)

But I digress. Surely you want to see the room itself. You can look at the pics on the Peace of Rome website, and you can see my pics of the room, before we made a mess of it :-)

Comfy bed, fine bed linen

Roomy wardrobe, handy desk, bar/fridge

Door to the bathroom; indispensable night-table
There was something soothing and relaxing about the decor, and plenty of room to put our stuff. I, for one, travel with a lot of stuff. No matter how much I agonize when packing, I always end up packing and schlepping too much. And, if we're staying for more than one or two nights, I like to unpack: to hang up my clothes, arrange my toiletries in the bathroom, put some of my personal things on the night-table and some in the night-table drawer. I like to be able to reach for my book, glasses, tissues, etc without even looking.

The bathroom was a good size, which is not to be taken for granted in B&Bs. Everything was spotlessly clean. The fresh towels regularly supplied were large and fluffy. The window overlooked the inner court, and it was surprisingly quiet, considering the very central location.

On the evening of our arrival, Marina gave us a list of recommended restaurants, several of which we tried and enjoyed. You know you're in good hands when the place is packed with locals who are obvious regulars. In Rome, the staff in most restaurants speak enough English to explain to you various intriguing things on the menu. I'm making a point of this because later, in Catania, Sicily, that was not the case... Rather, ordering from the menu was to a large extent a hit-and-miss affair, or else required boldly looking over other diners' shoulders and pointing to the scrumptious-looking food they were digging into.
One of the restaurants we enjoyed was Ragno D'Oro;
Ragno D'Oro
another was Litro; and a third eschews my memory and I can't find the darn business card!

We also booked a tour of the Vatican through our B&B, with a well-established, reliable company called Together in Rome. We were a small group of English speakers, led by the energetic and knowledgeable Patrizia (on the left, talking). The tall woman on the right is the incredibly elegant Honey from Los Angeles.
Patrizia on the left; Honey from L.A. on right.


I've been saving for last our breakfast place, diagonally across the street from Peace of Rome: the friendly, always busy, choc-full of super-fresh delicious food, Compagnia del Pane. It's an L-shaped shop, with one side selling an assortment of cheeses, cold cuts, home-made bread, rolls and pastry, a huge selection of pasta and all sorts of products used in Italian cuisine; the other side serving freshly squeezed juice, coffee, and a mouth-watering array of pastries. You could either buy your coffee-and-pastry at the counter, then go sit down to enjoy it. Or you could sit down and the efficient and smiling Ramona would come to take your order. The main choices were a set menu for 10 euro or for 9 euros, or a buffet of morning goodies (plus coffee, of course!) for 5 euros. I assure you it was not an easy choice.

Campagnia del Pane

Ramona at breakfast time
Arrivederci, Ramona!

But most of all, I was delighted to have met Ramona. She recognized and remembered us the next morning, and from that second morning on she already knew our preferences and treated us like regulars. What can I say? It's a gratifying experience, and very quickly makes you feel at home, in the best sense of the word.
On our last morning in Rome, before continuing to Sicily, Simona called a taxi for us, then picked up one of our cases and came downstairs with us, to make sure the taxi driver was there and knew where he was taking us to. It was like saying goodbye to a dear friend. Arrivederci, Baci! (Simona -- if you are reading this, please send me a picture of you.)

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