Hostels. know what you are thinking. Or better yet, I know what you are feeling. The mere mention of the word sends shivers down my spine, too. In fact, I get full sensory reaction like that creepy-crawly feeling when some one rustled through my backpack in the middle of the night in a 12-person dorm in Berlin,or left over heat flashes from languid evenings at a $4 dollar bedsit in Siem Reap with politics, playing cards and potato bugs.
Today’s hostels are nothing like the 1990s when backpackers fought over cheap cots in a cash-only culture of affordability and convenience before taking a blind step to the next adventure. Nope, the hostels of the 21st century stylish stays curated with community spaces. It’s all about hanging out instead of getting out. I’ve answered my most asked questions about choosing hostels and listed my four favourite hostels in Rome.
Why a hostel and not a hotel, bed and breakfast or AirBnB?
Hosteling is all about personal choice. You want to maximize your euro, dollars and dirham, by saving on services. And for the low price, there is a built-in social scene, which is what the 21st century hostel owners/management are counting on. Community Experience – from lounges to bars, hairdresssers, cooking classes, climbing walls and more, hostels are creating environments, and places like The Yellow are creating worlds.
Isn’t a hostel only for 20-somethings?
Not at all. Because of the global market, i.e. everyone wants to and can travel (somewhat) affordably, smart hostels are savvy to all generations with services and boarding choices – private rooms, all female dormitories, family suites with bathrooms and kitchens.
Generator is Rome’s first ‘poshtel’ – chic, boutique accommodation with a youthful vibe and a contemporary-meets-retro décor. It is on par with a decent design hotel. The location is slightly out of the way. Situated at the back end of Termini Station and across the street, it is a bit less desirable than other locations but makes up for it in design. A tranquil palette of forest greens, violets and light grey colour all rooms, whose only furniture include cosy white linen beds, vintage-style desks, lamps and armoires. The 12 dormitories have a maximum of four beds each, while the remaining 53 are private rooms with double beds.
Location: Adjacent to Termini Station
Rome’s premier party hostel, the Yellow is ideal for travellers in their 20s looking for a comfortable bed and an interactive social scene. It’s basically a city block neighborhood that is working a creative and artsy vibe. The 95 rooms are divided into dormitories and private rooms (doubles, triples and quads) with a total of around 320 beds. Dorm options include mixed or female-only, with en suite or shared bathrooms. A rooftop terrace and small garden hang-out for film screenings during the summer months. Overall décor is a chic minimalist.
Location: 10-minute walk to Termini train station.
The Beehive is Rome’s beloved boutique hostel, before there were even boutiques. Owners Steve and Linda Martinez-Brenner were pioneers in sustainability and eco-hospitality, and created a whimsical hostel with a very personal vibe. Of the Beehive’s 12 rooms, 10 are private and two are shared dormitories sleeping four. They are quiet, airy and spacious, exhibiting a simple design, with one or two pieces scattered about, like intricate ceramics by a local Italian artists and small furniture pieces from the owners’ travels to Bali. All rooms have Wi-Fi, fans and heating.
Hip and stylish is Mama Shelter, the urban refuge concepts that started in Paris in the early Oughts. Rome’s version keeps up the vibe in its 217 rooms styled in postmodernism mixing up no-nonsense to playful in Medium to XL. Where Mama Shelter dominates in the amenities, like Mama Baths, a Roman-style swimming pool with a steam room, sauna, and gym, Mama Pizzeria, and the rooftop lounge with solarium, sunbeds, bar and Vatican view.
A version of this article appeared in The Telegraph, February 2018. This was updated in 2020.