Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
There's not a lot to say about the Donatello. Unlike its colorful, multitalented namesake, the hotel keeps things simple. It offers spacious studio suites (all renovated in 2012) one block from Union Square and its couture shopping, a friendly front desk staff, and a small gym, but not much else. There are spa/salon treatments upstairs, and a restaurant attached to the hotel, as well, but the emphasis at the Donatello is squarely on the rooms and their sweet -- and suite -- appointments.
About those rooms... The hotel's website is correct when it claims they're "among the most spacious in San Francisco." At 425 square feet, the studio suites rival rooms at hotels that are two and three times as expensive. Even rooms at the Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont can't compete, size-wise, with the studio at the Donatello. Size isn't everything, of course, and Shell Vacations Hospitality, which operates the Donatello, seems to know that as well. Renovated in 2012, the rooms are clean, comfortable, and well-appointed, with an array of amenities you would normally find only in suites: pullout sofas, mini-fridges, microwaves, toasters, kitchen sinks, and silverware and dishes. You can't cook a full meal, obviously, but if you're traveling with your family, you can save some cash by putting the kids on the pullout bed and heating up some simple grub in the toaster or microwave. There's even some free candy for the little ones. The 2012 renovation greatly improved the rooms' style. Gone are the bright orange and navy color scheme and outdated furniture. The sleek, modern decor now features dark wood furniture and neutral linens and carpets, with metallic accents and the occasional pop of color. It has a laid-back but stylish vibe. The restaurant also got a fresh coat of paint during the renovation.
Various guide books and websites rate the Donatello anywhere from three to four stars. Three is closer to the mark -- it is by no means a luxury experience. There are simply too few amenities and too little service to put it up there with other boutiques near Union Square like the Huntington and the Campton Place Taj. But it's an excellent value, certainly a better one than its next-door neighbor, the Prescott, which is, in a sense, the inverse of the Donatello: great service and charming amenities, but small rooms that need updating.
In short, the Donatello is like a restaurant that sticks to a few dishes and does those few dishes well. No truffle-oil-glazed quail or kombu-cured hirame. Just a simple, perfectly cooked steak. Come to think of it, that's exactly how to summarize the Donatello's restaurant, Zingari. If you've had enough Pop-Tarts and microwave dinners, it's worth checking it out as well. A solid three-pearl experience. Just like the hotel.
A block from Union Square and its renowned high-end shopping
The Donatello is in the Union Square area, a block from the square itself, which is known for couture shops and not much else. With enormous outposts of Niketown, Saks, Tiffany, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, among others, Union Square is to San Francisco as Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive are to New York and L.A., respectively. Locals don't hang out there, but the square is great for people-watching, nonetheless, and occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Still, if shopping isn't a priority, you might prefer a neighborhood closer to the city's biggest attractions, like Nob Hill or Fisherman's Wharf.
While the 94-room Donatello stands out for its spacious, well-appointed, suite-style accommodations -- renovated in 2012 and among the city's largest -- it offers few amenities and very little service. If you're just looking for a large, clean, comfortable room in a convenient location, however, it's an excellent option.