Castro Pretorio is the neighbourhood that surrounds Piazza dei Cinquecento (the square in front of Termini Station) on three sides (map of the Roman neighbourhoods here). Like the neighbouring Esquilino neighbourhood it’s a gritty area with lots of budget hotels, cheap restaurants and shops. It includes the area around the Repubblica metro station.
My employer puts us up at the Hotel Columbia www.hotelcolumbia.com, a mid-range three-star on Via del Viminale. Rooms vary from €80 to €155 a night depending on the season. Alternatively we’re put up at the nearby iQ Hotel, or the ArtDeco, a short distance away.
Every room seems to be different but generally for that money you get quite a small cramped suite with fairly basic bathroom facilities, although the rooms on the front are larger and have baths. Some, like Room 110, have doors that open on to internal terraces so that you can sit outside. Tip: if you want to change rooms in an Italian hotel, look at the fire diagrams on the corridor walls to identify the size and shape of the room you want.
The breakfast is very good with a big choice of quality cereals, fresh fruit, cakes, bread, cheese, ham, juice and handmade coffee. You can sit outside on the pretty top-floor terrace which is a nice way to start the day. The staff here have always been friendly and helpful over the years and it always seems fully booked.
There are many places to eat near the hotel but none of them are particularly good in my opinion. Your best bet is La Matriciana at 44 Via del Viminale (my post on Eating in Castro Pretorio here) if you can get in or Er Buchetto at 2F Via del Viminale (diagonally over the road from the hotel) for a porchetta sandwich to take away (see my post on Takeaway Food in the Esquilinohere). According to the receptionist at the Columbia, it’s best to avoid the Washington Snack Bar (or ‘snake bar’ as he pronounced it!) immediately opposite the hotel.
On Mondays, when most good places are closed, Trimani Wine Bar at 37/b Via Cernaia is a strong option. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but the food is very good and they have a huge wine list. It’s about 15 mins walk.
For cake and coffee, Dagnino is a fab old 50s Sicilian pastry shop and café in Galleria Essedra at 75 Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando.
From the hotel you can reach the old medieval centre on foot in about 30 minutes if you walk at a brisk pace. It’s downhill all the way so you might want to work out which bus will get you back up the hill. You can catch them from the station in the square in front of Termini or at the next stop on Viale Luigi Einaudi, or at the stop after on Via Nazionale.The nearest metro station is Repubblica. The B line will get you to Colosseo (famous archaeology) and Testaccio (my favourite neighbourhood for food, post here).
For more eating suggestions, see also my posts on the Esquilino, the area due east of the hotel, my post on Monti for the neighbourhood immediately to the south and the post on Sallustiano which is just to the north.
Want to buy water? There’s a supermarket at 35 Via del Viminale. If it’s shut, you can get water from the bar at #47 for €2 a litre, a euro cheaper than the street vendors with the cart on the side street near the hotel who are rip off merchants.
There’s a launderette less than 5 mins walk from the hotel at 26 Via Napoli (immediately after the unremarkable Galleria Margherita). You’ll see a green sign saying ‘Internet Point’ on the left as you walk down, the laundrette is in the cellar. I was charged €15 for a sizable service wash, about 3kg, but you might get it cheaper elsewhere. An untried alternative is Lavasciuga at 116/118 Via Principe Amedeo.
This was intentionally meant to be quite a practical post, written mainly for the benefit of my colleagues although hopefully it will be of use to others too.
Takeaway food around Termini station next…