HOTEL BABUINO 181
I believe I will never tire of Rome. On every visit I am startled by another palace or another church or another painting of remarkable beauty. This time it was one of the great buildings of the 20th Century: the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana in the EUR district. And I also discovered something else: a most pleasant alternative to the grand luxury hotels I usually frequent. Not that I have tired of all that gilt and marble. Heaven forfend! But it is really delightful, occasionally, to rest one’s head somewhere slightly simpler, as long as the location is right. And few locations in the Eternal City are better than the via del Babuino – which is why I was prompted to investigate the hostelry which goes under the name of its address: Babuino 181.
The via del Babuino leads to my favourite square in Rome, the piazza del Popolo. The street also houses the city’s Anglican church (All Saints, at number 153) – a fact which will indicate to the experienced traveller that this is an area of elegance and wealth. (The shops hereabouts certainly cater for those with both.) Find a Church of England church in Europe and you nearly always find yourself in the very best part of town. Yet the hotel itself is both small and discreet. You will have to keep your wits about you if you are not to miss the entrance, although my taxi driver delivered me without difficulty.
Within the entrance hall I found the Reception desk, manned (and sometimes womanned) by charming members of staff. The 24 rooms and suites are on the four floors above and are reached by a lift. Mine was number 203, on the second floor. This was a ‘Deluxe Double’ and therefore 270€-420€ a night, bed and breakfast for two, according to season.
Its style might best be called ‘comfortably modern’. All was spick and span and spotless. There was plenty of wood, and the prevailing colours were off-white and brown. Being at the back of the building, it was very quiet. There was only one chair, but a second one was brought to me very quickly – for the members of staff are efficient as well as charming. The bedroom measured about 12 feet by 10 feet, but mounting the television on the wall and having the shelves above the writing desk helped to ensure there was enough space to be comfortable. The hallway provided sufficient hanging for my suits, as well as a private safe.
In the bathroom was more wood, this time accompanied by brown marble, to surround the wash basin, the bidet and the loo. Over the bath tub was a shower, and there was plenty of hot water for both. (I mention the hot water, because hotels in Rome have been known to supply me with just a pathetic trickle of the stuff.) Here my ablutions were a real pleasure.
And my breakfasts were a pleasure, too. These were had on the fourth (top) floor, where the bar and its terrace made a comfortable setting in which to consume the morning comestibles. (The hotel does not have a restaurant.) In the summer the roof can be fully retracted. Here I tucked into wonderful, freshly-squeezed orange juice (on request), melon, pineapple, croissants, bacon, super omelettes, Corn Flakes, cheese, boiled eggs and Madeira cake. I enjoyed these beginnings to my days, and my enjoyment was intensified by the knowledge that, after breakfast, it was only the briefest of strolls to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo and the paintings of St Peter and St Paul by Caravaggio. Life sometimes is very good.
That, surely, is what Rome offers: the Good Life. Of that you must never tire. And to experience it properly, I can certainly recommend that you stay at Babuino 181.
HOTEL BABUINO 181
Via del Babuino 181, 00187 Rome, Italy.
Telephone +39 06 32 295 295
Fax +39 06 32 295 290
Double rooms from 250€-390€, bed and breakfast, according to season
Check the hotel website for the rates for specific dates