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Blue Hostel – Rome

History of the house

A listed former convent, renovated with care and style, next to Santa Maria Maggiore

In Rome, history is all around you. Every building in the heart of the city has strong roots, which are the source of its inspiration and raison d’être. However, most of the tourist accommodation has subtly dissimulated this connection and masked these ancient vestiges, considering them somewhat “quaint”. The Blue Hostel, a former 17th century convent, has made a point of highlighting its links with the past. The charm of its rooms, on the third and fourth floor, the meticulous attention to detail, and the warm welcome of its owners will impart a very special aura to your stay in Rome. Ideally situated, right next to the station and the historic centre.

The cosiness of a real period room, in the heart of the Eternal City © Blue Hostel

The cosiness of a real period room, in the heart of the Eternal City © Blue Hostel

A district with an emotional vocation

The vast listed building which houses the Blue Hostel goes back to the 17th century. This women’s convent replaced a medieval building (use unknown), which was built on ancient bedrock.  We are not far from the summit of the Esquiline, one of the seven hills of Ancient Rome. Just opposite stands the old church of St. Anthony (13th century), which was part of a hospital for patients suffering from «St. Anthony’s Fire» (ergotism).  Until fairly recently, a very popular Blessing of the animals ceremony took place here.

The old hospital of St. Anthony is said to have welcomed St. Francis when on a papal visit© Achile Pinelli

The old hospital of St. Anthony is said to have welcomed St. Francis when on a papal visit© Achile Pinelli

Is this why the basilica of Santa-Maria-Maggiore, which the nuns decided to built on this site, is here, or was it because of the activities of the hospital? Within the Catholic community, the “mendicant orders” devoted themselves to helping the least fortunate, providing medical assistance and  education or pastoral care. This was the obvious place to be, in the heart of the city. Their convents, of which there were many in Rome, used to occupy several-storey buildings which merged into the urban fabric: rows of numerous cell-like rooms with several communal rooms on the ground floor.

At the end of the 19th century, the area underwent a vast renovation programme on the initiative of the first king of re-unified Italy, Victor-Emmanuel II of Savoy. The street of the old convent was renamed “Via Carlo Alberto” in homage to the new sovereign’s father, the King of Sardinia. The engineers even decided to lower the level of the street by several metres to provide a more uniform horizontal perspective. It was probably at this time that the facade of the building was renovated.

Behind the freshly repainted facade, is a series of walls from all eras, linked together all higgledy-piggledy ,  from the oldest to the most recent  © intoHistory

Behind the freshly repainted facade, is a series of walls from all eras, linked together all higgledy-piggledy ,  from the oldest to the most recent  © intoHistory


micro vignette 50When you enter the building, there is a long flight of stairs immediately ahead of you, a sure sign of this “downward levelling”. The Romanesque doorway of the old church of St. Anthony also had to have a double staircase to accommodate the difference in height.

To the rhythm of bells

When you reach the first floor of the Blue Hostel, you will come across an evocative ancient mural (protected by a frame), which depicts the Annunciation to Mary. The tone is set: in the past this site used to be dedicated to prayer. It is not difficult to imagine discreetly veiled nuns walking rapidly along the vaulted corridor to attend Mass, go about their work, or return to their rooms to the rhythm of bells.
The nuns left their convent 200 years ago, but the building has retained part of its period structure.

The beautiful mural on the staircase, albeit somewhat tarnished by its ageing plaster, will interest art history specialists,  keen for it to regain its ancient lustre © intoHistory

The beautiful mural on the staircase, albeit somewhat tarnished by its ageing plaster, will interest art history specialists,  keen for it to regain its ancient lustre © intoHistory

micro vignette 50And on the subject of bells, the timbre of those in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore can often been heard (except at night). There is a wonderful legend about them: your hosts Ercole or Andrea will be delighted to tell you about it. 

A step back into the Italy of yesteryear

It was when Ercole, the owner of the third and fourth floor of the building, decided to convert the nuns’ old quarters into bedrooms for his guest house, that he discovered the old ceilings of the 17th century, hidden under plasterboard. The superintendant of Monuments and Sites (The Italian Minister for cultural heritage), had no trouble persuading him to make a feature of this cultural heritage. So it was decided to highlight all the historical traces in these old rooms with their wooden doors, early 20th century cement tiles and structured glass (bas-reliefs). Ercole also gave a personal touch to each room – quite simple but in very good taste – using old family photos, with a powerful reminiscence of «Don Camillo» adding a delightful little creative touch.

