Secret Hotels of Rome (From $75!)

Lonely Planet - Rome, Lazio, ItalyColosseum at night.
— Lonely Planet

Here's your chance to be the ultimate Italy insider, with gorgeously affordable, off-the-beaten-path lodgings just steps from some of the Eternal City's hottest attractions and tastiest restaurants.

CASA DI SANTA FRANCESCA ROMANA

Enjoy an elegant stay on the cobblestoned Roman street of your dreams.

If you prefer lodgings with a little history, this fine hotel is named for the saint credited with performing miracles here in the 15th century. A decidedly modern miracle is that this place, situated in the charming Trastevere district near upscale shops, dining, and the legendary Porta Portese Flea Market, comes without sticker shock. Enjoy your complimentary breakfast amid the orange trees of the interior courtyard and pay a visit to the beautiful little chapel. When you’re ready to explore the neighborhood and beyond, ask the friendly staff for their tips (Via dei Vascellari 61, from about $122 per night).

MUST-SEE:Movie buffs will get a kick out of the Bocca della Verità, featured in Roman Holiday, a short walk from the hotel. Then take off across the Tiber to Palatine Hill (the Park Avenue of ancient Rome), where you can explore the ruins of a stadium and imperial palace and take the panorama of the Eternal City, including the Forum and Colosseum. For discounts and shorter lines at museums and archaeological attractions, invest in a Roma Pass(from about $31).

MANGIA: Da Lucia offers a reliable menu of pastas and meat dishes, but its antipasti, like cheese and honey or anchovies with lemon juice, are the real stars (Vicolo del Mattonato 2B, 011-39/06-580-3601).

SEVEN KINGS RELAIS

Revel in midcentury-modern style at a great price just steps from the “Steps.”

While some people come to Italy to revel in the ancient, the proprietors of Seven Kings Relais are more interested in the recent past. The hotel wears its fashion sense proudly, with 1960s details like floral wallpaper, a baroque-style sofa done up in pink, and a contemporary espresso bar right in the lobby. They’re also more than happy to dispense tips on navigating the local Metro stops and bus routes, the 15-minute walk to the Spanish Steps, and where to indulge your shopping urges (Via XX Settembre 58A, from about $75 per night).

MUST-SEE:The Piazza di Spagna, named for the nearby Spanish Embassy, is the base of the gorgeous 1725 staircase affectionately known as the Spanish Steps. Once you get over the “pinch me” moment of seeing the steps for real, check out the fountain said to be designed by Bernini’s dad.

MANGIA:The Spanish Steps area is super-popular, and it’s a relief to know that Pizzeria Leoncino is not only nearby but is also, unlike many Rome pizzerias, open for lunch. Elizabeth Minchilli, author of Eating Rome and the app Eat Italy, recommends Leoncino’s pizza with onion, beans, and sausage (Via del Leonci- no 28, 011-39/06-686-7757).

RELAIS PALAZZO TAVERNA

Betcha never thought a converted stable could look this beautiful.

The 10-room Relais Palazzo Taverna used to be stables dating back to the 15th century. Their conversion into a hotel is the loving work of a family of art lovers that includes a Venetian art expert from Christie’s. When you’re not exploring nearby Piazza Navona and other Roman delights, savor the dramatic black-and-white damask wallpaper from England and the Japanese printed paper, not to mention the massive 500-year-old beams original to the stables. You’ll be just off a street lined with antiques stores that leads straight to the piazza... if you can drag yourself away from the pastries and cappuccino delivered right to your door each morning (Via dei Gabrielli 92, from about $105 per night).

MUST-SEE: Ogle Bernini’s stunning Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in nearby Piazza Navona, where a few cheeky tourists famously attempted some late-night bathing this past summer.

MANGIA:Fill up on hearty servings of pasta tossed with eggplant, tomato, and garlic at Da Tonino al Governo Vecchio (Via del Governo Vecchio 18–19, 011-39/333-587-0779).

SUITE ORIANI

Psst! Want to sleep in a villa in one of Rome’s poshest quarters?

