Rome, like most large capital cities had a multitude of deluxe five-star properties to choose from. Instead of picking the usual international circa 150-room property I thought I would go for something more boutique. After reading through reviews on this web-site, and other sources, Inn At The Roman Forum sounded like the perfect choice - a five star hotel distilled into twelve individually designed rooms and very personal service. How wrong this turned out to be!
As everyone else has stated, it is a difficult hotel for taxi drivers to find, but after having been driven around the block a couple of times we were there! The moment I saw the receptionist/concierge/... come out to take in the heavy luggage I knew things were not going to go smoothly. Maybe I should explain, when I arrive at the hotel I like to see a porter/doorman who is strong and looks just as/more capable of handling the baggage as I do and is employed expressly for that purpose. I do not expect someone to be multitasking. Others have commented that in a small hotel one member of staff may take on several roles, true, and that is fine, but NOT if a property purports to be five star and charges accordingly. Location is good for sightseeing and of course it is on top of the forum which is an awe inspiring part of the city.
After the receptionist had sort of hauled one of my cases in, a boy who looked more like a porter of some description assisted with the rest of my luggage. I was kindly upgraded to a "deluxe" room. Upon check-in they ask you to sign an abnormal number of contracts - I have stayed in countless hotels and never have I seen such attempts in securing their position e.g. they took an imprint of my credit card and wanted me to sign a blank slip effectively giving them a blank cheque from myself. Even at this stage I did not trust them enough to do this and refused. It is details like this that distinguish a professionally run property from an amateur imitation.
The room itself was on the ground floor, right by the entrance corridor so that you could hear all the comings and goings. Indeed, I had a sleepless night as the walls/ceilings are paper thin as noted by other reviewers here. Decor was a bit "changing rooms" over the top. Lots of cheap fabric draped over metal poles overhanging the bed, cheap fitted wardrobes, a badly installed bathroom, and tiles very badly laid throughout. It looked very pleasant in pictures, but in reality it was easy to pick flaws in it. Some might find me having overly high standards, but this is a five star property charging five star prices, at that level it is open to this sort of critique in the same way a three Michelin star restaurant raises the expectations of their diners; they simply have to be able to deliver! Also, the room was very dark with only a small window covered by a grill, onto the quiet street at the front. In fact, one might say it felt like a prison cell. There was a safety deposit box in the room that was just sitting in the wardrobe, no attempt had been made to secure it in any fashion so a sneaky thief could quickly walk in, pick it up and carry it out under his arm. This type of safe is not secure at the best of times, but is utterly pointless if no attempt is made to bolt it down! Bed had a very soft mattress, which again comes down entirely to personal preference, but I like something firmer, so if you have a bad back, once again beware.
I complained about the room, and the receptionist arranged for me to be shown a couple of others. Both were of a lower grade and absolutely tiny. The "classic" room which I was shown with only a walk in shower (no bath) was miniscule and quite frankly a joke at the prices they charge. Again, lots of fabrics draped around for effect. Needless to say, I stayed in my original room. For fairness, I will mention that I was offered an "executive" room the following day, but I did not actually see the room so cannot comment on it. Most of the rooms look onto a narrow light well, that is anything other than light so had the same prison gloom in the air. All in all I was most disappointed with the rooms which did feel like ones in an upmarket bed and breakfast on the seafront of say Brighton or one of the trendier seaside resorts. They certainly did not have the style nor substance to be qualified as five star standard - some nice Etro toiletries, slippers and robes doesn't make a room five star.
The early evening buffet was pleasant - a selection of olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, other cheeses, arancini, potato croquettes (not homemade), cold cuts and fresh fruit. This was taken on the top floor in what is probably the most stylish room there, a "lounge" for want of a better description. Lots of coffee table style books and coffee tables upon which to read them. The hotel was about 50% (possibly higher) occupancy, but I did not encounter any other guests, so this room had absolutely no atmosphere, rather like the rest of the hotel. A comment on this buffet is that it is very petty not to provide a bottle of water from which one might drink, instead charging you for any drinks. Of course one is not compelled to purchase any drinks, but if you are going to provide complimentary food, why not complete the whole "experience" and at least offer some water?
Upon returning from dinner I arrived at the hotel to find a new receptionist/concierge/.... standing outside the hotel enjoying a cigarette whilst leaving the desk unmanned. Does one really expect to return to a five star hotel to find one of the staff having a fag outside? I raised this with yet another receptionist the next day who seemed bemused as to what my problem was. Incidentally I had asked this member of staff some basic questions (about the "Rome card" tourist pass, and Nero's house) about the local tourist attractions and he declined to answer and told me he would get back to me. I only expect a concierge in a five star hotel to decline to answer me if it is a complex, unique or unusual request, not something that is surely fundamental to any tourist, especially given the hotel's location!
