In late 2015, my wife Lisa and I were discussing what to give our kids for Christmas when it hit us: Instead of giving them wrapped gifts, we would give them the travel experience of a lifetime.
Over the next eight months, we planned an epic tour of Italy. The trip began in Rome with additional stays in Florence, Monterosso Al Mare, Naples and Salerno. We used these locations as a base camp for additional day trips to Venice, Vernazza, Manorolla, Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii.
But the planning wasn’t easy. It turns out most Italian hotel rooms are designed for a maximum of four occupants. Finding rooms for our family of five was quite difficult. Our goal became finding suites or apartments that could accommodate us without separating into two rooms. The difficulty of our search was compounded by the fact that all three of our kids are teenagers. Our two boys are both 6 feet tall, so rollaway beds won’t work.
With a lot of research and planning, we were finally able to find accommodations that met our goals. Out of the five places we stayed, we only had one negative experience. We hope that the reviews of the properties below will help you plan an Italian adventure for your family. Ciao!
Trevi Rome Suites, Rome (2 Nights)
The Trevi Rome Suites is situated about 200 yards south of the world famous Trevi Fountain on Via De Luccesi. That means you’re centrally located and within walking distance to many of Rome’s historic attractions, such the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon, while the Colosseum is only about 1 mile away. The Vatican and the train station will require a taxi trip but it is also possible to walk to those locations if you are up for it.
The hotel sits on the third floor in one of Rome’s many historic buildings. We stayed in the hotel’s “family apartment” which easily accommodated our family of five. It is basically one large room with pony walls separating the various sleeping areas. The sleeping accommodations consisted of 1 king bed, 2 queen beds, and a sofa bed. The apartment only has 1 bathroom, but it is large and has two showers.
One of our favorite things about the hotel was the room service. For no additional fee, they allowed each guest to order 5 things from the menu. For our family, that consisted of a whopping 25 items. Our breakfast table usually consisted of bacon, eggs, croissants, fruit, smoothies and cappuccinos. Our boys usually ordered cheesecake as well. But be sure to make your room service reservation early the night before: The kitchen is only equipped to prepare one breakfast every 15 minutes, so it’s important to reserve your time early.
The Trevi Rome Suites was one of our favorite hotels of the trip. The room was spacious and clean. The bathroom was huge and the staff was extremely nice. It has a wonderful courtyard decorated with trees and sculptures. It is a nice place to enjoy a glass of wine or prosecco, which can be purchased at the front desk for about 6 euros per bottle. The amazing pictures they provide on their website are exactly what you get. And it was the perfect Roman base for our stay.
Tourist House Ricci, Florence (3 nights)
The Tourist House Ricci Apartments are in a different location than the hotel of the same name. The apartments are located about 200 yards south of Piazza Del Duomo which puts you in the heart of Florence’s historic district. Nearby landmarks include the Ponte Vecchio and Galleria dell’Academia, which are within a 10-minute walk.
The apartment is located on the 3rd floor of a building that also includes permanent residents. Be prepared to use the stairs, because the elevator is only big enough to accommodate one passenger at a time. The apartment opens up into a large living room that is complete with a dining room table and futon. The futon converts into a small bed that sleeps 1 person. There are also two large bedrooms. Each of them is furnished with a queen bed, which will accommodate 4 more occupants. If you plan on cooking, the apartment includes a small kitchen that is complete with a stove, oven and refrigerator.
On the advice of the management, we booked the apartment directly with them instead of through a third party such as Expedia or Booking.com. They told us that it would guarantee that our room wouldn’t be overbooked and given to someone else. They sent us pictures, which showed a luxury apartment that included a balcony. We were excited and made plans to take a family picture on the balcony.
When we arrived, the manager took us to our apartment. Much to our surprise, it looked nothing like the pictures that were emailed to us. While the furnishings were adequate, they certainly were not what we had been promised. Instead of a balcony, we had a view of an alley that was covered in graffiti. We questioned the manager. His response was “I don’t know.” We later found out that the pictures were of Apartment 1, which was given to someone else. We had been given Apartment 2.
Unfortunately, things only got worse from there. The next morning, we found out that there was no hot water and we were only given 4 towels for our entire family. We also discovered that there was only had 1 roll of toilet paper. We ended up going to the store to purchase more supplies. Keep in mind that this was an apartment, so the rooms aren’t cleaned daily like a hotel room.
