A pair of siblings run a hostel in a palazzo in Rome, whose aim is not to make a profit. It is about redistribution, inclusion and sustainability. Just a look in the fridge shows how the concept works.
The RomeHello hostel is less than 15 minutes' walk from Rome's Termini train station. It is a hostel in the traditional sense and yet very different. "All you need is lol" is written in the large, hand-painted entrance hall. At the reception, another neon sign welcomes the guest with the following words (originally in English): "May all those who enter here as guests depart as friends." A wish that is not so difficult to come true. Because the two people who are behind this hostel have really worked hard. And not only with the equipment and interior design - light, airy, colorful and well thought out down to the last detail.
The two are Chiara and Lorenzo Busi. "Our father is a hotelier, he has four-star hotels in Rome, Florence and Milan," Chiara tells ntv.de. She is 28 years old and studied art and literature. Her brother Lorenzo, who was one year younger and was not present at the meeting because of a corona infection, studied economics at the Milan Bocconi University of Economics and Business. In 2018 they opened the hostel together.
The siblings had no intention of following in their father's footsteps. But over dinner, he told them about the tender for a palazzo and asked them if they could imagine doing something with it. Why not?, the two replied, but made two conditions. It should definitely not be a four-star hotel, but one for young people and globetrotters of all ages. And as a business model, they wanted a social enterprise. In other words, what is earned either goes to aid organizations or is invested in another social enterprise. In addition, more people with disabilities are employed in a social enterprise.
Chiara and her brother Lorenzo worked as children in the boy scouts and then repeatedly in aid organizations. That shaped her. "We believe that you have to share your happiness," Chiara continues. "And since we are fortunate that our father has our backs financially, because without his support TheRomeHello would not exist, so others should also benefit from it."
This concept of sharing runs through the entire building like a visual guide. For example, the murals that you see throughout the hostel are by artists from all over the world, who were given free accommodation and tastings here. They also received a fee of 1000 to 1500 euros, which they in turn donated to an aid organization of their choice, that was the agreement with Chiara and Lorenzo.
The hostel has four floors. The dormitories with four, six or ten beds are located on the ground floor - and therefore suitable for the disabled - as well as on the first and second floor. Each dormitory has one or more bathrooms. The ten-bed dorm has four bathrooms. On the last two floors there are double rooms, like those of a hotel.
A colorful weekly schedule hangs in the lounge, showing what's coming up in the late afternoon and especially in the evening. One time it's the "Cooking Class", another time the "Karaoke Night" and the day after that a "Movie Night". There are also table tennis and table football tournaments. They take place in the large inner courtyard, which is furnished with colorful tables, chairs and sofas.
One of the social highlights is the "Community Pending Dinner", which is organized twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. "I derived the idea from the Neapolitan tradition of 'Caffè sospeso'," explains Chiara. "In Naples, customers often leave a paid espresso in the café, which is for those who cannot afford one." The "Community Pending Dinner" is free and at the end of the evening everyone leaves a donation, depending on the size of their wallet. This money is then used to buy food for the next dinner.
From the large, bright common room, where you can read, work and print out something, you come to the kitchen. There are six hotplates and three refrigerators that can be used freely by everyone. Guests can store their groceries in two of them. They write their name and the date of their departure on it. The content is checked every day. If something from a guest who has already checked out is in the fridge and can be used, it goes into the third one that says "Free food".
"This has several advantages," explains Chiara. "Firstly, we don't throw away food. Secondly, someone who arrives late can make themselves a quick pasta. So they don't have to go out again and save money. Which is particularly appreciated by those traveling on a budget ."
The third pillar on which TheRomeHello is based is called sustainability. "We don't just use ecological detergents," says Chiara, pointing to a giant container under the stairwell. Inside are countless small soaps that the guests have left behind. "We collect them and pass them on to an aid organization that processes them."
As for the hostel prices, it depends on the season. They go from 20 euros upwards, but can also reach 60 to 80 euros for a bed in high season. Which is not without. But this is Rome. Although perhaps not everyone knows that August is not high season for the capital. "Most of them go to the sea," says Chiara.
She and her brother are more than satisfied with TheRomeHello and are thinking about opening such a hostel in Florence and Milan. "And of course it would be nice if other hotel chains or hostels would also open with our business model," adds Chiara at the end.
More information about TheRomeHello is available here.