To dorm or not to dorm – some Beehive tips

Back in 1999 when we started The Beehive, we were strictly a hostel with dormitory rooms and bunk beds.  Soon after, because of demand and our own desire to expand, we added private rooms.  In 2002 when we moved to our permanent location, we kept the largest room as a dorm in homage to our beginnings and to keep the vibe alive as a hostel in the more traditional sense.


Dorm rooms are not just for the university, 20 something crowd.  They are a great option for travelers looking to save money or who want to meet up with other travelers, but do note that not all dorm rooms are created equally.  The Beehive’s dorm or “The Hive” as it’s called – is open to all ages except for very young children and is for both men and women.  Many different kinds of of people from all over the world and different ages stay in our dorm – from older kids traveling with their parents, to university students, to solo travelers, to our oldest dorm guest who was 80 years old and traveling Europe alone as he did back in his youth.

Different hostels have different atmospheres and offer different facilities and services.  We’ve created a dorm room to appeal to people who wouldn’t normally consider staying in a shared room.  Many hostels cater to the party-seeker while we offer a dorm room that is a clean and calm respite for those not wanting to spend a lot of money on accommodation, but who also don’t want to be isolated and alone in their room.IMG_3942

While sleeping in a roomful of strangers of different ages and from different cultural backgrounds means practicing tolerance and also having to put up with the occasional snorer, early risers or night owls, here’s what we consider a good code of conduct for staying in The Beehive’s dorm which can probably be applied to other dorm stays on your travels:

1.  If you need a towel, let us know.  We don’t put them out for all guests since many dorm guests carry their own.  But if you need one, we’re happy to provide one.  We do require €1 for a towel rental if you want to shower after you’ve already checked out.

2.  Many hostels require that you bring your own sheets, or that you strip your own beds. At The Beehive we provide linens and make up your beds for you and don’t expect you to strip the bed when you leave.  However, DO stay in the bed you were assigned.  Don’t switch beds and if you want to change beds with someone who is leaving – ask at reception first.

3.  Many hostels do offer kitchens, but we don’t at our main facility.  Our cafe, by law, is not available for guests’ use.  If you are wanting to cook your own food or store perishable food items, we have private rooms offsite – Acacia and Clover – that offer self-catering kitchens.

4.  Bring an eye mask and ear plugs.  This will help you sleep better so that you aren’t disturbed by the person arriving to the room late at night or leaving early in the morning, by someone’s snoring or from whatever other noises you might hear especially if you are a light sleeper.

5.  Consider bringing a small satchel with lavender in it.  It’s nice to keep in your bag to make your clothes smell fresh, but also nice to have near your head when sleeping at night – not only does it help you relax, but in the summer months when dorm room smells are subject to the hygiene of your fellow travelers – you’ll be happy to have something pleasant to smell.

6.  If you have to check-out early, pack your bag the night before and be quiet and mindful of the people who are trying to sleep.

7.  If you come back late, again – quiet is key.  Is it really necessary to shower and blow dry your hair at 1am?  If it is, than please use the bathroom downstairs near the lounge where no one can hear you.

8.  Let reception know immediately if there is anyone in the room who is  problematic in any way, exhibiting inappropriate behavior or who is making you uncomfortable. Our priority is to people who want to sleep and rest, so if someone is being disruptive, we’ll intervene – just let us know.  Thankfully, we have very rarely had to do this over the years as the overwhelming majority of our dorm guests have been respectful and considerate of others in the room.

9.  Be social.  It doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party, but say hello.  Introduce yourselves to others in the room. One of the great benefits of staying in the dorm is meeting others and sharing information and travel experiences, and if you’re fortunate, making new friends.


Photo credit: Rosemary Dukelow photo of the Krause family.

Italian wine for Beginners


Sarah May Grunwald comes from the sunny state of California and now resides in a country house in the Castelli Romani just outside Rome.  She is a wine educator, sommelier and tour guide who runs and owns Antiqua Tours with her husband Ettore Bellardini.  When she is not leading cultural and culinary tours in Rome, she is at home writing her wine blog, hanging out with Ettore and their 10 dogs and cats, in the kitchen or tending to her olive trees and garden.

Sarah and I are buds and so I felt comfortable sharing my wine ignorance with her and asking her some questions.  We know many visitors to Italy want to enjoy the wine, but the majority don’t know where to start or feel intimidated by wine culture which comes off as elitist in other countries.  Sarah is very knowledgeable about wine, but is also about as anti-wine snob as they come.  We share the same philosophy that knowledge can only enhance an experience and that wine is for everyone.


