Ripa All Suites Hotel, Rome

To be up there with Rome's trendy dot.com crowd and, it seems, any Hollywood star who's passing, hang out at the Hotel Ripa in Rome's trendy Trastevere area. It's on the west bank of the Tiber, coolly aloof from the city centre, and with a restaurant/bar and a live DJ every evening, it's the place to drink cocktails, eat organic - and be seen.

To be up there with Rome's trendy dot.com crowd and, it seems, any Hollywood star who's passing, hang out at the Hotel Ripa in Rome's trendy Trastevere area. It's on the west bank of the Tiber, coolly aloof from the city centre, and with a restaurant/bar and a live DJ every evening, it's the place to drink cocktails, eat organic - and be seen.

As Rome's only "Design Hotel", and a member of the Golden Tulip chain, this hotel looks, on the website, as if it should be the epitome of tasteful, minimalist, post-modern hotel design. But although there's no chintz or bad watercolours to be found, Ripa's marketing outshines its reality.

Four-star rated, you would think tea- or coffee-making facilities were a basic, but we had only the minibar and very slow, bad room service. Breakfast came for one person instead of two, then bacon, when we'd said "no carne", then a teapot but no cup. When we ordered an ice bucket for champagne one evening and a sugar bowl of ice was delivered 40 minutes later, we decided Fawlty Towers had surely moved to Rome (indeed, there is a cheap and cheerful hostel by that name across town). And we were charged £3 for every room-service visit, whether they delivered the right thing or not.

The Riparte Café and Restaurant is, however, exceptional, serving organic meals with ingredients from the hotel owners' family farm, and also has a newly opened sushi bar. It holds contemporary-art exhibitions and receptions for Rome's urban chic.

Location, location, location

Ripa All Suites Hotel is at via Degli Orti di Trastevere, 1 00153, Rome (0039 0658611; www.travel.it/roma/ripa.

Time to international airport: 11 miles from Fiumicino airport, 25 minutes by train to Trastevere station for L8,000 (£2.60) or half an hour by taxi (L90,000/£29). Anyone flying on Go from Stansted will arrive at Ciampino airport, which is two train journeys and a bus away from Trastevere and can take around two hours. Better to shell out about £40 on a taxi, unless you're travelling light.

Are you lying comfortably?

No, not really. In the standard double "Design Suite" (they're called suites because they have sofas in them, I think) there are two single beds pushed together (an Italian habit apparently) which sets a serious challenge to any romantic moves. The room's decor is also rather disappointing: a flimsy Ikea-style wardrobe; a bathroom that, though stylish with blue tiles and steel sink, turns mushy and wet because of an over-minimalist no-soap-dish arrangement; and although the luxuriously long bath is enticing, a modern plug system let water out quicker than the taps let it in.

The best way of getting a good night's sleep and having your designer requirements satisfied is to splash out on the new "Executive Design Suites" on the third floor, or the "Presidential Suite" on the top floor that includes two bedrooms and a huge living-room. These really do live up to the marketing, with minimal, Scandinavian-style decor, bright patches of colour, cool black-and-white tiled floor, modern art and a luxurious double bed.

Keeping in touch: telephone and TV in room. Fax and internet on request.

The bottom line

Our standard double suite was L495,000 (£160) a night. Also available: single suite L405,000 (£131), the Executive Suite L600,000 (£194), and the Presidential Suite from L800,000 (£258).

I'm not paying that:

How sensible of you. Stay at the Hotel Pomezia at Via dei Chiavari 12 (0039 066861371), which is plain, simple and central. A double room, with shower, costs L150,000 (£48), including breakfast. You can use the cash you save to visit the Ripa for a cocktail, meal and clubbing. Top tip - don't queue with Rome's wannabes at the club entrance, walk a few yards to the left and enter through the hotel-reception doors.

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