The Inn at the Roman Forum
You'll find this ivy-draped building in the crook of a tiny lane between the busy Via Nazionale and the Forum.
The 12-room hotel’s considerable charms reveal themselves slowly over the course of a visit. The cramped reception area doesn’t dazzle at first, but a peek into the cavernous, 2,000-year-old crypt on which the 17th-century building stands (accessed via a glass door behind the concierge desk) does. A marble staircase spirals up four floors to what was once the attic and is now a cozy lounge-breakfast room made elegant with black-and-gold-striped wallpaper, terrazzo floors, and leather- and suede-upholstered chairs and sofas grouped into intimate sitting areas.
Even classic doubles are spacious by Roman standards. The interiors are fitfully, rather than uniformly, tasteful—certain lampshades resemble English ladies’ hats, and some of the beds are festooned a little too enthusiastically with swaths of metallic silk. But the building’s bones are flawless: high coffered ceilings in the doubles, pitched oak timber ones in the two top-floor garden suites, and richly patinated terra-cotta flooring throughout. Bathrooms feature raincan showerheads nine inches in diameter, massive granite basin sinks, and jewel-toned Etro toiletries. Closets are stocked with hair dryers, curling irons, and straighteners—in extravagant contrast to the absence of a full-length mirror anywhere, an oversight that needs immediate correcting. Every room has a wall-mounted flat-screen TV (the new standard, it seems).
It’s such a great little place—a pity it’s almost impossible to find. Say “Via degli Ibernesi” to your cab driver and you’re met with a blank stare and a shrug. During our stay, one couple was left on the Via Nazionale, walking up and down with their bags, searching for the hotel for half an hour. Some printable directions on the Web site would be welcome—or, considering the circumstances, a decrease in the $70 airport-transfer rate.
The miniscule shady walled garden on the top floor is perfect for afternoon reading or Negroni-sipping. The intimate terrace, with its warm pink walls visible beneath trellises of jasmine, gives on to a view of the top reaches of the imperial Forum, the 19th-century Vittorio Emanuele monument, and a vast sky dotted with kiting seagulls.
30 Via degli Ibernesi; 39-06/6919-0970; www.theinnattheromanforum.com; doubles from $470.