1.  The Beehive:  Chianti and chardonnay.  Before I moved to Italy, that’s all I knew when it came to a red wine or a white wine.  Do you have any suggestions for different kinds of regions and different kind of reds and whites that people should try?  Are some regions better known for reds or whites than others? 

Sarah:  Well, we are certainly advocates of drinking local wine from the region because they pair best with the dishes from the region. As they say in Italy, “If it grows together, it goes together.” So, if you are in Rome, try wines from Lazio if they are available. One of the problems people have with Italian wine is the lack of familiarity, the names are hard to pronounce and many are not available or easy to find outside of Europe. If you want to get beyond Chianti or Chardonnay I suggest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo as a red and Friulano as a white. Both of these wines are easy to drink and food friendly. Regions to look out for for reds in Italy are Piedmont, Umbria, Abruzzo, Campagna and Sicily. For whites you can’t beat the northern regions like Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige and Liguria.

2.  House wines.  What are they exactly and are they worth it or better to buy a bottle? 

In Rome, it is best to avoid house wine. In fact, one of the reasons Lazio’s wine reputation has suffered is because of the terrible house wine served in many places in Rome. Consider that you can drink very well in Italy without breaking the bank so spending a few more euros on a bottle of local wine from smaller producers is worth it. For white, a local Frascati Superiore is both fragrant and fresh and for red go for Cesanese del Piglio or Cesanese di Olevano Romano.

Of course it’s important that we don’t make blanket statements. If the restaurant already has a good reputation for wine chances are they might have a good house wine. I always ask if I can taste the house wine before I order it. But in general spend the extra few euro on a bottle, at least in Rome. This is not the case in all parts of Italy. I was in Friuli Venezia Giula recently and snubbed the house wine at a local trattoria that my friend was drinking. He made me taste it and it was a wonderful wine. Don’t feel shy to ask for a sample of the house wine if you are interested.


3.  What types of wine would you suggest to someone who has never really been a wine drinker?  Are there wines someone visiting Italy definitely should try that perhaps they wouldn’t be able to find  easily anywhere else?

Well, luckily I teach a class called “The Wines of Italy”for this exact type of person, so it is an easy question for me. My suggestion is to focus on wines that are fruity and easy to drink. Avoid highly tannic red wines or wines that have been oaked. A lot of my students like off-dry fruity wines. And of course, everyone loves Sparkling wines, so try lovely sparklers such as Franciacorta, Trentino DOC and simple but refreshing Prosecco DOC.

4.  The wine list.  This is often very intimidating especially for wine novices so I think most people go for the chianti or the chardonnay as safe bets.  Do you have any “sure things” on a wine list that you would suggest people choose instead?

Do try something different! Ask the waiter for something local from a small and high quality producer that is not overly oaked. Ask for something made from local, indigenous grapes instead of international grapes like Merlot or Chardonnay. I tend to think Italian whites are a sure bet if they are well made. Luckily in Italy you can drink well and not spend a lot of money, which also means you can try different wines and not worry you are going to break the bank. I highly suggest going to a wine bar and sampling different wine by the glass and getting to know the type of wine you like.

5. What’s the etiquette if you don’t like the wine you were given?

If you don’t like it that is your responsibility. Wines can be sent back only if they are faulty. If your wine smells like damp cardboard, eggy, boiled cabbage, vinegar or nail polish it is faulty due to a number of reasons. Then you can send the wine back. Tell the waiter the wine is corked or faulty. They shouldn’t argue with you, but sometimes, in Italy, they do. Unfortunately it is quite common for waiters to try to convince foreigners they are wrong, but stand your ground. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel intimidated especially if you are on holiday! Send it back and they will bring another bottle of the same wine. However, if the wine is not faulty and you just don’t like the wine, you can choose not to drink it and order something else.


 6.  What are signs that the wine has gone bad (rather than you just don’t like it)?

Well, I just wrote above, but to elaborate more there are a number of reasons your wine may be faulty.  Cork taint (Trichloroanisole) or TCA is the most common and can be due to a tainted cork or tainted winery equipment. You’ll often see wait staff smelling the cork before they serve the wine. Although that can be indicative, it is not always, so the aromas in the glass are your best indication. Cork taint smells like damp cardboard or even mold. Not a nice aroma. If you don’t detect it, don’t worry. You won’t get sick from it!

Sometimes you’ll hear people say a wine smells barnyardy.  This is a taint from an unwanted yeast called Brettanomyces or “Brett” it can give plastic or animal aromas or even sweaty horse. To most this is a fault, but some people enjoy these aromas at low levels. Again, if you don’t detect it you won’t get sick.

