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Rome Hotel Star Ratings - They're Not What You Think!

Warning - Rome hotel star ratings are not what they seem!

Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria suiteWhen you get to the 5***** luxury level, like at the Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria in Rome, then reality will likely meet your expectations. Otherwise, it may not.

When you get to the 5-star luxury level, you know what you're getting.

But below that, you should know that star ratings in Italy are different than the rest of the world!

Find out what it really means when you book a star-rated hotel in Rome, Italy.

Rome hotel star ratings and what to expect

On this page, you'll find out:

Rome hotel star ratings - what do YOU expect?

If you think of a 5 star hotel in Rome, do you think: chocolates on the pillow, bellhops to take my luggage, a lovely spacious lobby, super-helpful concierge staff, and well-appointed rooms? 

This gorgeous, sweeping, iconic lobby of Rome's Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria luxury hotel is the kind of amenity you will only find in 5-star hotels in Rome.

Well you may be right about some of those things but actually, the only thing a 5 star hotel in Rome is required to provide, out of the list above, is the bellhop and the spacious lobby.

They are also required to provide rooms of a certain minimum size, to have a reception that's open 24 hours, and that the rooms get cleaned at least once a day.

Are you getting the picture? It’s just a checklist.

For example, a 3 star hotel in Rome is required to have a lobby on the ground floor and for all rooms to have a private bathroom. 

This gives you an idea of how different the Rome hotel star ratings are from other places in the world.

Hotel star ratings in Italy

Hotels in Italy are rated with a number of stars from 1 to 5, which essentially correspond to some minimum requirements for the structure itself, the type (but not quality) of the furnishings, the qualifications of the staff, and the quality of services offered.

(This is the technical part but in case you are interested in looking this up: The minimum standards of services that hotels must provide the country are established by the Decree of 21 October 2008, published in the Official Gazette n. 34 of 11.2.2009. It is only published online in Italian, but I have translated them here.)

One caveat

Regions may have their own laws and regulations, which will mean that hotel star ratings standards can vary from region to region.

Rome is in the region of Lazio, and there may be regional laws that pertain to a Rome hotel star ratings, on top of the Italian laws.

Minimum hotel standards for Rome Italy Hotels

According to decree mentioned above, you can be sure of the following minimum standards for Rome hotel star ratings (there are more requirements, but these are some of the main points that allow you to see the difference between star ratings):

  • At a 1 star hotel in Rome: reception 12 hours per day, room cleaning once a day, minimum size of all double room of 14 square meters, change of bed linens once a week.
  • At a 2 star hotel in Rome: same features as at a 1-star hotel but there must also be a lift/elevator and a change of bed linens twice a week.
  • At a 3 star hotel in Rome: same features as at a 2-star hotel but also staff with knowledge of a foreign language, a reception open at least 16 hours, staff uniforms, internet service, and all rooms to come with a private bathroom.
  • At a 4 star hotel in Rome: same features as at a 3-star hotel but also, in addition to daily room cleaning, the room will also be tidied in the afternoon, a change of linen every day (unless the customer opts out of this), laundry and ironing services available for guests, parking spaces for at least 50% of the rooms, double rooms at least 15 square meters.
  • At a 5 star hotel in Rome: besides all the amenities and features of a 4-star hotel, a 5-star hotel must also offer a reception service open 24 hours a day, employees that speak a total of at least three foreign languages ​​between them, single rooms of at least 9 square meters, and double rooms of at least 16 square meters.

That is a very short synopsis, but if you are really interested in the full checklist of Rome hotel star ratings, I have translated it from the Italian and you may download it here.

The bottom line is that you shouldn't use standards for hotel star ratings you might know from other parts of the world to judge a hotel's quality in Italy.

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Star ratings for non-hotel accommodations

Besides Rome hotel star ratings, you will sometimes see a star rating for a "relais", a bed and breakfast, or even an apartment.

The first thing you should know is that Italian bureaucracy means that accommodations come in only a few categories.

