Insider’s Rome: The Latest Hospitality Offerings in the Eternal City

Hospitality in Rome in 2018 continues to delight, offering something for every traveler’s definition of luxury. From Grande Dame hotels, which often occupy the most prominent locations in the hotel firmament, to new and revitalized boutiques that creatively use space once belonging to merchants, artists and sometimes shady enterprises within the lively society of ancient Rome.

We visited the Grandest Dame in the city, the Hotel Eden, Rome, a part of the Dorchester Collection since 2013. The 98-room property overlooks the parks and treetops of the Villa Medici and has enjoyed a panoramic vista over the rooftops and iconic buildings of the Eternal City since 1889. The hotel re-opened last year after a massive restoration / decoration project. Every detail has been faithfully executed to continue to uphold the Eden brand, which has been highly regarded for almost 130 years. Like many Roman hotels, the ristorante is on the top floor and La Terrazza doesn’t disappoint — the unparalleled views just go on and on, even inside Chef Fabio Ciervo’s Michelin-starred kitchen. (Federico Fellini was known to come here for his interviews, with the backdrop of the city behind him). While the main restaurant is open for dinner, there is casual dining at Il Giardino Ristorante & Bar on the rooftop day and night, 7 a.m. until 1 a.m. 

All the rooms at the Eden have furniture primarily made by Italian artisans, with Murano lamps and Rubelli fabrics. Accenting the spaces are water colors of Rome painted by Bruno Moinard, who, with Claire Bètaille, designed the restoration of the hotel, as well as the Hôtel Plaza Athènèe in Paris. (By the way, M. Moinard also designed Karl Lagerfeld’s apartment). 

The Aurora Terrace Suite at Hotel Eden (here) has a terrace with dining area, sunbeds and lounge furniture.

La Libreria, the library / bar in the lobby offers a fun twist. Guests who want to try something different can choose a scent from seasonal perfume essences from Campomarzio70 and barman Gabrielle Rizzi will concoct a special cocktail paired to that scent. After a day’s shopping or sightseeing, the Eden bar is a relaxing place to chill or meet friends for an aperitivo before dinner.

There’s a new spa in the hotel, which offers a blow dry bar and mani-pedis, in addition to three treatment rooms and amenities from Florentine perfumeria, Officina Profumo Santa Maria Novella.

Upstairs, in the suites, is where a visit to the Eden becomes memorable. Walk-in closets and Bottega Veneta amenities are de rigueur. The 925-square-foot Prestige Suite, No. 308, occupies a corner of the hotel, with natural light flooding in from multiple windows. The designers cleverly used neutral colors in the suite, in order to highlight the view over Roman gardens and rooftops. The richness of Rubelli curtains and other plush fabrics bring a cocoon-like ambiance to the space. There is a separate living room, bedroom, a large bathroom with marble tub and shower, and a half bath. I-pads control temperature and lights, while TV and music comes from Bang & Olufsen.

This suite can also connect with Room No. 306, a Prestige Double, making a two-bedroom, two-bath suite. (An additional bed can be added to the suite to make room for a total of five guests). Lots of natural light floods this room, as well, which includes a dressing table in the large marble bath, along with a bathtub and separate shower.

La Libreria at Hotel Eden has introduced an immersive cocktail experience, in collaboration with local perfume boutique Campomarzio70.

At almost 2,000 square feet, the Bellavista Penthouse Suite features wrap-around views of Rome, including a spectacular panorama from the bedroom. Located on the sixth floor, the suite has its own private elevator, a private entrance, and is completely separate from the restaurant, which is also on that floor. There is a pantry / kitchen for use of the butler or room service. The living room is quite large, with cushy sofas, dining table and desk, all lined with a wall of windows. And, there is a telescope for enjoying the details of the Eternal City, as well as a large screen television. The bedroom is large enough to include a corner sofa, and the marble bathroom is the size of many New York studio apartments — or even larger. (A powder room for guests would have been a nice addition to this suite). Guests have their own butler to take care of their needs, including dinner parties for eight, and they are welcome to bring pets.

Luca Virgilio is the general manager at the Eden and Fabiola Balduzzi ([email protected]) is in charge of marketing and communications.

The 18-room Hotel Vilòn (Via dell’ Arancio 69), new in 2018, occupies the annex of the mid-16th century Palazzo Borghese that once housed the School for Maidens. Paolo Bonfini, a Roman scenographer (set designer), and Giampiero Panepinto, a Milanese architect, effectively brought eclectic and contemporary design into this centuries-old space. Many rooms overlook the Borghese Gardens, which is dotted with the classical statuary that confirms you are indeed in old Rome. (The gardens won the Sotheby’s award for best restoration in 1997).

Having a great barman / mixologist is essential in Italy right now and Flavio at the Vilòn is no exception. Every day he mixes a signature water, which intrigues and refreshes. We tried the lemon / lime / cuke / thyme / pink pepper concoction, which was surprisingly delicious. Next, he came up with a custom-designed Bellini, trading passion fruit for peach juice. The bar is colorful, with hints of Art Deco in the furnishings. The adjacent atrium terrace is open for both drinks and meals. A rooftop bar is planned, which will offer views of Rome’s red-tiled rooftops and the trees lining the nearby Tiber River.