Other aromas to look out for are rotten eggs or canned vegetables (a sign of reduction), or toffee and caramel (a sign of oxidation). Vinegar or nail polish aromas or extinguished matches are also signs of a faulty wine.

 7.  Any major faux pas to avoid when ordering or drinking wine?

Don’t call all sparkling wine in Italy “Prosecco.” Prosecco is a type of wine just like Chianti Classico is. Don’t confuse fruitiness with sweetness. But other than that, unless you are at a trade tasting or a wine tasting, you should just enjoy yourself. Sure you should hold the glass by the stem, but if you don’t the wine police aren’t coming to arrest you. Remember that in Italy when you make a toast and clink glasses you have to look into everyone’s eyes, to not do so is considered rude but also considered bad luck.

 8.  Is there any basic vocabulary you can suggest to help the wine novice express what they like/dislike?

I would suggest taking the time to attend a wine tour to get to know the basics of Italian wine and learn some wine vocabulary so that you can order wine with confidence. Many of my clients take a wine tour with us on the first day or so after they arrive and when we hear back from them after their trip they tend to say it was the most useful thing they did because for the rest of the trip they were able to order wine with confidence.


 9.  Are there any wine bars you recommend in particular where someone just could not go wrong no matter what wine they choose?  A wine bar that serves a good apertivo? 

I have a number of wine bars I love in Rome. Here are some central ones.

Al vino al vino in Monti is great. They have a decent wine by the glass list and the best caponata in Rome. I love to order the caponata with a pink Franciacorta.

Il Goccetto is a short walk from Campo dei Fiori and has an excellent wine by the glass menu that changes weekly. Order a couple of different wines by the glass and try different ones. They have an excellent cheese plate that you can order in small, medium or large.

 Bibenda Wineconcept is a short walk from the Colosseum and open at lunch time, except on Sundays. They have a lovely wine by the glass menu that changes regularly. The staff is friendly and best of all in summer, it is air conditioned.

 Palatium near the Spanish Steps specializes in Lazio only wines and products. They have a small happy hour and you can sample different local wines.

 10.  If someone wants to take back a special bottle as a gift to themselves or to someone they know – do you have any suggestions of where they should go and what they should get? 

Any of the enoteche I have already mentioned sell bottles. I always suggest taking back wines that you have consumed somewhere special, that way the wine has a story. Certainly some Italian wines are more expensive than others and make great gifts, but if you enjoyed a fresh Frascati Superiore in the Castelli Romani, try to get the same bottle if possible. Wines with a personal story are always the best souvenirs.


13 June 2014

Piazza del Popolo



Many visitors to Rome are eager to rush to Piazza Navona, but I prefer the spaciousness of Piazza del Popolo. On the north-side of the piazza is Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo and tucked away in a corner chapel are two famous paintings by Caravaggio. The Fountain of Neptune is on the west side – a less famous fountain that can also be seen in Fellini’s film “La Dolce Vita”. To the south are the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli. To the east is the Pincio leading up to one of Rome’s most famous public parks, the Villa Borghese. Smack in the middle is the Fountain of the Obelisk which has one of the tallest obelisks in Rome and four lion fountains. Sitting on one of these lions and having a photo taken seems to be compulsory for every child living in or visiting Rome. Piazza del Popolo is very easy to reach from The Beehive from Termini train station on the Line A/red line metro – getting off at the Flaminio stop.

Our Chef’s Cooperative: Hayley North



Chef Hayley North joined our chef’s cooperative this past July and serves up delicious and creative vegan and raw in our cafe on Friday evenings from 7:00-9:30pm.  Along with raw chef Matteo Morozzo she also puts on special raw food dinners a couple times per month on Tuesday evenings.  This interview with Hayley is the second installment in our chef’s cooperative profiles series.

1.  Where are you from?  What brought you to Rome?

I’m from the UK and have lived quite a nomadic life so far.  I came to Rome for love after 5 years of traveling the world as a specialist yoga retreat chef.


2.  How did you hear about The Beehive and what made you decide to become a part of the chef’s cooperative?

I was put in contact with Steve and Linda at The Beehive through a mutual contact who runs a retreat centre just outside of Rome.  She knew I was looking for ways to bring my work to Rome and travel less and thought The Beehive would suit my personality and the type of food I make. When I heard about what was happening there and how they wanted to expand on the chef’s co-operative idea I wanted to be a part of it straight away.

3.  Can you describe the kinds of food you prepare on your evenings at The Beehive?

I call my nights The Holistic Kitchen, which is a name I have been using for many years now to sum up what I do. The food varies in terms of dishes and flavours, but it is the principles, methods, philosophy, and ethos that sum up what really happens in my kitchen.

