Building a Business and Living the Good Life in Rome
When Linda Martinez and Steve Brenner opened their hostel, The Beehive, in Rome, they couldn’t have picked a better name. There is always a buzz of voices in the cozy courtyard garden and the social gathering room, as folks from around the neighborhood and across the world mingle. This sense of community is a happy byproduct of their hard work.
Linda and Steve arrived in Italy to start their hostel in 1999 with just their two cats and a Swiss Army knife. “The idea to move to Rome and open a hostel happened while we were in Rome on our honeymoon, while we were staying at a hostel where Steve had worked for a time,” says Linda. “We knew we wanted to be able to work together rather than spend our days apart, and wanted to live internationally.”
She says they took a sort of guerilla-style approach to launching the business, by just renting an apartment, putting in beds, and opening the doors. They’ve gone through a lot of transitions since then, moving to a larger space, adding private hotel-style rooms, and dealing with Italian bureaucracy to get licensed as a hotel operation.
Twenty years later they are still at it, and their diligence has resulted in a homey, happy space that brings together a wide variety of people from all walks of life and many different countries. They wanted to offer something for everyone—both dorm-style rooms and private ensuite rooms, which they call the Sweets. They also incorporated their environmentally conscious outlook by using eco-friendly and organic products and keeping a vegetarian kitchen. The overall result is a bright, cheerful, and vibrant venue.
The dynamic, likable Linda is the queen bee of the hive. An enthusiastic host, she takes guests on walks around Rome. She and Steve have even created an app for guests to download. “It gives them the advantage of our two decades of experience on Rome’s sights and dining,” she says.
The tireless duo also offer cooking classes; host family-style dinners three to four times a week, open to both guests and non-guests; and organize book readings, clothes and book swaps, art exhibits, and the occasional storytellers evening. The Beehive is a sociable place, not a party hostel. “We like to focus on good food, good wine, and good conversation,” says Linda.
They’ve raised their three daughters in Italy, splitting their time between Rome and Orvieto, a smaller city an hour’s train ride north.
Linda says they enjoy the best of both cities. “A night off with girlfriends always involves food and wine. If possible, we also enjoy going to a museum exhibit or an event. One of my favorite things is getting a few girlfriends together and going to the thermal baths at Bagno Vignoni for a day at the spa and lunch afterward.”
The couple also say they enjoy quiet evenings together eating, chatting, and listening to music, or taking a walk and sitting at an outdoor café to people-watch and soak up the Old World beauty of Italy. “I get constant enjoyment from being surrounded by beautiful things, whether it’s art, architecture, the landscapes, and joy from eating delicious food and sharing that with others. Life is full of simple pleasures here,” says Linda.
Owning a business in Italy is hard work, particularly in view of Italy’s bureaucratic culture, but The Beehive continues to evolve thanks to Steve and Linda’s constant commitment to adding new outings and experiences. They will be offering small group cooking holidays in Orvieto in May and October this year, and are formulating cultural small group holidays in Rome, as well.
“We keep working at The Beehive and adding other projects in travel, tourism, and hospitality,” says Linda. “It’s what we know best.”
Written by Valerie Fortney-Schneider