‘Don’t you just love an upgrade?’ Ah, the mantra of the esteemed travel blogger. As I walked down the hallowed, high-ceilinged halls, the key card in my hand, I felt like one of them. Thick double doors opened onto a large room, white curtains floated towards me from the open window. I felt like Daisy in the Great Gatsby…
The phone rang. Must be my driver. But then: ‘We’ve made a mistake with your room.’ And so that ironic reverie vanished in an explosion of suitcase wheels and twisting staircases; I landed in a thud of glitter in a Roman attic annexe.
Now let me be honest here – regardless of the harsh fall back to earth, my stay in the Domus Sessoriana was brilliant. About half an hour from Rome’s train station, it’s an easy (if rather warm) walk, and you can’t miss your destination. The hotel (or ‘historical accommodation house’, as the website calls it) is located in both wings of a stunning Roman monastery, adorned with stone-silenced angels. Built in the 3rd century as a palace, you’ll feel the history hum in every vaulted corridor.
Our room was one of the smallest – there were two beds, a small but clean bathroom and a rather dark window in the corner. We couldn’t work out what was on the other side, because it certainly wasn’t sunny Rome! Finally, we twigged: behind the glass was the circular entrance to the church itself. How cool is that?
Breakfast was served in the concave crypts of the Domus, which made me feel like I was privy to some behind-the-scenes secrets. It was the standard continental affair: cold meats, cakes and some dry cereal. For gluten-free foodies, there wasn’t much to grab (but then again, it is Italy). I took my pick of sugary granola, yogurt and machine-made cappuccino.
Take a twenty minute walk north-west and you’ll find yourself in front of the Colosseum’s gaping windows; another wander north and you’ll be at the Pantheon. The hotel is easy strolling distance from most of Rome’s major landmarks – we even walked to the Vatican. And when you get home? Book an evening meal served right at the Domus, so you don’t need to worry about avoiding the tourist traps.
In this relaxed riverside city (the atmosphere was that of a sunny Glasgow…!) I stayed in Hotel Bodoni, a slightly old-fashioned establishment about ten minutes from the Uffizi.
It’s located in an apartment block, which makes it very secure, but rather bizarrely is split over the first and fifth floors. The bathroom was pretty awkward (a swivelling shower curtain doesn’t really cut it) and a persistent mosquito interrupted our sleep. But apart from that, the service was great. The receptionist was very welcoming, and I ended up chatting to him in French (maybe we were too tanned to be Brits, but too pale to be Italian). The breakfast here was even better than at the Domus: peaches, decent granola, seeded flatbread and those little packets of Nutella. Always, always a winner.
Again, the hotel was a quarter of an hour from the train station and from most of Florence’s tourist features. Plus (and this is the big selling point) the Duomo is literally a few footsteps away. You can see its amazing arch from the rooftop terrace… and appreciate it even closer once you’ve polished off the hotel’s supply of Nutella. Buon appetito!
Book a stay at Rome’s Domus Sessoriana by calling them directly. Rooms get snapped up quickly; ours was the last available. We booked Hotel Bodoni via booking.com (thanks to C’s very helpful Italian family).