26 December 2015

Maison Giulia apartments, Rome - my guest review

Do you fancy an independent stay right in the heart of Rome? I've stayed twice in a little studio flat in the historic centre of Rome which is managed by the hotel Maison Giulia. My most recent stay was last month, when I stayed for one night. A couple of years ago I spent a few nights in the same studio.

My night in November in a flat sleeping two people cost just €74 - very good value for Rome. There was also the option of an even cheaper, non-refundable tariff. This is a quiet time in Rome; generally the decent low-to-mid-range hotels were a little more expensive than this for the same week, while a few budget B&Bs were slightly cheaper.

Maison Giulia has several holiday apartments to let. Mine (for both stays) was described on the booking page as the 'Gonfalone studio flat'. It's in a building with several other apartments on Via Gonfalone, between the river Tiber and Via Giulia. Guests check in at the hotel, at the far end of Via Giulia, a long straight street lined with historic buildings. This is around a ten-minute walk from the apartment, over Rome's bumpy little cobblestones. Given the hassle of bouncing a suitcase along, I was pleased to find the hotel staff would ferry me between the hotel and Via Gonfalone. The short journey, in a golf buggy, was actually quite fun.

 Maison Giulia staff were friendly and helpful. This attitude carried over into the presentation of the apartment, where I found a folder filled with useful information such as the wi-fi password.

The flat is a reasonable-sized room with a couple of structural columns complicating the design. It's very nicely decorated and furnished: cool, white-painted, simple and sensibly-planned, with decent furniture from Ikea. Convenient design features include lots of lights, plugs by the bed and bedside tables. The bed is two singles which can be joined or separated (request this in advance). Other furniture includes a small table, three chairs and a TV.  The wardrobe space has limited height and is high up (guests have to use a pole provided to get clothes up and down), with shelves underneath. There's storage for small items and fair bit of space to put things, but no suitcase stand and no coat hooks.

The kitchenette is along one wall of the studio, quite close to the bed; this would be rather a small space for cooking and eating in, but I don't know how many guests would actually do that on anything more than an occasional basis; not with so many cheap restaurants nearby. Kitchen facilities include a kettle, toaster, hob, oven, fridge (noisy at times) and a freezer.

The bathroom is nice but small. Again there are no hooks and little surface space for toiletries (although there are empty shelves in a cupboard under the washbasin). The shower has a choice between an overhead rainfall head, partly blocked, and an adjustable head. The apartment has a full length mirror. Nice towels and bedding are supplied along with basic toiletries, and a hairdryer. There's air conditioning and heating.

I didn't use the kitchen facilities for anything more than storing food or making tea. There are lots of good, cheap restaurants, cafes and take-aways in the centro storico, so it seemed a shame to eat in. But if you want to cook for yourselves or make a lunch or picnic, there's a handy supermarket very nearby (this was pointed out by staff as I arrived). The morning fruit and vegetable market in Campo de' Fiori is a fun way to stock up on provisions. A proper local cafe around the corner will provide a simple Roman breakfast of coffee and a croissant to eat in or take away (90 cents).

A sign informs guests that there is no smoking allowed in the building.  I'd recommend that guests note the position of their flat in the building, and the street number. I came back on my first night and tried my key in a couple of wrong doors first;  having first arrived with a hotel porter, I hadn't noted the precise situation on my return I realised there weren't any obvious name signs or identifying features.

Considering it's in the centre of an Italian city, the apartment was pretty quiet at night. It was occasionally possible to hear guests in other apartments (although perhaps only because one woman was shrieking with high spirits).

Campo dei Fiori is a few minutes' walk away, along the attractive little Via dei Banchi Vecchi, a lane lined with interesting little shops and a few bars, somewhere between artisan and bohemian. There are advantages and disadvantages to the location. This part of Rome is problematic for public transport. You'll be relying on buses, which can be crowded and unreliable, and your feet. But if you want to experience the lovely and unique atmosphere of Rome's centro storico and you're happy to walk a lot, this is a wonderful location to stay in. It's romantic, pretty, full of medieval atmosphere and very convenient for restaurants and bars and strolling. If on the other hand you want to make trips out of town or have easy access to the metro system, you'd be better off looking around Stazione Termini/Monti, or Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps).

The easiest way to get to Maison Giulia from the airport is to catch the local train to Trastevere station. This isn't the direct airport service Leonardo Express, but a double-decker commuter train. A one-way ticket costs €8. Plan ahead and buy travel tickets or a travel card for Rome at the airport too. At Trastevere station, take tram number 8. The tram stop is outside the station forecourt/car park area, on the left in the middle of the multi-lane street. Get off at the first stop across the river, Via Arenula/Ministero Giustizia. From here you reach Via Giulia by walking a short way along the busy riverbank road and then branching right when you are level with Ponte Sisto. Via Giulia runs diagonally away from the river, and the hotel is just a short walk along the street, with a low-key entrance but a nameplate outside.
I love staying in this flat as I've always appreciated evenings pottering around the centro storico, and being surrounded by history. With an apartment all of your own, you can fantasise that you are living here, and seeing Rome as its luckiest residents would. Both times I've stayed in the flat, I've wished I could stay for longer - months longer. For a taste of Roman lifestyle, it can't be beaten. When I did actually live in Rome, of course it wasn't anywhere as romantic as this; I much prefer this idealised version of 'living in Rome'.

I would really recommend this apartment very highly for an independent stay in Rome. Other apartments on offer from Maison Giulia are larger, so would suit families or bigger parties.

> Book at the Maison Giulia apartments
> Where to stay in Rome

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