Mama Shelter Roma hotel review, Rome

Hotel address: Mama Shelter Roma hotel, Via Luigi Rizzo 20, 00136 Rome, Italy
Phone number: +39 06 94 53 89 00
Price from: From £109 a night

Restaurant at Mama Shelter RomaFRANCIS AMIAN

Set the scene

The hotel occupies a pair of outwardly unremarkable tower blocks, formerly the headquarters of a telecoms company, west of the city centre. You step inside and – kaboom! – it’s as if a bomb has gone off in a very chic, retro-themed, vividly coloured Italian homewares boutique. There are cartoon goddesses on the ceilings, emperors and pizzas woven into the carpet and footballers’ mugshots on the walls. A model of the great dome of St Peter’s hovers over the reception desk alongside a cabinet full of cheerfully packaged sex toys and lube. And somehow it all seems entirely natural and innocently charming.

The backstory

Though the name may mean nothing to younger readers, Club Med changed the course of leisure-travel history in the second half of the 20th century. Its driving force was a French chap named Gilbert Trigano, whose son Serge and grandsons Jérémie and Benjamin all followed him into the hotel business. The latter three launched Mama Shelter in 2008. With backing from Michel Reybier (best known these days for his impeccable portfolio of La Réserve properties) and design by Philippe Starck (immortal for that orange juicer alone), these low-cost, high-concept hangouts were an instant hit. The first of them, in Paris, was followed by others in Marseille, Lyon, Istanbul, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, Rio, Prague, Belgrade, Toulouse, Lille, London, a second in Paris, Luxembourg – and now Rome.

Bedroom at Mama Shelter RomaFRANCIS AMIAND

The rooms

The kooky intensity of the public areas is dialled down considerably in the rooms – their relative subtlety comes as something of a surprise. This is probably just as well. Block pastels in gelati tones prevail. The bathrooms are big and plain and, in their unfussy way, impeccable. There are latex masks on the sideboard and free porn on the TV, should such things be required to fire your imagination. The beds, in any case, are famously comfortable, whether you want to sleep in them or not.

Restaurant at Mama Shelter RomaFRANCIS AMIAND

Food and drink

The Pope should outlaw the maritozzi they serve here at breakfast – sinning mortals don’t deserve them. The ground-floor pizza oven delivers pizza as good as any you’ll find elsewhere in the city, or I’ll eat my Borsalino. There’s an indoor winter garden (with osteria), an outdoor summer garden (with bocce), and a rooftop bar and restaurant (with sun loungers and a morally improving view of the dome of St Peter’s). There are DJs, biliardino tables, photobooths, vintage arcade games and pinball machines at every turn.

Indoor pool at Mama Shelter RomaFRANCIS AMIAND

The spa

This is Rome, so there must be baths. The arrangements here – pool, sauna, hammam – are uncomplicated but marvellous to look at. One part Terme di Caracalla, two parts Miami Vice.

The walk way entrance to Mama Shelter Roma


The neighbourhood

Towards the western edge of the city centre, two minutes from Cipro metro station. Not terribly remote but certainly – shall we say – distinct from the historic core. This is the unremarkable post-war suburban Rome that most Romans actually live in. The miracles, man-made and otherwise, of the Vatican are nonetheless barely 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel’s front door. In the other direction, Parco Monte Ciocci is a much-loved meeting point for locals: leafy, off the tourist trail and with fantastic views over the city. The nearby Mercato Trionfale, meanwhile, is the oldest and largest local fresh-produce market in town – if not in Europe.

The service

As bubbly as a case of prosecco that has been transported by a three-legged donkey along the entire length of the Appian Way.

For families

In many respects very good, if you can look past the sex toys and porn. (Which you can’t.) There are 19 family rooms and no fewer than 116 interconnecting rooms. Extra beds are available in 68 rooms. The bambini are well looked after with presents and goodies; groups of them can be specially catered for in the restaurants. The biliardino tables, arcade games and pinball machines, as well as the bocce court in the summer garden, are likely to be irresistible – though not only to kids.

Bathroom at Mama Shelter RomaFRANCIS AMIAND

Eco effort

There are plants and solar panels on the roof, and a hi-tech carbon-monitoring system to optimise energy consumption. Toiletries are from the organic Mama Skin range, developed in partnership with the French brand Absolution.

Accessibility for those with mobility impairments

All the common areas in Building A are accessible to guests with mobility impairments, and there are 17 accessible rooms. Building B and the swimming pool are not accessible to guests in wheelchairs.

Pizzeria at Mama Shelter RomaFRANCIS AMIAND

Anything left to mention?

The Mama Shelter management have struck a deal with two of the most charming and original local guides you could hope to meet, who may well transform your perceptions of the city even if you thought you knew it well already. Ask for them by name. Isabella Calidonna ( is an art historian and triathlete who has rather brilliantly merged her interests and now offers running tours of Rome’s historical hotspots. Reducing your waistline while enlarging your mind? Genius! Rodolfo Pegan ( does something similar, only on vintage Vespas. Just hang on, enjoy that famous waspy engine note and worry about your waistline later.

Hotel address: Mama Shelter Roma hotel, Via Luigi Rizzo 20, 00136 Rome, Italy
Phone number: +39 06 94 53 89 00
Price from: From £109 a night

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