My luck has run out. The ABC Hotel in Milan where I’m staying is the worst so far among the places where I’ve stayed. Contrary to the website’s claim that this is the ideal place for a pleasant relaxation, this establishment feels terribly amateurish and rundown. My room feels like it’s been abandoned for a long, long time. Moreover, as I type, the laptop is actually connected to the socket via a long and dangling extension cord. And after enjoying wireless connectivity, gratis in some places, here I’m actually tethered to a wall via a LAN cable. Unbelievable.
There is hardly anyone here except for myself, the receptionist and possibly one or two other guests. Hardly surprising since it’s not quite in the centre of Milan (a big departure from my previous places where I was right near or within the centre). For example, to reach the Duomo involves a 10 minute walk to the metro stop, then of course, the short train ride from there.
On the other hand for just €48 per night which includes breakfast, though I’ve yet to try that, I probably have few reasons to complain too much.
Here are a few words on my stays in Barcelona and Rome. First, the Barcelona Hotel Ramblas.
Just a short 3 minute walk from Las Ramblas, very near the metro stop, free WIFI internet, basic but good breakfast are all the positive things about this place. I stayed in a single-bed room (€38 per night) that had its own sink and no bathroom (its communal), but other configurations are available according to your needs. I have few complaints except for the fact that they didn’t serve even filtered coffee and, this being the party town of Barcelona, noise can sometimes persist and enter your room from the street below until the early hours of the morning. After two nights, however, my auditory sense adjusted and I slept soundly from there.
Everything you’ll ever need for an affordable stay in Barcelona is just outside the hotel, including a self-service laundry. More importantly the staff here is friendly and all are fluent in English. Highly recommended.
In Rome, I stayed in the Hotel Papa Germano. They gave me a twin-bed room for €55 a night, but since I paid cash there was a €5 discount per night. Given the current performance of the Aussie dollar, I took the discount and forsook my credit card loyalty points.
This is a good cheap 2-star hotel that is just a 5-minute walk from the Roma Termini train station. Of course, restaurants are plentiful nearby and other services such as laundry, where the owner is a friendly chap and who actually did my washing for me despite it being self-service, and internet cafes. While the bathrooms are communal, these are always clean and quite substantial in size. Honestly, I even did my push-ups in there just to have a little morning exercise!
My only complaints are that internet access isn’t WIFI and the coffee is filtered, but at least it gave me my caffeine hit per morning. The particular positive highlight was the staff. They all speak English well and very friendly. On my arrival, one of the staff members immediately highlighted all the major tourist areas with instructions on how best to reach them. Again, I highly recommended this hotel.
Finally, we come to the Academy Hostel in Florence where I stayed 3 nights. If I thought that my hotel in Barcelona was close to the action, well this one was even closer. The big cathedral is literally just a 30 second walk away; the Accademia Gallery is further down the road, while sites like Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi and so on are just another 10-15 minutes walking distance. This hostel is truly central.
Other positives are the free WIFI internet, friendly English-speaking staff (one of them is actually an attractive young English woman who herself speaks fluent Italian), comfortable beds, clean communal bathrooms and that massive wide-screen TV. There are even a couple of Irish dudes who, from time to time, will just burst out into an impromptu song and guitar performance; they’re pretty good, but the problem is, they never finish their songs!
The Academy has that chic feel to it with a friendly young crowd (many Aussies). My only complaint is about one of my room mates. This guy snored like he was calling out to heaven in mid-sleep. Well, he was the only one sleeping. His snores, almost like heavy luggage rolling along a grooved pavement, came in long and short bursts. Instead of being upset, I just became so fascinated with this horrendous cacophony that I actually listened. At one point, I thought he was going to die this guy!
Overall though, I recommend the Academy.