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Rome, Italy - The Best Western Universo Hotel

Review by Mike Keenan

Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan

Best Western Hotel Universo

Rome's Best Western Hotel Universo features 197 rooms, and Andrea Risati, its youthful-looking front office manager hailing from Rome, advised me that business there is brisk, the hotel averaging 10,000 visitors per month mainly from North America, Brazil, Europe and China, the latest tourism-driven country. Besides tourists, there are seven meeting rooms here designed for business, the largest seating 300.

Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan

Nearby attractions:  The two must-see Rome attractions according to Mr. Risati are The Trevi Fountain where one can exercise a coin flip to ensure a return trip to Rome and The Spanish Steps. The fountain appears in several films, including Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" and "Three Coins in the Fountain". It must be noted that as from the theme of the 1954 "Three Coins in the Fountain" movie and the Academy Award-winning song, coins should be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder. An estimated 3,000 Euros are tossed into the fountain each day. (In one year - $1.5 million US)

The Spanish Steps, all 135, are located in the Piazza di Spagna, its base dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church commanding the top. In the piazza, at the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821, now a museum dedicated to his memory, full of memorabilia of the English Romantic era. The 1953 film "Roman Holiday", starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, made the Spanish Steps famous for North American audiences. The Steps are also featured in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1933 novel, "Tender Is the Night".

Dining:  The food served in the hotel was quite good. A varied breakfast buffet is served starting from 6:30 am and includes Italian coffee, croissants and ham and eggs. You can enjoy traditional Roman and international dishes at the hotel's 2 restaurants, and special diet menus are available upon request. We dined there one night and enjoyed a delicious pizza along with salad. Roman pizza is unlike its North American counterpart, probably because of the tasty Tuscany tomato sauce which adds enhanced flavour. We also ate breakfast daily at the hotel during our five-day stay, and it included a wide array of choice from juice, cereals, bacon and eggs to meat, bagels, bread, muffins, Danish and the like. There were even pies and cakes! Regular coffee was the only disappointment, so we ordered espresso and coffee au lait which were great improvements.

Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan

Our Room:  Our room was comfortable, clean and inviting. I travel a lot and have become endeared to the Best Western brand of hotels in North America, and I was pleased to discover so many choices in Rome. The Universo is labeled as a "Best Western Plus", and it deserves the added trope, a figures of speech that involve a deviation from the expected and literal meaning of words. You get two adjectives - Best, Western and then the unexpected Plus. Yes, indeed!

Amenities:  I was impressed with the "Sweet Dreams Kit" brochure that awaited us. One can personalize their stay by choosing amongst five types of pillows available, an initiative of Roscioli hotels. Pillows are a key comfortable sleeping factor which many hotels do not pay adequate attention. Here are the choices afforded us - 1) Sweet Dreams, a classical pillow made from 100% goose feathers. 2) Ginevra (Gineva), an elastic pillow for added neck and head support. 3) Magiche Notte (Magical Night), a classic with interior support from 30 small springs. 4) Supersanital (Super Sanitary), made from synthetic fibres that protect against mould and bacteria for allergic people. 5) Merano (Merano),Classic latex with high elasticity. Sweet Dreams sounded best to me and I loved it along with our comfy bed. There was a desk, two chairs (nice touch) and a good-sized TV screen but who watches TV when in Rome? Well, I did when I first arrived to check out the channels and lo and behold, there was Pope Francis at St. Peter's in live time canonizing saints. Cool, as we would soon visit there!

Decor:  The hotel seems at times encased in marble. It's ubiquitous as befits Rome, black, white, grey at the entrance by the check-in desk with rich circles on the floor, multiple pillars and the elevator frame. No surprise that our room was a modern take with contrasting black, white and grey patterns along with an inviting bathroom complete with glass-enclosed shower and blue-flecked marble walls and thick towels.

Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan

Location:  A key factor for us always involves location. The hotel was in easy walking distance of the train station and subway and just 153 metres from the Opera Theatre and a 5-minute walk from Via Nazionale, a famous shopping street. All other areas can be easily reached from Termini Station. Roma Termini is the main railway station, named after its district, which derived its name from the ancient Baths of Diocletian (in Latin, thermae), across the street from the main entrance. The station offers fixed train services to all major Italian cities, as well as daily international services to Munich, Geneva, and Vienna. With 33 platforms and over 150 million passengers each year, Roma Termini is the second largest railway station in Europe after Paris Gare du Nord.

Termini is also the main hub for public transport inside Rome. Two Rome Metro lines (A and B) intersect at Termini metro station, and a major bus station is located at Piazza dei Cinquecento, the square in front of the station. The main tram lines of the city cross at Porta Maggiore, some 1,500 metres east of the station. On December 23, 2006, the station was dedicated to Pope John Paul II. We arrived here from Florence via a fast train and also took the train to the airport to fly home. It's a hectic, busy place, but remain alert, avoid congested groups and you will be fine.

We appreciated the easy access to transportation, but one hint in hailing cabs. There are a few cabs that hang out by the hotel entrance in the early morning hours waiting for tourists to visit places such as the Vatican Museum which we went to twice. Their prices are inflated. Best to walk to the corner and hail another, which we did. There are several good inexpensive restaurants nearby and some attractions well within walking distance. Overall, this hotel was a perfect choice.

Bathroom: Attractive and fully equipped.

Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan

Service:  Always friendly and helpful.

Balcony:  No.

Room Tip:  Our first room was stuffy & hot so we requested another and they were quite helpful.

Service:  Good service from pleasant employees.

Room Cost:  $143-$269

Hotel Website:   http://www.hoteluniverso.com/en/restaurant.aspx

Address & Contact:  Via Principe Amedeo 5/B - 00185 - Rome (RM); Phone: +39 06 476811

Proviso:  I was a guest of the Best Western Hotel; however, editorial material above is solely my own and not reviewed by my host.

Best Western Universo Hotel

Best Western Universo Hotel

Mike Keenan is a travel columnist for Troy Media. He produces a travel podcast - http://whattravelwriterssay.libsyn.com/ accessible on iTunes and Stitcher Radio and has been published in every major newspaper across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. He has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City, Seniors Review and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. With hundreds of reviews, photos and helpful votes, he has earned Trip Advisor's "Top Contributor Badge" and is considered an "Expert" in both Hotels and Restaurant reviews. Mike posts photos to Pinterest where he has a following of five thousand viewers.

Best Western Hotel Universo, photo by Mike Keenan
Best Western Hotel Universo Lobby

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Mike Keenan

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