Gabriele Muro, executive chef of Adelaide, the Vilòn’s intimate ristorante, has designed a menu that celebrates some of Rome’s favorite dishes, such as pasta carbonara and amatriciana, as well as Mediterranean seafood-based cuisine. Adelaide is open to both hotel guests and the public. Expect less-than-rapid service — the fabled Roman lifestyle requires no hurrying over meals.

A member of Small Luxury Hotels, the Vilòn is managed by Giorgia Tozzi ([email protected]; 011-39-335-755-4454) and operated by Eduardo Safdie, an Argentinian and longtime Rome resident. The group has two other hotels under construction in the center of Rome and also owns the Capri Tiberio Palace on Capri.

The hotel has three suites, each one different from the others, as is usual in restored historic properties. The Vilòn Suite (No. 104) has a sense of mystery and silence. It overlooks the courtyard and might make a good choice for a guest who wishes to avoid the street noise of central Rome. The décor is mid-century modern, with a king bed and single sofa bed. Room No. 105 can be connected and the two rooms closed off with their own foyer. There is a huge walk-in shower and double sinks in the bathroom.

The Villa Malta Suite at Hotel Eden has high ceilings and tall windows and offers panoramic city views.

The 600-square-foot Melangolo Suite has a 200-plus-square-foot terrace overlooking the three fountains of the Borghese Gardens below. There is a separate small living room with a single sofa bed. It’s a corner suite, with four large windows that add natural light.

The largest suite at the Vilòn is the Borghese Suite (No. 204), which is 925 square feet and includes a terrace. The bedroom is up a few stairs and overlooks the gardens below. There are inlaid wooden walls and the stair railings were original to the building. In the past, the bathroom space was part of the chapel — it’s huge, with armchairs, a freestanding tub, separate double shower and multiple windows. Guests who would like more space may add Room Nos. 203 and 201, which will include closing the corridor to make a private foyer.

Babuino 181, which opened about eight years ago, has added a rooftop bar and a new hotel annex across the narrow street, at Via Babuino 35, where the two most luxurious suites and a few doubles are located. Owner / GM Alberto Moncada (011-39-348-767-4600) doesn’t miss a beat and continues to upgrade his properties with a discerning eye. Recently, he’s brought all his hotels into the Small Luxury Hotels group, including the Fendi Suites, which he manages.

The rooftop terrace at Babuino 181 is more than a bar: it’s an outdoor living area, where guests may spend a languid hour or two at tables and sofas, above the bustle of the street below. Breakfast is served here, as well as coffees, cocktails and stuzzichini (tasty finger foods).

The Patrizi Suite in the annex has 600 square feet of living space, plus a 525-square-foot private rooftop terrace with a view across the Eternal City. There is a separate living room, decorated in subdued earth tones and contemporary lines, a bedroom with king-sized bed, and a marble and tile bathroom with separate shower, double sinks and deep bathtub.

Named after one of Rome’s oldest families, the Moncada Suite is a split level, with the bedroom and marble bathroom downstairs and the living room upstairs under soaring beamed ceilings. With a total of 500 square feet, the suite can be set up with twin beds upon request and sleeps a total of three people.

La Terrazza, the fine dining experience at Hotel Eden, is headed by Chef Fabio Ciervo, who uses Rome’s fresh produce and herbs in his cuisine.

Babuino 181 doesn’t have a full ristorante, so we dropped into Babuino 181’s sister hotel a block away, the Margutta 19, which opened last year on the street of the artists. We wanted to experience the Assaggia ristorante again, now that Chef Angelo Troiani has had a year to perfect the menu, presentation and outdoor garden. The menu is in two parts: One part is a collection of small tasting dishes inspired by Italian home cooking; it’s possible to order one tiny dish or a collection of three, six or nine. The other part of the menu contains a variety of full-sized Roman pastas and meat courses. We found the tasting menu would work for small appetites or post-theater evenings. (The tasting list includes tiny desserts, as well as savory courses). The restaurant is open to the public.

Nearby, in the historic center of Rome, a variety of restaurants offer casual dining to guests. We’ve always liked the lunchtime buffet at ‘Gusto in Piazza Augusto Imperatore; the full menu is also available for lunch and dinner. Afterwards, pop into the kitchen and gift shop. At Vicolo del Babuino 4, there is Edy, where the locals stop for dinner at tiny tables in the cobbled street. For seafood, try Osteria Siciliana at Via del Leoncino 28. For a wonderful view of Rome with a French twist, Colbert Ristorante Caffeteria in the French Academy is open for lunch and coffee at Villa Medici, Viale della Trinità dei Monti 1 (above the Spanish Steps). At Via Mario de’ Fiori 41, Dillà is a local favorite, serving traditional Roman dishes.

As Rome heads toward her 2,772nd birthday in 2019, there will be more new and intriguing venues for travelers looking for hospitality in the Eternal City.

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