Unless you don’t mind flying by the seat of your pants, it’s best to book ahead. This is especially true for May and June, when the Eternal City is virtually bursting at the seams; the same goes for major Catholic holidays such as Easter and Christmas. The city is never empty, but July and August and January and February are slower months. These are the best times to find rock-bottom rates as well.
Be as specific as possible about the accommodations you desire. Request the room size (single, double, or triple), type (standard, deluxe, or suite), and whether you want air-conditioning, a no-smoking room, a private bathroom with a shower or tub (or both), a terrace or balcony, or a view of the city (and ask whether there are extra costs associated with any of these). You may be required to leave a deposit; get a statement from the hotel about its refund policy before releasing your credit card number or mailing a money order. Insist on a written confirmation from the hotel stating the duration of your stay, room rate, any extras, location, room size, and type.
As soon as you get to Rome, you’ll notice the leisurely pace of life here, which extends to hotel check-in times. If you arrive early in the morning (as is often the case with North American flights), you may find that your room is not ready yet (after 2 pm is pretty standard for most hotels, big and small). In which case, most hotels will store your luggage and encourage you to go out sightseeing. If you think you’ll arrive later in the day, mention this before booking to make sure someone will be on hand to check you in. Some smaller hotels don’t have a round-the-clock staff, and it’s best to avoid unpleasant surprises. Checkout times are a little stricter, between 10 am and noon. If you need more time than that, the hotel may try to charge you for an extra night. However, if you just want to store your luggage for a few hours on your last day, most hotels will accommodate this request.
The most expensive hotels have all the amenities you would expect at top levels and rates, with full services, spacious lounges, bars, restaurants, and some fitness facilities. Midrange hotels may have refrigerators, in-room safes, and double-glazed windows to keep out street noise. Budget hotels will have in-room direct-dial telephone and TV, and most will have air-conditioning. In less expensive places, you may have to pay extra for air-conditioning, and the shower may be the drain-in-the-floor type that hovers over the toilet and drenches the whole bathroom.
Unless stated in the review, hotels are equipped with elevators, and all guest rooms have air-conditioning, TV, and telephones.
Staying with Kids
Italians love kids, and many hotels go out of their way to accommodate families, with ideas, special games, and other perks. Although hotels often allow children to stay in their parents’ room for free, keep in mind that hotel rooms in Italy tend to be very small by American standards. It’s a good idea to inquire about triples, connecting rooms or suites, or consider taking a short-term apartment rental or residence hotel for the duration of your stay.
In 2011, the city of Rome implemented a new tax for all overnight stays. Guests in bed-and-breakfasts, vacation apartment rentals, and 1-, 2-, and 3-star hotels will incur an additional €2 surcharge per person per night for a maximum of 10 nights. In 4- and 5-star hotels, the surcharge is €3 per person per night for a maximum of 10 nights. In the off-season months of late January, February, July, and August, prices can be considerably discounted (sometimes up to half off the regular rate). Inquire about specials and weekend deals, and you may be able to get a better rate per night if you are staying a week or longer. Rates are inclusive of service, but it's customary to tip porters, waiters, maids, and concierges.