We were disappointed that we didn’t get the room we expected, especially when it was reserved four months in advance. We have sent several emails to the management since we left to find out why our room was given away. Until this hotel makes drastic changes to their customer service, we cannot recommend staying at the Tourist House Richie Apartments.
- Bellambra 5 Terre Apartments, Monterroso Al Mare (2 Nights)
The Bellambra Apartments are located about a half mile (800 meters) east of the train station in the old town section of Monterroso al Mare. If you arrive with lots of luggage, we suggest that you take a cab. However, the walk is not difficult. After you check in, you’ll find that some of the best shops and restaurants in town are right outside your door. It is also a short walk to the beach and the footpath Monterosso.
The apartment we stayed in was located on the second floor of a building that was constructed in the 15th century. It had been completely modernized with the exception of the ceiling, which was left original, for aesthetic purposes. The sleeping arrangements consisted one king bed, a bunk bed and a separate room with 2 twin beds. The living room had a sofa bed that could sleep two more guests. The apartment easily accommodated our family. The living room was furnished with 2 large couches and a large flat-screen TV. The apartment also included a large kitchen with professional fixtures for those who like to cook.
The owner, Hedda, met us when we arrived and gave us a tour of the apartment. She sat down with us and marked the location of her favorite restaurants on a map. She also gave us up-to-date information about the Cinque Terre hiking trails which proved to be the high point of our entire trip. Cliff diving at the natural pool in Manorla is absolutely not-to-be missed! Our only disappointment about the apartment was that we only got to stay for 2 nights. Next time, we hope to stay for a week.
- Municipio Prestige Apartments, Naples: (1 night)
We spent one night in Naples as a starting point for a tour of the Amalfi Coast. The apartment is adjacent to the Port of Napoli and is one block north of the Castel Nuovo. It is very hard to find, due to the fact that the building is unmarked: The door to the hotel is situated between a snack bar and a currency exchange and is not marked with any signage.
The hotel management arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at the train station and take us to their location. Unfortunately, they didn’t give the driver the correct address and he didn’t speak any English. Subsequently, we were dropped off at the wrong address. After wandering the city for an hour and a dozen calls to the apartment manager, we finally arrived at our destination.
We stayed in the hotel’s master suite, which was quite spacious. It was decorated with modern furniture and very clean. The sleeping arrangements consisted of a master bedroom with a king bed. The living room included a twin sofa bed and a queen sofa bed. The large bathroom had a sauna and hot tub that overlooked the harbor. If you like to cook, the kitchen is outfitted with a stove and refrigerator. A cappuccino machine is also provided.
Municipio Prestige was visually impressive, but there was only one problem: No hot water! It’s nice to stay in a luxury suite, but having to start your day with a cold shower is difficult. The Wi-Fi was also very slow. If you decide to stay at the Municipo Prestige Apartments, be aware that hot water may not be available and be sure to get instructions in Italian that you can give to the shuttle driver!
- Plaza Hotel, Salerno (2 nights)
The Plaza Hotel is located at the east end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. It is conveniently located about 100 yards south of the train station, which makes it an ideal location when traveling with lots of luggage.
Salerno was the only city where we were unable to secure a suite or apartment. Instead, the Plaza Hotel was able to provide 2 rooms that were connected by a common door. We were able to get one room with a double bed and one room with 3 twin beds, which comfortably accommodated our family. Each of the rooms had a separate bathroom with a shower that had plenty of towels and hot water. They also had a stocked refrigerator with affordable drinks. The rooms were perfectly adequate for our needs at the time. The furniture and decorations were dated, but the room was very clean and the beds were comfortable.
The hotel provided a continental breakfast from 6am to 10am every morning. It was stocked with fresh pastries, cereal and fruit. American style coffee was also provided as well as a good selection of fruit juices. It was very convenient to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out for a day of sightseeing.
If your main priority is a clean room with comfortable beds, then the Plaza Hotel will work for you. It certainly isn’t a luxury hotel, but it filled our needs at the time. We will definitely stay there again when we return to Salerno.
by Bob Kelsoe, January 2017
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