I am just back from a wonderful 13 days in Rome & Bologna. Thanks to all that helped me with trip planning advice.
I have not traveled with Alitalia for several years, due to several flight where service and punctuality were abysmally poor. However, my research revealed that not only were Alitalia cheapest for the dates I wanted (YES, cheaper than easyjet and Ryanair, as I almost always find if you book close to the time) but the Business Class fare was exactly the same price (£240 return) as the lowest economy fare – go figure! Added bonus was that the outbound flight departed from London City Airport, just a 30 minute drive from home.
I have to say that the service and food was excellent on both flights and I would not hesitate to recommend Alitalia. I was the only passenger in Business Class on both legs, which was marvelous, but the Economy section also looked pretty good. The flight attendants were impeccably well-groomed and wearing gorgeous 1960s style outfits reminiscent of the golden days of travel. The Business Class lounge at Da Vinci airport was top notch, with a large selection of delicious food and wine.
A word of warning re logistics at Da Vinci. You check in at Terminal 1, but the boarding gates are quite a distance from there. You have to walk/Shuttle to Terminal 3 (about 5 minutes) and go through Security, then take a train to the ‘G’ gates and go through passport control (or visa-versa). I suggest you build in at least 30 minutes extra to ensure you make your flight.
As I planned this as a last minute trip, the hotels in Rome and Bologna were very expensive. I wanted to keep the daily rate (far) under £150 per night. I finally got a deal on a hotel in Trastevere (£950 for 7 nights) and was very pleased with both the location and the hotel. Bologna proved equally frustrating and I settled on a chain hotel just opposite the station for £370 for 4 nights. The last two nights in Rome I left open, hoping to get a better deal closer to the time. I totally lucked out – the Albergo del Senato had a last minute sale, and the two nights only cost me £380, which is very cheap for that hotel. I have wanted to stay there on every previous visit to Rome, but it was always either sold out or too expensive.
Trastevere: Trilussa Palace Hotel Congress & SPA
Very good hotel in a very interesting area. Staff were very friendly and helpful and the room very comfortable, spotlessly clean and nice traditional décor. There is a tram stop just outside the door that brings you into Piazza Venezia in about 15/20 minutes and you can walk it in about 30 minutes (nice walk). Highly recommended. It is located further into Trastevere, about 10 minutes’ walk from the very lovely Piazza di Santa Maria. I had read some travelers find the Trastevere area somewhat ‘suspect’, which is quite a surprise (I live in London – if you want to see ‘suspect’ areas you should see some of the areas I travel through on my way home from Central to South-East London). It is a former working class area, but has been highly gentrified, but without losing much of its character. The people are ‘salt of the earth’ and it does have its own distinctive vibe. It is far less hectic than the more touristic areas of Rome, and offers a nice respite from the throngs. Definitely consider staying in the area, particularly if you are planning a longer stay in Rome. Another area recommended to me when I was in Rome was Monti, which is ‘hipster-central’ and tres cool.
Bologna: Mercure Bologna Centro
This is a typical four-star business hotel, devoid of any charm and right opposite the train station. It served its purpose and I have no complaints. It’s a 10 minute walk to the main square in the historic centre. The price included breakfast, which is fairly substantial.
Rome Piazza della Rotonda: Albergo del Senato
What can I say? It is just divine in every way. I had a room at the back, so unfortunately no view, but the room was perfect and quite spacious considering the price and location (room 315). Other rooms have a view of the Pantheon, but obviously cost considerably more and need to be reserved well in advance, as this hotel is highly recommended in every guide book and travel website, and for good reason. Service is five-star, as are the common areas, and the staff extremely friendly and helpful. Breakfast was included in the price, and delicious. Added bonus is the open-air rooftop bar, which unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to use, due to sickness and weather. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough.
Next: The Food.
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