This last December I found myself quickly planning a trip to Italy.  I needed to do a bit of business, see the folks, and visit a couple of Palladian Villas around Vicenza for ideas for the new winery.

One advantage of traveling in December is that airfares are reasonable, and hotels are half empty.  I decided to be choosy and only stay at TripAdvisor #1 hotels.  They always cost a little more, but generally represent a great value for the money.  Cheap is cheap, but expensive can be a bad deal.  So, are TripAdvisor #1 hotels a good deal? Based on my recent experience in Italy the answer is YES!

First stop took us to Udine where the Hotel Suite Inn received the #1 ranking. $200 bucks for a nice room in the “historical wing” seemed too good to be true, particularly since the location is great and walking distance from my parent’s house to boot.  Recently renovated, the hotel is run by the owners and is well deserving of the ranking.  Immaculately clean, with quality linens, a good breakfast and attentive staff, our stay was perfect.  Despite the location on a fairly busy street, the room was eerily quiet with just the whirring of the heater audible.  Front desk staff was always cheerful and helpful with recommendations and directions.

Then we travelled to San Pietro, south of Ferrara, to visit an old friend and business partner.  He lives in a smallish city with just two or three places to stay.  All his visitors stay at the Hotel Pamela, so we checked it out and, sure enough, it is also #1 according to TripAdvisor.  When we checked in, we were worried we had entered a time machine which transported to 1981, which not coincidentally is when the hotel was built.  It turned out to be a cross between a “cheater’s motel” and a truck-stop roadside biz hotel. The help was nice, the room was clean and quiet, but that’s all.  The bathroom was so small that I had my feet in the shower while sitting on the toilet, literally. How small was the room?  It was so small that I woke up thinking there was someone else in the bed but it was the doorknob.  OK, enough bad jokes.  In any case the $95 price should have given us a hint…turns out the ranking was earned from travelers who stay there out of necessity like us—there’s nowhere else to stay…and you know?  I slept soundly which is more than I can say for other fancy places I’ve visited.

Next we drove back north to Vicenza, birthplace of Andrea Palladio.  Our choice here was the Glam Boutique hotel.  20 exquisite rooms at the edge of the historical center, easy walking to all the major Palladio Palazzi.  $225 got us a junior suite with a weird all-glass wall bathroom. The owner gave us a deal, I think, since he noticed we are also innkeepers.  He bothered to look us up on Google before we arrived and asked about the winery and hotel.  His hotel has high ceilings, fab décor, and as always, attentive and friendly staff.  Of course, it was immaculately clean. Front desk, living room and bedroom photos follow:

Based on our limited research, we’ll continue using TripAdvisor to help us chose a hotel.  We find that TripAdvisor reviews tend to be less extreme and poorly informed than those found in Yelp. Also we have found that the #1 ranked choice is there for a reason, almost always related to the dedication and commitment of the innkeeper to his guests.  We have also found that, although more expensive, these hotels usually represent a good value, if you can afford it.