In the wake of a few miserable hotel stays, Rand has hit his limit. He has, apparently, had enough of toilets that don’t flush properly and continental breakfasts that look like the remnants of a cold-war-era kitchen after a particularly harsh winter.

“We’re going to start staying in nicer places,” he told me the other day. And I smile and nod, because I’ve heard this resolution before (usually after a particularly heinous experience overseas). And while I appreciate his gesture, I remind him that I don’t need to stay in fancy hotels. I don’t need prosciutto at breakfast, or a central location, or an expansive, pristine bathroom. I simply need a comfortable bed (I’m flexible on the size), a pitch-black room, and a reasonable amount of quiet.

Of course, if a hotel has all of those attributes, I’m not going to complain. Even if a night’s stay costs more than my first car (and considering that my first car was a 1976 Ford Pacer, there is often a good chance of that) and the nightly rates make my heart stop (just for a few seconds), I will say nothing, because if I am allowed to spend my days blogging and gallivanting around the planet, my husband is allowed to book us a crazy nice hotel once in a while (I am nothing if not reasonable). Which is precisely what he did in Rome.

We spent four nights at Hotel Raphael – a small, vine-covered boutique hotel just a few steps from Piazza Navona. The Raphael will not make any budget travel lists. It will not rank for “Good Deal Hotel Rome”, nor will it make the cut on any “Italy on $50 a day” articles. And that’s okay. Hotel Raphael realizes what it is not: it is not affordable. But it is so many other things (immaculately clean, quiet, with an obliging staff, an abundant breakfast, and a fantastic location) that you can almost disregard this. Almost.

It was hard for me not to giggle when we entered the room. In fact, I did giggle, and the bellhop smiled and said, “Oh, good. You like it.” (I have no poker face. It is a curse.)

My husband, looking rather pleased with himself.

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The room wasn’t huge, but it had a desk and chair, a love seat and small vanity, a closet, one ginormous television, and a bathroom that was expansive and gorgeous. It saddens me that I neglected to photograph it. Imagine an oasis, in white marble. That was pretty much it. And it included something that the website described as “welcome suprise.”

Fruit! Usually our "welcome surprise" in hotels is a hair clog in the bathroom. This is much nicer.

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We didn’t have much of a view, as we looked out onto a quiet alley. I was entirely okay with this. Italian buildings carry echoes and noises well, so even the smallest sounds are magnified. A quiet alley suited us just fine, and when we closed the windows, the room was virtually silent, even though we were so blissfully close to so much. We were able to walk everywhere – to Piazza Navona, to the Colosseum, to the Foro Romano (don’t get me wrong – it was a long walk to some of those places, but you could walk there, nevertheless).

Plus, we're Americans: we're used to covering huge distances. It just usually happens by car.

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The staff was incredibly friendly. Most spoke English, though I am proud to say they didn’t have to use it with us (BILINGUAL, BITCHES!), and the entire hotel was spotless (one housekeeper tried to refuse a tip. “You have got to be kidding,” I told her. “This place is beautiful. Take it.” And she thankfully did). Every night, someone dropped off little nutella bon-bons in our room. I will always love them for that.

Was it affordable? No. And I don’t know if we’ll ever have the occasion (or the temporary fiscal insanity) to do it again. But once in a great while it proves utterly, blissfully worth it, and that was the case with Hotel Raphael.

Also, if you go, please steal me some bon-bons. I think about them nightly.

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Full list of categories:  City Guide » Hotels
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Comments (11)

  1. 1
    Rand says:

    I hope you realize that your definition of splurging is quite a bit different from actually spending a lot. Raphael is among the most affordable of the luxury hotels in Rome – between $250-450/night depending on the room and season.

    This means at some point, I’ll have to actually spoil you I guess :-)

  2. 2
    Derik says:

    AMC made the Pacer, I get the point though

  3. 3
    Annie says:

    Rand’s comment about affordable luxury got me thinking. It sounds like an oxymoron or maybe one person’s bread is another person’s cake.

  4. 4
    AnitaSF says:

    My husband and I are heading to Italy Sept. 2012 for my first time ever and the Hotel Raphael has made my short list. I really want to stay near Piazza Navona and the hotel looks just lovely. There is one thing I read though that may hold me back — is there a mini-fridge that can be opened to store water??? We were in Paris last summer during a nasty heat wave and in a hotel without a fridge. I swore never again, especially since we will be in Rome during September. I assume it will be quite warm.

    Thank you for your help! This is a BIG splurge for us, too. 6 nights in Rome before going on a Med cruise for my DH birthday. He’s a lucky guy.

    • 4.1
      Everywhereist says:

      I do not recall there being a mini fridge. I suspect there is not one. However, you will find that while September is warm, it shouldn’t be absolutely miserable.

  5. 5
    Joy says:

    Oh, it’s like an oasis after the desert, isn’t it!?!?

  6. 6
    SFshrink says:

    Here is how to truly achieve affordable luxury when traveling in Europe. Choose hotels with a small number of stars (1-3) but with the very highest traveler ratings on Trip Advisor. So like a 2 star hotel with 100 4 and 5 Trip Advisor dot reviews. You will be soooo happy.

    We planned a trip through Austria and Italy using this method and stayed in the most charming, comfortable, well-situated places run by lovely people.

    Try it. You’ll thank me.

  7. 7
    clarke says:

    Every 35+ aged Italian knows this hotel. It is part of history.

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