The Holistic Kitchen is my way of making a stand against the manufactured, processed and convenience food industry, and it is as much about education and increasing awareness as the food itself.  This means that all food is sourced from independent, local or artisan producers, it is 100% organic or grown without the use of any pesticides or chemicals. I never use supermarkets and go out of my way to find the most ethical choice possible.

There are NO refined products used at all, and things like salts, oils and sweeteners are chosen carefully. The food celebrates ancient and traditional preparation methods and draws inspiration from the worlds of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Natural Nutrition, Raw/Living Foods and Macrobiotics, and is suitable for people with all kinds of allergies and intolerances.

My food is deeply influenced by my travels and my studies in yoga and nutrition related subjects. I gain inspiration from so many cultures, so from week to week you can expect a varied alchemy of flavours and dishes from around the world.

4.  Are you vegetarian or vegan?  If you are, what were your motivations to become vegetarian or vegan?  If not, do you find it challenging to create a vegetarian or vegan menu?

I am not personally 100% veggie or vegan, but predominantly so. I rarely eat meat or fish, but I still feel a nutritional benefit from some animal products from time to time. I do not believe that to be healthy means to live on only a plant based diet, I feel this is not right for everybody. However, I do believe that if we choose to eat animal products we must be responsible for how much we consume and make ourselves fully aware of where it comes from and how it is produced and know why we are eating it.

I cook mainly vegan or vegetarian in my work and day to day life, for most people it is a step out of the day to day box and shows how rich and varied the cooking can be. I don’t find it challenging at all to create veggie or vegan menus.  In fact there are endless creative and delicious ways to prepare veg, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes.

5.  Where are your favorite places to eat in Rome?  

I haven’t really found many places that prepare food in this way in Rome to be honest. I really love Bibliothè and have had a lovely vegan meal at il Margutta RistorArte although it was very expensive. I also like the bistro at Villa Pamphili and Felice in Testaccio. I also was quite impressed with Grandma in Quadraro which had a great vibe.

Other than that I rarely eat out as I much prefer to make my own food. After 25 years in the catering industry I know how rare it is to find a good restaurant and to find food prepared by people who actually care about what they are doing!

You will find Hayley and her Holistic Kitchen every Friday evening in our cafe and special 100% raw food dinners on occasional Tuesdays – the raw food events are by reservation only and are posted on our Facebook page.

Dinner is served from 7:00-9:30pm and the cost is €8 for a mixed plate and  €10 with dessert.  Wine & beer are sold at €2/glass.  Menus are posted on the same day on our Facebook page as well as any notifications if there is a cancellation of dinner that evening as has sometimes happened because of illness or time away so it’s always a good idea to check there before heading over.  Reservations aren’t necessary, but do note that only a finite amount of food is prepared so it’s best to come earlier than later – we also have to be strict about wrapping things up early in order not to be disruptive to our room guests.

8 January 2014

The Beehive’s Clumsy Cook makes soup


Winter is officially here.  Temperatures in Rome are now in the single digits in Celsius – that’s in the 40’s for those of you in Farenheit land.  I’m sure I’m not alone in craving warm comforting food when the temperatures drop – much to the chagrin of my waistline.

Even the Clumsy Cook has a simple solution for dinner on these cold winter nights.  This lentil soup is easy and requires no slaving over the stove.


1 to 1 1/2 cups of small brown lentils

1 onion

1 celery stalk

1 carrot

1 clove of garlic

1 long sprig of rosemary

1/4 cup of olive oil

1-2 teaspoons of vegetable broth

sea salt to taste

thyme to taste

tomato sauce to taste

Chop up onion, carrot, celery and garlic into small pieces and sauté in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot.

After veggies are soft, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups lentils and sauté together for a few seconds.

Add about 2-3 liters of water depending on how many lentils you used.

Add some pinches of sea salt, a pinch of dried thyme, the long sprig of rosemary, a couple of splashes of tomato sauce and about a tablespoon of vegetable broth.

Mix and leave at high heat for a little while until boiling and then lower to medium heat.

In total – you want to leave the soup simmering on the stove for about 1-2 hours.  Keep checking from time to time to make sure all the water hasn’t evaporated.

When you see that the soup is thickening – take an immersion blender and blend the lentils until you have a creamy, but chunky texture.

Turn off heat and allow to come down a bit in temperature – warm, but not scalding.

Dish out into bowls, add a drizzle of olive oil and if you are partial to cheese, you can add some grated parmigiano on top.

Serve up with some crusty bread – a simple bruschetta with garlic and olive oil is a good match.

Pour yourself a glass of nice red wine to go with it and enjoy!




28 November 2013
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