The garden is nowhere near as idyllic as the web-site photography makes it appear. It is pleasant enough, but feels more like a table and chairs, some trees and a bit of scrubby lawn rather than "Eden". In fact all the photography on the web-site is very flattering, taken from clever angles to add a sense of space, height and quality that just doesn't exist in reality.
Breakfast was disappointing. This time I took it on the small terrace which is quite a pleasant space, but the lack of serving staff (one man occasionally coming out of hiding in the "kitchen" area) made it seem strange. Similar food to the evening buffet, but not as interesting and fruit wasn't as varied. Nothing of any great quality and the pastries were bog standard supermarket ones. By far the most disappointing breakfast I ate in Italy. I appreciate that this is a small property so it is not perhaps economical (although for the prices they charge, it should be) to order a vast amount of food that will go to waste, but some high quality patisserie, local cheeses (why have some plastic Dutch stuff when Italy abounds with superb cheeses?) and breads would be a perfect start to the day!
After a sleepless night where every hour or so I could hear the receptionist traipsing outside for another fag, and the conversation of people in the room above I had had enough and wanted to check out. Unfortunately they have a cancellation policy requiring notice otherwise they charge for further nights regardless. The receptionist didn't speak wonderful English but I communicated that I wanted to check out and would pay for my sleepless night (In the past I have stayed in countless hotels and on the very rare occasion I have a sleepless night due to a fault on their part I have never been charged for it, and indeed have been offered a further complimentary one by way of apology) and I did not want to incur further charges. The receptionist first offered me the aforementioned "executive" room, I declined to view it as I just wanted to escape due to the stress of my experience so far. I was informed I would be charged for my sleepless night and the following night. I disagreed that this should be the case and the receptionist agreed to telephone her manager. Fifteen minutes later she said that I could leave and only pay for the night I had taken. A receipt was prepared charging me for one night, I signed a credit card slip charging me for one night. I once again verbally confirmed, most explicitly that I would not incur any further charges, this was confirmed. I felt that I had taken the utmost in way of precautions to ensure that I would not be billed for anything other than what I had signed for. At this stage I will say that whilst I was desperate to check out, I would not have left without having taken any nights I would have had to pay for. The hotel called me a taxi and I thought that my nightmare would be over.
Upon returning to the UK I checked my credit card bill and the hotel and decided to charge me for an additional night. I telephoned to speak to a manager who was most unsympathetic to my cause. She said that she understood my point, but that was their policy and it was not up to her to offer any recourse as only the owner (who was/is on holiday) can do that. What five star hotel exhibits such dishonesty and penny pinching pettiness as this? What five star hotel offers nothing in way of customer service? I now have to rely on my credit card company recovering this for me.
If you are looking for a five star hotel by any way or stretch of the imagination, this is not it. The staff is not professional enough, the decor and furnishing are not of an high enough quality, and the whole experience leaves a lot to be desired. To all those who think it is a "hidden gem" I can only hope that it stays that way. You see, if this had been a four star property, charging fair four star prices I might've had the same scenario and sequence of events happen, but have been more readily accepting of them. If one buys an ancient Roman relic and finds that it is in fact a 15th century imitation are they likely to be as satisfied with it? Overall it feels like a B&B and offers about as much professionalism and service as Fawlty Towers.
After my torturous night I checked into a five star hotel that was also small (it had three times the number of rooms of this one, but that is still small) but had a professional staff and I did genuinely feel that it delivered a five star standard.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located just a few steps from some of the oldest and most precious ruins in Rome, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, this inn, member of the small luxury hotels of the world with 5 star service boasts charming views of the Campidoglio, Palatin Hill, Roman Forum, Venice Square. It is represented by Small Luxury Hotels of the World and is the only luxury residence in Rome which actually houses Roman ruins inside it. At the entrance, a passageway leads you to a Cryptoporticus, an exquisite stone gallery with engravings that can be traced back to 2,000 years ago. The five star service accommodations are carefully decorated in a modern style and are luxuriously furnished. On the roof terrace you can enjoy free snacks from 17:00 to 20:00. This inn is pet friendly. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Inn At The Roman Forum Hotel Rome
- Hotel At The Roman Forum
- At The Roman Forum Hotel