HOTELS, PENSIONS, AND APARTMENTS
"Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?" the traveller asks rather anxiously than defiantly when he finds himself a stranger in a strange place, and he is apt to add, if he has not written or wired ahead to some specific hotel, "Which of mine inns shall I take mine ease in?" He is the more puzzled to choose the more inns there are to choose from, and his difficulty is enhanced if he has not considered that some of his inns may be full or may be too dear, and yet others undesirable.
The run from Naples in four hours and a half had been so flattering fair an experience to people who had last made it in eight that they arrived in Rome on a sunny afternoon of January preoccupied with expectations of an instant ease in their inn which seemed the measure of their merit. They indeed found their inn, and it was with a painful surprise that they did not find the rooms in it which they wanted. There were neither rooms full south, nor over the garden, nor off the tram, and in these circumstances there was nothing for it but to drive to some one else's inn and try for better quarters there. They, in fact, drove to half a dozen such, their demands rising for more rooms and sunnier and quieter and cheaper, the fewer and darker and noisier and dearer were those they found.
The trouble was that they found in the very first alien hotel where they applied an apartment so exactly what they wanted, with its four rooms and bath, all more or less full south, though mostly veering west and north, that they carried the fatal norm in their consciousness and tested all other apartments by it, the earlier notion of single rooms being promptly rejected after the sight of it. The reader will therefore not be so much, astonished as these travellers were to learn that there was nothing else in Rome (where there must be about five hundred hotels, hotels garnis, and pensions) that one could comparatively stay even overnight in, and that they settled in that alluring apartment provisionally, the next day being Sunday, and the crystalline Saturday of their arrival being well worn away toward its topaz and ruby sunset. Of course, they continued their search for several days afterward, zealously but hopelessly, yet not fruitlessly, for it resulted in an acquaintance with Roman hotels which they might otherwise never have made, and for one of them in literary material of interest to every one hoping to come to Rome or despairing of it. The psychology of the matter was very curious, and involved the sort of pleasing self-illusion by which people so often get themselves over questionable passes in life and come out with a good conscience, or a dead one, which is practically the same thing. These particular people had come to Rome with reminiscences of in-expensiveness and had intended to recoup themselves for the cost of several previous winters in New York hotels by the saving they would make in their Roman sojourn. When it appeared, after all the negotiation and consequent abatement, that their Roman hotel apartment would cost them hardly a fifth less than they had last paid in New York, they took a guilty refuge in the fact that they were getting for less money something which no money could buy in New York. Gradually all sense of guilt wore off, and they boldly, or even impudently, said to themselves that they ought to have what they could pay for, and that there were reasons, which they were not obliged to render in their frankest soliloquies, why they should do just what they chose in the matter.
The truth is that the modern Roman hotel is far better in every way than the hotel of far higher class, or of the highest class, in New York. In the first place, the managers are in the precious secret, which our managers have lost, of making you believe that they want you; and, having you, they know how to look after your pleasure and welfare. The table is always of more real variety, though vastly less stupid profusion than ours. The materials are wholesomer and fresher and are without the proofs, always present in our hotel viands, of a probationary period in cold storage. As for the cooking, there is no comparison, whether the things are simply or complexly treated; and the service is of that neatness and promptness which ours is so ignorant of.
Your agreement is usually for meals as well as rooms; the European plan is preferably ignored in Europe; and the table d'hote luncheon and dinner are served at small, separate tables; your breakfast is brought to your room. Being old-fashioned, myself, I am rather sorry for the small, separate tables. I liked the one large, long table, where you made talk with your neighbors; but it is gone, and much facile friendliness with it, on either hand and across the board. The rooms are tastefully furnished, and the beds are unquestionable; the carpets warmly cover tho floor if stone, or amply rug it if of wood. The steam-heating is generous and performs its office of "roasting you out of the house" without the sizzling and crackling which accompany its efforts at home. The electricity really illuminates, and there is always an electric lamp at your bed-head for those long hours when your remorse or your digestion will not let you sleep, and you must substitute some other's waking dreams for those of your own slumbers. Above all, there is a lift, or elevator, not enthusiastically active or convulsively swift, but entirely practicable and efficient. It will hold from four to eight persons, and will take up at least six without reluctance.