Two years ago, I read about a charming little budget hotel in Rome called the Beehive on a hotel review site called DarnGoodDigs.com. I knew that when I finally visited Rome, that is where I would stay. Fast-forward to 2012, and I booked three nights at the Beehive in May to bookend my cruise. Shortly before my trip, the owner, Linda, contacted me; she’d heard about me from Jodi Ettenberg of LegalNomads and Sherry Ott of Ottsworld, both also solo female travelers who have stayed at the Beehive.
Linda feels strongly about making the Beehive a haven for solo female travelers in Rome, and wanted to work with me. She is offering a special discount off stays at the Beehive for solo female travelers who are readers of my blog (details at the bottom of this post). In the interest of disclosure, I was comped two of the three nights of my stay (and one breakfast) at the Beehive. But the following review is 100% my opinion, as always.
When a Solo Female Travels
As a solo female, I recognize that I’m a bit more vulnerable than most when I travel. I always have to be aware of my surroundings and be ready for dangerous situations—on my own. I don’t usually feel vulnerable, though. I’m pretty capable and independent and enjoy exploring new places on my own. I know how to get help if I need it.
But when I travel to foreign countries where I don’t speak the language, that’s when I feel more vulnerable. That’s why it’s so important to have a home base that feels safe to me, where I know someone speaks English, and I can make myself understood. I found that and more in Rome, at the Beehive.
Welcome to the Beehive
The Beehive is located two blocks from Termini train station in a safe neighborhood dotted with little restaurants and offices, and lined with vespas. You can’t miss it (unless you’re a shuttle driver, apparently); it’s a bright yellow building, surrounded by a bright yellow wall. Get buzzed into the property, and welcome to your home away from home in Rome.
What makes the Beehive such a great place for solo female travelers to stay? So many things. The staff is friendly and helpful, and everyone I interacted with spoke English (which was a relief, because I know very little Italian). The security for the buildings is terrific. I stayed in the Beehive’s “Sweets,” located in another building around the corner. I had 3 different keys I needed to get into my room there—one for the gated front door of the building, one for the door to the Sweets, and one for the door to my room.
Even the neighborhood is better than I expected. As I researched my trip to Rome, I often read people describe the Termini neighborhood as being “seedy”. Don’t believe it. I walked all around the Termini neighborhood and it was fine. Granted, I wasn’t out very late at night, but I felt perfectly safe in this neighborhood. The two blocks between Termini and the Beehive on Via Marghera especially feels like a safe locals neighborhood. (That’s not to say you won’t see the occasional panhandler or homeless person; but just keep walking. They won’t bother you.) And having the train station so close is really convenient for getting around Rome.
But just because a place is safe doesn’t make it feel like home. No, the Beehive does that in other ways: With its little courtyard oasis, full of vegetation and colorful seating areas, great for a spot of relaxing after a long day of walking around the hot, dusty city; and with its comfortable lounge in the basement, where you can sink into the soft leather sofa to read or play a board game, surrounded by walls lined with photos of Steve and Linda’s family and friends. There’s a little cafe in the basement that serves up an outstanding, organic breakfast for very reasonable prices.
You want some comfort food to remind you of home? Try the oatmeal. It was the best I’ve ever had, perfectly creamy with chunks of freshly cut apples and fresh nutmeg on top.
Though the Beehive started out as a hostel in 1999 with 18 dorm beds, it has since evolved and annexed some spaces in other buildings with varying levels of private rooms and shared kitchens (the Sweets, The Clover, and Acacia). So there are accommodations for every budget and taste. I appreciate a room with a private bath, so I stayed in the Sweets. It was perfect for my needs.
As I mentioned, the Sweets are located in another building right around the corner from the Beehive, up one flight along a beautiful, curving marble staircase (there is also a small elevator). There was a security guy or building manager—I’m really not sure what he was, but he had a little office on the first floor and was there all day every day, keeping an eye on things. We smiled and waved to each other whenever I came and went. It was like staying in my own apartment while in Rome—albeit with roommates.
The Sweets are set up like, well, a suite. There are private rooms, but they share the kitchen and a small sitting area. Despite the fact that my room (#4) was right off the kitchen, I didn’t hear much from the other people staying there. Depending on how social you are, you could probably meet people here. I wasn’t feeling well on my trip, so when I was in the Sweets, I retreated to the solitude of my room.
If you’re looking to save money on food costs during your trip, you should know that the kitchen has no stove; but you could certainly buy some cold food like sandwich and salad materials, yogurts, and cereal and eat in. A really important feature for me was free wifi, and if you haven’t brought your own laptop, there’s even an iPad on the kitchen counter that anyone can use.
My single room (60 Euros/night March 1-Oct 31, 50 Euros/night Nov 1-Feb 28/29), was perfect for me. It was small, but plenty big enough for one person. The decor was simple, with a mixture of rustic and contemporary furnishings. There’s natural light from the window that faces the courtyard. There was a desk with chair, a hairdryer, and a safe large enough for my netbook and DSLR camera. Linens are included.
Most importantly, there was a private bathroom, and a very nice one, too. Small, yes (as they usually are in Europe), but very new and it came with my favorite bathroom feature in the world: a bidet! It also comes stocked with the best-smelling soap, shampoo and shower gel ever (all handmade). I always smelled great after showering here. And everything was immaculately clean.
I found the bed to be very comfortable, but sleeping was a mixed bag. It always takes me a night to get used to a new place. The first night, I slept fitfully; but the second night? I slept more soundly than I do at home (and I’m a light sleeper)! Let me add, though, that I had to use earplugs. In addition to having roommates in the Sweets, the building is in the middle of a busy city neighborhood. There is a restaurant in one of the buildings bordering the courtyard, and I could hear the clatter of dishes coming from the window, even when it was shut tight, before I put the earplugs in. (Not to mention the engines of the vespas that park in the courtyard.) So bring earplugs with you. You will use them.
That Extra Touch
The owners, Linda and Steve, don’t live in town any more, but they do go out of their way to welcome visitors to Rome. As soon as I booked my room online, I was sent a very helpful ebook/guide to Rome listing things to do by neighborhood, restaurants and grocery stores they personally recommend, where to find laundromats, and other practical information for the traveler to Rome. If you’re interested in taking a tour of the city, they can help you arrange that, too.
Check out the videos on their website, starring their daughters, who help show the ropes to the first-time visitor to Rome. Not only are they adorable, but they immediately put me at ease about my trip. I thought “If those little American girls can go into shops in Italy and buy food, by God, I can too!”
The Wrap-Up and the Discount
“Come on,” you might be thinking. “Weren’t there any negatives about this place?” Not really. I mean, do I wish I could have gone straight to my room for a nap when I arrived at 11am after being awake all night on a redeye flight? Yes, but check-in wasn’t until 3:00, and they had to turn over the room. That would have happened at any hotel. I survived.
In summary, the Beehive felt like a “home away from home” for me while I was in Rome. There’s a reason for that: While Linda travels mostly with her family now, she has also traveled alone and is trying to cultivate an atmosphere at the Beehive that is welcoming and safe for solo female travelers (very successfully, I might add). Toward that end, she is generously offering a 10% discount to any solo female readers of my blog who book at the Beehive. Just mention code “SOLOFRIENDLY” on the online reservation form at their website. This is only for solo females who are traveling alone (because if you’re traveling with a partner or friends, you’re not really solo, are you?).
So if you haven’t begun planning your dream trip to Rome yet, now might be a good time to start.