Preparing to cross the road to Mama Shelter Rome, I felt a strange sense of homecoming. Despite only having visited one other Mama Shelter – Mama Shelter Prague – I already knew what to expect: great food, delightfully quirky decor, arcade games, sex toys on sale in the lobby, and an atmosphere with all the buzz of a youth hostel but no teenagers passed out in the bathroom.
Thus the benefit of a strong brand identity. And Mama Shelter, the hotel launched in Paris in 2008 and now boasting 16 outlets across Europe, boasts a brand identity as strong as any in the industry. You know what you’re getting and, more importantly, you want to get it.
So of course there’s a Vespa by the entrance. Of course the elevator wallpaper is a collage of Italian footballers and Roman generals. The arcade games are there, likewise the glass cabinets displaying various Mama-themed memorabilia, including sex toys, condoms and lubricant. A Mama Shelter hotel is many things but above all it’s fun.
It’s also unique: every Mama Shelter carries the imprint of its city, so while they all come from the same family, each has its own personality and charm. Imagine befriending someone abroad, really hitting it off with them, and then discovering they have X siblings who would all be delighted to host you.
Normally, I write a few paragraphs about the host city, extolling the reasons you should visit. Here, two words: it’s Rome. It’s Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Partheon, the weather, the cuisine, the culture, the Tiber. OK that’s more than two words but you get the idea. If you need to be sold on Rome as a travel destination then you’re on the wrong website.
Selling Mama Shelter Rome is fairly straightforward as well. Like all Mama Shelters, the Rome outlet has the swagger and charisma of your cool older cousin, the one who plays in a band and rides a motorbike. Yet while the cool older cousin lives in a bedsit – it’s part of his charm – Mama Shelter offers considerably nicer amenities.
The gym you expect; the swimming pool you don’t. Granted, it’s not the largest swimming pool in the world but it’s still a swimming pool, plus a sauna and steam room. A fine way to start your day or relax ahead of the evening. You’ll need to book a slot at the front desk to ensure access.
Mama Baths are in the bowels of the hotel. Head to the top and you’ll find the rooftop bar and restaurant with views over Rome and the Vatican. It’s open from June to November and if you don’t enjoy at least one sunset Negroni then we can no longer be friends.
For dining options, choose between the Mediterranean Restaurant Giardino d’Inverno or the in-house pizzeria. I’m a simple man: I went pizzeria and a damn good pizzeria it turned out to be. My friends were running in the Rome marathon that weekend – I provided moral support from the sidelines – and we spent a very happy couple of hours drinking Aperols in the restaurant. (After the marathon, I should stress.) It’s a lovely place to exist.
If possible, secure a corner room. Mine was spectacular. Think gigantic bed, TV the size of a small cinema screen, colourful chaise lounge and Star Wars themed lamps. The real highlight, however, was the private rooftop balcony large enough to host a five-a-side kickabout. You could get your morning exercise simply by doing laps of the thing.
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For more info, see Mama Shelter Rome