Yes, the streets are lined with embassies and mansions, but inside the 1929 Art Nouveau villa at No. 92 Via Barnaba Oriani, you’ll find five rooms filled with antiques like Tiffany-style glass lamps and ornate chairs that can be all yours for a song. Oh, and how about your own balcony overlooking private gardens and a towering cedar of Lebanon tree? (That’s in the Orchidea Room.) In warm weather, a generous breakfast spread of meats and cheeses, homemade jams, yogurt, and fresh fruit is served in the garden’s umbrella-shaded outdoor living room (Via Barnaba Oriani 92, from about $129 per night).

MUST-SEE: Before you take off to drink in the old city, you’ve got to go for a hand-in-hand stroll through jaw-dropping Villa Borghese, Rome’s most famous park, and check out the nearby Accademia di Santa Cecilia, housed in Renzo Piano’s ultra-modern Parco Della Musica.

MANGIA: La Pariolina offers an array of fritti and pizzas heartily recommended by Oriani’s proprietors (Viale dei Parioli 93).

MECENATE ROOMS

Live like a local in your own chic apartment.

Sure, you may be one of the 30 million travelers who descend upon Rome each year, but that doesn’t mean you have to live like a tourist. Your lodgings are an apartment (No. 79) in a quiet part of town that’s just a five-minute walk to the Colosseum. Once inside the circa-1900 building’s luxurious wood-and-brass doors, you’ll be warmly welcomed to views of the iconic arena, coupons for breakfast at local cafés, and one of four surprisingly spacious rooms (Via Mecenate 79, from about $75 per night).

MUST-SEE:Many visitors find the Colosseum to be the most exciting attraction in Rome. Even if you find the arena’s dark past a bit of a buzzkill, it’s an undeniably impressive sight. It once held 50,000 bloodthirsty spectators and was, of course, the place where Roman gladiators fought wild animals and one another.

MANGIA: Taverna Romana, in the Monti district near the Colosseum, will have a line. You’ll have to wait about 20 minutes to get a table. A heaping bowl of rigatoni with melted pecorino makes it totally worth it (Via della Madonna dei Monti 79, 011-39/06-474-5325).

LE STANZE DI ORAZIO

Fine art is on view inside the hotel and just down the street.

Just 10 blocks from the Vatican, this five-room hotel was launched in 2011 by a proprietor with a passion for art history. Good taste is on display everywhere you look, from the Philippe Starck lamps to the lovely striped fabrics for the curtains to the original floor tiles. Ask for personalized itineraries and hand-drawn maps, and be prepared to be treated like family—in a good way (Via Orazio 3, from about $85 per night).

MUST-SEE: Walk to the Vatican Museums and get lost for hours, or days, in their immense art collections. Buy your tickets in advance to avoid long lines, and remember that the museums are closed most Sundays but offer free admission on the last Sunday of each month from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

MANGIA: Pizzarium, near the Vatican, may be the most famous pizzeria in Italy, and Minchilli recommends it (Via della Meloria 43 [near Vatican, metro Cipro], 011-39/06-397-45416).

TORRETTA DE’ MASSIMI

Your country estate is waiting in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of the city.

Arriving here might make you think you’re dreaming. The 12th-century tower—which has been transformed into a suite of rooms spread over four floors, with a kitchen and a living room at the bottom and two bedrooms at the top—looks too much like a fable to be true. The fact that a prince, and a very charming one at that, hands over the keys adds to the surreal feel. But the place does exist, hidden within 350 acres of park-like greenery in the humble La Pisana neighborhood of Rome’s southwestern fringes (Via della Pisana 600, from about $210 per night for a two-bed- room suite).

MUST-SEE:Spend time wandering the amazing grounds themselves, or take the 881 bus from the property to Rome’s historic center, near Campo de’ Fiori and the Vatican.

MANGIA:You can use the property’s kitchen to cook for yourself (grocery stores are a short walk away), ask the staff to prepare your meals, or, our favorite option, book on-site cooking classes. For a night out, nearby eatery Schiavi d’Abruzzo will pick you up and return you to the property after filling your plate with unforgettable pasta dishes and pizza (Via Di Bravetta 370).

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