When the review mark on Booking.com is below 8, and Tripadvisor shows only 3,5 stars, you know you enter dangerous ground. However, I had booked the Mercure Bologna Centro willingly, for good reasons: a central location right across the Bologna central station, decent room size with a considerable chance of an upgrade because of my Accor gold status, and a right price including breakfast.
I arrived in Bologna when the temperature was 35 degrees, and after 20 minutes in the cramped airport bus I was very happy when I entered the hotel lobby and found it had excellent airconditioning. I had made two separate bookings because they were cheaper together than when booking the same room in a single booking. Therefore the agent had some trouble finding a room that would be available for the full duration of the stay, but she found one and upgraded me to a double room.
Entering the room, I found myself back in the eighties. Carpet, furniture that had seen better days, and a bathroom with fluorescent tubes - had they not been there, I would not have noticed that these have basically disappeared from hotel rooms over the past decade. The bathroom boasted 'vintage' dark green tiling, a bath with integrated shower (the horror! - spoiled brat that I am). However, on the positive side: both the room and the bathroom were very spacious.
Two features made the room stand out of the crowd, unfortunately in a negative way. This was a smoking room, and, yet again, I had forgotten what a smoking room smells like. I was catapulted 10, 20 years back in time once I walked into that room, remembering the smell of a smoking hotel room that seemed not to bother that many people at the time. But after smoking has gradually been banned from public life, its hits you right in the face.
The second 'feature' was a balcony. At least that was what it was called by the receptionist. However, a small strip of some 1 x 2 meters that has no furniture yet shows the signs of a serious lack of cleaning. Especially when the rain starts pooring and the pigeons' excrements start floating because the floor drain doesn't work. But this is where my hotel character assassination stops. Because I really had a fine time staying there, because almost all personnel was friendly and attentive, noticeably the breakfast crew.
The thing with the Mercure brand is that it's not very consistent. That will often be a problem with hotel brands, but only weeks before my wife and I stayed at the Mercure Krakow Stare Miasto, which was really excellent in all respects, and lightyears away from the time capsule that this Bologna property is. But then, you're in Bologna, you're only an hour by train away from beautiful other cities such as Parma, Modena and Ravenna, so who cares about the hotel room anyway? And the airconditioning did a great job in the room as well, by the way.