Those who procrastinate on booking Rome hotels are punished with horrendous locations and/or price tags. E-mail prospective hotels and make reservations before you go--you can almost always cancel later.
CENTRO STORICO Albergo del Sole al Biscione Via del Biscione
76, 011-39/06-6880-6873, solealbiscione.it
Roman character, basic rooms, and an unbeatable location in the throbbing heart of the old city. In business since the 15th century, it's the oldest hotel in Rome (as confirmed by an official city heritage plaque on the outside of the pink-stucco building). Roll out of bed into the bustling market of Campo de' Fiori, look out over rooftops and church domes from the multilevel interior garden, and take your pick of the hundreds of cheap and lively restaurants and bars within a five-minute walk. From $139 ($120 with shared bath). Cash only.
CENTRO STORICO Hotel Mimosa
Via di Santa Chiara 61, 011-39/06-6880-1753, hotelmimosa.net
Prices are ridiculously low for the location--on a quiet street a few yards from the Pantheon. Some rooms feel institutional, but others are classed up with Oriental rugs and baroque lamps. A/C. From $101 in low season ($88 with shared bath), $136 in high season ($117 with shared bath), includes breakfast. Cash only.
CENTRO STORICO Hotel Navona
Via dei Sediari 8, 011-39/06-686-4203, hotelnavona.com
Run by an Australian couple, this 14th-century palace sits on an a quiet street between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Rooms are big enough to do a cartwheel in, and the decor is soothing. Some rooms have 15th-century frescoes. From $158, includes breakfast.
PARIOLI Hotel Coppedè
Via Chiana 88, 011-39/06-854-9535, hotelcoppede.net
This art nouveau palazzo may be a bus ride away from the centro storico's sights and street life, but it's also an affordable way to experience one of the most elegant neighborhoods in Rome--one that tourists rarely see. Clubby rooms have minibars, A/C, TV, green carpeting, rich wood paneling, and striped upholstery in saturated colors. Visit nearby Piazza Mincio to see the whimsical, fairy-tale-inspired 1920s architecture of the hotel's namesake, Gino Coppedè. From $126 in low season, $164 high season.
TRASTEVERE Hotel Cisterna
Viale della Cisterna 7--9, 011-39/06-581-7212, cisternahotel.it
Rooms have all the basics but it's the location--in one of the more-Roman-than-expat parts of Trastevere--that's appealing. Beware: Your neighbors on this charming but sometimes rowdy street might include salty locals who sing Roman drinking songs late into the night. From $139, includes breakfast.
TRASTEVERE Villa della Fonte
Via della Fonte d'Olio 8, 011-39/06-580-3797, villafonte.com
On an ocher-washed, ivy-covered alley just north of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The five-year-old, unfussy boutique property has such typically earthy Roman touches as exposed dark-wood ceilings, terra-cotta tile floors, and arched doorways. Modern pluses include minibars, broadband cable for in-room Internet access, and A/C. The garden patio, one floor above street level, is ideal for sipping wine. From $139.
TRIDENTE Hotel Panda
Via della Croce 35, 011-39/06-678-0179, hotelpanda.it
Great value in a neighborhood where everything else is prohibitively expensive. Near the Spanish Steps and the couture strip of Via dei Condotti. Rustic rooms are bright and polished, with wooden-beam ceilings and terra-cotta floors; a few even have original 19th-century frescoes. From $117 ($82 with shared bath).
THE VATICAN & PRATI Hotel Adriatic
Via G. Vitelleschi 25, 011-39/06-6880-8080, adriatichotel.com
On a street with modern buildings and a stone's throw from Castel Sant'Angelo and St. Peter's. Spacious, comfortable, carpeted rooms are done up in an old-fashioned hodgepodge of green, blue, and mustard yellow. Some have private terraces. From $101 in low season ($95 with shared bath), $151 high season ($113 with shared bath); $13 supplement for A/C.
THE VATICAN & PRATI Hotel Colors
Via Boezio 31, 011-39/06-687-4030, colorshotel.com
Owners Pierluigi and Fulvia keep upgrading and expanding their friendly hotel/hostel, but the price stays low. Doubles and dorm-style rooms on multiple floors are painted in tasteful bright colors or cool neutrals; most have private baths. Guests who want to cook can use the full kitchen and dine on the quiet terrace. Perfect for budget travelers who've outgrown noisy backpackers and bedbugs. English-speaking staff. Rooms with bath include breakfast; coffee, tea, cornflakes, and jam provided for other guests. A/C June--Sept. only. From $107 ($76 with shared bath). Cash only.
SPLURGE Casa Howard
Via di Capo Le Case 18 and Via Sistina 149, 011-39/06-6992-4555, casahoward.com
Gorgeously appointed rooms in two separate boutique guesthouses near the Spanish Steps. Each is done in a radically different style, from the masculine "American Cousin" room to the sultry, concubine-ish "Chinese" room. In the Via Sistina property, the "Zebra" room has a private balcony overlooking the street. Both locations have a Turkish bath ($32--$63 supplement) and free Wi-Fi throughout. From $202.