My friend and I stayed at the Merulana Star last year June 2009 for a mere 55 EUR per room, not including A/C. I was a bit hesitant since it was so incredibly cheap, but my worries were put to shame.
The hotel is located on the 1st floor in a residential building. It was extremely difficult for us to find, since there is no sign on ground level. The only sign, was on the corner of the building's first floor, which was barely visible due to the trees on both sides of the road. So remember to keep your eyes open and note that the hotel is located on the same side of Via Merulana as Teatro Brancaccio which is the neighbouring building.
We got a triple room even though we were only two, that meant we had more than enough space - around 20 m2. The room was spotless and we got fresh towels every day, I don't think the sheets were changed at all, but we only stayed 3 nights, so that wasn't really a big deal. There was the option of A/C for 10 EUR extra per day. Since our room was facing the busy and noisy Via Merulana, having the windows open at night was out of the question, so we had no choice but to pay the extra 10 EUR/night.
There was no option of breakfast at the hotel at the time of our stay, but that did not matter since the hotel is a stone's throw away from the best bakery in town: Panella l'Arte del Pane - Via Merulana 54. With plenty of seats, you can start the day off enjoying a nice caffe latte and croissant for under 2 EUR observing the locals as they casually drink an espresso and eat a pastry; standing upright. Something I could never do :-)
For dinner options I would highly recommend a Sicilian restaurant further down the road on Via Machiavelli, 5 called Baia Chia - they mostly serve sea food and the owner and staff are welcoming and very entertaining. The price range is very reasonable - we both had a primi, a secondi with side orders of grilled vegetables, a bottle of wine and the worlds best espresso for under 80 EUR. Compared to the prices in Copenhagen that is quite cheap and the food was absolutely yummy.
The area felt safe no matter the time, and that was a big issue since we were two women travelling. It was close to the Termini Station and around a good 10 minutes walk away from The Colosseum. If you are somewhat fit and able, the hotel is within walking distance to all the major sights. If walking is an issue there is both a Metro stop nearby Vittorio Emanuele and several buses stopping along the Via Merulana.
On the day of departure we were late and unfortunately I forgot my phone at the hotel. After several calls and emails, they verified that they had found it. But it took them around 3 weeks or so to send it back to me, I don't quite understand why that was. When I finally received it again, 4 weeks after my departure, the settings of the phone had been changed completely which leads me to believe that someone had used the phone and maybe that is why they were in no hurry to return it. But then again: I am just guessing.
I am currently planning my second trip to Rome, and I was going to stay at the Merulana Star once again. It is a no frills hotel that is perfect if you are only going to sleep and shower there, but the prices have sky rocketed to around 90 EUR per night for the same dates as my last stay. But the price now includes the use of A/C. Unwillingly I have therefore found another place to stay for my second trip to Rome.
What I like:
- Very cheap accommodation (summer 2009)
- Proximity of the sights
- The staff - we got a thorough guide from the owner when we arrived, useful tips on what to see and when to go
- Reception open 24 hours
- Across the street from the best bakery
- Clean large room with en suite bathroom.
- Never heard any of the other guests staying - if there were any.
- Did not have to pay for the return of my phone.
What I dislike:
- High prices (summer 2010)
- If you are a foodie like me, there's far between the good winebars (enotecas) and restaurants in the area. The nearest winebars we found were located around the Monti/Colloseo area
- The bed was nowhere near comfy - but after a full day of sightseeing you are not too fussed about a minor detail like that.
- The noise from the street. Our room was facing Via Merulana, but a couple of ear-plugs and again the exhaustion from walking around town made us quite deaf and we slept like babies.
- There was a small closet for our clothes and stuff. But as the sliding mechanism was broken, we could only access the part for the hangers. And since there was only 3 hangers we couldn't really un-pack.
- That someone had been messing with my phone and the 4 weeks I was phoneless. But then again, I shouldn't have forgotten it in the first place ;-)
All in all the hotel was very reasonably priced in summer 2009 and had the prices not increased 25 EUR per night I would definitely be staying there again.
I would without doubt recommend it but not to a ludicrous 90 EUR per night. But maybe they have upgraded the beds, the closets and all the sights, by some law of physics yet to be discovered, have been moved closer to the hotel.
Back in the real world, I have a hard time imagining how the Merulana Star could justify a price change of that calibre. The only change I can see on their website is the added Breakfast Lounge, which in my opinion is a bit useless given the bakery across the street.
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