The venerable ceilings of the rooms, decorated with closing-fitting beams and covered with wooden floorboards or flat tiles, are the features which appeal most to visitors © intoHistory

The venerable ceilings of the rooms, decorated with closing-fitting beams and covered with wooden floorboards or flat tiles, are the features which appeal most to visitors © intoHistory

During your stay at the Blue Hostel, you will notice that the rooms on the third floor are higher than those on the fourth floor (the novices’ floor?), but they are just as comfortable. In terms of atmosphere, it is a little cosier on the upper floor… While the suite has a very fine view of the old church of St. Anthony, the rooms at the back are a little quieter. The choice is yours! Finally, please note that breakfast is not included in the room rate, but there are plenty of little cafes around the basilica which you can try.

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Facilities

  • PROMOTION CODE (5% discount via intoHistory) : 226974 – To complete into the online booking form
  • 6 rooms and 1 suite (4 beds)
  • Private bathrooms, TV, Wi-Fi, telephone, air conditioning, coffee machine, fridge
  • Daily cleaning
  • No breakfast at the hostel (kitchenette in the suite)
  • Spoken languages: English, Italian, Spanish
  • Paid parking on the street
  • Roma Termini railway station: 500 m
  • Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) et Ciampino airport : 25 km (express train to the station)
  • Many public transportation in the area (car is not recommended in the city)
  • Non-accessible for those with reduced mobility (stairs)
  • Families and children welcome (free under 4 years old, extra bed)
  • Domestic pets are not allowed
  • Non-smoking interior

In the neighbourhood

The advantage of this evocative accommodation (which has a charm all of its own), is its location, just a stone’s throw from the Roma Termini station, the city’s communication hub. Whether you are a regular visitor to the City of the Popes, or coming here for the first time, you are spoilt for choice (ask for a specially annotated map at reception).

A fifteen-minute walk through the  Parcodel Colle Oppio (Esquiline), where the ruins of the ancient palace of Nero and the Trajan baths are located, will bring you straight to the very famous Coliseum and the Roman and Imperial forum, next to each other – the beating heart  of the Republic and subsequent Roman Empire.

Right next door, a visit to the papal basilica of Santa-Maria-Maggiore will take you straight back to early Christian times (4th century). Its original plan with three naves, delineated by forty marble columns, is directly inspired from (civic) Roman basilicas.

The basilica is decorated with some remarkable medieval mosaics, and its floor is inlaid with thousands of coloured stones. © intoHistory

The basilica is decorated with some remarkable medieval mosaics, and its floor is inlaid with thousands of coloured stones. © intoHistory

The piazza Vittorio-Emanuele II is worth a visit, with its Piedmont-inspired architecture which will give you a feel for the area. The busy park (albeit not well maintained,) shows the ancient monumental fountain to good advantage. It was built above the water tower and supplied by the Aqua Julia aqueduct.

The structure of the ancient, 3rd century Roman fountain, an impressive mass of brick and ancient concrete, no longer has its marble decorations – piazza Vittorio Emanuele II © intoHistory

The structure of the ancient, 3rd century Roman fountain, an impressive mass of brick and ancient concrete, no longer has its marble decorations – piazza Vittorio Emanuele II © intoHistory

To read, watch or listen to

  • Carlo-Emilio-GaddaThat awful mess on the via Merulana, by Carlo Emilio Gadda
    A key novel in Italian literature, whose plot unfolds two streets away from the Blue Hostel. But is this just a routine police Inquiry?Something to watch
  • Roman Holiday, by William Wyler (1953)roman-holiday
    A romantic comedy starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, whose charm lies in the playful innocence of the actors set against a well drawn portrait of 1950s Rome.
  • Gregorio Allegri, a 17th century Roman composer, known for his very beautiful sacred choral music, in memory of the nuns who had the convent built.
  • A reflexion on the multicultural nature of Rome since its origin, the Piazza Vittorio  orchestra has been  a very lively musical project in the heart of this district since the early 21st century.  Its singers, who come from 18 different  ethnicities, perform some astonishing  pieces of world music.

 

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17th century B&B/Guest House 60-100€/room

Discount rate with intoHistory

Blue Hostel
Ercole Di Baia
Via Carlo Alberto, 13
00185  ROMA
Italy
Tel +39 340 925 8503
Fax +39 06 92913490
Guest house’s own website

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