Accommodations in Rome
Rome has been preparing for the Jubilee for many years and more rooms are available than ever before, including a large number in private homes with host families. However, rooms of all types are already booking up, so time is of the essence. I include some convent guesthouses here, but this is far from a thorough listing. If I were just starting to plan a Roman trip, I'd go to the public library or local bookstore and pick up the most recent travel guide to Italy. Most hotels will require credit card deposits. Make sure you get a confirmation number by phone, fax or e-mail. Reconfirm before leaving. Most establishments will have a reservation clerk who speaks English at least for these purposes.
Note that the Vatican, an independent state officially, does not have its own hotels and restaurants. These are located in Rome, which begins just outside Piazza San Pietro.
Here is a representative sampling, not a comprehensive listing, of convent guesthouses that you may want to consider. (For all numbers listed below, from the United States, dial 011-39-06 first and then the number of phone or fax listed.)
Piazza Farnese 96, 00186 Rome. Tel. 688-92596 or Fax 688-21926. This is a personal favorite. It has great dignity and warmth. Meals are also available and the location is excellent. However, it's small and often booked up. About $80 per night single or $75 each double with breakfast. (Brigida has been named one of the patronesses of Europe this year.)
Via dei Vascellari 61, 00153 Rome.
Tel. 581-2125 or 588-2405.
Fax 581-2125 or 588-2405.
Very simple and with a younger clientele usually, in pleasant neighborhood in Trastevere, south of the Vatican. Some have private bath. (This was the saint's home.)
Via dei Santissimi Quattro 1, 00184 Rome.
Tel. 704-54678; Fax 704-76150.
Summer only. Located in back of St. John Lateran, one of the most important basilicas. Simple college rooms, pool, tennis.
About $65 to $100.
Via Monte de Gallo 105.
Near the Vatican, up a flight of stairs. A very friendly spot nicely managed by American sisters from Syracuse, N.Y. Terrace views of St. Peter's.
About $50 single, $100 double.
Via Sistina 113, 00187 Rome.
Simple rooms in good location near top of Spanish Steps. About $45.
Use your airline's tour operator for independent travel, which gives group rates without groups. Or call Central Holiday Tours, Italtours (Alitalia), Perillo, Donna Franca or others. Rome is a perennially popular travel destination, so most vacation travel agents will be able to offer good guidance.
Make sure that the hotel selected is near the center of Rome or near the Metropolitan (subway). The airport hotels are too far away, unless necessary. You may want to walk around Rome at night, which is dazzlingly floodlit and beautiful. Among those well located are the Colonna Palace and the Nazionale, near the Pantheon, but they are rather expensive and apt to be booked up. However, that is the best area for walking. Hotels near the train station such as the Massimo d'Azeglio or the Nord are well located near the Metro, train, and the terminus for many buses, including the No. 64, which goes to the Vatican.
You may want to check with the Bed & Breakfast Association of Rome: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 687-7348.
Wherever pilgrims or tourists gather, alas, thieves and pickpockets see opportunity. Wear a money belt and don't take any valuables around the city. Do not leave anything unguarded even in St. Peter's. If things are put away in a money belt with about $50 in lire handy, you can relax. Keep what you can locked away somewhere safe.
Be careful changing money. If possible, buy traveler's checks in lire (now about 1,770 lire to $1). Some American banks and Italian banks in New York City have this service. You can wait until you get there to change money, but it's generally best to take care of this before you set off.
Souvenirs and Gifts
You'll have no trouble finding shops and stores eagerly waiting to sell you all manner of souvenirs and religious articles. I've found that the most tasteful items are in the shops in front of St. Peter's, in the side streets off the Via della Conciliazione and also in back and to the left of the Pantheon. My favorite for rosaries and other religious articles is the long-established Guadenzi on the Piazza della Minerva. The Vatican Museum's gift shop is also quite good, of course.
— Barbara Coeyman Hults