Accommodation categories in Rome are officially divided into:

  • Hotels (which can and must have a star rating)
  • "Affittacamere" - like a very small hotel, but not a hotel
  • Bed and Breakfasts (sort of like the old-time pensione)
  • Apartment/vacation rentals
  • Hostels

That's it.

So all the places you see using terms like "inn", "relais", "palace", etc, are usually a Bed and Breakfast or an Affittacemere whose owners just want to have an appealing name.

The second thing you should know is that no category besides Hotel is ever given an official star rating.

So if you see an accommodation that is not a hotel but shows a star rating, it's something they have done themselves, or the booking engine you are using has given them a rating because of their popularity.

See the difference between a 5-star hotel and a 5-star "non-hotel"

  1. Open up and search for 5-star hotels in Rome. At the time of this writing, there are 42 5-star hotels in Rome.
  2. Un-check the category "hotels" while leaving "stars/other ratings" checked. Hint - the "other ratings" is what's being used on non-hotel properties.

Now you will see more properties available in the "5-star" category.

At the time of the writing, the number is now 46.

Which means there are 4 properties being designated as "5-star" but that are not hotels.

Granted, each one of those properties is of very high quality and luxury. But they are not hotels. And so they are not required to have all the amenities that a 5-star hotel in Italy has to have. 

So who is giving them a 5-star rating? Perhaps the property itself, perhaps with the OK of the booking engine. It's fine as long as you are aware of what you are getting.

So, if you look for something with "x" number of stars that is NOT a hotel, you will really need to read all the fine print to make sure you know what you are getting.

Don't forget to bring these essential travel items with you!

Disclosure: If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission - at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my site!

How to know what you will get when you book a hotel in Rome

The Rome hotel star ratings system is to help you, the traveller, understand more or less what to expect when you book a hotel, i.e. an accommodation that has been officially designated as a hotel.

So now you may be wondering, how can you be sure you're booking accommodation of the quality you want?

If you book a 5-star hotel in Rome, you are most likely going to get everything you want, and have come to expect, from 5-star hotels around the world. This is because the requirements are so stringent for a hotel to get 5-star status.

But from the 4-star hotel rating and below, the standards can vary wildly.

Because Rome hotel star ratings are based on a checklist of amenities without specifying the quality of those amenities, you may not get what you're expecting if you book a hotel in Rome or other parts of Italy.

For example, a hotel can be given 3-star status just for having a reception on the ground floor and all bathrooms being inside the bedrooms, but the decor may be dated, the mattresses lumpy, and the breakfast pathetic.

By the same token, a hotel might be given 2-star status (and not higher) only because they don't have a reception on the ground floor, or because the sizes of the common areas do not meet the minimum for 3-star status. Regardless of this, they may have gone above and beyond in providing sleek decor and extraordinary comfort and other amenities that are not required, but that the owners want to give.

Rome hotel star ratings - how to read between the lines

One advantage to using a large hotel reservation site such as or TripAdvisor is that you can see an aggregate of accommodations and compare them to each other. You can also read user reviews.

Of course, we all know that user reviews can be manipulated. Also, users can have many different frames of reference for leaving reviews. You may have even read some funny user reviews about hotels around the world, such as the scathing review of the hotel in the Caribbean that said the beach was too sandy.

When we ran our B&B in Rome, someone gave us a bad review for having an elevator that was too small (when in fact, the elevator was a typical size for apartment buildings in Italy.)

We were always concerned about this but in the end, if a hotel or other accommodation has enough reviews, it's likely that the majority of the reviews will reflect reality.

So the main thing you can do is look at the overall user rating and check the number of reviews

Here's how to judge what you're getting so you will not be disappointed or surprised:

  • Look for properties that are consistently highly-rated by their users, and that have many reviews (this diminishes the chance of a few wayward bad reviews skewing the big picture too much.)
  • Whatever property you select, take a careful look at all the photos available.
  • Look closely at the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Look at pictures on a Google map if need be.
  • Write to the property if need be, and ask them anything you want to know like what they serve for breakfast, if there is user-controlled a/c, etc.

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