on May 31, 2008
I wanted to give Hotwire a go, so I booked 2 hotels through that site for our Roman holiday. The first was this Holiday Inn Express. Hotwire called it a "central" hotel. Well... that takes a bit of fudging. It's not. However, it is within close walking distance of the train station and a metro stop, so this is absolutely fine unless you're the type of traveler who wants to pop in and out of your room to rest mulitple times throughout the day. (If so, you should pay the premium for another hotel that is more central.)Second, I started reading reviews of the hotel once I had its name. Hotwire put the brand at 2 1/2 stars. Other travel sites only gave a 1 star rating for the same place. I found some rather unhappy reviews, and I was getting nervous about the booking... especially the location. What was the neighborhood actually like?It's certainly true that the streets weren't sparkling, but it wasn't as bad as all that. Grafitti, unfortunately, is pervasive in Italian cities. Yet San Giovanni has some sites that are worth looking up in their own right. While we walked down the street to find our hotel, there were old men sitting outside and smoking on one corner's public benches. They didn't seem very threatening to me. I thought the area was fine. How about the hotel?When we saw the familiar Holiday Inn banner, we walked into a lobby that did--admittedly--look a little worn. A man and woman were drinking beer at a small table in front of a TV showing a football game. (That's soccer, Americans.) Our son plopped into an orange seat while the lady behind the front desk pulled up our reservation. In fact, as soon as I spoke, the girl who was working welcomed me with my name. She spoke excellent English, was fast, efficient, and warm. I could find no fault with the staff. How was our room? Hotwire was right with its rating. The room fit a solid 2 1/2 stars. It was small, especially with the single bed that was made up at the foot of our double to suit our son. However, I had a place to hang my clothes, all was clean and functional, the TV had 2 English channels (MTV & CNN), AND it was air conditioned. I was relived to see a hair dryer by the desk since I'd forgotten mine. The bathroom was downright spacious compared to the last bathroom I had in a hotel in Rome. I did notice mold in the shower, something I always hate, but the water pressure was fantastic. There was a stain on the carpet in the hall, but so what? Heavy blue, white and gold curtains covered our room's window, which overlooked train tracks. We could hear the train with the window closed, but it never disturbed us at all. I'm not sure it even ran late at night. The beds weren't great, but they weren't awful. We had fluffy pillows. Any extra pluses? Breakfast was included in our rate, and I thought it was pretty decent. There were water streaks on the plates and dishwasher spots on the glasses, but no one seemed to mind. Breads, cereals, bacon, and runny eggs were all available for guests. We filled up on cheeses and juice. A staff member made nice cappucinos with pictures of flowers drawn into the foam. The breakfast room looked over a bright courtyard. Bottom line? I would stay here again. It was an excellent value. I understand why some of the people who wrote reviews felt like they did. The same money in America would buy a much higher standard. But I live in Europe. I have more realistic expectations. I don't mind walking to the metro (about 10 minutes.) We enjoyed our stay. It's a good, moderate option.
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